City Attorney Recommends Repealing Campaign Finance Disclosure Law

Time to reach out politely to our City Attorney, City Councilors and Mayor, yet again, as there is a vote planned to decide whether the City should buckle under the threat of a legal suit from the Rio Grande Foundation. Sad, we have money to appeal the will of our voters on RCV, but no funds to defend the same voters’ right to know whose $$ is influencing our elections.Before diving in to yet another legal challenge facing our city, two events of note, one tonight and one just announced and likely to sell out very quickly.

Wednesday, Dec 6, 6:30 p.m.at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, 107 W. Barcelona Road. Dr. Mona El-Farra, director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance Gazan medical team.  There is a reception afterwards at the home of Jeff Haas and Mariel Nanasi.  For details click here.

 

 

 

Dec. 15, 11:30-1:00 at 2520-B Camino Entrada. Limited Seating, RSVP TODAY at 982-1774 or email at Lourdes@sfahba.com! $15 for all who RSVP,  $20 for all others and all are welcome. All lunch fees will be donated to the Santa Fe Dreamers Project

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Democratic candidate for Governor, will address a lunch to support the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, the local organization fighting for the rights of DACA youth threatened by deportation from the Trump administration. This lunch event has been inspired by efforts of New American Economy (NAE) to stage awareness activities in December in all 50 states around the issue of DACA’s potential termination and the broader issue of sensible immigration reform. New American Economy was formed in 2013 by major business and municipal leaders along the entire political spectrum to represent their broad common interests in the national dialogue around immigration reform.

Another Legal Challenge for the City Council

The City has legal resources to fight implementing Ranked Choice Voting but not to fight a Koch-styled, libertarian effort to repeal our Disclosure Law. This is legalized extortion. The Rio Grande Foundation has more money than God and its values are all about facilitating corporations and conservatives’ ability to manipulate elections and regulations; Santa Fe does not have more money than God and would like to maintain adherence to its values: fair elections, (RCV, aside).

The Rio Grande Foundation is betting that by threatening the City with enormous legal exposure, it can get the City to back down and rescind our excellent campaign finance disclosure law. In our guest blog below, James Harrington Chair of Common Cause, NM, articulates very clearly why the City should have little fear of legal exposure and the importance of defending itself from this libertarian bully.

A point he doesn’t make is that for two key reasons disclosure law related to ballot measures is far more important than disclosure protection on local elections:  1) outside money is not likely to be poured into a small city like Santa Fe’s Mayoral or Council elections and if dirty money were to appear, it would have less impact as the voters here mostly know the candidates and their past and current positions; and 2) Whereas balanced information and track records of candidates are both readily available to inform voters in candidate elections, ballot measures are new and can have no track record and so misleading advertisement subtly manipulating a ballot measure can be very influential. And libertarian foundations and corporations have tons of money to throw around to prevent the success and dangerous precedent of anything that smells like democracy or justice.

While the vote on this is only a week away (slated for Dec 13)  this is not a time for strident emails or calls, but rather time to contact our coanchors, the Mayor and the City Attorney and politely express your hopes that the City will stand firm and devote an appropriate amount of resources to defending our disclosure laws. Please be respectful when you contact your representatives. Our City Councilors juggle a dizzying array of important issues and have an extremely tight budget, so a threat from outside powerhouses must be taken seriously. But at the end of the day, if we have any values and principles, we have to be willing to stand up to threats against those principles. it may come at a cost; but defense of the integrity of our elections and our public civic discourse may require funds, just as the filling of potholes and maintenance of parks and any number of business and human services. These are all Investments in our community. This is also a time to submit letters to the editor TODAY. And by clicking here, you will find 5 template letters to the editor available for you to customize and you will also find a link to the page where you submit letters to the editor.

At the end of this blog, I have provided a link to contact info for our representatives,and will have more on this initiative tomorrow, but for now, read on. Paul

Say No to Repeal of Campaign Finance Disclosure Law. Guest blog by James Harrington, state chairman of Common Cause New Mexico.

 

The Santa Fe City Council is now considering a bill to repeal the city’s law requiring public disclosure of money spent by outside groups to support or oppose ballot measures in our elections (“Santa Fe mulls proposal to halt ballot initiative finance reports,” Oct. 13).

This law was passed 12 years ago and has been frequently fine-tuned over the years on the recommendations of the lawyers on the city’s ethics and campaign review board to accommodate evolving campaign practices and the constitutional principles governing such laws. It is a model for our state and one of the best disclosure laws in the nation. To visualize how disastrous its repeal would be, one need only imagine the recent soda-tax election being conducted in a legal framework where the voters had no idea of the source of any of the nearly $4 million that was spent on advertising in that election.

The evident impetus for the proposed repeal is a legal challenge to the law recently filed by the libertarian Rio Grande Foundation and lawyers from the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. The claim they assert — that cities have no constitutional authority to require public disclosure of money spent to influence ballot measure elections — has been flatly contradicted by every pronouncement on this subject from the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts. There is thus no doubt that the challenged law could easily be defended.

I state this conclusion as a former teacher of constitutional law who has been working on campaign finance issues for more than a decade. My view also is supported by the ethics and campaign review board, which last week voted unanimously to disapprove the ill-advised repeal bill and to recommend an alternate approach that would merely increase slightly the spending threshold that triggers reporting under the law. This evaluation also is endorsed by the eminent lawyers at the Campaign Legal Center, who have successfully litigated many similar suits and who have actually offered to defend the city in this case free of charge.

We do not know why the council is nevertheless considering caving in to this baseless lawsuit by repealing our model disclosure law. If councilors have received flawed legal advice, the solution is to obtain additional opinions from the city’s ethics and campaign review board, the Campaign Legal Center or almost any lawyer knowledgeable in this field. They will tell the council that the city has a solid defense to this suit and no justification whatsoever for abandoning its model law.

Nor is there any real basis for concern about the potential cost of the suit. There is no risk of a monetary judgment, since the complaint seeks only injunctive relief. The city will pay no legal fees for its defense, since the best lawyers in the country have offered their services pro bono.

The only slight risk is a possible award of fees to the plaintiffs’ lawyers if the city should ultimately lose the suit, but for two reasons, this risk cannot justify the surrender that’s being proposed. First, given the state of the case law and the caliber of the legal representation that has been offered to the city, any chance that the city might actually lose is very small. Secondly, in any event, if it is not going to expose itself to continuous legal blackmail, the city must be willing to take at least some risk to defend important rights like election transparency.

We at Common Cause urge the voters to write to their councilors and to come out to be heard at the public hearing on this misguided bill on Dec. 13. Stand up for your right to know who is trying to buy your vote..

Click here to contact for contact information for your City Attorney, City Council representatives and the Mayor. Emphasize that while you  understand the desire to preserve scarce city funds for services and infrastructure, that we also need to have devote resources to protect the integrity of our elections.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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