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Cowboys for Trump leaders seek cover for financial backers

SANTA FE – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit this week from the jailed founder of Cowboys for Trump, tossing the effort to block or avoid possible financial disclosure requirements as a political group in New Mexico.

The lawsuit filed in June 2020 by Couy Griffin and Cowboys for Trump was in response to mounting pressure on the group to register as a political committee in New Mexico and possibly disclose information related to independent political expenditures and contributions.

Griffin, an Otero County commissioner, remains jailed following his arrest Sunday in Washington on charges of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol grounds and trying to impede or disrupt government business during the Jan. 6 siege on the building and Congress by an angry mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters.

Griffin had returned to Washington after vowing to dispute President Joe Biden’s election victory on Inauguration Day and to exercise his gun rights. Federal prosecutors argue Griffin should be held without bond until trial, and local and state officials are calling for him to resign from public office.

Attorneys for Griffin in the political finance case could not be reached immediately.

In the lawsuit on financial disclosures, Griffin and Cowboys for Trump argued that they don’t engage in the type of independent political spending that triggers registration in New Mexico as a political committee.

A judge found there was no reason for the federal court to intervene.

“Cowboys for Trump’s donors have not suffered any injury in fact and are never expected to suffer any such injury,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Fouratt wrote. “The refuge offered by the federal court is not a forum for the general airing of miscellaneous political grievances a citizen or group of citizens may wish to air about the regulatory efforts of a government actor.”

Griffin told The Associated Press last week before his arrest that he had registered Cowboys for Trump as a for-profit business to avoid disclosing information about contributors, claiming they might be harassed or threatened as he has been. The group is not registered with federal or state election regulators.

“The only reason why I filed as a for-profit is so I don’t have to unmask all my donors,” Griffin said of Cowboys for Trump.

The New Mexico secretary of state says that Cowboys for Trump qualifies as a political committee, citing its parades on horseback and merchandise sales in support of Trump.

The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June arbitration decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports and pay a fine of $7,800.

On Thursday, the secretary of state’s office said it would pursue enforcement of the arbitration order in light of the latest ruling.

“Cowboys for Trump, like any other political entity, cannot operate off the grid,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement.

Journal staff contributed to this report.