UPDATE: This story has been updated to better reflect the reason Mark Moores’ financial disclosure form has not yet been filed. A previous version of the story incorrectly said it was due to tax exemptions, based on information provided to the Journal.
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Two major party candidates in the race for an open Albuquerque-area congressional seat are clashing over financial disclosures.
Both Republican Mark Moores and Democrat Melanie Stansbury are currently state lawmakers, and part of their campaign dispute in the 1st Congressional District race centers on outside income earned while serving in the Legislature.
Specifically, Moores’ campaign has targeted Stansbury for an alleged conflict of interest related to her legislative vote in favor of a 2019 bill that appropriated money to a University of New Mexico center she has worked for as a consultant.
In response, Stansbury’s campaign has described the attacks about what her Republican opponent called her “messy finances” as baseless and pointed out that Moores himself did not file a mandatory report in advance of a recent deadline.
“He is trying to distract from his failure to comply with federal law – refusing to disclose his finances to New Mexico voters, while receiving $2 million from the government for his business and self-funding his campaign,” Stansbury campaign spokesman Jessie Damazyn said, referring to a $200,000 loan Moores made to his campaign last month.
The federal money was part of the Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping businesses cover employee costs during the pandemic.
Stansbury took a leave of absence from her consulting work with UNM during the 2019 session and has followed all legislative ethics rules, Damazyn added.
In her financial disclosure, Stansbury, a two-term state representative, reported earning income for consulting work from four different sources – the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Santa-Fe based Thornburg Foundation, the Terramar Consulting Group and UNM.
In all, she disclosed making about $69,000 in income from her consulting work in 2020.
All congressional candidates who raise at least $5,000 for their campaigns are required to file financial disclosure reports with the U.S. House Clerk’s Office.
Moores, a three-term state senator and partner in a Roswell-based medical laboratory that has conducted COVID-19 testing during the pandemic, did not file a report in advance of a May 15 deadline.
“As is routine for candidates who own businesses, Mark’s filing has been delayed because of tax extensions,” Moores campaign manager Chris Escobedo said this week.
But, with early and absentee voting already underway for the June 1 special election, that hasn’t stopped Moores’ campaign from raising questions about Stansbury’s disclosure report.
Specifically, the GOP candidate has criticized Stansbury’s vote in favor of the 2019 appropriations bill that included $50,000 for the UNM Utton Center, which conducts research on water and environmental issues.
Moores’ campaign indicated a complaint would be filed with the New Mexico Ethics Commission about the issue, though that would leave little time for it to be potentially investigated and resolved before Election Day.
Moores has also criticized his Democratic opponent for accepting campaign contributions during this year’s 60-day legislative session.
“What isn’t routine are the undeniable facts that Melanie appropriated $50,000 to her own employer, and took money from lobbyists during the legislative session,” Escobedo said.
While a “blackout period” typically bars legislators from soliciting campaign funds during sessions, the law does not apply to fundraising by lawmakers who are running for federal office.
Moores announced his campaign only a week or so before being picked as the GOP nominee and did not report raising campaign funds during the session that ended in March.
But he has faced conflict of interest questions in the past due to his previous position as executive director of the New Mexico Dental Association, a job he retained for several years after being elected to the state Senate in 2012.
In 2013, Moores defended voting on a dental therapy bill, reportedly saying he did not have any “financial interest” in the bill’s fate.
New Mexico is the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary and many lawmakers hold regular jobs, though they do get daily per diem payments during legislative sessions that are intended to cover lodging and food expenses.
During this year’s session, Stansbury co-sponsored a bill that would have set up a commission to craft proposals on legislative compensation, transparency and session rules, among other issues.
But that proposal ultimately stalled in the Senate Rules Committee, a panel that Moores sits on.
The other candidates appearing on the ballot for the 1st Congressional District race are Libertarian Chris Manning and independent Aubrey Dunn.
The seat is currently vacant because former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., stepped down in March after being confirmed as U.S. interior secretary.