Getting Divisive

An ethics complaint filed by Mayor Webber’s campaign accuses Union Protectíva and veteran groups of illegal political activity

Mayor Alan Webber has filed an ethics complaint against Union Protectíva de Santa Fé and other organizations alleging unreported political activity.

Citing Facebook posts, yard signs and advertisements in the Santa Fe Reporter, paid for by Union Protectíva, the ethics complaint filed Wednesday with the city Ethics and Campaign Review Board denounces the Spanish fraternal organization for expressly advocating against the mayor without registering as a political committee.

According to the city code, any group working to support, or defeat, a candidate must file a statement of organization with the city clerk prior to the distribution of campaign materials—Union Protectiva has not done so.

The theme of the materials is a parody of the city’s planned CHART process. While the city’s acronym stands for “Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth,” Union Protectiva spelled out “Canceling Hispanic Arts Religion Traditions.”

The complaint, distributed by Sascha Guinn Anderson, Webber’s communications director in his bid for a second term, reads: “Union Protectíva, led by President Virgil Vigil, is a multimillion dollar nonprofit organization that has engaged in express advocacy. Union Protectíva has a responsibility to voters to disclose their contributions and expenditures related to their independent expenditures, rather than have their finances be secret and private.”

In a statement responding to the ethics complaint, Union Protectíva’s spokesman James Hallinan writes to SFR: “Mayor Webber is clearly retaliating against Hispanic, Catholic, veteran, and military citizens and groups with this baseless and desperate complaint to create divisiveness. Webber is a struggling mayor who is out of touch with Santa Fe’s history and culture.” The complaint also accuses VFW Post 2951 and American Legion Post 1. Vigil is also the treasurer for VFW Post 2951, according to Webber’s campaign.

Anderson—who recently announced that she is running to join the school board in District 5, the seat currently held by Lorraine Price—also raised the spectre of Donald Trump in the nonpartisan municipal race. Webber is a Democrat, as is JoAnne Vigil Coppler, the city councilor running against him. Also in the race is Alexis Martinez Johnson, who ran for the 3rd Congressional District as the Republican candidate last year.

A statement released with the complaint calls Virgil Vigil and Hallinan part of a “MAGA cast of characters,” based on their connection to other known supporters of the former president.

Hallinan writes to SFR that Union Protectíva has no affiliation to former President Trump.

But that’s not the picture Webber paints in the complaint, drawing a line from MAGA operatives to his colleague on the City Council. Webber accuses Vigil Coppler of improperly “coordinating” with the fraternal organization and asks the Ethics and Campaign Review Board to investigate.

The complaint offers as evidence an email it alleges went to the councilor from Vigil, Union Protectíva’s president, expressing the organization’s support for her campaign against the mayor.

Anderson tells SFR, Webber’s team acquired an email, through a “campaign source.”

Sisto Abetya, Vigil Coppler’s campaign manager, tells SFR that the source is Carlos Trujillo, Webber’s outreach director.

While Webber’s campaign blacked out the recipient of a forwarded message, an unredacted copy of the email show Vigil Coppler shared the message sent to her with Trujillo. Abeyta says that’s because at the time “she actually was going to work with Carlos Trujillo. Carlos never came onto the campaign but Carlos requested that she send him emails of information, people that could be potential supporters.”

Abetya says that Trujillo took the email with him to the competition and stopped communicating with Vigil Coppler’s team. Trujillo confirmed to SFR that he was the source.

“As far as our campaign has been running, since I’ve been campaign manager, we’ve had zero communication with [Union Protectíva],” Abetya tells SFR.

In an email to SFR, Hallinan also claims Union Protectíva has no affiliation to Vigil Coppler.

The ethics complaint marks a salvo from Webber’s campaign in response to repeated protests from the organization.

Most recently, on Aug. 13, Union Protectíva released a statement criticizing Webber and District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies for failing to “investigate and prosecute the dangerous attacks on Hispanics and Catholics this week,” referring to the vandalism of the Cross of the Martyrs and Kit Carson obelisk that occurred on Aug. 11.

That retort came on the heels of Webber’s video statement on the vandalism. In the recorded statement, Webber appears to take aim at the fraternal organization, without naming the group: “One organization, for example, has called me a Marxist and a racist and is actively trying to undermine our process to build unity in the city through communication, conversation and connection.”

In at least one of the advertisements from Union Protectíva called Webber’s CHART process “Marxist.” In June, the organization filed a lawsuit against the mayor to order the restoration of the obelisk after protestors toppled the monument on Indigenous Peoples Day last year.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story didn’t include the names of VFW Post 2951 and American Legion Post 1. They were named in the original complaint and added to this story later.

An earlier version of this story misidentified Sascha Guinn Anderson’s role in the Webber campaign. She is the communications director, not the campaign manager.

SFR added comments from Sisto Abetya and Carlos Trujillo on Thursday morning.

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