First Congressional Money Race

There are 5 Democrats running for congress in the First Congressional District to replace Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor:

Former Democratic Party Chair Debra Haaland
Former UNM Law School Associate Dean Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
Immigration and tax attorney Damian Lara
Former United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico Damon Martinez
Albuquerque businessman Paul Moya

Last week Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis dropped out of the race but his name will still appear on the ballot.

Two days before Tuesday’s June 5 primary, the Albuquerque Journal published a front-page article that outside political action committees and organizations are spending “big” in the Democratic Primary for the New Mexico first Congressional District Race to help three of the six candidates running.

You can read the entire article here:

This is not news but has been going on for years, ever since the United Supreme Court decision of Citizens United.

According to the article, out of state political action committees representing women, veterans, Native Americans and others have spent more than $2 million on television advertisements, direct mail, text message appeals and other media both for and against three of the congressional candidates.

Frankly, people should be surprised that not more has been spent on the Democratic primary in that the seat is considered a safe seat for the Democrat to win in November.

The 3 candidates that have benefited from the out of state contributions are former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, former Democratic Party State Chair Debra Haaland, and former UNM law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

According to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, out of state political action committees have spent $1.1 million to promote Damon Martinez, $534,000 has been spent to promote Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, and $230,000 has been spent to promote Debra Haaland .

Ever since the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United, out of state organization and political action committees can spend as much as they want, where they want and wherever they want to affect elections, with money donations equated with “free speech” and corporations defined as “persons” under the Supreme Court ruling.

Damon Martinez is the biggest beneficiary of out of state money compared to Haaland and Sedillo Lopez.

The numbers are far different when looking at the candidates’ own campaign finance reports and donations and comparing them to in-state versus out of state donations made to their campaigns.

Federal Election Commission reporting forms reflect that at the end of March, each candidate has raised and had on hand the following:

1. Former State Democratic Candidate Debra Haaland’s reported raising over $684,030 and had $347,394 on hand.

2. Former UNM Law School Associate Dean Antonette Sedillo Lopez reported raising $706,954 and had $456,799 on hand.

3. Former United State Attorney for the District of New Mexico Damon Martinez raised $541,503 and had $276,532 on hand.

4. Immigration and tax attorney Damian Lara reported raising $324,068 and had $139,285 on hand.

6. Albuquerque Businessman Paul Moya reported raising $191,539 and had $161,721 on hand.

More than half of both Antonette Sedillo Lopez’s and Debara Haaland’s direct campaign contribution came from donors outside of New Mexico

Over 80% of Damon Martinez’s direct campaign donations came from New Mexico donors.

Debra Haaland has received $299,100 from out of state donors and $254,300 from New Mexico donors.

Antonette Sedillo Lopez has received $292,500 from out of state donors and $153,200 from New Mexico donors.

Damon Martinez has received $80,000 from out of state donors and $323,600 from New Mexico donors.

Since the March campaign finance reports, no doubt more has been raised and spent.


A few of the congressional campaigns are being severely criticized by opponents or their supporters for not objecting to PAC money being spent to promote their candidacies.

In politics, when it comes to campaign donations and the source, when it’s your campaign cash cow being feed and helped, you remain silent but you strenuously object when your opponent’s campaign cash cow is being feed, especially when your behind in the polls.

Under federal election laws, it is a serious felony for the political action committee to coordinate with any particular campaign or individual candidate.

As result, all that Martinez, Haaland and Sedillo Lopez could do, if they really wanted to do it, is to object to the out of state PACs spending money on their behalf.

It would be ridiculous for any candidate to object to efforts made by others to promote them while the other candidates will not do the same when it came to their own candidacies.

The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in 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 of an election.

Until there is campaign finance reform, we can continue to expect million-dollar US congressional and senatorial races and billion-dollar presidential races.

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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.