UPDATE on Non-Profit “Advocacy” Groups in NM: SOS Agrees with AG Gary King, NMYO Must Register as PAC (Update 1X)

I’m going to quote extensively from Joe Monahan’s blog on the change.  I was wondering if King might cave to pressures from the Richardson crew, but apparently, the SOS did her job.  The link to the ABQ journal’s “complete report” is behind a firewall, so forget about getting the full story, but Eli Lee’s op-ed of August 15 is available, for some reason. I might be able to track it down the report at another site like I did for my earlier posts on this fight.

From Monahan’s August 19th post “Watching the Watchdogs”:

NM Secretary of State Herrera has agreed with AG King and on Monday ordered NM Youth Organized (NMYO) to register as a political committee, forcing them to disclose their contributions and expenditures. The group, an affiliate of Eli Lee’s Center for Civic Policy, says it will fight the order in court, which could prove expensive and raise questions by donors concerned that their money is being used for lawyers’ fees. Here’s a complete report from the ABQ Journal. Read on for our analysis.

The political nonprofit at the center of the storm over disclosing contributions and expenditures is lawyering up and pulling out all the PR stops. But none of it will avoid the inevitable collision. Center for Civic Policy executive director, Eli Lee, writes in an op-ed piece in the ABQ Journal that the people of NM deserve to know “from whom (legislators) receive financial contributions” but then he turns around and asserts the people have no right to know who is funding his nonprofit’s expensive mail attacks on an assortment of legislators. His latest excuse is that release of the donors to the Center would subject them to “harassment.” Does that mean we should halt already required financial disclosure because it is a threat to the public safety? Lee, under pressure, recently identified foundation donors, but not individual donors, to his group.

The political nonprofit has sent out loads of hit literature against legislators they claim is “educational” while the AG argues it is blatantly political. The enduring question is why Lee and his allies, who so forcefully promulgate disclosure by the campaigns of elected officials, are themselves so reticent to adopt this ethical behavior as their own, even as they claim to be self-appointed ethical watchdogs of our Legislature. If there were an indictment for being hypocritical, the grand jury would be looking at a true bill.

Lee has also not disclosed specific group expenditures, including his salary. Informed insiders tell us he may be getting as much as 20% of the gross donations. That would be about $329,000 if his group collects his projected amount over two years. (If our insider figure is inaccurate, we would be glad to provide updated information from the Center, or they can give it to the newspapers.)

King has been ridiculed by Center allies as a backwoods country lawyer. It now faces a legal fight over his quest to force full disclosure of the estimated $1.645 million the Center says it will take in this year and next (Although some say the recent publicity can’t be helping the Center’s fund-raising while others argue the legal trouble will spur it on). Center lawyers say King’s action could lead to “unnecessary litigation.” But we face the prospect of continued undisclosed funding coming into this state from far and wide, depriving us of the knowledge of who is trying to influence public policy here. Under those circumstances, litigation is something to look forward to, not shy away from.

Background posts, from most recent to oldest:

Update on Non-Profit “Advocacy” Groups in NM…AG Gary King Squelched by Richardson?

Part II: NM AG, “Gutsy Gary” King, Fighting for Transparency re: Non-Profits Like the League of Young Voters and ACORN

Part I: New Mexico “Progressive” Voter Registration Groups in Trouble: ACORN Again…Surprised?? (UPDATE 1X)

UPDATE  August 22, 2008

A great new post up at NO QUARTER…ACORN – CSI – OBAMA. Someone else noticed!

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