This blog article is an in-depth analysis of “connecting the dots” revealing the face of Mayor Tim Keller, naming his promoters and his reliance on high dollar contributions from measured finance committees to get elected and to promote causes he supports and the 2019 candidates for City Council he endorsed. It also reveals “Mayor Keller’s local PAC” soliciting funds for a City Councilor candidate.
MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEES EXPLAINED
Under the City of Albuquerque’s campaign finance laws, a Measure Finance Committee is a political action committee (PAC), persons or group that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure in City of Albuquerque elections. 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 specific 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 “Campaign Finance Reports” reporting monetary contributions, loans, in kind donations and expenditures.
Under existing law, it is illegal for any candidate for office or their campaign committee to coordinate their campaign efforts with any measured finance committee.
2019 MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEES IDENTIFIED
According to the Albuquerque City Clerk’s web page, a total of 10 measured finance committee have been formed and were registered for the November 5, 2019 municipal election. Those measured finance committees are:
A Better ABQ
ABQ Democracy Dollars, Common Cause NM, New Mexico Working Families, Ole Education Fund
ABQ Fire Pac
ABQ United for District 2
ABQ Working Families Party
Democratic Party of New Mexico
Public Safety First
Sierra Club 2019 Albuquerque MFC
All the measured finance committee campaign finance reports for the 2019 municipal election can be found here:
2019 MUNICIPAL ELECTION COVERAGE
“New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” provided November 5 election coverage both on the blog and on the radio the day before the election and days after the election day. On November 6, Joe Monahan published an excellent summary and analysis of the November 5 results on his blog. The November 6 blog included an analysis of the failed Proposition 2 Democracy Dollars and reported on the enactment of Proposition 1 increasing public financing.
NOVEMBER 6 MONAHAN BLOG
Following is an excerpt from Mr. Monahan’s November 6 election coverage blog article:
Democracy dollars was a dud with the ABQ electorate, falling to defeat 51 to 49 percent. Sure, it was close but not really. Carla Sonntag, president of the NM Business Coalition, told our KANW audience her group tallied at least a stunning $500,0000 in outside progressive support for the initiative in in kind and cash donations. In that context, it wasn’t close.
The proposal would have given each eligible citizen a $25 voucher to contribute to the publicly financed candidate mayoral or council candidates of their choice. It was a gambit to level the playing field with privately financed candidates. But political consultant Sisto Abeyta said on our air that the message was hard to communicate and understand.
Progressives, mainly financed with out of state money, also managed to get a voter initiative for a sick leave ordinance on the city ballot in 2017. It too was narrowly defeated.
On the other hand the proposition to update the city’s public financing system by awarding more money to publicly financed council and mayor candidates did pass muster with the voters, winning 58 to 42.
NOVEMBER 7 MONAHAN BLOG
On November 7, Joe Monahan reported that Mayor Tim Keller announced that he is running for a second term:
“You can say you heard it hear first.” So declared ABQ Mayor Tim Keller on our KANW-FM Election Night broadcast as he announced he will seek a second four year term in 2021. Already? Well, that’s how it works these days. Keller is now only two years into the first term that he was elected to in 2017 but wants to send an early signal to potential foes that he is all in for another.
The youthful mayor, who turns 42 this month, is coming off an election win in which voters approved his proposed $14 million homeless shelter.
Unlike past mayors he waded deeply into the city council elections this year, endorsing Councilor Pat Davis who won big, Councilor Ike Benton who will go to a run-off with Zack Quintero and Ane Romero who has a December 10 run-off with Republican Brook Bassan.”
MAYOR KELLER’S ENDORSEMENT OF 2019 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Mayor Tim Keller released a video endorsing incumbent Democratic Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac (Ike) Benton, District 2, and Pat Davis, District 6, for another term to the Albuquerque City Council. Keller also endorsed newcomer Ane C. Romero in the District 4 City Council race. The endorsements raised more than a few political eyebrows, especially among the young progressive Democratic candidates running against Benton and Davis. One Democrat candidate expressed privately they felt “absolutely betrayed” by Keller in that he supported Keller for Mayor.
In the video endorsement, Mayor Keller proclaims that Benton and Davis have been tremendous City Councilors and are in the best positions to move Albuquerque forward and stating:
“With the right leadership we truly can come together to be the best city we can be.”
You can view the full video here:
MAYOR KELLER’S LOCAL PAC IDENTIFIED
A confidential source has provided an email from former State Representative Stephanie Maez to Emerge NM, an organization that recruits and trains democratic woman to run for office. Emerge does not endorse candidates or contribute to candidates financially. Maez should have known this, but she felt it appropriate to ask for contributions from her “Emerge Family” on behalf of Democrat Ane Romero. The email states in full as follows:
“Hello Emerge Family!
I’m running Mayor Keller’s local PAC supporting our fellow Emerge sister, Ane’ Romero for City of Albuquerque council district 4.
As you all know, campaigning is tough work and it takes many hands and resources to win elections and stay in office. A Better Albuquerque has been created to help one of our own see her way to the Council.
Please show your continued support of this amazing individual by making a contribution (there is no amount too small) to our PAC. See here website here (sic): www.abetterabq.com
Let me know if you have questions!
All the very best,
Based on the email “A Better Albuquerque” is the Mayor’s PAC and has registered with the city clerk’s office as a measured finance committee and has filed campaign finance reports with the city clerk. According to the campaign finance reports filed for “A Better Albuquerque”, all of the reports were filed by Stephanie Maez.
Another measured finance committee known as “Progressive ABQ” is registered with the city clerk’s office and has filed campaign finance reports with the city clerk. According to the campaign finance reports for “Progressive ABQ,” all were filed by Stephanie Maez.
You can review the Measured Finance Committee campaign finance reports for “Progressive ABQ” here:
INFLAMATORY MAILER IN CITY COUNCIL RACE
The Friday before the November 5 election, a mailer was sent out attacking City Council District 2 candidate Zack Quintero who was one of 5 candidates running against long serving City Councilor Isaac Benton. Hispanic Progressive Democrat Zack Quintero, 28, is a recent UNM Law School graduate and economist, and was born and raised in New Mexico.
The flyer proclaimed “ZACK QUINTERO DIDN’T INVENT CHRISTMAS ENCHALADAS” an obvious reference to his Hispanic heritage. The mailer had a color photo that was “photo shopped” with the head of a smiling Zack Quintero superimposed on the body of another man of color standing in a kitchen with the person dressed in a short sleeve shirt crossing their arms to reveal an extensive number of tattoos on both arms. Zack Quintero has no tattoos.
Candidate Zack Quintero quickly denounce the mailer as racist, as did one of his opponents Robert Blanquera Nelson and others. All three news stations and the Albuquerque Journal covered the controversy. Mayor Tim Keller for his part remained silent, did not comment on the flyer, did not withdraw his endorsement of Isaac Benton. What is even more troubling is the media never interviewed Keller about the controversy and Mayor Keller has not disclosed publicly or denied he has connections to Stephanie Maez, A Better Albuquerque nor to “Progressive Alb”.
“Progressive Abq” publicly supports District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton. Benton for his part said he did not know about the disparaging mailer and said the group is not affiliated with his campaign.
Political observers were saying that there was a poll showing Mr. Quintero gaining on Benton in the race and there was major concern by Benton supporters that he would not get the 50% + 1 of the votes to avoid a runoff. Benton’s worst fears of not winning outright to avoid a runoff came true. The results of the November District 2 City Council race were that Incumbent Isaac Benton came in first with 4,836 votes (42.04%) and Zack Quintero came in second with 2,337 votes (20.66%). A runoff election between the two is schedule for December 10.
Former New Mexico State Rep. Stephanie Maez was found to be associated with the content of the mailer and mailing out the inflammatory mailer. Maez said in a Channel 7 interview that the mailer had nothing to do with race and pivoted to deflect criticism by saying:
“As a matter of fact, I find it offensive that they are even alleging [racism] … . As a Hispanic woman, native New Mexican, I’ve spent my whole like championing issues that impact our communities our Hispanic communities for him to say that I find it offensive.”
It is very difficult to believe Maez was offended by the accusation of racism when she is Hispanic, was the one responsible for mailing it out and the intent of the mailer was to clearly ridicule a young Hispanic opponent of Benton.
SOLICITATIONS AND ATTEMPT TO RUN INTERFERENCE
Confidential sources have disclosed that at least 2 people were contacted by a woman who was likely, but not confirmed with confidence, to be Stephanie Maez, who said she was raising money for the “the Mayor’s PAC” to support council candidates. One declined to give money. The other was willing to give, but did not, when no assurance would be given by the caller that the donation would not go to benefit incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton.
According to one confidential source, Alan Packman, Keller’s longtime political consultant who now works for the city, during city office hours, attempted to distance Mayor Tim Keller from the inflammatory mailer that attacked city council candidate Zack Quintero. Packman texted to the confidential source “Want to make sure you know that mayor had nothing to do with that mailer”. The text response to Packman was that there was reason to believe that it was not true, to which Packman gave no reply.
KELLER’S APPROVAL OF PROPOSITION ONE
Proposition 1 was approved by city voters with 46,468 voting YES and 38,863 voting NO. Proposition 1 ostensibly deals with updating the city’s public finance ordinance by increasing the amount given to candidates for Mayor. The biggest change to the public finance law under Proposition 1 is to dramatically increase the amount of city general fund and taxpayer money that will be given to mayoral candidates. In the 2017 Mayors race, the amount of public finance was $380,000 and with enactment of Proposition 1, the amount will be increased from $1.00 to $1.75 per voter, which will be $665,000 in public finance.
Proposition 1 also clarifies and tightens up the definitions around what constitutes an in-kind donation. In the 2017 mayoral election, many irregularities occurred with “in kind” donations that resulted in ethics complaints against Mayor candidate Tim Keller where cash donations were called “in kind” donations.
Keller’s longtime political consultant Alan Packman argued that “cash donations” to the 2017 Keller campaign were “in kind donations”. The City’s Election Ethics Board rejected outright that “cash donations” were “in-kind donations” and admonished the Keller Campaign with no penalty. After the election, Keller hired Packman to work for the city at the 311-call center, even though Packman has no prior experience working in government service call centers and his previous work experience was being a “political consultant” managing campaigns. Packman is paid upwards of $80,000 a year and reports directly to Mayor Tim Keller.
On November 7, Mayor Keller boldly proclaimed:
“With Proposition One, we are finally updating the Open and Ethical Code with new rules to close loopholes, improve public financing, and increase transparency in the City elections.”
KELLER’S ENDORSEMENT OF PROPOSITION 2 DEMOCRACY DOLLARS
Proposition 2 was rejected by city voters with 39,232 (49%) voting YES and 41,249 (51%) voting NO. Approval of Proposition 2 would have set up Democracy Dollars, a program to provide eligible Albuquerque residents, not just registered voters and would have included non-citizens, with a $25 taxpayer-funded coupon to give to an eligible candidate of their choosing in a city election. The funds would have been added to those provided by the city’s current public finance system should a candidate qualify.
“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 a Campaign Finance Report, the cost of the mailer with postage was $20,286.48.
The flyer that “Democracy Dollars” sent out has the official city 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 political flyer contained the following 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.”
Common Cause New Mexico, NM Working Families and OLE are progressive organizations known to be supporters of the Mayor, with at least two having made contributions to the measured finance committee “Democracy Dollars”. It is unknown and has not been reported by the media or disclosed if “Democracy Dollars” measured finance committee knew Keller was running for a second term or if Mayor Tim Keller disclosed to Democracy Dollars or the PAC he was running for another term.
2017 KELLER FOR MAYOR MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEES
Tim Keller was the only candidate in 2017 election that qualified for public finance. The Keller campaign collected the needed 3,000 qualifying cash donations of $5 to the City of Albuquerque from registered voters over a six-week period. Once qualified, the Keller for Mayor campaign was given a total of $506,254 in public financing, which included financing for the first election and separate financing for the runoff. As a condition to receiving public financing from the City, Tim Keller agreed in writing to a spending cap not to exceed the amount given and agree not to raise and spend any more cash to finance his campaign.
Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller supporters realized that more would be needed to elect Keller and 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 financially. No other candidate for Mayor in 2017 had a measured finance committee raising or spending on their behalf.
ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor in 2017. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by longtime political consultant Nerie Olguin 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 Tim Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Tim 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.)
There was no other candidate for Mayor in 2017 that had measured finance committees that raised and spent money on their behalf. Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis, who made it into the runoff with Tim Keller, raised more than $847,000 combined in cash and in-kind contributions for the October election and the November Mayoral runoff election.
Democrat Brian Colón raised and spent nearly $824,000 for his unsuccessful mayoral run and came in third. Republican Wayne Johnson privately raised and spent approximately $250,000. Republican Ricardo Chavez finance his own campaign by contributing and loaning his campaign $1 million dollars, but when he dropped out of the race, all of the money was repaid to him after he spent approximately $200,000. The remaining three (3) candidates for Mayor raised and spent less than $50,000 combined after failing to qualify for public financing.
2019 DEMOCRACY DOLLARS MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEE; FATHER ERIC GRIEGO DEFENDS HIS PUBLIC FINANCE CHILD
A measured finance committee was formed to promote “Democracy Dollars”. According to finance reports filed with the Albuquerque City Clerk, the measured finance committee entitled “ABQ Democracy Dollars, Common Cause New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party, Ole Education Fund” was registered. The “Democracy Dollars” measured finance committee filed ten 2019 Campaign Finance Reports.
On October 21, 2019, the Democracy Dollars measured finance committee filed its 8th Campaign Finance Report covering the reporting period of October 12, 2019 to October 18, 2019. You can review the report here:
The Financial Activity Summary of the October 21, 2019 report reflects that $80,000 in cash was contributed by the New Mexico Working Families Party. In the 2017 Mayor’ race, ABQ Working Families raised $122,000 and spent it on Mayor Tim Keller’s behalf to get Tim Keller 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 ballot initiative passed in 2005 by voters by 69%.
Eric Griego, rather than advocating dramatic changes to the existing City’s public finance law he sponsored and make it easier to qualify for public finance, Grieg advocated for a whole new “pool of money” in the form of “Democracy Dollars” to supplement public finance qualifying candidates. For more on Eric Griego see “Father Eric Griego Defends His Public Finance Child” at this link:
The 8th Democracy for Dollars Campaign Finance Report reported a total of $39,745 in “in -kind” donations. 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.
On November 4, 2019, the Democracy Dollars measured finance committee filed its 10th Campaign Finance Report covering the reporting period of October 26, 2019 to November 1, 2019. You can review the report here:
The Financial Activity Summary of the November 4, 2019 report reflects that at total of $45,084.00 in cash contributions were made, with Common Cause donating $42,000 in cash on October 26 and Ole Education fund donating $3,084.00 on November 1, 2019.
The 10th Democracy for Dollars Campaign Finance Report reported a total of $54,665 in “in -kind” donations which included $33,350 from Ole Education Fund made on November 1 for “FIELD CANVASS, RADIO ADVERTISING FROM MICHELSON CREATIVE COMMUNICATIONS”, $3,250 from New Mexico Working Families Party made on November 1 for STAFF TIME AND STAFF MANAGEMENT and two in-kind donations of $3,180 and $4,178 made by Stand Up America of New York, New York.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
During the November 5 KANW-FM Election Night coverage with Joe Monahan, Mayor Tim Keller boldly proclaimed “You can say you heard it here first” as he announced he will seek a second four-year term as mayor in 2021. It is more than likely than not Mayor Tim Keller and his political consultants will use the same formula that won him the 2017 election in his 2021 bid to get reelected: namely seek $665,000 public finance first, proclaim he is once again “walking the talk” and then turn around and get considerable financial help from progressive measured finance committees to promote his candidacy for another term.
PROPOSITIONS ONE AND TWO
Proposition One “Public Finance Update” and Proposition 2 “Democracy Dollars” represented a failure at real reform to the City’s public finance laws. Both propositions can be considered a very noble and idealist attempt to campaign finance reform in one form or another to deal with Citizens United, the United States Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited amount of campaign fund raising and spending.
Notwithstanding the nobility of the attempts, they were very feeble attempts at best. The reality is both propositions represented nothing more than a “money grab” by candidates and incumbents like Tim Keller and the propositions favors incumbents that already have a campaign organization in place.
Proposition 1 does not represent campaign finance reform but only increased the amount of public finance to candidates by going from $380,000 to $665,000 in public fiancé for candidates for mayor. As proved by the 2017 Mayors race, $665,000 will still not be enough to compete with private finance campaigns that can raise and spend as much as they want, unless you rely on measured finance committees to promote your campaign which defeats the purpose and intent of public financing of campaigns.
You can read a related blog article here:
The “Democracy Dollars” system was touted 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. The argument was that the less financially fortunate would be able to participate and make a political campaign donation to candidates 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.
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.
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 making “big money donations” to political campaigns and turn around and make single $80,000 and $40,000 cash donations, raise thousands for a measure finance committee to support a candidate or initiative and make $20,000 in-kind donations.
SINISTER THREAT OF MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEES
The single biggest threat to the fairness of Albuquerque’s municipal elections is the influence of the “measured finance committees” that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to promote candidates of their choosing, attack candidates they oppose or promote or oppose propositions on the ballot.
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. Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement, not a money grab by those running for office which is what Propositions 1 and 2 represent.
Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement, something the City Council and the Mayors have been reluctant to do for at least the past 10 years.
Mayor Keller said “With [the passage of] Proposition One, we are finally updating the Open and Ethical Code with new rules to close loopholes, improve public financing, and increase transparency in the City elections.” Keller used many of those same loopholes himself to get elected Mayor in 2017, especially when it came to his use of “cash donations” as “in-kind donations” and measured finance committees.
Albuquerque’s public finance laws are way too difficult to qualify for public financing by candidates for Mayor. In the 2013 and the 2017 Mayoral elections, only 2 candidates out of 19 candidates for Mayor qualified for public financing.
Only time will tell if Mayor Tim Keller will actually do more than give enactment of Proposition 1 lip service and say he is “walking the talk” now that he has made it know he is running for a second term.
Only Time will tell if Mayor Tim Keller or the City Council will attempt to reign in measured finance committees who Keller relied on so heavily to get himself elected and to elect candidates and causes he supports.
Following are links to related blog articles:
On November 13, the Albuquerque Journal published a story entitled “PAC claims Keller connection in fundraising email”. You can read the article here:
In the Journal article, Keller Mayor spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn said “The Mayor was certainly publicly supportive of these candidates and worked on their behalf, but any suggestion that these were his organizations is incorrect.” There was no denial that Keller has every talked to Maez and discussed his support and the PACS. Of course Mayor Keller and Maez are denying that Keller was directly involved with the PAC. Now that Keller has made it known he is running for reelection, which he announced Nov 5 election night on the radio, Maez and Keller know there are very serious repercussions with a candidate or their campaigns coordinating efforts with measured finance committees.
Keller has an extensive history of PACS raising thousands in campaign donations on his behalf and he is an expert on how the game is played. ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor in 2017. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by longtime political consultant Nerie Olguin 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 Tim Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Tim 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.)