Gov. Susana Martinez alleges that a complaint from two groups that she violated campaign finance law by using campaign funds to lobby the Legislature is a partisan attack.
One of those groups, Common Cause, says that’s ridiculous.
“Common Cause has a history of, in this type of circumstance, filing complaints against both parties, so the idea stated in the governor’s letter that this is purely a partisan attack – at least from Common Cause’s perspective that is not true,” said Common Cause Executive Director Steven Robert Allen.
He was referring to a letter the Republican governor’s campaign attorney, Paul Kienzle, sent to the secretary of state in response to the complaints. In the letter, Kienzle wrote that the complaint came from “partisan special interest groups who are attempting to misuse the complaint process and silence the First Amendment rights of persons with whom they do not agree.”
Read the letter here.
As an example of Common Cause filing a complaint against a Democrat, Allen pointed to the group’s complaint – and additional work with the Attorney General’s Office – in the case against Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr., who is facing felony charges related to abuses of the state’s public financing system.
In the case of Martinez, Common Cause and Somos Un Pueblo Unido filed complaints in response to the governor’s using campaign funds to pay for radio ads pushing lawmakers to approve legislation would make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. On Thursday, Secretary of State Dianna Duran ruled that Martinez didn’t violate the Campaign Reporting Act, arguing that the ads “promote the governor’s issues and ideas, and that the promotion of such issues and ideas are a standard campaign activity.”
Allen said that’s an extremely broad interpretation of the law that “makes that section of the act functionally meaningless.” He said he doesn’t see how lobbying activity two months into the governor’s tenure can be construed as part of her 2014 re-election campaign.
At the same time, Allen said, “I don’t want to overstate the violation,” which would be punishable by a fine.
“I think the small civil fine outlined in the act would be appropriate for this, but I do think the act needs to be enforced and I think that’s the secretary of state’s job,” he said.
Duran suggested that former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, engaged in lobbying activity similar to Martinez’s with campaign funds. Allen said his group didn’t know about such activity by Richardson until Duran brought it up on Thursday.
A prior version of this posting incorrectly reported Allen’s final quote as, “I think the small civil fine outlawed in the act would be appropriate for this, but I do think the act needs to be enforced and I think that’s the secretary of state’s job.”