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:
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.
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
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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.
(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?”
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.
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.
When: Thursday, September 12, 2019, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
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:
KrisAnne Hall is an attorney and former prosecutor who travels the country teaching the Constitution and the history that gave us our founding documents and will highlight “The 10th Amendment and State Sovereignty.”
The main point in State Sovereignty is that the states created the Federal Government and the states delegated certain authority to the Feds. The states are sovereign over the Feds. Anything beyond what the states delegated is NOT Constitutional and the states have every right to refuse to comply. This relationship has been completely reversed in modern thinking.
Location: Marriott Pyramid located at: 5151 San Francisco Rd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.
When: Wednesday, July 10, 2019, 12:00 noon to 1:00pm.
Cost: Seating is limited and can be purchased at the discounted price of $30 until Wednesday, July 3, 2019; $40 after that. Price includes plated lunch.
KrisAnne is a disabled Army veteran, a Russian linguist, a mother, a pastor’s wife and a patriot. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, she received her undergraduate degree in Bio-Chemistry from Blackburn College in 1991 and her J.D. from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law and is a former Russian Linguist for the U.S. Army. KrisAnne worked as a state prosecutor and with a prominent law firm defending religious liberty and First Amendment rights. KrisAnne lives in North Florida with her husband JC, a pastor and former Russian instructor for the U.S. Navy, and their adopted son Colton.
KrisAnne has been awarded the Freedom Fighter award by Americans for Prosperity, the Certificate of Achievement from the Sons of the Revolution for her defense of Liberty, and Congressman James Blair Award for Defending the Constitution.
KrisAnne is an incredibly passionate speaker – a true Patrick Henry of our time. She speaks to audiences all across the country on Constitutional History, American Exceptionalism, and the Fight for Liberty. Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious and she is able to inspire any group. She is a steadfast warrior in the Tea Party battle.
The Rio Grande Foundation opposed the creation of a new soda tax in Santa Fe in 2016 and spoke out against it with a video and website. The City has a law on the books that requires groups to disclose their donors if they spend more than $250 on a “readily identifiable ballot measure.”
We think this is unconstitutional and our friends at the Goldwater Institute agree. We are suing the City of Santa Fe and you can check out a short video about it here:
Appearing on New Mexicans’ ballots this fall is Constitutional Amendment 2, which would create a state ethics commission.
To New Mexico’s advocates for “good government,” it’s easy: With an ethics commission in place, corruption will fade, citizen activism will expand, voter turnout will balloon and “public service” will again be a noble calling.
Who could possibly be against that?
The first argument against the ethics commission comes from the Office of the Secretary of State’s 2018 General Election Voter Guide:
Under existing law, multiple state agencies already have oversight over ethics matters affecting their respective branches of government. These include the State Personnel Office, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee and designated House and Senate ethics committees. Throw in the Office of the State Auditor and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and it’s quite clear that one more governmental entity involved in rooting out or prosecuting ethical violations isn’t necessary.
Then there’s the research. In 2013, two scholars from the University of Missouri conducted “the first systematic statistical evaluation of the effects of state ethics commissions on public corruption among state and local officials.” Their results didn’t offer any intellectual ammo for Constitutional Amendment 2’s backers:
• “Overall, we found no strong or consistent support for the common claims made by political actors that state ethics commissions are important policy tools for reducing political corruption.”
• “[T]he raw correlations and point estimates that we present indicate that state ethics commissions have only very weak, and possibly perverse, effects on public corruption.”
• “[I]t is reasonable to conclude that there is no support for claims that state ethics commissions, including bipartisan and nonpartisan commissions, serve to reduce political corruption.”
Ouch. It’s also worth noting that some of the sleaziest states in the union — e.g., New Jersey, Mississippi, Illinois, Louisiana, Alaska, New York — have ethics commissions. (The Pelican State’s goes back to 1964.) The six states that lack such bodies (in addition to New Mexico, the list is comprised of Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, and Wyoming) are all over the map on the issue of corruption.
And just because a bureaucracy has the word “ethics” in its name, does that make it unquestionably fair and impartial? Veteran journalist Jon Margolis recently criticized the Vermont State Ethics Commission for being “politically played” by a far-left group looking to hurt the incumbent (Republican) governor’s re-election chances.
Last month, the Institute for Justice sued the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for blocking the public-interest law firm from distributing a book to state legislators called Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit.
Undoubtedly, New Mexico political leadership has more than its share of bad actors. But that doesn’t mean the problem will be solved by yet another bureaucracy tasked with the “public good.”
How could New Mexico’s myriad ethics problems be addressed? For starters, voters should hold politicians accountable at the ballot box when they display inherent ethical shortcomings. Making politicians pay is the best single way to restore ethics.
A second and oft-ignored path to more ethical behavior is to reduce the size of government and thus reduce the amount of money that can be skimmed off and used to pad the pockets of political ne’er-do-wells.
Smaller, limited government has two salutary impacts.
Most importantly, it limits the raw amount of money available to the political class, forcing a prioritization on core public services. But it also allows journalists, activists, taxpayers and citizens to track and analyze a limited number of bureaucracies, programs and subsidies — as opposed to monitoring an almost-unlimited array of government expenditures.
Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation.