A System Designed For Failure


It is really a damn shame that so many candidates for Mayor have abandoned or decided against seeking public financing as this New Mexico Political Report article points out.

Originally, there were a total of 14 candidates running for Mayor, with 10 declaring their intent to seek public financing and 4 declaring to seek private financing.

That has changed with the majority of the candidates either abandoning their efforts to seek public financing or declaring their intent to seek private financing.

The City’s public financing is designed for failure.

Candidates for Mayor are given only 6 weeks to collect 3,800, qualifying $5.00 donations from Albuquerque residents and registered voters to secure public financing, which is a daunting and a very difficult task.

More than double the amount of time is given the candidates to secure the 3,000 qualifying signatures.

The $5 donations are donations made to the city and not to the candidate.

The $5 dollar donations are required to come from registered city voters, otherwise the donations do not count.

If the campaign fails to collect the minimum number of qualifying donations, all of what is collected is kept by the City.

The City Clerk’s office does not permit electronic transactions by donors, such as debit and credit cards, even though it was allowed by ordinance.

The City Clerk requires the campaigns to collect cash and use paper receipt books and it is labor intensive.

As candidates for Mayor have found out the hard way, unless you have a small army of volunteers, it not likely you can secure the required number of $5 donations.

The math is simple. You need to collect a minimum of between 80 and 100 $5.00 donations a day to get the 3,800 qualifying donations.

Voters normally have no problem signing nominating petitions but are reluctant to donate $5.00 to the city.

Current public finance laws provide that a qualifying candidate gets only one lump sum for the entire election, now at approximately $380,000.

Nothing in public finance is given for a run off placing public finance candidates at a disadvantage to privately financed candidates and incumbents.

Under Albuquerque’s existing public finance ordinance, once a candidate agrees to accept public financing, a candidate is prohibited from collecting any other donations and must agree to a spending limit.

What is discouraging is that the Albuquerque City Council had the opportunity last year to adopt dramatic changes to the city’s public campaign finance laws based on a task force review.

The City Council could have made the process easier to qualify for public financing but the only thing the City Council agreed to do is increase the funding from $360,000 to $640,000.

The increase in public finance funding will be on the October 3 municipal ballot and if passed will apply to future elections.

I remember talking to my City Councillor Diane Gibson about proposed changes to the public finance laws and making it easier to qualify and her comment was “It’s suppose to be hard to keep out candidates who are not serious candidates” as if she has any business deciding who should be considered a serious candidate.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.