There are eight (8) candidates running for Mayor of Albuquerque that have been qualified by the Albuquerque City Clerk and who will appear on the Tuesday, October 3, 2017 ballot:
1. Republican Ricardo Chaves, founder of Parking Company of America
2. Democrat Brian Colon, Former Democratic Party Chair and private attorney
3. Independent Michelle Garcia Holmes, retired APD Detective
4. Republican Wayne Johnson, Bernalillo County Commissioner
5. Democrat Timothy Keller, first term State Auditor
6. Republican Dan Lewis, Albuquerque City Councilor
7. Democrat Gus Pedrotty, UNM College Graduate and community activist
8. Democrat Susan Wheeler-Deichel, founder of civic group Urban ABQ
If no candidate gets 50% or more of the vote, a runoff is held between the two top candidates who get the most votes.
I predict it will take $1 million to be successful to make it to the run-off and another $500,000 for the run off.
Any successful candidate will need money to finance their campaigns both in the first election and then for the run-off if they make it to the run off.
Candidates for Mayor and City Council will want help from Measured Finance Committees, especially if they get into a runoff.
Mayor Berry has vetoed the City Council resolution putting the Healthy Workforce initiative that requires the payment of sick leave on the October 3, 2017 municipal ballot and the City Council will need to hold a special meeting in July to override or enact another resolution to put it on the ballot.
Increasing public financing for Mayor candidates from $380,000 to $640,000 will also be on the October 2, 2017 ballot for voter approval.
PRIVATELY FINANCED CANDIDATES AND CAMPAIGNS
Privately financed municipal candidates have no overall fundraising cap and no overall spending limit.
Privately finance campaigns can raise money from any one, any source and any location, throughout the campaign period all the way to election day.
Under Albuquerque’s campaign finance laws, the maximum allowed contribution from any one individual donor or corporation is $5,193 which represents 5% of the Mayor’s salary.
Seven (7) of the eight (8) candidates for Mayor are privately finance candidates.
Following is what has been reported raised from January 15, 2017 to March 31, 2017 by the privately financed candidates:
Ricardo Chavez, Republican, Founder of Parking Company of America – $300,000 (personal campaign loan)
Brian Colon, former State Democratic Party Chairman and attorney – $389,834
Mitchell Garcia Holmes, Independent, retired APD police detective – $ 6,120 cash ($9,900 in kind)
Wayne Johnson, Republican, Bernalillo County Commissioner – $100,876
Dan Lewis, Republican, Albuquerque City Councilor – $100,876 (Not including $90,000 carry over for a total of $190,000)
Augustus “Gus” Pedrotty, University Student – $1,707
Susan Wheeler-Deischel, Independent, founder Urban Albuquerque – $1,583 ($475 in kind)
July 14, 2017 is the next date campaign finance reports must be filed by all candidates and all measured finance committees.
PUBLIC FINANCE CAMPAIGNS
Public financed candidates are required to solicit $5.00 qualifying donations to the city and those donations can only come from registered city voters.
Qualifying public financed candidates for Mayor and City Council are given a single lump sum of money from the city they can use to run their initial campaign and if they make it into a runoff election, they are given a significantly reduced lump sum amount in public financing for the runoff election.
According to the Albuquerque City Charter for the first election, qualifying public financed candidates for Mayor are given $1.00 per registered voter in the city or approximately $380,000 and if the Mayoral candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given an additional 33 cents per registered voter or approximately $127,000 for the run off.
The city charter provides that for the first election, qualifying public finance candidates for City Council are given $1.00 per registered voter in their City Council Districts or approximately $35,000 to $40,000, and if the city council candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given an additional 33 cents per registered voter in their district or approximately $12,000 to $14,000 for the runoff election.
All public finance campaigns and public finance candidates are required to agree to the spending caps in writing and are prohibited from soliciting and asking for any other donations.
Public finance candidates are at a distinct disadvantage to privately financed candidates when it comes to what can be raised and spent.
It is naive to think that any candidate for Mayor or City Council will refuse or denounce any help from a Measure Finance Committee set up to campaign for them and to help get them elected or help them in a runoff election.
Measure Finance Committees can do all the dirty work for a candidate especially in any runoff when the public finance candidate has spent all the campaign money they had to get into the runoff.
TIM KELLER’S MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEE
Tim Keller is the only candidate for Mayor who has qualified for public financing.
On January 11, 2017 Tim Keller announced he was running for Mayor of Albuquerque.
In his announcement, Tim Keller said “Let’s elect a Mayor without the big money we’ve come to expect in politics. That’s why we are running a community-driven, publicly financed campaign that fits the future of Albuquerque.”
Under Albuquerque’s public finance laws, Tim Keller was required to collect 3,800 qualifying $5 donations and it was a very impressive feat when he collected 6,000 donations and he deserves credit for getting it done while no others succeeded.
Mr. Keller has already been given approximately $380,000 in taxpayer funds by the city for his campaign for Mayor of Albuquerque.
It was very noble and commendable that Mr. Keller would commit public financing to run his campaign and agree to spending caps, but that may not be what is unfolding in his race for Mayor.
Mr. Keller has complained about “big money” in politics and he played the “money ball” game himself just over two years ago when he ran for New Mexico State Auditor and won.
According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office and campaign finance reports filed, Mr. Keller received contributions of $487,276.66 and had expenditures of $545,372 as a candidate for New Mexico State Auditor, a four-year term he will not finish if elected Mayor of Albuquerque in October.
According to the City Clerk’ Office, Tim Keller thus far is the only candidate for Mayor who has a measured finance committee formed on his behalf but expect that to change.
Mr. Keller will have the best of all political campaign finance world’s by getting public financing to the tune of $380,000, claiming he is “walking the walk” and running a “grassroots campaign”, while at the same time receiving assistance from a measured finance committee that is chaired by a political consultant who has worked on his past campaigns for the New Mexico State Senate.
Neri Olguin is identified on the City Clerk’s web site as the chairperson for “ABQ FORWARD” whose purpose is “to support Tim Keller’s bid for Mayor”.
Neri Olguin is with “Olguin Campaigns and Communications” and its web site lists as former clients the “2008 Tim Keller for State Senate (Primary)” and “Tim Keller for State Senate District 17 (General, 2012)”.
There is nothing legally that prohibits the Keller for Mayor measured finance committee from soliciting and collecting contributions from those donors who contributed over $480,000 to Keller’s candidacy for New Mexico State Auditor or from those who contributed to Keller’s campaigns for the New Mexico State Senate.
The fact that a measured finance committee has now been set up for Tim Keller significantly increases the likelihood that other measured finance committees will be set up for other candidates especially Republicans Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson given the Republicans desire to hold onto the Mayor’s office and all the patronage and city contracts that are involved.
THREE 2017 MEASURED FIANCE COMMITTEES THUS FAR
To date, there are three (3) Measure Finance Committees that have registered for the 2017 municipal election:
Purpose: “2017 MUNICIPAL CANDIDATES & PUBLIC SAFETY”
Chairperson: Diego Rincon (President of local Firefighter’s Union)
Treasurer: John Roump
Alternate Contact: Kelly Silvis
NOTE: Diego Rincon is the President of the local Albuquerque Firefighters Union.
2. ABQ FORWARD TOGETHER
Purpose listed: “THIS MFC WAS FORMED TO SUPPORT TIM KELLER’S BID FOR MAYOR OF ALBUQUERQUE”
Chairperson: NERI OLGUIN
Treasurer: MACON MCCROSSEN
3. ALBUQUERQUE COALITION FOR A HEALTHY ECONOMY
Purpose listed: “EDUCATE PUBLIC ON PAID SICK LEAVE ORDINANCE”
Chairperson: Carol M. Wright
Treasurer: Kent L. Cravens
NOTE: Kent L. Cravens is a former Republican State Senator and is a known an opponent of the Healthy Workforce Ordinance mandating the payment of sick leave to employees by employers.
It appears the Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy is a measured finance committee formed to raise money to oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance.
A coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations was formed last year to oppose the Healthy Work Force ordinance in court and only time will tell if they donate to the measured finance committee opposing the voter initiative.
Both Republican Dan Lewis and Republican Wayne Johnson oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance and stand to benefit by their opposition and seek campaign donations from the business coalition opposing the mandatory sick leave ordinance.
Another development to watch is “dark money” being spent by outside organizations to help the various candidates as was the case with Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres last year when billionaire George Soros spent $110,000 on the race to promote Torrez.
DEFINITION OF A MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Under the City of Albuquerque’s campaign finance laws, a Measure Finance Committee is a political action committee (PAC), person or group that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure within the City of Albuquerque.
Measure Finance Committees are required to register with the City Clerk within five (5) days once they have raised or spent more than $250 towards their purpose.
All Measure Finance Committees must register with the Albuquerque City Clerk, regardless of the group’s registration as a political action committee (PAC) with another governmental entity, county, state or federal.
Measure finance committees must also file financial statements at the same time the candidates running for office report.
There has been only one (1) financial statement disclosure required thus far of the candidates with the next reports due in July 14, 2017.
NO CONTRIBUTION LIMITS FOR MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEES
Measure finance committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits and business bans like candidates.
However, a Measure Finance Committee that receives aggregate contributions more than 30 percent of the Mayor’s salary from one individual or entity, must incorporate the donor’s name into the name of the committee.
For 2016 measure finance committees, that threshold number was $31,156.32 and will be likely be the same in 2017 because the Mayor’s salary has not changed.
No Measure Finance Committee is supposed to coordinate their activities with the individual candidates running for office, but this is a very gray area as to what constitutes coordination of activities and it is difficult to enforce.
A HIDEOUS THREAT TO 2017 MUNICIPAL ELECTION
The fact that Measure Finance Committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits and business bans like candidates is what makes them a major threat to warping and influencing our municipal elections and the outcome.
Any Measure Finance Committee can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and can produce negative ads to destroy any candidate’s reputation and candidacy.
Governor Susana Martinez’s PAC headed up by Jay Mc Clusky is the best example of a PAC or Measure Finance Committee influencing an election when it went after former Majority Leader Senator Michael Sanchez in the 2016 state election with a series of negative and sensational ads and spent upwards of $1 million dollars to defeat Senator Michael Sanchez.
It is a possibility that the Governor’s PAC will get involved with this year’s Mayor’s race to assist any one of the three Republican candidates for Mayor who are Dan Lewis, Wayne Johnson or Ricardo Chavez.
The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision Citizens United is destroying our democracy.
Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process.
Money spent becomes equated with the final vote.
Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome.
It is disingenuous for any public finance candidate to secure taxpayer money first to run their campaigns, agree in writing to a spending cap, and then have their political operatives or supporters solicit or create a measure finance committee to help them get elected and spend massive amounts of money to give them an unfair advantage in the first election and then the runoff.
Voters need to follow the money and demand to know where the outside money known as “dark money” is coming from for any Measure Finance Committee and find out exactly who is trying to influence the election for the candidates.
Voters need to beware of the candidates and their political consultants who are seeking help from measured finance committees to be fully informed as to who they are indebted to once they have been elected.
Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement, but I doubt we will ever get it in the age of Citizen’s United.