Mayoral candidate Javier Gonzales has until Feb. 24 to respond to allegations that he illegally worked with political action committees that are spending private funds to support him.
Last week, former city Ethics and Campaign Review chairman Fred Rowe filed a complaint to the body accusing Gonzales of wrongly coordinating with two PACs— Progressive Santa Fe and Working Families—as well as the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees and the union-funded Working America.
All four organizations support Gonzales and have so far spent more than $20,000 in campaign-related efforts. Rowe’s problem is that Gonzales, and his opponents Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas, all got money to pay for campaigns in a new public financing program aimed at keeping money out of politics.
Gonzales denies that his campaign ever coordinated with the PACs and says he’s asked them to back off from the election.
Rowe, who openly supports Bushee in the contest, urged the ECRB to use its subpoena power to get to the bottom of the case. The complaint alleges that the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480, a film union, has an office at the same building where Gonzales has his campaign office.
“To claim that they do not talk with each other about this campaign is at the very least far-fetched,” he says.
Records show that Gonazles is renting an office in the building next door to the union and occupied by the Democratic Party of Santa Fe County.
Rowe finds fault with AFSCME for paying union members stipends to canvass and make phone calls in support of Gonzales.
A law firm representing and AFSCME blasted Rowe’s complaint as “beyond frivolous and harassing.”
“Member to member communications are highly protected under the First Amendment’s right of association, and have been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States repeatedly,” the statement reads.
The other PACs offer a similar argument.
After the board receives the answer from Gonzales on Monday, a future vote will be scheduled to determine whether the board will actually hear the case. It’s unlikely that it will issue a final decision until after the election. (Joey Peters)