January 6, 2017

Business leader files defamation suit against NM GOP

The president of a New Mexico business advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the state Republican party for defamation.

Carla Sonntag, the president of the New Mexico Business Coalition alleges the Republican Party of New Mexico falsely accused her of attacking party chair Ryan Cangiolosi in a series of anonymous emails to party members ahead of the state party’s election.

In December 2016, the state’s Republican Party sent an email to committee members apologizing for a series of anonymous emails disparaging Cangiolosi. In the email, the party blamed Sonntag for sending the emails.

“The Republican Party of New Mexico, in consultation with our legal team, has done its investigative research and has uncovered that these emails come from accounts registered to Carla Sonntag and family,” the email from the party read.

Sonntag told NM Political Report she is frustrated that the party falsely accused both her and family members.

“They also brought my family into it which crossed the line,” Sonntag said.

The unsigned, mass emails in question were sent by groups which called themselves Republicans of New Mexico and Republicans for Fiscal Responsibility.

In response to the state GOP, the group denied Sonntag’s involvement.

“We assure you that Carla Sonntag had nothing to do with any of this, and are entirely unaware of her political opinions regarding the RPNM and the race for chair,” the email read.

The group went one step further and called on Sonntag to file a defamation suit against the party.

“It’s our opinion that Carla Sonntag should immediately pursue legal action for slander/libel against the RPNM for its transgression,” the group wrote.

Sonntag told NM Political Report that she initially sent a letter to the party asking them to retract their statement and issue an apology. She said the party then asked for more time since their leadership recently changed.

Now, a month later, Sonntag filed suit.

“I gave them ample time to retract and apologize,” Sonntag said.

The New Mexico Business Coalition, along with other business groups, has long been allies with Republican lawmakers, especially on issues like right-to-work and opposing minimum wage increases.

Sonntag said she was “shocked” to see that the Republican Party accused her of sending negative emails and violating copyright laws by using the party’s logo.

“I was surprised they didn’t fix the really bad situation they created,” Sonntag said.

It’s unclear what type of investigation the party conducted to conclude the emails came from Sonntag or a member of her family.

The Republican Party of New Mexico did not respond to requests to comment by email phone from NM Political Report.