December 1, 2015

Anti-abortion group challenges campaign finance penalty

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Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

An anti-abortion group in Albuquerque filed an appeal to a campaign finance decision by the city that ended with a public reprimand and $1,000 fine earlier this month.

Albuquerque City Hall Photo Credit: Andy Lyman

Andy Lyman

Albuquerque City Hall Photo Credit: Andy Lyman

Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion in Albuquerque, is challenging the City of Albuquerque’s decision in the Second Judicial District Court. At issue is a ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics that Protest ABQ violated a city statute by not properly registering as a measured finance committee, or MFC, before spending money in October city elections.

During the recent municipal election, Protest ABQ group sent out mailers that purportedly depicted a woman who died from an abortion as well as an aborted fetus. The mailers said District 6 candidate, and now incoming councilor, Pat Davis* supported late term abortions and said that he is too extreme for Albuquerque.

Alex Curtas, who works for ProgressNow New Mexico, filed the complaint in his capacity as a private citizen. Davis, who is the executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, was not named in the complaint.

Protest ABQ argued the city code that requires a group to register once $250 is spent is unconstitutional.

“During the hearing the Board of Ethics members refused to consider whether the election code is constitutional, despite the fact that Protest ABQ’s counsel provided them with legal cases showing that it is not,” Protest ABQ spokeswoman Tara Shaver said in a statement.

The statement from Protest ABQ also made a connection between Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Republican political consultant Jay McCleskey and their public disapproval of graphic images the group uses in their demonstrations. They argued that three of the four members of the ethics board made political donations to candidates that hired firms run by McCleskey.

Appointments to the board are split between the mayor and City Council.

Berry publicly asked the group to stop using images of aborted fetuses in their mailers and on what the group calls “the truth truck.” The group also said McCleskey verbally assaulted protesters when they were demonstrating near his home.

“He came out and was really angry and lashed out at some of the protestors, basically calling us pieces of S-H-I-T,” Shaver, who spelled out the expletive instead of saying it in a short interview, told NM Political Report.

When asked for a comment from Berry, a spokeswoman referred NM Political Report to a YouTube video where the mayor condemns the group’s use of pictures in the City Council election.

Board of Ethics chair Andrew Schultz told NM Political Report he would not comment on the matter as he didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on a public proceeding.

While Protest ABQ is mostly concerned about spreading their message, Shaver said there’s another issue at stake.

“We’re more concerned about free speech,” Shaver said.

The case names the Albuquerque City Clerk, the Board of Ethics and Alex Curtas. No specific court date has been scheduled.

*Davis is the executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, which helps find funding for NM Political Report. No one at ProgressNow New Mexico, including Davis, has any editorial input on this or any other story.

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