Class warfare is loosely defined as “conflict between different classes in a community resulting from different social or economic positions and reflecting opposed interests.”
Political tribalism is loosely defined as a very strong feeling of loyalty to a political or social group, so that you support them whatever they do or say.
The upcoming November 5, 2019 election is the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is very lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board election, a ballot measure for a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.
The November 5 ballot includes the Democracy Dollars “Proposition 2” which sets up a city funded voucher system to use city general funds to give out $25 vouchers to voters who in turn will give the vouchers to candidates they support who will cash them with the city. If Democracy Dollars passes, the city will donate and mail $25-dollar redeemable vouchers to all “qualified” city residents, not just registered voters, to make money donations on their own to a candidate of their choosing.
Proponents of Dollars for Democracy argue that it will encourage more people to register to vote and more varied and diverse candidates will run for office who normally do not run or who cannot raise the necessary funding for a campaign. Proponents also argue Democracy Dollars will have the benefit of candidates directly contacting and discuss issues that affect them. Democracy Dollars does not require recipients be registered voters, just city residents. Democracy Dollars proposal does not specifically state that to qualify for a voucher a resident must be a United States citizen.
DEMOCRACY DOLLARS PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS REPRESENT CLASS WARFARE
“Democracy Dollars” campaign has set up a “web page” and a FACEBOOK page to promote the ballot initiative. The web page is here https://www.burquebucks.org/ . The web page contains numerous bold claims including:
“Too many elections are often decided by a small group of secretive and rich political donors. They have all the power to decide who represents us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Today’s candidates pay too much attention to wealthy donors and not enough to regular people.
The “Democracy Dollars” web page has an entire section entitled:
“Albuquerque Donors Do Not Match the City’s Diversity: Democracy Dollars Can Make Every Voice Matter in Albuquerque’s Elections”. This section contains the following statements:
“A review of donations from individuals to mayoral and city council races in 2017 shows that those who contribute to campaigns, and therefore are more likely to have their voices heard, do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population. Instead, the donor class is whiter, older, and higher-income than the general population. As a result, people of color, young people, and middle- and working-class residents are underrepresented in the city’s politics and policies. Our elections are fairer—and our democracy works better—when politicians listen to the entire public instead of only to a few, unrepresentative big donors.
While 41% of Albuquerque residents are white and 48% are Hispanic, the donor pool in Albuquerque is 70% white and only 23% Hispanic. Native Americans make up 4% of Albuquerque residents but only .04% of donors to city elections.
Together, blacks and Asian Americans make up 6% of Albuquerque residents, but only 2% of donors.”
DEMOCRACY DOLLARS MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEE
Measure finance committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits like candidates. When it comes to ballot initiatives, such as Democracy Dollars, any Measure Finance Committee can be formed supporting or opposing any ballot initiative and raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to produce and distribute information, including producing “political propaganda” not based on fact. There are absolutely no regulations nor limitations what can be produced and disseminated by measured fiancé committees, even if false or misleading.
A measured finance committee was formed to promote “Democracy Dollars”. The measured finance committee is entitled “ABQ Democracy Dollars, Common Cause New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party, Ole Education Fund”. On October 21, 2019 filed its eight Campaign Finance Report covering the reporting period of October 12, 2019 to October 18, 2019. You can review the report here:
The 8th campaign finance report filed with the city clerk for Democracy Dollars lists two contributions as having been made on October 17, 2019. Those two donations are:
$81,526.98 in a single in cash contribution from by the New Mexico Working Families Party. In 2017ABQ New Mexico Working Families raised $122,000 and spent on Mayor Tim Keller’s behalf to get him elected Mayor. The Working Families Party is a progressive grassroots political party building a multiracial movement of working people. Former Albuquerque City Councilor and former State Senator Eric Griego is its executive director. Griego was the sponsor of the original City’s Public Finance Ordinance .
$1,526.96 in cash was contributed by Ole Education Fund. OLÉ is a non-profit, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico and gathered signatures to put “Dollars for Democracy” on the ballot.
There are 10 in-kind donations including in kind donations of $4,244, $3,709, 3,250, $2,248. A one in-kind donation of $20,912 is listed as having been made by a Colorado corporation advocating campaign finance reform with the purpose of the donation to make phone calls to registered voters.
MAYOR TIM KELLER ENDORSEMENT OF “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”
“Democracy Dollars” sent out a slick and impressive mailer to 49,158 registered voter family household encouraging Albuquerque voters to vote YES on Proposition 2. According to the latest Campaign Finance Report, the cost of the mailer with postage was $20,286.48.
The flyer that “Democracy Dollars” sent out has a color photo of Mayor Tim Keller quoting him as follows:
“At the heart of every democracy, everyone should have a stake in their elections. That connection is what Democracy Dollars is all about.”
The flyer also contains the disclaimer:
“PAID FOR BY ABQ DEMOCRACY DOLLAR, COMMON CAUSE NEW MEXICO, NM WORKING FAMILIES PARTY, OLE EDUCATION FUND. NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATES CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE.”
2017 CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR
During the 2017 Mayor’s race, Tim Keller proclaimed that he was “walking the talk” when it came to campaign finance reform and his decision to have his campaign funded with public finance, agreed to the spending cap and agreed not solicit campaign donations from any other source. Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller supporters realized that more would be needed to elect Keller. The supporters formed three (3) measured finance committees that either raised money directly to spend on his behalf or indirectly spent money and supported Keller’s candidacy for Mayor.
ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by a former campaign consultant for Mr. Keller when he ran successfully for New Mexico State Senate. $67,000 was raised and spent by the Firefighters political action committee known as ABQFIREPAC for Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Keller’s behalf.
$1,358,254 was spent on Tim Keller’s successful campaign for Mayor. ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward + $67,000 ABQFIREPAC + $122,000 ABQ Working Families = $1,358,254.)
The November 5 ballot also includes “Proposition 1” which ostensibly deals with updating the city’s public finance ordinance. Proposition 1 if enacted will dramatically increase the amount of city general fund and taxpayer money that will be given to mayoral candidates. The current public finance system in place today requires candidates to collect $5 qualifying donation from register voters after which qualified mayoral candidates are given $1 per registered city voter. In the 2017 Mayors race, the amount of public finance was $380,000. Under Proposition 1, the amount would increase from $1.00 to $1.75 per voter, which means public fiancé will go from $380,000 to $665,000 in public finance paid by the city to candidates for Mayor.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The “Democracy Dollars” system is touted as a “voucher” system to allow the city to donate $25-dollar redeemable vouchers to all “qualified” city residents who are less fortunate to make money donations on their own to a candidate of their choosing like those who can afford to make donations on their own. This is a warped interpretation of democracy. It equates political donations as the only meaningful way to participate in the election political process.
It is very misleading to call citizens who are not able to make monetary contribution under the present system to be referred to as “small donors” when they have been given a $25 money voucher to donate to a candidate of their choice and when the funding source for the voucher is the city general fund. Those who cannot afford to make political donations can and usually do get very involved with campaigns and volunteer time and “sweat equity” to campaigns on a grass root level. The hallmark of city elections is “door to door” campaigns to ask for a vote and support.
THE HYPOCRITICAL CAMPAIGN DONATIONS SAY IT ALL
It is very difficult to ignore the absolute hypocrisy of the supporters and promoters of Democracy Dollars when they engage in the very conduct they condemn and supposedly deplore in the form of “big money donations” to political campaigns and then turn around and make $80,000 cash donations, raise thousands for a measure finance committee to support a candidate or initiative and make $20,000 in-kind donations.
Democracy Dollars received one single $82,000 cash donation and 10 in-kind donations including in kind donations of $4,244, $3,709, 3,250, $2,248. A whopping one in-kind donation of $20,912 is listed as having been made by a Colorado corporation advocating campaign finance reform with the purpose of the donation to make phone call to registered voters
CLASS WARFARE AND TRIBALISM
What is worse and far more troubling than the hypocrisy of “Democracy Dollars” supporters is the “class warfare” and the ethnic “tribalism” that “Democracy Dollars” is promoting to get passage of the ballot initiative. The “Democracy Dollars” campaign is not even subtle about the “class warfare” they promote when they publish and enflame division within this city with such statements as:
1. “Too many elections are often decided by a small group of secretive and rich political donors. They have all the power to decide who represents us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
2. “Today’s candidates pay too much attention to wealthy donors and not enough to regular people.”
3. “… those who contribute to campaigns and therefor more likely to be heard do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population.”
4. “… the donor class is whiter, older, higher income than the general population.”
5. “… people of color, young people, and middle- and working class-class residents are underrepresented in the cities politics and policies.”
6. “While 41% of Albuquerque residents are white and 48% are Hispanic, the donor pool in Albuquerque is 70% white and only 23% Hispanic.”
7. “Native Americans make up 4% of Albuquerque’s residents but only .04% donors to city elections. Together, blacks and Asian Americans make up 6% of Albuquerque residents, but only 2% of donors.”
Virtually all of the above 7 statements used by “Democracy Dollars” are highly questionable, misleading or downright false and on so many levels. No supporting research or data is offered by Democracy Dollars to back-up the sweeping statements, especially when it comes to ethnicity claims and who donates.
When political campaign contributions are made in city elections either to candidates, to support or oppose a ballot proposition or measured finance committee’s, city finance reports require only the date of the donation, identification of the donor, the donor’s employment, give the address of the donor and state the amount of the donation. Ethnicity and age are not required to be reported. Annual income brackets or tax brackets are not required to be reported. To obtain the facts being asserted by Democracy Dollars and to be 100% accurate, virtually all who donated in the municipal election would have to be contacted to confirm the information.
THE DIVERSITY “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS” SEEKS ALREADY EXISTS DISCREDITING ETHNIC CLAIMS MADE
The City Council and the Mayor’s Office would no doubt strongly dispute that they do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population as Democracy Dollars assert. Further, virtually all the incumbents for city council who ran in 2017 for re election qualified for public finance.
The current city council has 3 Hispanic Democrats, (Ken Sanchez, Klarisa Pena, Cynthia Borrego), three Republican Anglos (Republicans Don Harris, Brad Winter, Trudy Jones) one Anglo Democrat Isaac Benton, one openly gay Democrat (Pat Davis), and 4 women (Klaressa Pena, Trudy Jones, Diane Gibson and Cynthia Borrego). No member of the City Council is known to be very wealthy in the least nor a “millionaire” and their financial disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk Office reflect that point.
Of the nine current city councilors, 7 qualified and received public finance to run their last successful campaigns for city council not relying on, listening to or being indebted to “a small group of secretive and rich political donors.” (Sanchez, Pena, Harris, Gibson, Borrego, Benton and Winter.)
Employment wise, the city council is very diverse and has one accountant (Sanchez), one lawyer (Harris), one retired city planner (Borrego), one retired APS official (Winter), one formerly in the commercial real estate industry (Jones), one retired Sandia Labs technician (Gibson), one executive with Youth Development Inc. (Pena), one architect (Benton), one former community activist and former police officer (Davis).
CITY COUNCIL RACES
There are 4 City Council races that will be on the November 5 election ballot. With 3 incumbents running and one open seat, the make up of the city council with public finance candidates could dramatically change and diversify the city council even further with younger people who have varying backgrounds.
In the event that District 2 City Councilor Isaac Benton, 68, loses his reelection bid, he will be replaced by either one of 4 minority men or all who qualified for public finance: Hispanics Zack Quintero, 28 a recent UNM Law School graduate, Steven Baca, 30, a process server, Joe Griego, 29, a medical equipment business owner, American Filipino Robert Nelson, 39, a nonprofit manager with The Grants Collective. One Hispanic woman is also running against Benton, Connie Vigil, 62, President of the Greater Albuquerque Business Association (GABA).
Republican District 4 City Councilor Brad Winter, age 66, who is not running for another term will be replaced by one of 3 women: Republican Brook L. Bassan, age 39, a self-described “Household CEO”, Democrat Athena Ann Christodoulou, age 57, a civil engineer or Democrat Ane C. Romero, age 38, a legislative director for the Governor’s Office.
In the event District 6 Democrat Pat Davis, 41, loses his race it will be against a woman of color, Gina Naiomi Dennis, 41, an attorney and community activist. Both Davis and Dennis are both public financed candidates.
In the event District 8 Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones, 70, loses her race, it will be to public finance candidate S. Maureen Skowan, 56, a Data analyst with UNM and former Marine.
Mayor Tim Keller is Anglo, age 41, is a native of Albuquerque and our first Lady Kirsten Keller is Jewish. Keller’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sanjay Bhaka are both minorities and Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael is Hispanic.
KELLER ENDORSEMENT OF DEMOCRACY DOLLARS CONFLICTS WITH HIS “ONE ALBUQUERQUE” CAMPAIGN
Since being sworn in as Albuquerque Mayor on December 1, 2017, Tim Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to re brand the city image with his “One ABQ” initiative, including a new logo and a new nickname. The Keller Administration has created a web page with slick videos promoting the city. The City’s web page describes the purpose and intent of ONE Albuquerque as follows:
“Mayor Tim Keller is bringing our city together as “One Albuquerque.” We are re-discovering our potential by celebrating our multicultural diversity and our authentic resilience. One Albuquerque is more than a slogan; it’s an aspiration, a call to action, a reminder that the best way to tackle our challenges is by facing them together. No one leader alone can fix our problems. We’ve each got to step up for our block, our neighborhood.”
Democracy Dollars promotes tribalism and class warfare that is totally contrary to Keller’s “ONE Albuquerque” initiative, but Keller endorsed Democracy Dollars anyway with a photo and a quote on the mailer sent out. You are not celebrating “multicultural diversity” when you pit cultures or people color against each other or pit them against all Anglos.
With his very public support and endorsement of Democracy for Dollars, it does not take a political genius to figure out what Mayor Keller is really up to and what he will do in the future.
Keller does not want to alienate some of his biggest donors or supporters who are promoting Democracy Dollars. It is more than likely than not that Tim Keller will be running for re-election in 2021 using the same formula that won him the 2017 election which is to seek public finance first, proclaiming he is once again “walking the talk” only to turn around and expecting considerable help from measured finance committees to promote his candidacy. Keller’s 2021 reelection campaign will no doubt want another new funding source in the form of “Democracy Dollars” and probably run another million dollar or more campaign with the increase in public finance, Democracy Dollars and measured finance committee assistance.
NEW MEXICO ANTI DONATIONS CLAUSE
“Democracy Dollars” violates the New Mexico Anti Donation clause in the New Mexico constitution. The language of art. IX, Section 14, is very clear when it states “neither the state nor any county, … or municipality … shall directly or indirectly … make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation ” The “Democracy Dollars” $25 vouchers are clearly a donation and aide to people given to them to give to another. This is the very type of activity the anti-donation clause was designed to prohibit.”
It was ill advised and a mistake for Mayor Tim Keller to appear on campaign literature endorsing a campaign financing plan not approved by the city council that violates the New Mexico Constitution, something he swore to defend. The propriety of Mayor Keller, who was elected to represent all city residents and who is the top city elected official, endorsing a campaign finance program that he will be able to take advantage and benefit from gives the appearance of impropriety and smacks of a conflict of interest that will benefit him directly.
It is going to take a hell of a lot more than a voucher system that relies on “class warfare” and “tribalism to put public financing directly in the hands of voters.
“Democracy Dollars” are “free vouchers” provided by the city to voters in an apparent attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to the city that are now required to secure public financing. Free vouchers defeat the intent and purpose of public finance campaigns.
Every effort should be made to make Albuquerque’s public financing laws for municipal elections to legally provide for a “dollar for dollar” match to privately raised funds by candidates, thereby providing a real level playing field.
The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is destroying our democracy. Many highly qualified candidates for office all too often do not bother to run because of the inability or difficulty raising the necessary money to run.
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.
“Democracy for Dollars” is a pathetic attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to secure public finance from the city with money that would be better used for essential services such as public safety or social services. The voucher system will be funded by financing from the general fund, so there is nothing free about it. To say that Democracy Dollars will encourage more people to register and vote is a real stretch of the political imagination.
Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement and not just another pool or trough of money candidates and incumbents can drink from.
On November 5, VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 2 “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”
On January 2, 2018, a blog article with recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election code laws was published:
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.
You can read the complete blog article here: