CD3 candidate criticized for support from ‘dark money groups’

Albuquerque Journal

by T.S. Last, Albuquerque Journal North Editor

Thursday, May 14, 11:25 p.m.SANTA FE, N.M. — What had been a rather civil Democratic Party primary campaign for the 3rd Congressional District flared up on Thursday when two candidates released statements criticizing another candidate, Teresa Leger Fernandez, for the support she’s receiving from so-called “dark money” groups.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

The statements were released following the taping of a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal that will air on KOAT-TV at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In a news release late Thursday afternoon, John Blair said that during the taping of the forum Leger Fernandez refused to denounce the dark money groups that are supporting her campaign. He called for Leger Fernandez to “demand the removal of ads from multiple dark money groups supporting her campaign.”

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DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.

‘Dark money’ groups back U.S. House candidate in packed primary

Santa Fe New Mexican

by Michael Gerstein

May 14, 2020 Updated May 14, 2020

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Teresa Leger Fernandez’s campaign has poured money into the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary race to run television and digital ads. In addition, two PACs have spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of the Santa Fe attorney.

Candidates in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party primary claim so-called dark money has entered the race after reports two groups together spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of Teresa Leger Fernandez.

Perise Practical Inc. and Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent the money in support of Leger Fernandez, Politico Pro reported Thursday.

Federal Election Commission records and data from the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics show Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent $250,750 on ads in support of Leger Fernandez. Perise Practical Inc. spent $50,000. The groups’ FEC disclosure documents both list their post office boxes in Arlington, Va., and both were signed by the same individual, David Brett Krone

Dark money, or money spent by groups that do not disclose their donors, is common in politics. But many progressives have decried the influx of untraceable money because it’s often impossible to determine the individuals, groups or interests behind such spending.

In a written statement, Emma Caccamo, Leger Fernandez’s campaign manager, said: ”We’re proud to be running a New Mexico powered campaign, with contributions from all 16 counties in the district and no corporate PAC money. … We don’t know anything about any other groups and saw their ads when everybody else did.”

Leger Fernandez has been endorsed by a variety of groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressive EMILY’s List. On Thursday, she was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, an Albuquerque Democrat who represents the 1st Congressional District.

But three of her opponents in the seven-person Democratic primary race were quick to pounce on ad spending from groups that do not disclose their donors.

Former New Mexico Deputy Secretary of State John Blair’s campaign issued a statement denouncing the spending.

“Secret contributions from shady sources are simply unacceptable,” Blair said. “Dark money has corrupted our entire political system, and it’s the reason we haven’t been able to take on gun manufacturers, rein in pharmaceutical companies or pass a Green New Deal. Teresa must live up to the values of our party and demand those ads come down immediately.”

Michelle Barliant, a campaign staffer for candidate Valerie Plame, said in a telephone interview, “We stand with John that dark money doesn’t have any place in this race.”

Although Plame has raised the most money in the crowded Democratic primary, Barliant said no groups with undisclosed donors have spent money to support the former CIA agent.

Another candidate, Santa Fe-area District Attorney Marco Serna, also decried the spending and said he will be taking a “dark money out of politics pledge” he hopes every candidate, including Leger Fernandez, will sign.

Other Democratic primary candidates in the race include Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya of Rio Rancho, first-term state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Taos environmental attorney Kyle Tisdel.

In an interview with The New Mexican, Serna said Leger Fernandez claimed during a KOAT-TV/Albuquerque Journal candidate forum airing Sunday the only out-of-state groups she knows that have spent money in her campaign were EMILY’s List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political action committee.

“I find it hard to believe that her campaign was not aware of the ads that have been running both on TV and on social media,” Serna said. “It’s disingenuous, and I echo Blair’s call to ask these PACs to stop running ads in New Mexico because it’s the right thing to do and here in New Mexico this isn’t how we run campaigns.”

The Leger Fernandez and Plame campaigns have poured money into the primary race to run television and digital ads. Blair and Serna also have spent on television ads to a lesser degree.

In December, The New Mexican reported pro-Donald Trump forces had already spent thousands in TV or digital ads either attacking U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small or backing the president.

Torres Small is running for reelection in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the southern part of the state. The race against the survivor of the Republican primary likely will be one of the most competitive U.S. House contests in the country, political experts have said. Torres Small narrowly won the seat in a district that turned out heavily for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Although some candidates pointed out the groups’ spending in support of Leger Fernandez, the 3rd Congressional District campaigns have stayed largely positive, said longtime Albuquerque-based pollster Brian Sanderoff.

That sets it apart from the race in the 2nd Congressional District, where the Yvette Harrell-Claire Chase battle has been increasingly bitter.

“The mood of the two races … are night and day,” Sanderoff said.

Four Republicans are running for the seat in the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary: Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, Santa Fe engineer Alexis Johnson, Navajo Nation member Karen Bedonie and Angela Gale Morales of Rio Rancho, who is a write-in candidate.

DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.


Rep. Ben Ray Lujan to Introduce New Campaign Finance Reform Package

November 05, 2019


Nambé, N.M. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, along with U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Peter Welch (D-VT), announced that they will reintroduce a campaign finance reform package this week to bolster transparency and accountability in elections. The legislation is being introduced one year ahead of the 2020 elections.

This package would hold special interests accountable and ensure transparency in political advertising. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling opened the doors to unlimited money in politics, and during the 2018 elections, $175 million in dark money was spent to influence the American people’s vote with little-to-no accountability and transparency.

The package includes:

The Fair and Clear Campaign Transparency Act would require that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintain broadcast stations’ public files about political time sold or given away in a machine-readable format. Currently, this information is not made available in an accessible way, presenting a major barrier for the public to know who is funding political advertisements.

The Honest Campaigns Act would increase transparency in political advertising by making it easier to determine who is paying for political advertisements. Currently, the FCC has the authority to require the on-air disclosure of the “true identity” of the people and groups buying campaign and political advertisements, but the FCC has thus far failed to act. This legislation would require the disclosure of the actual people behind anonymous ads.

“With the rise of dark money in politics, it is past time that Congress acts to make political advertising more transparent and accountable for the American people. Our communities have the right to know which organizations and donors are funding political advertisements,” said Luján. “I’m proud to spearhead this effort to pull back the curtain on dark money in politics and restore transparency in our elections.”

The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opened a spigot of opaque special interest spending in American elections,” saidWelch.  “Voters have the right to know who is behind the wall-to-wall political ads flooding the airwaves before an election. Our legislation will bring transparency and accountability to elections by putting a bright spotlight on the dark money funding these ads.”

“The American people have a right to know the identity of those who spend millions and millions of dollars to blanket the airwaves with political ads trying to influence their vote. For far too long, lax laws have allowed for next to no transparency in political advertising, leaving voters subjected to a constant stream of often dishonest claims and accusations from otherwise nameless, faceless organizations. I’m proud to join in introducing these two important pieces of legislation to provide voters with a level of accountability that is long overdue,” said Yarmuth.

“With special interests, multi-national corporations, and hostile foreign actors spending hundreds of millions of dollars in secret money to try to influence our elections in recent years, all Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence their voices and their votes,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs with the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause. “Common Cause commends Representative Luján for introducing these common-sense bills to promote transparency and accountability in our democracy.”

“There’s no reason a group that wants to spend millions to influence an election should be able to conceal the identity of its special interest backers from voters,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United Action Fund. “The lack of transparency and disclosure for political ads leaves Americans in the dark about who’s trying to influence their vote and their government. These common-sense bills would shine a light on the unlimited, secret special interest spending that’s corrupting our elections. End Citizens United applauds Representatives Luján, Yarmuth and Welch for their leadership, and we will fight vigorously in support of these bills.”


Adan Serna (202) 225-61

Federal judge rules IRS dark money anti-disclosure rule unlawful

Federal judge rules IRS donor guidance is unlawful

A federal judge in Montana ruled on Tuesday that IRS guidance reducing donor disclosure requirements for certain nonprofits is unlawful and will be set aside.

The ruling is a win for two states with Democratic governors that challenged the guidance — Montana and New Jersey — and is likely to be cheered by Democrats in Congress who have criticized the guidance.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, and the ruling was issued on the same day he appeared in the party’s presidential debate.

The IRS and Treasury Department released guidance last year that ended a requirement for certain tax-exempt groups to report the names and addresses of major donors on annual forms.

Groups affected by the guidance included social welfare organizations such as the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions, and business leagues.

Republicans argue that the guidance was important to protect taxpayers’ privacy and First Amendment rights. But Democrats have strongly opposed the guidance, arguing that it could make it easier for foreign governments to influence U.S. elections through donations to “dark money” groups.

Bullock, the Montana Department of Revenue and the state of New Jersey filed a lawsuit challenging the IRS guidance, asking the court to set it aside because the IRS didn’t provide a notice and comment period before issuing the guidance. Both states said that they had utilized the donor information.

Treasury and the IRS said the lawsuit should be dismissed, arguing that the states lack standing to sue. They also argued that the guidance was an interpretive rule that didn’t need a notice and comment period.

In his ruling, Judge Brian Morris, who was appointed by former President Obama, ruled that the states have standing to pursue their claim and that the guidance was a legislative rule that did need a notice and comment period.

Morris noted that the states argued they may need the donor information to determine whether an organization violates requirements for tax-exempt groups and to enforce limits on tax-exempt groups’ political activity.

“The Court agrees that these purposes support the need for the IRS to comply with the [Administrative Procedure Act]’s notice-and-comment provision when it amends a long-standing regulation that implicates the collection and sharing of this information,” Morris wrote.

Morris said that if the IRS wants to adopt a similar rule in the future, it needs to follow notice and comment procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Reformers push Dems to adopt sweeping anti-corruption platform in 2020



07/09/2019 05:04 AM EDT

As Democratic presidential candidates swear off super PACs and corporate PAC money, a campaign finance reform group is pushing them to take things a step further by using anti-corruption messages to campaign against President Donald Trump and pledging to make ethics reform an early priority in the White House.

End Citizens United, armed with polling and a track record of success in helping elect Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections, says Democrats shouldn’t hesitate to put an anti-corruption message at the forefront of the eventual general election, according to polling and presentation materials reviewed by POLITICO. The group’s leaders have briefed nine presidential campaigns, including the campaigns of polling front-runners Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and they are making plans to sit down with more.

Trump — who often boasted about his independence from big money in 2016 and branded his rival “crooked Hillary” — wielded Washington corruption as a tool on the campaign trail in his last race. But this time, ECU argues there’s space for Democrats to shape the debate, with many independents now seeing the president as similarly corrupt as other politicians in Washington.

“It’s key to winning back independents, and the kind of independents that Democrats have lost over the last couple cycles,” said Adam Bozzi, vice president for communications at ECU. “And it’s a jump ball: Voters don’t know who to trust, whether it’s Trump or a Democrat, on this issue.”

ECU operates with the goal of getting money out of politics and supporting politicians who pledge to work on campaign finance reform. The group backed more than 50 successful Democratic congressional candidates during the midterms, and it helped raise $9 million for candidates, including for 27 successful challengers who flipped seats while pledging to not take corporate PAC money.

As Democrats worked to flip the House, ECU and the “no corporate PAC” Democrats prodded incoming House leadership to make a sweeping ethics reform package its first order of business in the House. The bill, H.R.1, passed the House in March, though it has received little attention in the Republican-led Senate.

ECU is adopting a similar approach to the Democratic 2020 field. The group has not announced how it will support Democratic candidates for president. But it is now asking Democratic campaigns to commit to making ethics reform as his or her act as president, a sign it is outlining criteria and may start raising money for some candidates later in the campaign.

One candidate, Pete Buttigieg, cited reform as the first issue he’d push as president during last month’s presidential debates.

“Fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that and every other issue gets better,” Buttigieg said. Other candidates including Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Warren have outlined detailed campaign finance reform plans.

ECU is also urging candidates to make an anti-corruption message central to their campaigns and their anti-Trump messages.

“Corruption and money in politics are top issues for independent voters in 2020, and the debate between the two parties on these issues is largely unsettled,” reads the presentation that ECU has been giving to Democratic campaigns.

According to polling conducted by ECU, voters in swing states see corruption as a top concern: 83 percent of swing state voters said that “cracking down on political corruption” is a top priority, the same share of voters who said “making health care affordable” was a top priority. National security was the next highest priority on the list, followed by other issues.

The findings are based on an online poll of 1,212 likely voters in 12 battleground states conducted by Global Strategy Group. GSG purposefully oversampled voters in counties that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after twice favoring Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The poll was conducted between April 26 and May 8, 2019.

Asked how effective they think Trump has been at fulfilling his promise to “drain the swamp,” 74 percent of independent voters said they think Trump was “not effective” in his first term, while 22 percent said he was “effective” and 4 percent said they didn’t know. Sixty percent of Republican voters said Trump has been effective at draining the swamp, while 9 percent of Democratic voters agreed.

Some voters still see Trump in the same light as his initial independent, self-funding political persona. Only 25 percent of independent voters and 10 percent of Republican voters said they see Trump as “more corrupt” than other Washington politicians. About half of independent voters said they thought Trump was “about the same” as Washington politicians, the poll found.

ECU is telling Democratic campaigns to combat these perceptions of Trump by tying his positions on issues like health care and guns to powerful special interests in Washington.

“Voters don’t start with a clearly formed opinion on Trump’s independence,” reads ECU’s presentation. “What could be a strength for him of ‘not being bought’ can be undermined effectively with messaging about the money he has accepted from corporate special interests and pushing policies that hurt everyday Americans.”

On health care, for example, ECU suggests noting that Trump “has taken hundreds of thousands in donations from big health insurance companies” before talking about Trump’s positions.

But it will be difficult for Democrats to dislodge Trump on this issue, said Chris Wilson, CEO of the Republican research and polling firm WPAi — and as politicians lambaste money in politics, they are increasingly risking alienating their own supporters.

“It’s impossible for them to take the ‘drain the swamp’ mantle away from Trump,” Wilson said. “Where Democrats are pushing themselves is not an anti-corruption standpoint, it’s an anti-corporation, anti-business, anti-Wall Street— and in some cases, taking on their own baR