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Understanding the Rio Grande Foundation

The Rio Grande Foundation often comes under criticism from the left. But sometimes we come under fire from the right as well.

For starters we are designated as 501c3 “education and research” think tank. We don’t make endorsements and we don’t “carry water” for any political party or politician. Various media outlets have called us libertarian, conservative, and free market. We call ourselves “free market,” but we don’t waste our breath and time arguing the finer points of ideology because we believe that our work is self-explanatory.

For starters, New Mexico is a deeply challenged state. We believe that a vast majority of these issues are self-inflicted. New Mexico lacks economic freedom and remains poorer and less well educated than our neighbors. We also spend a VAST majority of our time focused on state and local issues as opposed to federal ones.

Those issues broadly include:

  1. Size of Government: New Mexico has long been a state driven by government. Data show that state/local spending is too high and that government regulations make doing business in New Mexico less attractive than doing business elsewhere. We’ve worked on this issue from all angles including: all forms of taxation, subsidies and corporate welfare (notably film subsidies), but also LEDA, JTIP, and “green” subsidies.
  2. Regulation: Rio Grande Foundation has led the charge for “right to work” repeal of NM’s”Davis-Bacon” law, reform of government employee pensions, and against numerous “nanny state” regulations like plastic bag bans. We have also done extensive work against “green” programs from the Energy Transition Act to costly “green” building codes.
  3.   School Choice/Education Reform: Across the political spectrum New Mexicans agree that our K-12 system is failing. While politicians of both parties typically opt for some combination of more money, more time in school (pre-K), and some form of top-down accountability, the Rio Grande Foundation believes that parents and (to an extent students themselves) are better able to decide on the educational options that appeal to them. Charter schools are a good start and should be expanded, but more options are needed.

Additionally, the Rio Grande Foundation supports the US and New Mexico Constitutions, we stand up for free speech, gun rights, private property, and open government.

We don’t take on immigration, gay rights, or abortion issues.

So, there you have it. We at the Rio Grande Foundation have our plates very full, but we are making a difference in New Mexico every day. If that appeals to you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

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KOB Channel 4 covers RGF lawsuit which asserts that Albuquerque city councilors violated open meeting lawsKOB Channel 4 covers RGF lawsuit which asserts that Albuquerque city councilors violated open meeting laws

Ryan Laughlin of KOB TV did a great job covering the special Albuquerque City Council meeting which resulted in Mayor Keller receiving significant new powers. He also covered our lawsuit which was filed in the aftermath of the meeting and challenges the legality of the meeting and the powers delegated to the Mayor.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Open Government Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation sues City of Albuquerque for Open Meetings Act Violations

(Albuquerque, NM) – On Friday, March 13, 2020, the City Council of the City of Albuquerque announced that it would be holding a closed meeting the following Monday, March 16, 2020. At that meeting which occurred this past Monday, the Council amended its Emergency Powers Ordinance which has been on the books for several decades.

The Emergency Powers Ordinance contains numerous controversial provisions which, under New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act, residents of Albuquerque have a right to participate in with their members of the City Council.

The language of the Open Meetings Act is very simple. It states in part that, “…all meetings of any committee or policy-making body of the legislature held for the purpose of discussing public business or for the purpose of taking any action within the authority of or the delegated authority of the committee or body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.”

The Rio Grande Foundation asserts in the lawsuit which has been filed in New Mexico district court that the City has violated the New Mexico Open Meetings Act by holding a City Council meeting March 16, 2020 without proper notice and without conducting such according to the provisions of the Open Meetings Act therein violating the Due Process owing to the citizens of Albuquerque.

Furthermore, the decades-old Emergency Powers Ordinance to which several amendments were made is itself unconstitutional. The Ordinance gave the Mayor power to restrict sales of firearms and ammunition. These provisions which were not amended on Monday violate New Mexico’s Constitution, which states:

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

Said Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing, “The Rio Grande Foundation understands that we are in a crisis situation right now, but laws like the Open Meetings Act and our State and Federal protections on the right to self defense were intended for crises.”

The Foundation’s lawsuit states that both the Open Meetings Act and the long-existing firearms restrictions violate New Mexico Law and should be considered void.

Click Here to View the Complaint as Filed

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Economy Local Government Notable News Open Government Top Issues Videos

RGF in the news on ABQ Emergency ordinance and small business impacts of virus outbreak

We at the Rio Grande Foundation remain busy and active in this trying time and we also are working to keep government accountable and push back against government overreach. Here in Albuquerque an ordinance was passed that expands the Mayor’s powers to include times of health emergencies. This ordinance was passed very quickly and without a single public meeting on the issue and that concerns us.

But, thanks to State laws now in place, local ordinances dealing with guns and liquor provisions in the local ordinance that existed prior to its being amended last night WILL NOT impact gun rights.  See our analysis here. 

This story (in which RGF’s Paul Gessing is quoted) from KOB 4 TV deals with the ordinance prior to it being voted on:

This story which does not include video quotes RGF after the vote.

This story for which Gessing was quoted discusses the economic impacts of what is happening right now.

Finally, you ‘ll note that the video of Mr. Gessing is not in the usual setting. KOB TV requested a Skype interview due to virus concerns.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Economy Health Care Local Government Notable News Top Issues

Is there a worse idea in this time of Coronavirus than Pat Davis’s plan to “more fully” ban plastic bags?

Just a few days ago Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis told local media outlets that he was planning to “close a loophole” in the City’s plastic bag ban which took effect this year. Davis wants the Mayor to get rid of plastic bags that are thicker than 2.25 thousandths of an inch. The thicker bags were exempted from the law for the simple reason that they are considered “reusable.”

Instead of mandating “reusable” products, retailers (like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts) concerned about potential health implications of reusable items are banning them. Davis cares about politics whereas the retailers are doing what is sensible.

The problem in this age of Coronavirus is that Davis’ preferred reusable bags are KNOWN vectors for viruses in grocery stores. Don’t take my word for it, check out this report from Loma Linda University.

A 2018 report from Loma Linda University was based on an experiment in which researchers purposely “contaminated” a reusable bag with a harmless form of a virus. A single shopper then went through a typical grocery store and the research team tracked the spread of the virus.

Quoting directly from the executive summary of the report, “The data show that MS2 spread to all surfaces touched by the shopper; the highest concentration occurred on the shopper’s hands, the checkout stand, and the clerk’s hands.” The graphic below which was taken directly from the report reflects this.

Instead of pushing to make the plastic bag ban even more onerous and aggressive, Councilor Davis, Mayor Keller, and Bernalillo County Commission should ALL reconsider their bag bans…at least for the duration of this public health emergency.

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Nonprofit groups challenge New Mexico disclosure law for violating free speech, privacy rights

Image result for liberty justice center

 

 

PRESS RELEASE from the

LIBERTY JUSTICE CENTER and
RIO GRANDE FOUNDATION

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Kristen Williamson
kwilliamson@libertyjusticecenter.org or 773-809-4403

Paul Gessing
pgessing@riograndefoundation.org or 505-264-6090

Nonprofit groups challenge New Mexico disclosure law for violating free speech, privacy rights

SANTA FE, N.M. (Dec. 13, 2019) – Today two nonprofit organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s new overreaching donor disclosure law. The law limits free speech and privacy rights, and puts at risk the individuals who support nonpartisan advocacy groups.

Every American has the right to support issues they believe in without fear of harassment and retribution. However, in New Mexico citizens forfeit their privacy and have their personal information shared publicly on a government website when they donate to nonprofit, issue-advocacy groups.

The New Mexico law requires organizations that engage in issue-related speech during certain times of the year to report to the government the name, home address and donation amount for any donation over designated threshold. That information is then posted on a government website for public viewing. The law also requires these advocacy organizations to identify themselves as the sponsors on public messages and register as political committees despite engaging in issue-focused speech.

These donor disclosure requirements target private citizens and penalize them for supporting issues they believe in. To stop this unconstitutional threat to free speech, the New Mexico-based Rio Grande Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, and the Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501(c)4 issue advocacy group, have filed a lawsuit that seeks to strike down the law. The lawsuit is Rio Grande Foundation et al. v. Oliver. The organizations are represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, best known for its 2018 Supreme Court win in the case Janus v. AFSCME.

“Every American has the right to support causes without fear of retribution or retaliation. But in New Mexico, speaking up comes at a price: your privacy,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “By naming and shaming individuals who support different viewpoints, this law effectively prevents everyday Americans from advocating for causes they believe in and favors powerful, entrenched political interests. New Mexico is stifling free speech and we will do everything we can to block this unconstitutional law.”

The new law would require nonprofit Rio Grande Foundation to register, disclose their donors to the government, and place sponsorship disclaimers on their materials. Paul Gessing, president of Rio Grande Foundation said, “We share information with New Mexicans to encourage robust policy discussions that affect change and improve lives. This law will silence important perspectives by discouraging our citizens from supporting issue-advocacy groups that promote thoughtful, rigorous debate around issues vital to our state.”

Illinois Opportunity Project plans to engage in issue advocacy in New Mexico prior to the 2020 election, but its speech will be unconstitutionally suppressed if its supporters must disclose their donations. Matthew Besler, president of the Illinois Opportunity Project said, “The Illinois Opportunity Project fights to uphold our First Amendment right of free speech so everyone is protected from retaliation and intimidation. We oppose laws that hinder our constitutional rights and will continue to fight so individuals can participate in public discourse without fear of retaliation.”

Rio Grande Foundation et al. v. Oliver was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, Santa Fe Division. The next step in the case is service of process, after which, the defendant members of the Elections Board have up to 60 days to respond to the lawsuit. The case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/rio-grande-foundation-v-oliver

# # #

The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center that was founded to fight against political privilege. The most notable example of the Liberty Justice Center’s success in this arena is its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. Beyond its work in the Janus case, the Liberty Justice Center’s team of talented, liberty-minded attorneys are also fighting to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech and other fundamental rights. The Liberty Justice Center pursues its goals through strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights. Learn more about the Liberty Justice Center at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.

The Rio Grande Foundation is a research institute dedicated to increasing liberty and prosperity for all of New Mexico’s citizens. We do this by informing New Mexicans of the importance of individual freedom, limited government, and economic opportunity. Learn more at RioGrandeFoundation.org.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation Files Ethics Complaint Against Mayor Tim Keller

(Albuquerque, NM) – For a long time the Rio Grande Foundation has argued that local election results have been tipped by the ability of public officials and taxpayer-funded interests to use taxpayer dollars or the prospect of taxpayer dollars to lobby on behalf of efforts to tap even more tax money.

In the November 2019 election, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller stepped over the line when he posted the following message on the City’s official website www.cabq.gov. “Let’s come together on November 5 as One Albuquerque to make the community safer, more innovative, and more inclusive by voting ‘Yes’ on the G.O. Bonds and on all of the ballot items that will help our City reach its full potential.”

Argued Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “The City of Albuquerque has strict campaign finance rules that require groups or individuals to register as a ‘Measure Finance Committee’ if they spend more than $250 to engage in a public campaign.” The City’s website is created and maintained at taxpayer expense for the purpose of informing residents about everything from the latest City Council legislation, to the River of Lights schedule, to changes in trash pickup. The ability to use this website as a campaign tool is invaluable, but it certainly exceeds $250.”

The Rio Grande Foundation has long been concerned with the indirect use of taxpayer dollars being used for political campaigns. Examples include the APS tax hike of February 2019, City bond campaigns, and bonds for CNM and UNM, but this is the first time in memory that an elected official has crossed the line in terms of directly using government resources to support a political cause.

Furthermore, noted Gessing, “It may seem trivial for the Mayor to use the City’s website in a campaign effort on these bonds. Everyone knows he is publicly out making the case for these taxes at taxpayer expense, but what if he used the City’s website to support particular candidates or even his own reelection campaign? Would that finally cross the line?”

The City Clerk’s letter of acceptance of the Foundation’s complaint can be found here.

 

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Christina Sandefur’s Albuquerque presentation: “The Importance of Private Property Rights”

Christina Sandefur was in Albuquerque recently to share the importance of private property rights. She touched on a number of interesting topics including New Mexico’s successful reform of civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain.

Thanks to Danny Seymour for recording this video!

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Notable News RGF Events Top Issues

Speaker Series: Christina Sandefur, Goldwater Institute

Cornerstone of Liberty: the state of private property rights in America today

In coordination with the New Mexico Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and Chapter President Emil J. Kiehne, the Rio Grande Foundation is proud to host Christina Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute as our latest guest speaker for the Rio Grande Foundation’s Speaker Series.

Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute. She also develops policies and litigates cases advancing healthcare freedom, free enterprise, private property rights, free speech, and taxpayer rights. Christina has won important victories for property rights in Arizona and works nationally to promote the Institute’s Private Property Rights Protection Act, a state-level reform that requires government to pay owners when regulations destroy property rights and reduce property values. She is also a co-drafter of the 41-state Right to Try initiative, now federal law, which protects terminally ill patients’ right to try safe investigational treatments that have been prescribed by their physician but are not yet FDA approved for market.

Christina is the co-author of the book Cornerstone of Liberty: Private Property Rights in 21st Century America (2016). She is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs, has provided expert legal testimony to various legislative committees, and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is the recipient of the 2018 Buckley Award in recognition of her leadership in the freedom movement. Christina is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and Hillsdale College.

Join the Rio Grande Foundation, the New Mexico Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, and the Goldwater Institute of Arizona for Christina Sandefur’s discussion: “Cornerstone of Liberty: the state of private property rights in America today.”

The event is free, although we kindly request an RSVP. Light snacks will be provided.

Event Details

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Notable News Tipping Point Top Issues Videos

KrisAnne Hall’s remarks on the Constitution and the 10th amendment

The inimitable KrisAnne Hall spoke at a Rio Grande Foundation-sponsored luncheon on July 10, 2019 in Albuquerque. Her presentation was impassioned, informational, and motivating. We had a great turnout for for this exciting event.

You can watch the presentation for yourself below:

If you’d like more from KrisAnne Hall, Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing interviewed her for the Foundation’s podcast Tipping Point New Mexico.