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!

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

Earlier this week I posted two pieces on the non-profit “progressive” groups ACORN and The Center for Civic Policy and Attorney General Gary King’s efforts to have them declared as PACs, which would require the full disclosure of donors.

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

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

Joe Monahan updates the situation today:

Rather than have Attorney General King dancing around with Secretary of State Herrera over having political nonprofits like the Center For Civic Policy release the names of their donors and their expenditures, why not have the Legislature pass a law mandating disclosure? Look for such a measure to be introduced in January.

After being chided by critics and reporters, the Center released to the ABQ Journal the names of the foundations that have given it money, but refused to release the names of individual donors. Political observers are still trying to digest the stunning amount of money–$1.645 million–that political operative Eli Lee, who runs the Center, says it will take in over a two year period.

Dem State Senator Dede Feldman has been in the forefront of campaign finance reform. Would the ABQ North Valley lawmaker be willing to sponsor a full-disclosure measure? We’re just asking.

Earlier in the week Monahan had reported:

According to Monahan, King is planning to as the Secretary of State again to ask NYMO to adhere to state election laws. If the secretary doesn’t, expect King to file a lawsuit to force the issue. Meanwhile, lawyers representing the nonprofits are warning King that they will sue the state if he persists in his bid to hold the groups feet to the fire. (See NMYO lawsuit.)

Monahan also revealed that

Insiders say King was none too happy that he was made to look like he was dragging his feet and perhaps fearful of retaliation by the far-left wing of the Democratic Party. Democrat King is up for re-election in 2010. He has also been mentioned as a possible Dem Guv candidate.

In my earlier piece I commented about the possible role of Bill Richardson in his Secretary of State not yet taking action to change of status of New Mexico Youth Organized (run by the Center for Civic Policy) and ACORN.  It seems that King is getting nowhere with Secretary of State at this point. Who knows if there will be any further action by his office?

Richardson has angered many legislators who feel he doesn’t really put state business first, so it will be interesting to see if the Legislature will confront the governor in January on this issue.  With big money coming into the state without transparency (and Richardson’s own ties to Eli Lee, the executive director the Center), it will be interesting to see if anything will really change…Of course, if Obama gets to the White House, Richardson may not be here in January, so maybe there is a chance…Unless Lt. Gov. Diane Denish decides to become “Bill RIchardson II”…