As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s third congressional district heated up in May, two mysterious groups– Avacy Initiatives and Perise Practical– began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive, even glowing advertisements about Leger Fernandez, but didn’t disclose who paid for the ads. Few details could be found about them online. This “dark money” spending drew significant criticism from other candidates, who condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads.
This story was originally published by New Mexico In Depth
But a review by New Mexico In Depth of Federal Election Commission filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race—Valerie Plame— the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign.
It’s not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate in order to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups don’t disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.
“Our voting public is incredibly busy, and doesn’t have time to do research on every single one of the candidates,” said Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico.
On New Mexico’s primary election day, in almost triple-digit heat, former state Senator Dede Feldman stood outside an Albuquerque middle school with a signature-filled clipboard in hand. It’s not uncommon to see people gathering signatures outside of polling locations for various political efforts. But Feldman wasn’t there to get anyone elected. The former four-term lawmaker, shaded by a wide brimmed hat, was collecting signatures to get a public campaign finance initiative on the ballot in November for Albuquerque voters. The initiative that Feldman and others hope to get on the ballot would increase money to at least some municipal candidates in Albuquerque who take part in the city’s public financing system.
Ricardo Chaves says he won’t accept any outside cash to help in his quest to become mayor of Albuquerque. “I won’t take any campaign money, because I don’t want to be beholden,” Chaves said in a recent interview. “I want to represent all the people not just the special interests.”
So the 81-year-old retired Albuquerque businessman who founded Parking Company of America is relying on a different pile of money to push his mayoral candidacy over the line: his own. To date, Chaves has pumped more than $500,000 into his campaign war chest, mostly through loans. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.
A new survey of New Mexico business leaders shows most think there is a real problem with the influence of money in politics. And some business groups are getting serious about plans to clean up state government. Nearly 90 percent of business leaders think all political spending should be made public, according to a poll of 250 business leaders, commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington D.C.-area think tank. It follows the release of a CED-sponsored report conducted in conjunction with the University of New Mexico, “Crony Capitalism, Corruption, and the Economy in the State of New Mexico.” The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry is one of many groups speaking out in support of proposals they say would give voters—and businesses—more confidence in their leaders.
State lawmakers are coming under more scrutiny since New Mexico Secretary of State’s office recently started investigating a handful of state legislators for possible campaign finance violations. State Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo and Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, are all under fire for discrepancies in their campaign finance reports. But perceived problems with campaign spending aren’t limited to them. New Mexico Political Report also found questionable campaign spending by state Reps.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]VIKI HARRISON is the Executive Director of Common Cause NM and the former Executive Director of NM Repeal, where she led the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty in NM. A stalwart of NM politics and advocacy and a graduate of UNM, Viki was also part of the team that secured NM’s historic cockfighting ban.[/box]
There’s an old classic by Ray Charles titled “You Don’t Know Me,” that features these lyrics: No you don’t know the one Who dreams of you at night; And longs to kiss your lips And longs to hold you tight Oh I’m just a friend. That’s all I’ve ever been. Cause you don’t know me. And boy is that an apt description of all the money flowing into our elections here in New Mexico!