“Democracy Dollars” Refusing To Take No For An Answer

This is what you call refusing to take no for an answer.

On Tuesday August 14, 2018, the Bernalillo County Commission voted 3 to 2 not to place the “Democracy Dollars” on the November 6, 2018 ballot.

The “Democracy Dollars” was a voter petition drive initiative to place on general election ballot amendments to the City of Albuquerque’s public finance laws.

The County Commissioners who voted not to put the measure on the ballot expressed serious concerns about the proposal, especially about how the coupons would be tracked, used, distributed and funded, and questioning why the Albuquerque City Council was not asked to do it, all very legitimate concerns.

Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico had this to say after the county commission declined to put “Democracy Dollars” on the ballot:

“We’re really disappointed that the county commission decided to take an action tonight that was against the wishes and will of 28,000 of their constituents. … every single one of the residents of Albuquerque are their constituents here in the county, and that was silencing their voices. It was incredibly disappointing to hear.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1208997/democracy-dollars-ballot-initiative-fails.html

The very day after the county commission voted against putting the measure on the ballot, organizers of “Dollars for Democracy” mounted an extensive social media and phone lobbying effort to have the county commission reconsider their vote claiming that the county commission disenfranchised petition signers by refusing to put the measure on the ballot.

In response to the pressure, the Bernalillo County Commissioners have now scheduled a special public hearing for Tuesday, August 21, 2018 for the “Democracy Dollars”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1210268/bernco-commissioners-to-revisit-democracy-dollars-ballot-question.html

DEMOCRACY FOR DOLLARS EXPLAINED

Because the November election is a statewide and county election, the Bernalillo County Commission was required to vote to place it on the ballot, but only if they wanted to.

The voter initiative if it passes would direct the Albuquerque City Council to establish an ordinance providing for issuance and redemption of $25 coupons and change the date for municipal elections from its usual October date to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November on odd-numbered years.

Under the Democracy for Dollars proposal, all registered city voters and all voting age residents, would be given $25 Democracy Dollars coupons issued by the city to contribute to their choice of qualified candidates.

All registered voters would automatically be mailed or given $25 vouchers finance by city taxpayers.

Voter age residents who are not registered voters would be able to get the $25 vouchers by applying to the Albuquerque City Clerk.

Municipal candidates would then redeem the dollars with the city clerk, up to a limit, for funds to spend in support of their municipal campaigns.

What is not clear or definite from the petition signed by registered voters is if “foreign nationals” who are Albuquerque residents and who are not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States will be given the $25 vouchers, which would violate federal law, both by the candidates soliciting the vouchers and the foreign national themselves.

The federal election contribution laws prohibit a person, including candidates from soliciting, accepting, or receiving a contribution or donation from a foreign national.

The federal law applies to local elections such as Albuquerque’s municipal election.

FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LAWS

Section 52 U.S. Code § 30121 of the federal statutes governs contributions and donations by foreign nationals to candidates for office or political campaigns and states:

“PROHIBITION: It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to contribute or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or

(2) [It shall be unlawful for] a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(b)“FOREIGN NATIONAL” DEFINED: As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means: a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or

(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States … [as defined by federal statute] and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by [federal statute] … ”

Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules and regulations defines individuals who are considered “foreign nationals” and are subject to the prohibition to include foreign citizens, not including dual citizens of the United States, and immigrants who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

https://www.fec.gov/updates/foreign-nationals/

The $25-dollar coupons or vouchers called “Democracy for Dollars” clearly have a value once redeemed and fall within the definition “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value.”

Foreign nationals who knowingly and willfully engage in the prohibited activities of donating to candidates for office or political campaigns may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both.

https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/candidate-taking-receipts/types-contributions/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Democracy Dollars is a clear attempt to make major changes on how contributions and donations are made in Albuquerque’s Municipal elections and for that reason it will be subject to federal contribution laws.

Common Cause and “Democracy for Dollar’s” have missed the mark by promoting just another way for candidates for office to collect donations for their campaigns instead of promoting meaningful campaign and election reform for our municipal elections.

Bernalillo County has no “public finance” system in place for any of its elected officials, yet Common Cause and Democracy for Dollars wants the county to weigh in on demanding the city to make major changes to its campaign finance laws.

The New Mexico constitution provides that all minicpal elections are to be nonpartisan elections.

The voter petition initiative also wants to change the date of the city’s nonpartisan municipal elections to coincide with State and Federal partisan elections.

“Democracy Dollars” is proposing major changes to the City of Albuquerque public financing system yet county registered voters will be voting in November on the measure when they are prohibited from voting in municipal elections.

If anything, “Democracy Dollars” should be placed on the 2019 City nonpartisan election ballot by the Albuquerque City Council and not on the general partisan election ballot by the Bernalillo County Commission.

There are two major points that need to be made clear to the Bernalillo County Commission and to voters about “Democracy Dollars”:

1.The $25 vouchers are to be mailed or given to all registered voters as well as any resident of the city who is not a registered voter but who applies for a voucher.

2. The issuance of $25 vouchers to all city residents of the city and not just registered voters will result in a financial liability far above and beyond what is already in the city budget for publicly financed candidates.

The argument that Democracy Dollars involves “no new taxes” conveniently ignores that it still involves taxpayer money that must come from the city’s general fund that is used for essential services and social services.

The City sets aside approximately $500,000 a year for public financing campaigns out of the general fund.

Supporters of Democracy Dollars claim it will be funded by a $3,000,000 surplus that has built up in the Open and Ethical Elections Fund and the annual allocations already in place.

There are approximately 558,000 Albuquerque residents.

To print and implement a voucher system for the estimated 558,000 Albuquerque residents will result in a minimum financial exposure to the city of $13,950,000 million dollars. (558,000 city residents X $25 voucher = $13,950,000 million)

There are approximately 360,000 registered voters in Albuquerque.

To print and implement a voucher system for just registered voters will result in a minimum financial exposure to this city of $9 million dollars. (360,000 registered voters X $25 voucher = $9 million).

An unintended consequence of “Democracy Dollars” will be to add yet another difficult layer of campaign solicitation effort by candidates on top of an already very cumbersome process to collect $5.00 qualifying donations that sets up most candidates for failure.

Candidates will be soliciting not only $5.00 qualifying donations but the $25 city issued coupons that are in reality a city subsidized contribution being called a “block grant” from taxpayers.

Enforcement to prevent violations of campaign finance laws will also be a major hurdle and costly to the city.

The $25 voucher system being proposed can be very easily abused and undermined by a candidate who decides to just buy the voucher’s outright from residents at a lesser cost of say $5 to $10 for an example and then turn the purchased voucher into the city to collect the full $25.

It is very disingenuous for Democracy Dollars and Common Cause to refer to as “small donors” those residents who are not able to make monetary contribution on their own to a political campaign when they are given a $25 voucher with the funding source in fact coming from the city general fund and taxpayers and not their own pocket book.

It is extremely doubtful that any voucher system such as “Democracy Dollars” or for that matter any form of public financing of campaigns is going to have any major impact on increasing voter turnout in Albuquerque’s municipal election as being argued by supporters of the measure.

It is going to take more than a $25 voucher system and significantly more changes to put public financing directly in the hands of voters, especially with the existence of Citizens United in order to level the political donation playing field.

The “Democracy for Dollars” plan has absolutely no impact on the effects of measured finance committees and the unlimited amount of money they can raise and spend on behalf or even against a candidate.

It is totally discretionary for the Bernalillo County Commission to put “Democracy for Dollars” on the ballot.

Signing a petition is merely voicing an opinion at the time that may change and not a binding vote, so no one is being disenfranchised by the county commission’s decision.

It is downright laughable for anyone to argue that people who have sign the Democracy for Dollars petition are being disenfranchised by the Bernalillo County Commission when they declined to put it on the ballot seeing as they are acting totally within their authority to say NO.

It is called a “represented form of government” for a reason: people are elected to make decisions that they believe are in the best interest of their constituents.

We will now see if the Bernalillo County Commission majority will fold like cheap suits to public pressure and reverse themselves and put “Democracy for Dollars” on the ballot.

FOLLOWING ARE OTHER LINKS TO BLOG ARTICLES ON DEMOCRACY DOLLARS:

“Democracy Dollars” Voted Down 3-2 By Bernalillo County Commission

“Democracy Dollars” To Be Given To All Residents, Not Just Registered Voters

“Democracy Dollars” A New Form of “Dialing For Dollars”

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

“The Will Of The People” Cannot Override The “Constitutional Rights Of The Person”

New Mexico gubernatorial candidates Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce have now both taken a position on a judge’s controversial decision to release on a signature bond 5 adults arrested at compound north of Taos.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1210382/gov-candidates-question-pretrial-release-rules.html

All 5 defendants have been charged by the Taos District Attorney with child abuse and nothing more, even after the body of a child was found on the property.

The cause of death of the child has yet to be determined by an autopsy.

During the bond hearing for release, the District Attorney presented no evidence to the Judge of child abuse and no evidence of the condition of the other children.

During the bond hearing, the District Attorney alleged that one of the adults was training children at the compound to attack “corrupt institutions,” which could include schools, law enforcement agencies and banks.

As inflammatory and alarming the claim of terrorism was, the Taos District Attorney offered no evidence of the allegation to substantiate the claim prompting the Judge to write in her ruling:

“No actual threats of terrorism or any credible evidence of a substantive plan was produced regarding the same. … the Court is requested by the State to surmise that these people are dangerous terrorists with a plot against the Country or institutions … The Court may not surmise, guess or assume. … The [District Attorney] did not produce any evidence of any history of violence that would cause the Court to conclude that they are a danger to the community or are unlikely to appear at hearings or to abide by their conditions of release.”

The Judge found that the Taos District Attorney did not prove that the suspects were dangerous to the community.

The Court’s bond release ruling drew sharp criticism and public outcry with threats of violence against the Judge to the point the Taos County Courthouse had to be closed.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES POSTIONS

Not at all surprising, both Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce are now saying they favor re-examining the state’s current rules for pretrial release of violent offenders, which were enacted after voters approved a 2016 constitutional amendment.

Democrat Mitchell Lujan Grisham stated:

“We have an obligation to re-examine New Mexico’s pretrial detention policies, which empower judges to detain a defendant due to the severity of the crime. Ultimately, judges have a sacred responsibility to safeguard public safety, protect vulnerable populations and ensure that the community is not subject to further risk.”

Republican Steve Pearce stated:

“The state of New Mexico needs to be able to hold people who pose a significant flight risk without bond, and we, the people, should provide the courts with what we mean by ‘dangerous’. Judicial interpretation cannot continue to take the most extreme and lenient position to override the will of the people and compromise the safety of New Mexico communities, as it is under the current system.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Under the United States Constitution, all are guaranteed the right of due process of law no matter how heinous or violent the crime.

In criminal trials, any defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.

The new court rules on bond hearings and the degree of proof needed to detain an accused are indeed a “work in progress” as pointed out by State Representative Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee when she said:

“I think we need to give the court some time to figure this out.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court needs to revisit the bond rules and find a solution that will give the District Court’s more latitude and discretionary authority when it comes to the bond hearings.

It was very appropriate for both candidates for Governor to voice concerns about the ruling and the constitutional amendment.

Given the public safety importance of “bond hearings” where a judge determines if an accused is released or held in jail pending a trial, it is extremely important that the candidates for Governor and the public understand our constitutional rights and guarantees of due process of law and the presumption of innocence.

What is clear is that that Michelle Lujan Grisham understands our constitutional rights of due process of law.

Lujan Grisham’s remarks were measured, but more importantly she understands the role of the judiciary and the judges when she said: “Ultimately, judges have a sacred responsibility to safeguard public safety, protect vulnerable populations… .”

Lujan Grisham understands that the role of the courts is to protect our freedoms and constitutional rights of due process of law.

Vilifying Judges and court rulings are a popular tactic perfected by President Trump and the Republicans to gin up their conservative base.

Steve Pearce’s comments “Judicial interpretation cannot continue to take the most extreme and lenient position to override the will of the people and compromise the safety of New Mexico communities” falls right in line with the vilification of our judicial system.

Pearce’s remarks reflect the philosophy of damn our constitutional rights of due process of law and the presumption of innocence.

What is also clear is that Republican Steve Pearce promotes the ultra-right wing Republican agenda by wrapping himself around his definition of “the will of the people” and ignoring the “constitutional rights of the person”.

For more on the Taos 5 bond ruling see:

Governor Martinez And GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi Two Fools In A Pod Vilifying Judiciary

Keller Watch, August 11, 2018: Joint Democratic Ward Meeting

On Saturday, August 11, 2018, Democratic Wards 11A, 11B, and 11C held a joint Democratic Ward meeting.

About 65 people attended and most were and older crowd, 55 and older.

Mayor Tim Keller and State Senator Jerry Ortiz Pino spoke and did a fine job of addressing the many issues facing Albuquerque.

Among the topics discussed were APD, crime and the ART bus project.

Mayor Keller did say he is hoping the ART buses will be up and running by winter.

Mayor Keller reported that things are still being negotiated with the ART Bus manufacturer and that the city is still on the hook to pay for the buses already delivered.

One thing made clear is that the batteries of the buses will not allow them to be driven the 350 miles originally contracted for and that additional charging stations will need to be constructed.

Further, the buses cannot be easily modified, such as adding doors to opposite sides, that would allow them to be used on regular bus stops and the platforms constructed are all that they can be used on.

Further, it will take upwards of two years to order and get different buses from another manufacturer.

The “One Leadership Theme” Mayor Keller discussed is the philosophy of acknowledging Albuquerque serious problems that need to be acknowledge and respond with solutions.

With respect to APD, Mayor Keller talked about APD reorganization and working on a “downtown police district”.

The goal is to locate a facility, perhaps at Alvarado Transportation Center for example, to be able to have police officers patrol the Downtown area.

A downtown police station will require more sworn police, officers that APD does not currently have.

APD currently has 878 sworn police with the goal to hire 100 more over the next year.

Mayor Keller reported there are 44 cadets in the APD Police Academy with another 22 laterals hired.

Based on past performance numbers, the APD Academy in all likely graduate between 25 to 30 officers’ and the officer shortage will be affected by retirements.

Mayor Keller intends to increase funding for winter sheltering of the homeless.

The Mayor pointed out that the old west side detention facility is now, and for a number of years, provided winter shelter for the homeless.

The Homeless are housed in the common areas of the old jail with the use bunk beds and pods for limited privacy.

Keller announced that more funding has been provided for afterschool programs.

One interesting proposal Keller intends to announce is a “children’s cabinet” to get more input from kids.

Keller also talked about his economic development plan and his “increment of one” program with an emphasis on economic base jobs and businesses.

Keller noted that property crime rates have declined, but Albuquerque’s homicide rate continues to rise.

Mayor Keller disclosed that the overwhelming majority of murders in Albuquerque involve domestic violence or drugs.

Albuquerque’s Homicides rate continues to rise.

Mayor also talked about how successful the newly renovated civic plaza and fountain has increased night time activity on the plaza.

Keller discussed a volunteer’s initiative to help with clerical duties with APD.

During the question and answer session at the joint ward meeting, Mayor Keller addressed the Top Golf veto override.

Keller said that the override was an exception not the rule saying he gets along just fine with the council.

As examples of getting along with the council, Keller cited the tax increase enacted by the council he signed after promising not to increase taxes without a public vote and the council increasing funding for projects he wants such as after school programs, the Safe City Strike Force and public safety.

Mayor Keller closed with talking about a roll out of a volunteer program and his One Albuquerque campaign.

The ultimate goal is to develop a core of volunteers that can help the city and APD with matters such as fingerprint processing and records keeping and clerical duties.

The volunteer program is part of Keller’s “One Albuquerque” initiative to encourage civic involvement with city issues.

Mayor Keller briefly discusses the city’s economic development plan to assist small business owners.

Governor Martinez And GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi Two Fools In A Pod Vilifying Judiciary

District Judge Sarah Backus of Taos is taking a tremendous amount of heat and criticism for releasing five adults arrested at a remote northern New Mexico compound.

The 5 have been accused child abuse, suspected of murdering a child in an exorcism and accused by prosecutors of training children to carry out terrorist armed attacks, heinous crimes by anyone’s definition if true.

Things got so bad that the Taos County Courthouse was closed after credible threats of physical violence were made against the Judge and others.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1208891/judge-getting-threats-over-ruling-in-taos-compound-case.html

DISTRICT COURT RULING AND RATIONALE

The New Mexico Constitution provides that defendants can be held in jail without bond before trial “only if prosecutors show by clear and convincing evidence that they are so dangerous that no release conditions will reasonably protect public safety.”

According to news accounts, prosecutors argued during the lengthy 4 hour bond hearing:

1. That some of children at the compound were being trained to use guns in preparation for attacks on educational, law enforcement and other institutions with information coming from two teenagers, ages 13 and 15, who were interviewed by an FBI agent. The FBI agent testified that he was told that the children were undergoing firearms and tactical training to attack “corrupt” institutions that would be identified by the dead boy, who was to be resurrected as Jesus in the coming months.

2. Prosecutors offered as evidence a letter inviting another person to come to the compound and follow Allah until “he makes you die as a martyr”; the guns found at the compound and books about combat found there; weapons training and a trip to Saudi Arabia undertaken by Siraj Ibn Wahhaj; and the “magical thinking” shown by accounts from children who lived at the compound.

At the conclusion of the more than 4-hour hearing, District Judge Sarah Backus ruled that the District Attorney failed to meet the burden of proof as required by New Mexico law.

District Court Judge Backus ruled that prosecutors had not shown by clear and convincing evidence what the Muslim group’s plan were so dangerous that no release conditions would reasonably protect public safety.

Judge Backus did express serious concerns about the “troubling facts” especially with the discovery of a child’s body at the compound.

Notwithstanding the Judge said from the bench:

“The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot, but the state hasn’t shown, to my satisfaction, by clear and convincing evidence, what that plan was”.

The court noted that people in the compound were living in an unconventional way, but that many in northern New Mexico live in unconventional ways.

Further, the court noted that no one in the group has a criminal record except Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, who is accused of kidnapping his child from the boy’s mother in Georgia.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is still being held in custody because of the kidnapping charge.

At the conclusion of the bond hearing, the Judge set a $20,000, unsecured signature bond, with house arrest in new accommodations, ankle bracelets to monitor the defendants and other restrictions for each defendant.

The day after the hearing, District Judge Backus filed a written court order.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1209212/taos-judges-written-order-elaborates-on-controversial-compound-decision.html

The written court order says the District Attorney “apparently is inviting the Court to consider media reports [which are hearsay that the Court cannot consider as evidence], conjecture and assumption to piece together evidence of sufficient dangerousness” to justify incarcerating the defendants without bail until trial.

The District Court Judge noted in her written ruling that while a boy’s body was found at the compound, the District Attorney’s office:

“has not charged any of the defendants with any crime related to the death of the child. … The State has not charged the defendants with any crime related to possession of any firearms. … No charges are pending regarding any actual threats of terrorism. No actual threats of terrorism or any credible evidence of a substantive plan was produced regarding the same. … The State offered a hand-written ‘manifesto’ of sorts but completely failed to establish in any way its origin.”

Other excerpts from the Court’s written ruling explaining her decision are as follows:

“The charges in all these cases are for child abuse. … The State produced no evidence of any abuse. … The Court has no information and none was presented as to their current conditions.”

“The only evidence received by the Court regarding this child is that he was ill and disabled and that the defendants prayed over him and touched him on the forehead prior to his death … While the Court finds these allegations extremely disturbing, the allegations, without more, do not rise to the level of evidence that clearly convinces the Court that the defendants are a danger to any other person (all other children are in the custody of the State) or to the community at large.”

“No actual threats of terrorism or any credible evidence of a substantive plan was produced regarding the same. …”

“From this meager evidence the Court is requested by the State to surmise that these people are dangerous terrorists with a plot against the Country or institutions … The Court may not surmise, guess or assume.”

“The State did not produce any evidence of any history of violence that would cause the Court to conclude that they are a danger to the community or are unlikely to appear at hearings or to abide by their conditions of release,” the judge wrote.

The DA’s Office said in court that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj took a trip to Saudi Arabia and suggested that he became radicalized on his return.

The District Attorneys office noted that devout Muslims are required to travel to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, once in their lifetimes.

“The State apparently expected the Court to take the individuals’ faith into account in making such a determination … The Court has never been asked to take any other person’s faith into account in making a determination of dangerousness. The Court is not aware of any law that allows the Court to take a person’s faith into consideration in making a dangerousness determination.”

THREE LEVELS OF BURDEN OF PROOF

In order to understand the District Court’s ruling, an explanation of the escalating levels of burden of proof need to be elaborated upon.

Under the United States Constitution, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” and are entitled to due process of law, no matter how heinous the crime.

Further, an accused is entitled to be given an opportunity to post a bond and to be released from jail until trial.

The bond posted is determined by the court, usually at an arraignment on charges, and the amount of bond set is intended to insure the defendant’s appearance.

In our criminal justice system, there are 3 very distinct escalating levels of evidence that must be proven by the prosecution:

1. “Evidence of Probable Cause”,
2. “Clear and Convincing Evidence” and
3. “Evidence Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”

What is always confusing is bond hearings such as that involving the 5 Taos defendants are often confused with preliminary hearings or trials on the merits.

The burden of proof for all three hearings is significantly different but always the responsibility of the prosecutors to meet.

“Evidence of probable cause” is a lower level of proof used for preliminary hearings or grand jury proceeding to charge someone with a felony.

Evidence of probable cause is evidence presented showing it is more likely than not that a crime has been committed by the accused.

Evidence of probable cause is evidence that leads you to believe that the accused committed the crime and it only provides enough grounds to charge but not to convict.

Clear and convincing evidence is the “medium level” of burden of proof standard which is a more rigorous standard to meet than “Evidence of Probable Cause”.

In bond hearings such the one involving the 5 Taos defendants, accused defendants can be held in custody without bond only if prosecutors show by “clear and convincing evidence” that they are so dangerous that no release conditions will reasonably protect public safety.

Black’s Law dictionary defines “clear and convincing evidence” as evidence that “is positive, precise and explicit, as opposed to ambiguous, equivocal, or contradictory proof, and which tends directly to establish the point to which it is adduced, instead of leaving it a matter of conjecture or presumption.”

Evidence of probable cause and clear and convincing evidence are less rigorous standard to meet than proving guilt by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

In criminal trials, any defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of evidence that exists in our criminal justice system.

The phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” means that the established facts or evidence presented in a case lead the jury or the court to only one logical conclusion: that the defendant is guilty of the charges.

https://thelawdictionary.org/article/beyond-reasonable-doubt-matters-criminal-law/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

To quote Judge Backus “The canons of judicial ethics require that judges not concern themselves with public opinion and base their decisions in the law and the evidence presented in Court.”

Given the evidence presented by the District Attorney against the 5 Taos defendants, it was not surprising that the court ruled the way she did in that that there was no “clear and convincing evidence” as required by the law.

The Taos District Attorney is appealing the District Court Judge’s ruling, in all probability to the Court of Appeals, in releasing the defendants which is the appropriate approach.

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/da-to-appeal-ruling-to-release-nm-compound-suspects-on-bond/5031927/?cat=500

Another approach is to ask the District Court to reconsider her decision and review conditions of release and allow more evidence to be presented by the prosecution showing immediate danger to the public and flight risk.

A third option is for the District Attorney to seek a “Writ of Superintending Control” before the New Mexico Supreme Court to review the District Court’s Ruling.

It is highly likely that the Court of Appeals will not reverse the decision and find that there was no abuse of discretion by the judge.

Notwithstanding, the public perception is terrible and the District Attorney does not have many options other than appeal or seek more evidence to be presented to review conditions of release of the defendants.

What is extremely troubling are the efforts by the Republican Party and state GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi to make the ruling of District Judge Sarah Backus political by saying:

“Judge Backus has put New Mexicans at risk by releasing suspected terrorists back into the community.”

Cangiolosi makes the accusation even though no actual threats of terrorism or any credible evidence of a substantive plan was produced by the District Attorney and presented during the bond hearing.

There is no doubt Cangiolosi would have kept his big mouth shut if the Judge was a Republican.

What is really disgusting is that our fool for a Governor just had to get into the act of publicizing the ruling when she said:

“I strongly disagree with this decision. … Unfortunately, it highlights for the entire nation how extreme the New Mexico Supreme Court has been in dictating pretrial release for all kinds of dangerous criminals.”

What makes Governor Susanna Martinez remarks so egregious is that she is a former 16 year elected Las Cruces District Attorney and a license New Mexico Attorney and she should know better.

With her remarks, Governor Martinez shows how ignorant of the law she really is or that she is just a pandering fool, but probably both.

Vilifying Judges is a popular tactic perfected by President Trump and the Republicans such as Dan Lewis when running for Mayor and Wayne Johnson running for Mayor and State Auditor to gin up their conservative base.

What is not appropriate and downright dangerous conduct is for anyone to threaten any judge with physical harm over a ruling they make.

Martinez as a New Mexico attorney is an officer of the court, and her total failure to condemn people threatening the courts is a low as you can get even for the likes of this Republican Governor who cannot leave office soon enough.

“Democracy Dollars” Voted Down 3-2 By Bernalillo County Commission

The Bernalillo County Commissioners voted by 3-2 not to add the “Democracy Dollars” initiative on the November general election ballot.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1208997/democracy-dollars-ballot-initiative-fails.html

Supporters had predicted that the measure would pass by a 4-1 vote and placed on the ballot by the County Commission.

A minimum of 19,480 signatures from registered city voters were required on the petition for ballot placement and consideration by commissioners.

Advocates for the measure had submitted a petition with more than 28,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office.

It was totally discretionary and the responsibility of the Bernalillo County Commission to put the measure on the November 6, 2018.

Democrat Steven Quezada and Republicans Lonnie Talbert and James Smith voted against adding the question on the November ballot, while Democrats Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins voted to put it on the ballot.

The proposal would have directed the Albuquerque City Council to establish an ordinance providing for issuance and redemption of $25 coupons as donations to candidates for city elections.

The proposal would have also change the date for municipal elections from its usual October date to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November on odd-numbered years.

The measure had it passed in November general election by all county voters would have instructed the Albuquerque City Council to amend is campaign finance law providing for public finance campaigns, which is strictly a city of Albuquerque system for its municipal elections.

Bernalillo County does not have any form of public finance for any of its elected officials.

The proposal would have directed the Albuquerque City Council to establish an ordinance providing for issuance and redemption of the coupons.

The City’s public finance system was enacted by city voters in 2005 in a municipal election and it was a City Council initiative.

Under the Democracy for Dollars proposal, all registered city voters and all residents, would be given $25 Democracy Dollars coupons issued by the city to contribute to their choice of qualified candidates.

Under the system proposed, $25 vouchers will be given or mailed to all registered voters.

Eligible residents who were not registered voters could have also obtained the $25 vouchers by applying to the City Clerk.

Municipal candidates would then redeem the dollars with the city clerk, up to a limit, for funds to spend in support of their municipal campaigns.

Under a successful City Charter amendment, the amount for mayoral candidates would have increased to $1.75 per voter.

Under the system, City Council candidates who take public financing receive $1 per voter in their district, usually around $30,000 to $45,000.

Mayoral candidates get approximately $380,000 and if they make it into a runoff another $118,000.

Notwithstanding the city public finance laws, measured finance committees are allowed to solicit and spend unlimited amounts of money.

FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LAWS

It is no clear from the petition if undocumented residents will also have the right to apply for the $25 vouchers, an if so, it would violate federal campaign finance laws.

Section 52 U.S. Code § 30121 of the federal statutes governs contributions and donations by foreign nationals to candidates for office or political campaigns and states:

“PROHIBITION: It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to contribute or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or

(2) [It shall be unlawful for] a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(b)“FOREIGN NATIONAL” DEFINED: As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means: a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or

(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States … [as defined by federal statute] and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by [federal statute] … ”

Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules and regulations defines individuals who are considered “foreign nationals” and are subject to the prohibition to include foreign citizens, not including dual citizens of the United States, and immigrants who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

https://www.fec.gov/updates/foreign-nationals/

The $25-dollar coupons or vouchers called “Democracy for Dollars” clearly have a value once redeemed and fall within the definition “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value.”

Foreign nationals who knowingly and willfully engage in the prohibited activities of donating to candidates for office or political campaigns may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both.

https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/candidate-taking-receipts/types-contributions/

REACTION TO COUNTY COMMISION VOTE

Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, had this to say about the County Commission vote:

“We’re really disappointed that the county commission decided to take an action tonight that was against the wishes and will of 28,000 of their constituents. … Every single one of the residents of Albuquerque are their constituents here in the county, and that was silencing their voices. It was incredibly disappointing to hear.”

County Commissioners expressed concerns about the proposal, especially about how the coupons would be tracked, used and distributed.

After the county commission meeting, Democrat Steve Quezada had this to say:

“I think that public financing is important, especially to Democrats who don’t have access to a lot of dollars. … I [also] think we need to look at how that’s done and how that’s structured. There were too many holes. I had too many questions, and why am I making a decision that the city councilors aren’t doing? I hate to throw them under the bus, but really, this is their decision. I feel bad because [the election advocates] worked really hard, and I’m sad that it’s going to be further down the road, but we still have public financing in place.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

“Democracy Dollars” was seriously flawed from the get go as outlined in this blog article:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/08/13/democracy-dollars-to-be-given-to-all-residents-not-just-registered-voters/

There are 4 major points the majority of Bernalillo County Commission picked up on about “Democracy Dollars that were clear flaws:

1. The Bernalillo County Commission would be involved with a decision that instructed the Albuquerque City Council to amend its public finance laws that were enacted in a 2005 municipal election amending the City Charter.

2. The $25 vouchers are to be mailed or given to all registered voters as well as any resident of the city who is not a registered voter but who applies for a voucher.

3. The issuance of $25 vouchers to all city residents of the city and not just registered voters would result in a financial liability far above and beyond what is already in the city budget for publicly financed candidates.

4. The $25 voucher system proposed could be very easily abused and undermined by a candidate who decides to go around and just buy the voucher’s outright from residents at a lesser cost of say $5 to $10 for an example and then turn the purchased voucher into the city to collect the full $25.

The “Democracy Dollars” are really “free vouchers” provided to all city to residents in an apparent attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations from registered voters to the city that are now required to secure public financing.

The entire public finance system enacted by city voters in 2005 needs to be completely over hauled to make it easier for candidates to qualify for public financing, especially the collection of the $5.00 qualifying donations.

Getting on the municipal ballot and qualifying for public finance is by far where the problems are with the existing system as are the influence of “measured finance” committees.

On January 2, 2018, I posted my blog article with recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election code laws.

Following is a listing of the recommendations:

1. Allow four (4) months and two (2) weeks, from January 1 to May 15, to collected both the qualifying donations and petition signatures, and private campaign donation collection.
2. Allow the collection of the qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country.
3. Once the allowed number of qualifying donations is collected, the public financing would be made immediately available, but not allowed to be spent until starting May 15.
4. Permit campaign spending for both publicly financed and privately financed candidates only from May 15 to the October election day.
5. Return to candidates for their use in their campaign any qualifying donations the candidate has collected when the candidate fails to secure the required number of qualifying donations to get the public financing.
6. Mandate the City Clerk to issue debit card or credit card collection devices to collect the qualifying donations and to issue receipts and eliminate the mandatory use of “paper receipts”.
7. Increase from $1.00 to $2.50 per registered voter the amount of public financing, which will be approximately $900,000, and allow for incremental increases of 10% every election cycle keeping up with inflation.
8. Allow for additional matching public financing available for run offs at the rate of $1.25 per registered voter, or $450,000.
9. Albuquerque should make every effort to make municipal elections partisan elections to be held along with State and Federal elections by seeking a constitutional amendment from the legislature to be voted upon by the public.
10. Any money raised and spent by measured finance committees on behalf a candidate should be required to first be applied to reimburse the City for any taxpayer money advanced to a public finance candidate or deducted from a publicly financed candidates account and returned to the city.
11. City of Albuquerque campaign reporting and finance ordinances and regulations need to define with absolute clarity that strictly prohibit the coordination of expenditures and campaign activities with measured finance committees and individual candidate’s campaigns in municipal elections.
12. A mandatory schedule of fines and penalties for violations of the code of ethics and campaign practices act should be enacted by the City Council.

The “Democracy for Dollars” initiative was a pathetic attempt at campaign finance reform.

Common Cause and Democracy for Dollar’s missed the mark totally by promoting just another way for candidates for office to collect donations for their campaigns instead of promoting meaningful campaign and election reform for our municipal elections.

Rather than condemning the County Commission for not going along with them with Democracy Dollars, Common Cause should approach Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque City Council and demand a complete overhaul of the city’s campaign finance law and of the election code.

FOR MORE ON REFORMING CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS SEE:

2017 Mayor’s Race Needs Public Finance Reform

A System Designed For Failure

Father Eric Griego Defends His “Public Finance” Child

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

Hell Freezing Over, Again

Following is the full August 14, 2018 Albuquerque Journal Editorial.

Editorial Headline: Keller’s right, Topgolf override not worth a fight
By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 at 12:02am

“The fight between the Albuquerque City Council and Mayor Tim Keller’s administration over economic development incentives for Topgolf came to a head last week with the Council’s 7-2 vote to override Keller’s veto of the incentives.

And while Keller could certainly challenge the economic development package in court, it would be better for everyone involved to simply put the matter in the rearview mirror and move on, which is exactly what Keller appears ready to do.

“From the beginning, we were pleased to welcome Topgolf to Albuquerque, but we felt that this deal missed the mark,” Keller said in a statement following the vote. “… We continue to work with the council on a variety of initiatives under the steady leadership of Council President (Ken) Sanchez.”

The economic development project includes $400,000 of city general fund money unspent from the fiscal 2018 budget. The deal also includes the city reimbursing 50 percent of incremental city gross receipts tax revenue, up to $1.8 million, to assist the site developer with costs of land, building or infrastructure. Also included is a $326,000 appropriation from the city transportation infrastructure tax to extend Culture Road from Montaño to Desert Surf Circle.

Among the criticism has been that the city is spending money to subsidize an out-of-state corporation and that Topgolf is getting an unfair advantage over a similar company looking to set up shop in Albuquerque.

Keller has called it a “raw deal for taxpayers,” saying it would bring low-wage, low-skill jobs and send the wrong signal that the city is prioritizing out-of-state companies over similar local efforts.

Keller is right to point out this is a bad deal for taxpayers, but the money and energy that would be spent on a legal battle fighting the Council is better spent on other economic development priorities.

For the sake of taxpayers, councilors should do a better job of vetting future projects. Better yet, perhaps they should stay in their lane and leave it to the mayor – and the economic development experts the city employs – to pursue economic development projects that could truly benefit Albuquerque’s economy.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1208579/kellers-right-topgolf-override-not-worth-a-fight.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

This Journal Editorial headline and the editorial itself in the political world is akin to hell freezing over when such an editorial is written about a Democrat by the Republican leaning Albuquerque Journal.

On March 15, 2018, I published my blog article “Boxing Match Between Mayor Keller And The Albuquerque Journal.”

The article lists the numerous editorials that have been critical of the Mayor in just the first 3 months of his term.

Mayor Keller’s threat to sue the council also seemed a little posturing on his part and not taken too seriously by many political observers.

With this Journal Editorial, it would appear that the Journal has now settled into the fact that Albuquerque does indeed have a Democrat for Mayor who is doing a better job than their all-time favorite Republican Mayor of the last 8 years.

Only time will tell before the Journal editors wake up and discover what they have done, and say it was all a dream.

In September, 2017, the Journal did a double endorsement of Democrat Brian Colon and Republican Dan Lewis.

On November 15, 2017 hell froze over when the Albuquerque Journal endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor over Republican Dan Lewis.

You can read the full the March 15, 2018 blog article “Boxing Match Between Mayor Keller And Albuquerque Journal” here:

Boxing Match Between Mayor Keller And Albuquerque Journal

You can read the full November 10, 2017 blog article “Hell Freezing Over” here:

Hell Freezing Over

This is yet another blog article on the topic:

You Gotta Pick Your Battles