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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

King To Act On Political Nonprofit Mess By Year's End, Plus: Money & The Mayor Run, And: Some Bottom Lines For A Fall Tuesday 

AG King
Attorney General Gary King says the political nonprofit mess in New Mexico has not fallen off his radar. The state's top law enforcement official tells us that by the end of the year he will take more action. The argument is over the refusal of the nonprofit NM Youth Organized (NMYO) to register with the Secretary of State as a Political Action committee (PAC). That would mean it would have to fully report its donations and expenditures. Currently, the group can operate behind a veil of secrecy because it says it is not advocating for or against political candidates, but is an "issues advocacy" group.

NMYO, operating under the umbrella of the Center for Civic Policy, is headed by "progressive" political consultant Eli Lee. King and Secretary of State Herrera maintain that Lee's group is blatantly political and cite the literature the group sent out targeting three Dem legislators who were defeated in the June primary. In late August, Herrera, on the advice of King, demanded that NMYO register with the state. The group refused.

King told us the hefty fines levied by the SOS on Public Regulation Commission candidate Jerome Block Jr. (over $21,000) for violating public campaign finance laws is an example of what he has in mind for nonprofits he deems in violation of sate law. NMYO and Center for Civic Policy benefit as federally tax exempt groups and annually receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductible contributions. Lee disclosed some of them for a one year period after public pressure mounted. Most of the money revealed came from foundations such as the McCune Foundation, but individual donations and expenditures were not disclosed. The nonprofit says additional information is available on federal tax forms , but those forms are nowhere nearly as detailed as what is required of a state registered PAC.

If the nonprofit is found to be a PAC and not an advocacy or lobbying group, it could lose its federal tax exempt status and in turn much of its donation base.

MORE ON THIS
Eli Lee
In Santa Fe, legislators, especially those with a pro-business bent, are worried about who is next on the nonprofit hit list. That NMYO can operate in secrecy is especially galling to critics who point out the same group and similar ones are arguing for ethics reforms in the Roundhouse. Look for action in the sixty day session, with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez being the key player.

Supporters of NMYO are working to paint this as an argument over free speech, but critics assert it is an argument over transparency, what constitutes political campaigning and the public's right to know exactly who is spending and donating what cash to campaigns. While King moves to enforce the law and lawmakers grapple with possible legislation, the issue may end up in court which at this point doesn't seem like a
bad idea.

BILL'S TRAVELS

Yes, Big Bill did meet with Obama Friday afternoon in Chicago. And, yes, the two did discuss a possible role for the Guv in the Obama administration. That comes from an Alligator with knowledge of the meeting. Richardson apparently also headed to Las Vegas, Nevada over the weekend to celebrate his 61st birthday which was Saturday, says a Senior Alligator. Richardson's office denied our original report that a meeting with Obama was scheduled for mid-November. Insiders are saying we were not intentionally misled, that the meeting was set up on very short notice. Of course, we believe that because we just bought a bridge from the same insiders.

As we have blogged repeatedly, the chances of Richardson becoming Sec. of State seem small. However, we feel our Senior Gator report that stated Obama asked Richardson to list four jobs he was interested in is solid. Our source said one of the jobs listed was ambassador to China. And our senior source also said that is the most likely one the Guv would get.

In recent days speculation has mounted that the Guv could have trouble passing the "vetting" process for a high-level job because of a federal probe into campaign contributions he received and any role such contributions played in awarding a state contract. The story has been in the ABQ Journal, but nothing new of late. Meantime, the speculation on the next high-stakes move by Bill will continue because it is high-stakes for the future government of Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.

MAYOR MARTY

ABQ Mayor Chavez give his "State of the City Address" Tuesday night at six at the Alamosa Community Center 6900 Gonzales Rd SW. A poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan by Positive Contacts Consulting last month showed Chavez's favorable rating was at 45% in Bernalillo County. It will take a showing of 40% in next year's ABQ mayoral election for the mayor to avoid a run-off election. Chavez seems to be off and running unless a better job offer surfaces.

MONEY FOR MAYOR
Mayor Chavez
And we have to dip our toes into the dreaded and opaque waters of campaign financing for the 2009 city election. We've probably already screwed up how the new law is going to play out, but we are getting a better handle on it as we talk with those who know. Not only did the law set up public financing for the mayor's post, but if you run and don't take part in the financing, you are still prohibited from taking campaign donations from any business or individual that does any business with the city. The law also bans corporate contributions, which means unless you are going to self-finance your campaign, you are going to want to take part in the public financing. That's the word from Mayor Chavez's inner circle. Marty, they say, will be restricted from raising big money from the development community as he did in 2005 so if he runs he will take the public financing.

Each mayoral candidate who qualifies will be eligible to collect around $300,000 (a buck per registred voter) to run their campaign, but only if there is enough money in the public kitty. That's another issue. The bottom line? Unless a wealthy self-financed candidate surfaces, the public finance playing field stands to benefit the well-known and incumbent Chavez. How ironic. The measure was pushed big by then city councilor and now State Senator-elect Eric Griego, a longtime political foe of Mayor Marty.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Kingston, New Mexico? We confess that w e never heard of it until we read this excellent piece of New Mexico journalism from Sam Conn in the Las Cruces Sun-News. Kingston was at one time the largest city in the state? What a fascinating history we have around here...Thanks to reader Michelle Meaders and others for pointing out that in our first draft of the blog Monday we called the Nevada job of former ABQ mayor Schultz a "union" job. He works for a contractors group in Las Vegas.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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