One day after the co-chair of a pro-Manuel Gonzales political action committee alleged mayoral candidate Eddy Aragon was violating federal law and city election regulations by campaigning on his radio show, Gonzales’ campaign wrote Aragon demanding Gonzales be given his own radio show or other airtime on Aragon’s station.
The timing is “not a coincidence,” according to a new ethics complaint against Gonzales alleging the Bernalillo County Sheriff also running for mayor is coordinating with the committee to challenge Aragon’s candidacy.
Gonzales’ campaign manager calls it “baseless.”
The complaint filed Tuesday is just the latest in a string of ethics complaints made during the 2021 Albuquerque mayoral campaign and the fourth against Gonzales specifically.
Lodged by Rudy Grande Jr., the new complaint references Karen Montoya’s Oct. 13 ethics complaint against Aragon — though Grande incorrectly states it was filed Oct. 14. In it, Montoya claims Aragon is violating city and Federal Communications Commission rules by not properly documenting his use of his radio station, KIVA, to benefit his mayoral candidacy. Aragon denied the allegations, which are now pending before the city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices.
Montoya has identified herself as co-chair of the Save Our City political action committee, which is raising and spending money to support Gonzales’ mayoral bid.
Included with the new complaint against Gonzales is a letter to Aragon dated Oct. 14 and signed by Ramon Soto, an attorney representing Gonzales’ mayoral campaign. Soto wrote to say that Gonzales intends to “zealously enforce” the rights provided political candidates under federal law for equal use of the KIVA broadcast facilities.
“You have continued to host a daily radio talk show on KIVA AM 1600. Each on-air appearance in your capacity as a talk radio host on your station qualifies as a free ‘use’ of your broadcast facilities, entitling your opponents, including Sheriff Gonzales, to equal opportunities for comparable free use of your facilities,” he wrote. “Sheriff Gonzales demands an equal opportunity to host his own talk radio show, with an equivalent length and frequency as that of ‘The Rock of Talk’ (Aragon’s show), on your channel and using your facilities, while using his own staff. In the alternative, Sheriff Gonzales demands an accounting of the amount of ‘free use’ you have accrued in promoting your candidacy for Mayor and that an equal amount of ‘free use’ time be provided to Sheriff Gonzales in the form of commercial airtime.”
Grande’s complaint calls Soto’s letter and Montoya’s complaint a “coordinated effort” that violates city election laws.
Grande declined to answer Journal questions about his complaint, saying everything he wanted to say was included in the document.
Gonzales’ campaign manager denied the allegations Grande leveled against him.
“Our campaign had nothing to do with the local ethics complaint against Aragon and his complaint against us is baseless. Aragon is in clear violation of federal law and there is no question he is going to have a massive problem with the FCC after this election. There’s a reason no other candidate anywhere in America has run for office while remaining on the air,” campaign manager Shannan Calland said in an emailed statement to the Journal.
Aragon raised the issue of ethics complaints during a live mayoral debate on KOB-TV Tuesday, asking Gonzales about the complaint, saying he has given Gonzales the opportunity to use his radio station and asking why Gonzales “decided to put me in front of the Ethics Board?”
Gonzales denied filing the complaint, saying he had no idea what Aragon was talking about.
“That was the doing of my political consultant,” Gonzales said.
Aragon responded by calling that an admission of collusion.
“You just admitted that your (political action committee) is working directly with your own campaign and you have now just admitted fraud,” Aragon said.
Gonzales called it a misunderstanding.
“That’s not what I said. I said my political consultant brought those things. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.