(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.