Political action committees and another group supporting Santa Fe mayoral candidate Javier Gonzales have spent nearly $20,000 so far, according to campaign finance statements submitted to the city clerk’s office, based on campaign reports filed Friday.
The outside spending for Gonzales has become an issue in the campaign, condemned by the other candidates and Common Cause as defeating the goals of “leveling the playing field” and keep big money out of politics that public campaign financing for local elections was supposed to achieve.
Gonzales has repeatedly said he has nothing to do with the outside groups spending on his behalf and that he has sent out word he doesn’t need their help.
Councilors Bill Dimas and Patti Bushee are also in the race. All three have accepted $60,000 in public campaign financing and can’t raise private money themselves.
Santa Fe Working Families, a recently created PAC that lists an Albuquerque political consultant Keegan King as its treasurer, spent $11,555 over the past couple of weeks, even though it reported raising only $5,030 so far.
The PAC didn’t report any loans, so it’s unclear how it covered two checks it reported using to recently pay for a poll and to King’s a consulting firm.
Asked Friday night if it’s legal to spend campaign funds not covered by reported campaign fundraising, King said by email:
“In accordance with city statute and in consultation with the City Attorney we reported all expenditures made by SF Working Families this reporting period. We’re in the process of fundraising, and we’re confident we’ll raise what we need.”
King’s PAC has reported funding from a $5,000 donation from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union’s Washington, D.C., office and $30 from King.
In another campaign twist, the Working America national organization reported spending $5,832 from its treasury, mostly to individuals and businesses with Albuquerque addresses, and only two payments were for more than $200. A representative later said Working America — a national organization allied with the AFL-CIO — has endorsed Gonzales.
It’s presence in the campaign wasn’t known publicly until Friday’s campaign financial reports were filed. But Tarin Nix, a former Bushee campaign aide who has been working for Working America locally on “living wage” issues, did file a campaign ethics complaint against Bushee that was recently rejected by the city’s ethics board.
Nix said during that controversy that she wasn’t part of the Gonzales campaign. Friday night, Nix said she recently finished her living wage work for Working America and has had nothing to do with city politics or any effort by the group to help Gonzales.
She referred questions about Working America’s support for Gonzales to others. (Bushee said Friday she “just wanted to point out the connection” between Nix and Working America).
Another other pro-Gonzales group, Progressive Santa Fe PAC, did not report any additional expenditures since the end of the last reporting period on Jan. 23. Prior to that, it spent $2,707, which went toward research and website development. It did report a new $250 contribution from former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Under Santa Fe’ public campaign financing code —being used for a mayors’ race for the first time this year — candidates are not allowed to supplement their taxpayer-financed campaign war chests by soliciting private donations themselves. But there are no legal restrictions on outside groups like PACs from raising and spending money on the race.
In his campaign’s report Friday, Gonzales listed spending of $6,032 during the most recent reporting period, bringing his overall total to $20,680. About half ($3,214) of the expenditures listed on the most recent report went for consulting, while most of the rest of it went toward campaign materials.
Bushee reported spending $6,593 since Jan. 23. Of that, $3,354 was paid to Michelle Mosser Graphic Design for website design. The rest went toward consulting, producing campaign material and other miscellaneous expenses. So far, Bushee has spent a total of $23,511 on her campaign.
Dimas has already spent $43,329 of his allotted $60,000, most of it reported on his first expenditure report. He reported just $842 being spent this time around for advertising, email services, copying costs, rent on his campaign headquarters and to have a key made.
Also Friday, Vote for 9 for a Full Time Mayor spent $2,447, the bulk of which was paid to ProgressNow New Mexico for website, printing and data targeting. The group is supporting a ballot measure to give the mayor full-time, increase pay for the position and allow the mayor to vote on all items that come