An outspoken education advocacy group that supports Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King should be required to register as a political committee, said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, in a complaint to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Kathy Korte, the group’s co-founder and an Albuquerque Public Schools board member, disagrees. She said Stand4KidsNM is a loosely organized group of concerned parents, not a true political committee.
The disagreement highlights the difficulty in defining what constitutes political committees – which are required to disclose financial statements and donor lists – under New Mexico law.
The Secretary of State’s Office is “in the process of analyzing this complaint,” spokesman Ken Ortiz said Thursday.
Youngblood said Stand4KidsNM appears to be like a political committee, based on the group’s advocacy for King and the money spent on things like T-shirts and bumper stickers.
“The Campaign Reporting Act defines a political committee, in general, to mean two or more persons other than a candidate’s campaign committee who are selected, appointed, chosen, associated, organized or operated primarily for a political purpose that is, to influence or attempt to influence an election,” Youngblood said in her complaint.
She added in an interview that political committees are defined as groups that have raised or spent more than $500 in the calendar year.
But Korte said Youngblood is wrong to assume that Stand4KidsNM is taking donations and spending money like a nonprofit would. “There is no organized funding here,” Korte said. She said the group has no bank account and no bookkeeper.
Korte said the T-shirts and bumper stickers made to support the group and its causes have been paid for by individual Stand4KidsNM members. For instance, Korte said, one woman in the group bought 100 bumper stickers for $100 of her own money and sold them to other people in the group for 75 cents.
Korte said if Secretary of State Diane Duran says the group is a political committee, she will register it.
Stand4KidsNM opposes what it sees as overtesting in schools, as well as key education initiatives of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, like the state’s new teacher evaluations, Korte said. Much of the group’s advocacy takes place on social media.
Youngblood said her complaint against the group is not aimed at stopping its advocacy, but to make it “play by the rules,” she said.
She said she took a harder look after Korte made what she called a personal attack on a colleague, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. Korte last month posted a picture on Facebook of a mailing from Pacheco, on which she had written, “Return to sender. Traitor. You are not listening.”
She said it was a mistake to post the picture, but she still feels like Pacheco isn’t listening to her and other West Side constituents about education issues.