Mayoral candidate Javier Gonzales today formally responded to an ethics complaint alleging coordination between his campaign and the political action committees and labor unions that support him, dismissing it as relying on "unfounded assumptions, inaccurate claims and public press in an attempt to soil the reputation" of his campaign.
The complaint, filed earlier this month by former city Ethics and Campaign Review Board chairman Fred Rowe to the same body, alleges that the outside money supporting Gonzales' publicly-financed campaign "games Santa Fe's public financing system which seeks to keep outside money from corrupting mayoral elections."
Rowe accuses 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 of which have so far provided $20,000 in indirect support on top of Gonzales' publicly-funded $60,000 in spending for the election. (Another campaign finance report by the groups is expected to be filed by the close of business Tuesday.)
Two other mayoral candidates, city councilors Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas, and clean election advocates Common Cause New Mexico have all criticized Gonzales' outside support as undermining the spirit of public campaign financing, which is meant to keep each candidate on a level playing field.
But Gonzales dismisses Rowe's complaint as lacking legal merit and politically motivated from a Bushee supporter.
"This unsubstantiated complaint, filed so close to the date of the mayoral election, and so long after much of the conduct at issue in the complaint occurred, suggests merely an improper attempt at harming candidate Gonzales' campaign in favor of another candidate preferred by the complainant," Gonzales' response reads.
He further states that Rowe's complaint is based "on inherently unreliable hearsay statements in the form of public filings, newspaper clippings, and entirely unsupported allegations."
In a separate response also filed today, labor union leader Jon Hendry, who was named in Rowe's complaint alleging coordination, dismissed the ethics charge on similar grounds and criticizing him for being a Bushee supporter.
"No doubt Ms. Bushee's campaign has 'benefited from' the press Mr. Rowe's Complaint has generated," Hendry's response reads. "Should Mr. Rowe have therefore listed his time and energy as a contribution to the Bushee campaign?"
Hendry, who is president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480, also blasts Rowe for suggesting he acted as an intermediary for Gonzales. Hendry was criticized last fall after leaving Progressive Santa Fe, one of the political action committees supporting Gonzales, with plans to volunteer for Gonzales' campaign. He quickly distanced himself from Gonzales' campaign after coming under fire for the PAC connections.
Rowe's complaint also questions a stipend program paying union members $11 an hour to canvass and phone bank other union members that the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union is participating in.
The ECRB expects to weigh the responses from both Gonzales and Hendry and decide if Rowe's complaint has legal merit in a Tuesday meeting at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center at 3:30pm.
Regardless of whether they're breaking laws or not, multiple PACs are aggressively vouching for Gonzales in his campaign for mayor as the election date nears. Over the weekend, Santa Fe Working Families PAC, another outside Gonzales supporter, distributed three glossy hard-hitting pro-Gonzales mailers to city residents.
Read Gonzales, Hendry and AFSCME's responses to the ethics complaint below: