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Opinion piece: Governor’s Disdain For Democracy Nothing New

The following appeared in Las Cruces Sun-News on September 15, 2023 and in other papers across New Mexico.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently gained national headlines for her public health order which essentially banned carrying a gun in Bernalillo County, the State’s largest county by population. Her justification for this dramatic action was a recent shooting outside Isotopes Park, but residents of Bernalillo County and Albuquerque face and have faced these issues for years.

Each time a criminal uses a gun to kill or steal it is frustrating and sad event. Both the causes and solutions are complicated and controversial. No matter the crisis one person (including the Gov.) cannot simply suspend the rule of law and the US Constitution.

Many New Mexicans like me believe Albuquerque’s crime problem is the result of weak leadership at multiple levels: The City fails to enforce the law, Department of Justice policies further hamstring the police, “catch and release” judges that voters (sadly) keep electing, and an unwillingness of the Gov. and Legislature to pass laws addressing our serious crime problems. And those are just the public policy failures, not the societal ones.

Many New Mexicans carry guns in response to the threat of violence they face.

Any attempt to deal with crime needs to involve the Legislature and other State and local elected officials. This would be true even if New Mexico had Republicans in positions of political power which they don’t.

Sadly, Lujan Grisham is only taking the next logical step in accumulating political power to herself. Declaring a “health emergency” and then making all manner of policies regarding school and business openings as well as vaccines and masks with little public input or say-so was her approach during COVID.

Sadly, the same Democrats who run the Legislature and who failed to pass basic restrictions on the Gov.’s COVID powers (like a 45-day limit on her emergency powers) remain largely unwilling to address the Gov.’s latest overreach on guns (Sen. Joe Cervantes is one notable exception as he has spoken out in opposition).

This is not just about guns. Lujan Grisham has exhibited a pattern of taking powers whether they are hers to use or not. She is currently working through an unelected Environmental Improvement Board, not the elected Legislature, to impose drastic new mandates that will soon require 82% of vehicles sold in New Mexico to be electric.

Occasionally the Gov.’s anti-Democracy tactics are on seemingly minor issues. Back in the 2022 special session of the Legislature the Gov. requested $1 million to reduce fees on the struggling New Mexico Rail Runner Express. The funds were not allocated by the Legislature, but the Gov. decided to cut fares anyway on her own.

Gov. Lujan Grisham may or may not have a political future beyond the remainder of her current term of office. Despite impeachment proceedings that have been filed by the GOP, we will likely be stuck with this Gov. until her term expires the end of 2026 when her term expires.

But the entire Legislature is up next November. And when they are running for office, one of the very first questions voters need to ask them is what they will do to hold the Gov. accountable when she ignores the law.

They should start by speaking clearly and publicly in opposition to her “gun grab” and then they should enact limits on the duration and scope of executive power in public health emergencies.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility


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RGF president joins KOAT Channel 7 to question City of Albuquerque payments to James Ginger

The City of Albuquerque’s police department monitor James Ginger has been paid over $11 million. While the overall merits of what DoJ is doing with the City’s police department is up for debate, the City’s payments to Ginger have remained high even as the City increasingly complies with DoJ’s mandates.

RGF’s Paul Gessing had a chance to weigh in on Ginger’s ongoing payments in a recent story KOAT did on the topic. Find the story at link.

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RGF comments on DOJ update w/ Albuquerque Police Department

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing sat down with TJ Wilham of KOAT Channel 7 recently to discuss the lack of progress in getting the City out from under the Department of Justice consent decree and the high cost of paying independent monitor James Ginger.

Full story here. 

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RGF op-ed: A small victory for free speech — barely

The following appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on 

In a small but significant victory for free speech during the recent legislative session, Senate Bill 42, a measure that would have made New Mexico’s already-hostile privacy laws for nonprofit causes even worse, was miraculously killed on the House floor. The bill already had been adopted by the Senate, so this was truly a last-ditch effort.

Current laws relating to forcing nonprofits to disclose their donors are already being challenged by the Rio Grande Foundation in court. That original law (adopted in 2019) dramatically expanded New Mexico’s campaign finance laws to cover nonprofit groups that merely mention lawmakers in their communications near an election. As a result, many organizations that have long had a voice in state policy debates would have been forced to publicly expose their supporters’ names and home addresses to the harsh light of public scrutiny.

That’s a major violation of personal privacy and a threat to free speech. Americans who have their identities, locations and support for social causes exposed can suffer harassment and retaliation for their beliefs. Privacy-conscious citizens may send their donations elsewhere instead of supporting New Mexico-based causes. Many nonprofits will self-censor to protect their supporters.

The result may be a win for some politicians since many critics of their ideas and voting records will be silenced. But it’s a loss for nonprofits, New Mexicans who support them and free speech throughout the state.

The Supreme Court has consistently struck down laws that chill the speech of nonprofit advocacy groups by publicly exposing their members and supporters. It has upheld laws that require candidates, political parties and other groups formed to elect or defeat candidates to disclose their contributors, but New Mexico’s law reaches far beyond elections and imperils speech about public policy. That’s where it runs into trouble with the Constitution.

SB 42 was like the current law but on steroids. It would have made it explicit that donors who support nonprofits for any purpose, not just a political purpose, must be exposed. That requirement would have created disclosure reports filled with junk. For most nonprofits, commenting on ongoing debates in the Legislature is only a small part of what they do. Their general donors may not know about or even agree with the messages they are publicly listed as funding.

For this reason, SB 42 could have been found unconstitutional even if New Mexico’s current law survives in the courts.

In the age of cancel culture, New Mexico is moving in the wrong direction. People deserve more control over their personal information, not less. They deserve more protection from being targeted and attacked for their beliefs, not to be thrown to the wolves.

In poll after poll, Americans admit they are afraid to speak openly about their views on issues as basic as their preferred presidential candidate. Plastering citizens’ donation records to nonprofits on the internet will not create accountability. It will enshrine cancel culture into New Mexico law.

Despite an ongoing legal battle, the New Mexico Legislature has only paused its ongoing efforts to put privacy and free speech at risk. SB 42 was another overreach and another lawsuit waiting to happen. Thankfully it was narrowly killed, but we’ll undoubtedly face similar threats to free speech next year.

Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation, an Albuquerque-based think tank focused on the importance of individual freedom, limited government and economic opportunity.

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RGF president interviewed by KOAT 7 on City of Albuquerque spending to clean underpasses

The City of Albuquerque and State of New Mexico share the cost of cleaning up under Interstate highway underpasses. Unsurprisingly costs have skyrocketed since 2020 as the homeless problem has worsened and City leadership has refused to deal with the issue head-on. KOAT Channel 7 covered the issue and interviewed Paul Gessing about the problem and the costs it imposes. You can watch here.

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RGF and it’s president Paul Gessing file lawsuit against City of Albuquerque over Planned Parenthood “Donation”

Thanks to legal help from the Liberty Justice Center, a non-profit, public interest litigation center, the Rio Grande Foundation and its president Paul Gessing have filed a lawsuit against the City under New Mexico’s “anti-donation clause” over the City’s “donation” of $250,000 of our tax dollars to Planned Parenthood. You can read more about the case here.

“New Mexico’s constitution prevents politicians from using taxpayer funds like their own personal piggy banks,” says Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Albuquerque’s grant to Planned Parenthood is pure politics, and the state constitution prevents that kind of abuse of taxpayer dollars.”  

“Taxpayers should not be compelled to subsidize Planned Parenthood or any other private group,” said Gessing, who is president of the free-market Rio Grande Foundation. “The anti-donation clause of New Mexico’s constitution is a bulwark for taxpayers against politically motivated earmarks just like this one.”  

Sadly, Albuquerque’s City Council seems to have ignored New Mexico law which clearly states thatNeither the state, nor any county, school district, or municipality … shall directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit, or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association, or public or private corporation …”

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Rio Grande Foundation vs. Maggie Toulouse Oliver

The Rio Grande Foundation will be in federal court this Wednesday arguing in favor of free speech against New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. You can see the court notice below and read up on the case itself here.

While elections come and go, the fight for liberty continues!

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Rio Grande Foundation offers new tool for the public to engage political candidates

Local Albuquerque Company ProView Networks, helped Rio Grande Foundation team up with ProView StoryFile technology to allow the public to engage in a virtual environment with candidates and other public figures. The technology allows users to ask questions with the technology selecting the best match. ProView Networks produced the StoryFile conversation in Albuquerque.

The technology offers users the opportunity to sit down with a virtual version of the candidate and ask questions that are relevant to the office they are seeking, about the candidate’s background and their qualifications.

Several candidates were offered the chance to create a Proview “StoryFile” in the waning days of the campaign. Republican Attorney General candidate Jeremy Gay agreed to sit down and answer questions which highlighted everything from the role of the attorney general to his personal philosophy on
important issues in law enforcement and his own biography.

Said Paul Gessing, president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation: “The Rio Grande Foundation’s podcast Tipping Point New Mexico allows me to regularly sit down with some of New Mexico’s most important thought leaders, elected officials, and candidates to discuss the issues facing our State.

Proview/StoryFile is yet another tool that will allow the public an even more intimate way to hear from these people.”

ProView Networks, an Albuquerque, NM based company has partnered with StoryFile, based in Los Angeles, as a production partner. Through this state-of-the art interactive technology, ProView Networks is producing and telling the stories of not only political figures, but prominent people in athletics, entertainment and business as well as preserving historical and family legacies.

To learn and see more, please visit and click on StoryFile. For the first time in American politics any voter can sit down with a political candidate to discuss the issues using this exciting technology. You can access it yourself here: 

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RGF’s Gessing talks constitutional amendments w/ KOAT Channel 7

RGF’s president Paul Gessing sat down with KOAT Channel 7 to discuss two of the constitutional amendments that will be on New Mexicans’ ballots when they vote this fall.

Constitutional Amendment 1 would tap into New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund. Gessing’s appearance is toward the end of the clip.

A separate KOAT segment addressed Amendment 2 which would allow the Legislature to spend taxpayer dollars on infrastructure projects that would expressly benefit private interests.  Here is our detailed assessment of Amendment 2.

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2022 Supreme Court Roundup: a Rio Grande Foundation joint event with New Mexico Federalist Society

From the free market/conservative perspective this was one of the best US Supreme Court sessions in history. If you are interested in finding out more about the fallout from this session and what it means for November and the future of our country, you don’t want to miss this exciting luncheon event.
Speaker: Prerak Shah of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Previously, Mr. Shah has served Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Chief of Staff for Senator Ted Cruz, and Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Date and time: Friday, July 22, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.
Location: Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, 2031 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104.
Cost: $30, which includes a buffet lunch (the entrees will be green chile chicken sandwiches, BBQ sandwiches, and portobello mushroom wraps).

Click  here to register. Registrations are being handled by the Federalist Society, but this IS a joint event.