A political action committee working against a proposal to tax high-end home sales in Santa Fe reports it has now raised more than $230,000, while a pro-tax PAC has raised just over half that amount, with $131,446 in reported contributions, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 31 with the city clerk.
On Nov. 7, Santa Fe voters will cast final ballots to decide whether to impose a 3% excise tax on the portion of a home sale that exceeds $1 million dollars, with revenue supporting the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The Santa Fe Housing Opportunity Partnership, led by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, reports nearly all the money raised went to a Denver-based marketing company called Access Marketing Services for mailers; video and banner advertisements; text messages and phone calls.
One mailer, for example, stresses voters to not “play games with affordable housing.” The PAC’s talking points also threaten, “If the tax passes, it will be challenged and tied up in court for years.” In fact, it’s already there: The Santa Fe Association of Realtors also filed a lawsuit Oct. 12 against the City of Santa Fe in First Judicial District Court arguing the proposed ordinance violates state law’s that grant limited taxation authority to cities.
A realtor-backed PAC previously spent $144,000 opposing a similar measure in 2009 that voters ultimately rejected.
While the city requires reports on political spending by such groups, no rules limit or require direct disclosure of where the cash comes from. For example, of the $230,100 for the anti-tax PAC on the most recent report, $180,000 was donated by SFAR and $100 came from just one named individual—Tim Galvin. In addition, as reported on its first documents filed with the city, the New Mexico Association of Realtors added another $50,000 to the cause.
Santa Fe Association of Realtors Government Affairs Director Donna Reynolds tells SFR the city realtor organization’s donation to the campaign come from “issue advocacy funds” collected over the years from supporters.
“We certainly felt like we were a bit behind, and we’re still catching up,” Reynolds says. “We know that it’s an uphill fight, so you know, that’s where we are, and we certainly ran a campaign.”
United for Affordable Housing, chaired by state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, reports its contributions to support tax advocacy come from a wide pool of sources. Over $19,000 is attributed to individual donors, while organizations such as nonprofit housing developer Homewise and the Partnership for Research and Education are responsible for the rest. The PAC reports expenditures for consulting and research; mailers and a video; phone calls and digital advertising.
Last month, United for Affordable Housing hired Change Research to conduct a poll that showed 66% of voters favored the tax ordinance.
Quezada Jacobs Family Agency owner Ned Jacobs, who also is a member of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, tells SFR he contributed to the pro-tax PAC because he thinks the ordinance is a good idea, and those who will be affected by it can afford it.
“I think we need to put more money, effort, more ideas into this issue. It’s not going to solve itself, and it’s not going to be solved by just postponing things. We need to do something, and I believe doing something like this is perfect,” Jacobs says.
In June of this year, Jacobs held a panel at Milagro Middle School featuring housing experts, realtors and more to educate voters on affordable housing and combat common misinformation. He says he has “a bit of an issue” with the Santa Fe Association of Realtors’ opposition to the tax.
“Personally, it’s difficult for me to understand how they can take money from agents and others as your membership fee and then take that money and use it for something that not necessarily everybody in the association is against,” he adds.
In races for City Council seats: District 1 candidate Geno Zamora, a former city attorney, leads the pack with over $80,000 raised, while two of his opponents, small business owners Alma Castro and Brian Gutierrez, qualified for $15,000 in public campaign financing plus $7,500 in qualified small contributions and have spent $13,478 and $10,005 respectively. Katherine Rivera, a former operations specialist who is privately financing along with Zamora, reports just over $6,000 in funding.
District 2 incumbent Michael Garcia also qualified for public campaign financing, while his opponent and climate educator Phil Lucero, who serves on the Planning Commission, reports nearly double Garcia’s amount—$44,405.
On the Southside in District 3, candidates’ war chests are evenly matched: Pilar Faulkner, a planning commissioner, documents just over $21,000 in campaign contributions, while her opponent and private investigator Louis Carlos, who is using public campaign funds, has $22,500.
Jamie Cassutt, who is seeking a second term as one of District 4′s councilors, leads fundraising with $47,997 raised. Hopeful Joel Nava, a security officer and coach, lags behind the rest of the candidates at just under $4,000 in reported contributions. The report reflects $1,000 Nava returned to a supporter who had donated $2,000. The action came after a campaign ethics complaint filed and later withdrawn by District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell. A voter may only contribute $1,000 to each candidate.