NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s Ethics Commission has recently filed a lawsuit against a political advocacy group. The state alleges that Working Families Organization, which funded a text message campaign to influence votes, did not properly disclose who was funding the campaign.
Working Families Organization spent thousands of dollars to get New Mexicans to vote “yes” on a ballot question that would unlock additional funding from the state’s Permanent School Fund to pay for additional instruction for at-risk kids, according to the complaint filed in district court. But the Ethics Commission claims that the advocacy group masked who was behind the text message campaign.
“It’s important for folks to understand who’s spending money to influence their voting decisions,” says Walker Boyd, an attorney with the state Ethics Commission. “This action is being brought to enforce the requirement that if you pay more than $1,000 on an advertisement advocating that someone vote for or against a ballot measure, you have to say who’s paying for it.”
According to the complaint, “Working Families Organization, Inc. did not disclose that it had paid for the advertisements, and instead suggested that the advertisements were paid for by ‘Unemployed Workers United.'” The lawsuit also alleges that the group did not properly register with the New Mexico Secretary of State as a political committee.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the executive director of New York-based Unemployed Workers United to learn what they make of the allegations. In an emailed statement, they say they “fully reported” to the Secretary of State.
“We believe deeply in transparency as a principle for a strong democracy and in our work,” Neidi Dominguez, the executive director of Unemployed Workers United, said. “We’re proud of our work, and made clear the messages were coming from Unemployed Workers United in the text messages – that’s how the commission knew where to address the complaint. The texting was also fully reported to the Secretary of State.”
While the lawsuit deals with political issues, Boyd from the Ethics Commission says that the Commission is nonpartisan and doesn’t endorse any candidates or ballot measures. Rather, their goal is to ensure compliance with the law, and they rely on voters to do just that.
“We rely on interested citizens and members of the public to provide us with information about whether they think that there have been violations of these disclosure obligations,” Boyd says. “And we would encourage folks to reach out to us if they have questions about whether a given advertising campaign complies with the law.”