Albuquerque campaign finance reports released Friday shed some light on negative political ads aimed at New Mexico State Auditor and mayoral candidate Tim Keller. Shortly after early polls showed Keller leading the mayoral race, television and radio ads popped up accusing Keller of siding with sexual predators. According to finance reports from Make Albuquerque Safe, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, LLC and Veteto Properties, LLC were the only two donors and each donated $30,000. Measure finance committees, or MFCs, are the Albuquerque equivalent of political action committees in state or federal races. WALH is most well known as the company behind the proposed Santolina development, west of Albuquerque.
Almost every election includes questions about donors’ intentions and if a winning candidate would give special treatment to one in exchange for the biggest contribution. But sometimes a candidate’s day job can raise questions about how he or she will conduct business as mayor—and if old employers will get preferential treatment. Mayoral candidate Brian Colón, for example, works at the prominent Albuquerque legal firm Robles, Rael & Anaya P.C. The firm has received large city contracts in two different administrations and is staffed with a former city attorney, a former Bernalillo County attorney and a number of former assistant city attorneys. Robles, Rael & Anaya has decades of combined experience in city matters, perhaps the most of any law firm in the city. Colón recently indicated in an email to NM Political Report that he would not cancel city legal contracts with his current employer if he were elected as mayor.
The last few weeks of any election are sure to be dramatic as campaigns pile on the ads and social media posts, claiming opponents are acting improperly or are just bad people. The Albuquerque mayoral race is no different. With early voting already started and election day about two weeks away, the flow of campaign ads and ethics complaints is increasing. While ads run through election day, ethics complaints follow their own timeline and may not have resolutions before the polls close
In a recent complaint filed with Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics, mayoral candidate and Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson alleged that candidate and State Auditor Tim Keller’s campaign accepted money as an in-kind contribution. The city’s election code doesn’t specifically state how an in-kind contribution should be received, but it does note that any professional services or property rental should be noted as an in-kind contribution on campaign finance filings.
The City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Monday afternoon voted to impose a $1,900 fine on an Albuquerque City Council Candidate for not following the city’s election code. The hearing was the latest related to a complaint by former mayoral candidate Stella Padilla and private investigator Carlos McMahon against city council candidate Javier Benavidez. Padilla and McMahon alleged that Benavidez’s campaign fraudulently obtained about $38,000 of public campaign funds by using some of their own money instead of collecting $5 from each petition signer. Padilla and McMahon’s lawyer, prominent Republican Pat Rogers, wrote in his closing argument that Benavidez should return the taxpayer-funded money his campaign received, be fined at least $21,000 and be removed from the City Council if he wins the race. Rogers also said the issue should be referred to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution.
A federal court of appeals judge from New Mexico, who is expected to step down soon, could be replaced by a lawyer with less than 10 years of legal work under his belt and very loose ties to the state. NM Political Report learned the White House sent a short list of possible replacements for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul Kelly Jr. Names on the list include prominent judges and lawyers who currently practice in New Mexico—and one is a lawyer from Washington D.C. who previously worked for a Utah senator and whose family owns a cattle ranch in New Mexico. William Levi, a lawyer in his early 30s who graduated law school in 2010, spent a year as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Scirica and later for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Levi also spent about two years as a staffer for Utah Senator Mike Lee, a libertarian-leaning member of the Republican Party. NM Political Report left a voice message for Levi at his Washington D.C. office and emailed him, but only received an out of office reply.
An Albuquerque mayoral candidate attempted to distance himself from a former Albuquerque police chief accused of improper and possibly illegal actions involving a city contract. Last week a Twitter user said former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colόn was “So far the best candidate,” but went on to ask “However is it true your firm represents [former Albuquerque Police Chief] Ray Schultz?”
Colόn, who is an attorney, responded on Twitter Monday afternoon, saying “My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda.”
My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda. DOJ compliance will be priority for our new chief of police in the Colón Administration.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Anticipating a repeal, walk-outs were scheduled and high schools and colleges around the state. Thousands of students walked out of classrooms, and in Albuquerque people of many ages showed up on Civic Plaza. At Highland High School in the southeast part of Albuquerque, about one hundred students left classes and walked to Central Avenue. Later in the day, several hundred people marched on Civic Plaza and watched indigenous dances and heard from people who would be directly affected by the DACA repeal.
While many people prepare for fundraisers and food drives to support victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, one New Mexico lawmaker is in the Lone Star State working with the Red Cross. Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, left New Mexico Wednesday morning planning to drive to Houston to aid in the recovery. But after hearing radio reports about the difficulty of organizing volunteers he decided to stop in San Antonio. On the phone from San Antonio, McCamley told NM Political Report he’s “playing executive assistant” and “running around town.” He also said he’s been inspired by the Red Cross volunteers. “These are the sorts of events that bring out the best in people,” McCamley said.
In Albuquerque’s city hall earlier this week, dozens of people watched lawyers argue before an elections and ethics board over whether a city council candidate intentionally defrauded citizens of about $38,000. City Council candidate Javier Benavidez qualified for public financing after his campaign collected almost 400 qualified contributions of $5 along with signatures from each contributor. Prominent Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers argued Benavidez purposefully allowed his campaign to forge signatures and falsify contributions and called the campaign’s actions a “very serious issue.”
In his opening statement, he accused Benavidez of “cheating.”
Rogers argued that Benavidez did not correctly collect contributions, and therefore defrauded taxpayers by using public money for his campaign. Rogers is a former Republican National Committeeman and former go-to counsel for Gov. Susana Martinez. Benavidez is the former executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a group that works on racial and economic justice issues.
Rifts within political parties are nothing new. The Democratic National Committee is still reeling from infighting that was exposed during the lead-up to the election it lost to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Even here in New Mexico, while the Democratic divide is less pronounced, there is already a long list of Democrats vying for nominations for state and federal elections. Now, a contentious meeting last week to discuss state investments may have shown how New Mexico Republicans are divided, too. New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn believes the State Investment Council’s punitive action against him has at least something to do with his run for Congress—and he says that Gov. Susana Martinez and one of her prominent advisors are to blame.