Saturday, September 06, 2008
Nonprofit Deadline Won't Be Enforced
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
The New Mexico Attorney General's Office will not enforce a deadline for an Albuquerque nonprofit to register with the secretary of state as a political action committee.
The office reached an agreement with attorneys for the nonprofit New Mexico Youth Organized allowing the group to hold off on filing while its attorneys fight the order in court, Attorney General's Office spokesman Phil Sisneros said Friday.
"I think I can safely say that the secretary of state's date (to comply) ... is a nonissue," Sisneros said.
The group was told to register as a PAC by this past Tuesday after the attorney general and secretary of state investigated $21,000 worth of mailers sent out two months before the June primary election. The mailers were highly critical of two candidates — Shannon Robinson and Dan Silva — who lost the election.
The nonprofits maintain that they sent out materials educating voters on candidates' records and campaign contributors after the last regular legislative session but were careful not to turn the mailers into campaign materials endorsing other candidates.
The group has agreed not to send out any other materials similar to those sent out before the primary until a judge decides whether they constitute campaign materials, Sisneros said.
A Journal story reported Wednesday that the group had missed its Tuesday deadline to comply based on information provided by the Attorney General's Office.
But Sara Berger, an NMYO attorney, said the organization had assurances from Attorney General Gary King by Aug. 25 that the Tuesday deadline would not be enforced as attorneys drafted an agreement. The group had the same assurances in writing before the end of Tuesday, NMYO attorney David Urias said.
Without those assurances, Berger said, the group would have filed in court for a temporary restraining order. Her client would never "miss" a deadline like that, she said.
"That just wouldn't have happened, that we would've let the deadline pass without an agreement," Berger said.
Sisneros said the agreement is not yet official. He said Friday that during his Tuesday interview with the Journal the information about the agreement had not been made public, so he confirmed that the group had missed the deadline.
Along with NMYO, at least three other nonprofits sent out similar materials on a total of nine legislators. Only one other nonprofit, the SouthWest Organizing Project, has been given a similar order to register as a PAC. Their deadline is not until Sept. 15.
Robinson, Silva and a third candidate, James Taylor have filed a lawsuit alleging the winning candidates conspired with the nonprofits to skirt campaign finance law and undermine the election process with the mailers. It asks that the election results be thrown out.
The nonprofits' attorneys filed a motion to dismiss them from the suit this week, claiming there is no legal standing for them to be listed as defendants in a contested-election suit. It also criticizes the lawsuit for not substantiating anything in the "grand conspiracy" it alleges.