Dark Money rearing its head in ABQ elections

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With Albuquerque’s city election less than a month away, a number of independent groups have registered with the city as political committees, ramping up to make their views known. As of last Friday when the latest campaign finance reports were filed, such committees have raised a combined total of $824,441. That’s 20 percent of all the money raised so far this election cycle, that will see a new mayor elected, as well as numerous new city councilors. There is a controversial ballot measure on the ballot as well.

The money will be used to bombard Albuquerque voters–and all other listeners to the big television and radio stations–with political ads for and against candidates and issues.

While some groups have filed reports of money they’ve raised, others are actively running advertising with little or no information about them available. These sorts of groups epitomize the term “dark money” that is often applied to independent political committees.

For instance, Make Albuquerque Safe is running a negative ad against State Auditor Tim Keller. The advertisements will run before NMID or the public are able to see any reports about who is paying for the ads, and there is little information on the group’s registration form telling voters who they are. When they do file their fundraising report, it’s possible the money will have passed through other obscurely named PACs that make tracing money difficult. NMID will update readers when that information is posted, or when more information about the group is available.

In Albuquerque, independent groups are called measure finance committees, or MFC’s, and are formed to support, or oppose, candidates and ballot measures. So long as they don’t coordinate with candidates they can raise unlimited funds.

The great majority of the contributions this year–92 percent–are in amounts of $1,000 or more, for a total of $761,312. Most of that–$549,853–is targeted at a ballot measure asking voters to approve or deny a new sick leave ordinance.

The biggest donation to date was a monetary donation of $150,000 from the Center for Civic Policy to a group supporting the proposed sick leave ordinance. That MFC, the Healthy Workforce ABQ, Olé Education Fund, Strong Families New Mexico, Center on Civic Law, has raised $424,549.

A group opposing the sick leave ordinance, the Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy and Realtors Association of New Mexico, has raised $125,304, with it’s largest contributions coming from the Realtors Association of New Mexico and the Real Estate Community PAC.

Here’s a breakdown of all 2017 measure finance committees and what we know about them as of Sept. 9. NMID welcomes tips from readers about the identities of contributors and the advertisements of these groups.

NAME: ABQFirePac

Date formed: April 13, 2017

Purpose: To support municipal candidates and to promote public safety.

Who they are: This MFC is made up of local firefighters and the local IAFF union. They’ve endorsed mayoral candidate Tim Keller, and city councilor candidates: Ken Sanchez, Don Harris, Klarissa Pena and Diane Gibson. They are also endorsing John Melia for PERA Board Trustee.

Total Contributions: $24,000

Biggest contributor: The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), both the local chapter and the national association.

NAME: ABQ Working Families

Date formed: July 19, 2017

Purpose: This MFC formed to support candidates and ballot initiatives.

Who they are: The New Mexico Working Families organization, associated with a national progressive organization, has organized this MFC. The group has received contributions supporting the sick leave ordinance and Javier Benavidez for city council.

Total Contributions: $12,745

Biggest Contributors: The biggest contributor is the non-profit, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, or Olé.

NAME: Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy and Realtors Association of New Mexico

Date formed: June 21, 2017

Purpose: To oppose an ordinance on the ballot that would require companies to provide paid sick leave.

Who they are: Membership includes business organizations in New Mexico including the New Mexico Restaurant Association, Realtors Association of New Mexico, New Mexico Chile Association, New Mexico Business Coalition, Americans for Prosperity and more. These organizations argue that earned sick leave would hurt the economy. The name of the biggest contributor is in the title, because the city charter requires contributors who give over a certain percentage to put their names in the title.

Total Contributions: $125,304

Biggest Contributors: Realtors Association of New Mexico, Real Estate Community PAC and New Mexico Restaurant Association

NAME: Albuquerque Forward Together

Date formed: June 2, 2017

Purpose: To support mayoral candidate Tim Keller.

Who they are: The MFC is completely independent from Tim Keller’s main campaign. About 40 percent of the contributions have come from labor unions. This MFC also accounts for almost all of the small contributions to measure finance committees, with $34,695 coming from 266 contributions of $250 or less.

Total Contributions: $209,932

Biggest contributors: The biggest contributors are unions including AFSCME Council 18, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, International Associations of Fire Fighters, Curtis & Lucero Law Firm and New Mexico Federation of Labor

NAME: Albuquerque Rising

Date formed: August 22, 2017

Purpose: To support and oppose candidates.

Who they are: Based on file campaign reports, this group is, so far, supporting City Councilor Diane Gibson in her bid for re-election and opposing her challenger, Eric Lucero.

Total Contributions: $15,000

Biggest contributor: The biggest contributor is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the public employees union.

NAME: Americans for Prosperity

Date formed: September 5, 2017

Purpose: To oppose the sick leave ordinance.

Who they are: Americans for Prosperity is a part of a larger conservative lobbying group, with the same name, that’s aimed at lowering taxes and decreasing government regulation.

Total Contributions: $2,072

Biggest Contributors: The biggest, and only, contribution comes from Americans for Prosperity New Mexico.

NAME: Coalition for a Better Albuquerque

Date formed: August 27, 2017

Purpose: To support or oppose candidates.

Who they are: This group’s chairperson is Simon Kubiak, and treasurer is Dana Lynn Frost.

Total Contributions: $0

Biggest Contributors: There were no contributors as of September 8.

NAME: Forward Albuquerque

Date formed: September 8, 2018

Purpose: To advocate against the proposed sick leave ordinance.

Who they are: This group’s backer is the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Total Contributions: $0

Biggest Contributors: There were no contributors as of September 8, when this group filed their registration.

NAME: Healthy Workforce ABQ, Olé Education Fund Strong Families New Mexico, Center On Civic Policy, New Mexico Center On Law And Poverty

Date formed: June 23, 2016

Purpose: To support an ordinance on the ballot that would require companies to provide paid sick leave.

Who they are: This group is composed mainly of non-profit 501c3 organizations supporting the ballot ordinance. It has the names of its biggest contributors in the title, because the city charter requires contributors who give over a certain percentage to put their names in the title. Members of this group worked to gather the required signatures to place the ordinance on the ballot.

Total Contributions: $424,549

Biggest contributors: The Center for Civic Policy, Olé Education Fund, UFCW 1564 and Forward Together

NAME: Make Albuquerque Safe

Date formed: August 29, 2017

Purpose: Education is the stated purpose. The group is running ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller.

Who they are: This group is mysterious so far, with two names listed: Denise Romero and Donna Taylor.

Total Contributions: $0 reported.

Biggest Contributors: There were no contributors as of September 8. It began running ads the following week in advance of the next filing period.

NAME: Planned Parenthood Votes Albuquerque

Date formed: August 17, 2017

Purpose: To “encourage voters to support candidates who fight for reproductive health care.”

Who they are: This group is associated with Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico. They’re endorsing mayoral candidate Tim Keller, and city council candidates: Javier Benavidez, Cynthia Borrego, Diane Gibson and Byron Powdrell.

Total Contributions: $313

Biggest Contributors: All contributions have come from Planned Parenthood of The Rocky Mountains Action Fund.

NAME: Public Safety First

Date formed: July 25, 2017

Purpose: To educate candidates on public safety.

Who they are: The Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association is the backer of this group.

Total Contributions: $10,000

Biggest Contributors: The biggest and only contribution comes from the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association. The association has endorsed council candidates: Cynthia Borrego, Eric Lucero, Ken Sanchez, Don Harris and Klarissa Pena. They also endorse John Melia for PERA Board Trustee.

NAME: RGCSC 2017 ABQ ELECTIONS IEC

Date formed: September 8, 2017

Purpose: To support various candidates.

Who they are: This is a Sierra Club backed group

Total Contributions: $0 reported.

Biggest Contributors: There were no contributors as of September 8.

 

Melorie Begay holds New Mexico In Depth’s 2017/2018 fellowship for a current or recently graduated journalism student at the University of New Mexico.

Correction: This article said there would be a fundraising report this coming Friday, but the next report is September 22.

2 thoughts on “Dark Money rearing its head in ABQ elections

  1. Honestly, when I see a slimy ad like the “Make Albuquerque Safe” PAC is running, I assume it’s deceitful, and it makes me support the candidate it’s against. If you can’t say who you are, and state an honest position, as a voter I instinctively take the other side.

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