City council candidate ordered to pay almost $2K for campaign violations

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.

Ethics hearing highlights ambiguity in public finance rules

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.

Paid sick leave advocates ask judge to reconsider decision

Supporters of a proposed Albuquerque sick leave initiative asked a district court judge Wednesday to reconsider his decision to require the full text of the proposal on election ballots next year. The city election is still a year away, but the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed the motion asking Bernalillo County District Judge Alan Malott to reconsider a previous decision that required the full text of the proposal appear on the ballot and instead allow the sick leave initiative to appear as a summary on the ballot next October during the municipal elections. Lawyers with the Center on Law and Poverty said the full text would likely not fit on a one-page ballot and could cause inaccurate ballot counts, rejected ballots or a complete absence of the initiative on next year’s ballot. They also disputed Malott’s interpretation of the city charter. “The best way to mitigate these risks is an order that the Charter permits a summary to appear on the 2017 municipal election ballot, and that the full text may be provided to voters in a separate document,” wrote the Center’s lawyers in the motion.

Lawsuit over Guv’s emails ends

More than two years after being filed in federal court, a lawsuit over leaked emails from Gov. Susana Martinez’s 2010 campaign account was dismissed with prejudice Monday. Attorneys on both sides filed the motion to dismiss, which likely puts the issue to rest. “It’s dismissed with prejudice,” Bruce Wetherbee, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, told NM Political Report. “End of story.”

Dismissed with prejudice means that the lawsuit cannot be re-filed in court. Wetherbee worked with Independent Source PAC when the liberal political action committee publicly released some leaked emails from Martinez administration staffers and allies in 2012.

Yates wins national Republican party spot

Over 600 Republicans gathered for what on its face would be a non-controversial, easy convention on Saturday. The Republican presidential primary is all but over, there are very few primaries for Republicans in legislative races (and none involving incumbents) and the party has already coalesced behind the three statewide candidates. But the increasingly ugly race for the position of Republican National Committeeman between veteran Republican politicos Pat Rogers and Harvey Yates took center stage. It also turned out not to be very close. Yates easily won election to the position on a 278 to 195 vote.

Reporters will be allowed to cover GOP convention after all

The Republican Party of New Mexico announced on Wednesday that members of the press will, indeed, be able to cover the party’s statewide Quadrennial Convention. The announcement came a day after officials from Sandia Pueblo said press would not be allowed on the Sandia Casino grounds to cover the convention. The Sandia Tribal council reversed the decision Wednesday, according to a press release from the Republican Party of New Mexico. The release from the party said it was a “surprise” that the Sandia Tribal Council announced the decision to bar reporters from the event. In a statement, Republican Party of New Mexico spokesperson Tucker Keene said the party was unaware that press would be barred from covering the event at the casino and that the convention would have been held somewhere else otherwise.

Judge: Journo’s records out of bounds in Gov. Martinez email case

A witness in a federal civil trial regarding leaked emails from Gov. Susana Martinez will not have to hand over emails she exchanged with a local news reporter. United States Magistrate Judge Stephan M. Vidmar ruled Monday that emails between Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Justin Horwath and former Martinez aide Anissa Ford will not be part of the legal discovery process in a civil case*. Individuals with connections to Martinez accused four individuals of illegally intercepting and disseminating emails from personal email accounts of Martinez staffers. At the hearing, Pat Rogers, a Republican lobbyist and one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, asked the court to order email communications between Horwath and Ford be made available to him and his legal team. Rogers is a Republican National Committeeman in the state and has close ties to the governor.

Emails won’t be shielded, but defendants must disclose info in leaked email lawsuit

A federal magistrate judge Monday rejected a motion to protect hundreds of leaked emails from top staffers in the governor’s office from a high profile case among other measures. Plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit involving leaked emails from the 2010 campaign account of Gov. Susana Martinez will now also be able to conduct discovery on the defendants. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephan Vidmar limited the discovery to just a handful of issues: what emails were intercepted, who intercepted the emails, who publicly disclosed the intercepted emails and why they publicly disclosed them. The judge made rulings against motions by both sides. The developments mark the latest fallout in one of the longest ongoing scandals in Martinez’s governorship.