Fred Rowe, the former chair of the city's Ethics and Campaign Review Board, today filed a complaint with the board alleging "wrongful actions by mayoral candidate Javier M. Gonzales in concert with four pro-Gonzales organizations."
Rowe's complaint cites the two political action committees—Progressive Santa Fe and Santa Fe Working Families—a union and a union-funded nonprofit that support Gonzales for mayor and have each spent outside money in the election. Specifically, Rowe alleges that the outside support "games Santa Fe's public financing system which seeks to keep outside money from corrupting mayoral elections."
Gonzales, as well as his mayoral opponents Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas, qualified for the city's public financing system, which grants $60,000 in taxpayer money to mayoral candidates. But so far, he is the only candidate to receive additional financial backing from PACs, which have drawn criticism from his detractors as well as public campaign finance advocate group Common Cause New Mexico.
"As of February 7, the Gonzales campaign had spent $20,680, yet benefited from an additional $20,000 spent by four pro-Gonzales groups," the complaint states.
Rowe's complaint also criticizes a labor union stipend program that's paying its members $11 an hour to do outreach for its endorsed candidates in the upcoming city election, which include Gonzales. He takes the Gonzales campaign to task for having its office in the same building as union headquarters.
"Due to the urgent need for ECRB disapproval of activities that flout Santa Fe’s public campaign financing system, the ECRB should promptly validate the legal sustainability of the instant complaint, and confirm the true facts of concerted actions by issuing an ECRB subpoena," Rowe's complaint reads.
In a statement, Gonzales dismissed Rowe's
allegations and contended that his campaign has "embraced public
financing from the start."
"We've asked PACs to stand down and respect that my campaign, and my campaign alone speaks for me," he said. "Despite the negative campaign that has been waged against me, we have maintained a positive issue-focused campaign from Day One."
Common Cause has previously been critical about the PACs outside spending but has stated that the actions are legal under existing law.
Over the weekend, Progressive Santa Fe chair Sandy Buffet responded to Bushee's recent criticism of the PACs by contending that political committees are "given the right to express our opinion in elections."
"Every election code and public financing system contemplated and passed in this country has understood the role that political committees play in providing a voice independent of the candidates in the electoral process," Buffet said in a statement.
This isn't the first ECRB complaint to hit the mayoral election. Last November, Bushee's former campaign manager Tarin Nix filed a complaint alleging Bushee violated the city's public campaign finance code by writing Nix a check out of her own pocketbook. The board dismissed the complaint after determining that the code didn't cover the type of payment Bushee made to Nix.
Rowe, in his complaint, criticizes Nix' subsequent work with Working America, which supports Gonzales, as exemplifying "the rising tide of coordinated private electioneering that mocks Santa Fe's public financing system."