In-kind do­na­tions ruled out in runoff

Pub­licly fi­nanced can­di­dates can’t ac­cept con­tri­bu­tions, ethics board says


The city’s Board of Ethics & Cam­paign Prac­tices has de­ter­mined that pub­licly fi­nanced can­di­dates are not al­lowed to ac­cept in-kind con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing a runoff pe­riod.

State Au­di­tor Tim Keller, who is fac­ing City Councilor Dan Lewis in Al­bu­querque’s Nov. 14 may­oral runoff elec­tion, re­quested the ad­vi­sory opin­ion.

“A (pub­licly fi­nanced) can­di­date may ac­cept inkind con­tri­bu­tions only from the be­gin­ning of the ex­ploratory pe­riod up to the reg­u­lar mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion,” board Chair­man An­drew Schultz said dur­ing Thurs­day morn­ing’s board meet­ing. The

board ap­proved the ad­vi­sory opin­ion by a unan­i­mous vote.

The de­ter­mi­na­tion af­fects Keller, the only pub­licly fi­nanced can­di­date in the may­oral runoff, and Cyn­thia Bor­rego, the only pub­licly fi­nanced can­di­date in the City Coun­cil District 5 runoff. Bor­rego is run­ning against Robert Aragon.

The board’s de­ci­sion means that Keller and Bor­rego will have to make do with the ad­di­tional city funds they will be re­ceiv­ing once the re­sults of the Oct. 3 elec­tion are cer­ti­fied. Keller will re­ceive 33 cents for ev­ery reg­is­tered voter in the city, or about $125,000. Bor­rego will re­ceive 33 cents for ev­ery reg­is­tered voter in District 5, or about $15,000.

In-kind con­tri­bu­tions are goods or ser­vices given to a cam­paign, such as cam­paign signs that a sup­porter pays for.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the opin­ion pro­vided by the city at the Tim Keller cam­paign’s re­quest,” said Molly Sch­midt-Nowara, at­tor­ney for the cam­paign. “This pro­vides much-needed clar­ity to some gray ar­eas that all pub­licly fi­nanced cam­paigns face. We are look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our cam­paign with trans­parency and to demon­strate that de­spite its chal­lenges, pub­lic fi­nanc­ing is a bet­ter way to run for of­fice in Al­bu­querque.”

Keller is al­ready fac­ing an ethics com­plaint over ac­cu­sa­tions that he cir­cum­vented the pub­lic fi­nanc­ing sys­tem by ac­cept­ing checks made out to Rio Strate­gies, the firm run­ning his cam­paign, and re­port­ing them as in-kind con­tri­bu­tions.

He has re­ported re­ceiv­ing $37,820 in in-kind cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from sup­port­ers.

The Keller cam­paign has said it did noth­ing wrong, say­ing it used the funds to pur­chase sup­plies and ser­vices, which, it ar­gues, is al­lowed un­der city rules. An ev­i­den­tiary hear­ing on the com­plaint that was sup­posed to be held Thurs­day was post­poned.

Pub­licly fi­nanced can­di­dates must ad­here to cer­tain re­stric­tions. They can’t take cash do­na­tions like pri­vately fi­nanced can­di­dates. Keller re­ceived about $343,000 in city fund­ing for his ini­tial may­oral cam­paign, and he was al­lowed to raise seed money that pushed his to­tal re­sources to about $380,000 lead­ing up to the Oct. 3 elec­tion. And Keller was al­lowed to ac­cept up to about $38,000 in in-kind do­na­tions of goods or ser­vices, but not money, to his cam­paign.

The Bor­rego cam­paign has also been hit with an ethics com­plaint al­leg­ing that she re­ceived im­proper do­na­tions and la­beled them as in-kind con­tri­bu­tions. That case is still mak­ing its way through the ethics board process.

Lewis had raised $589,616 and had a lit­tle more than $44,000 re­main­ing as of Mon­day, which he can use for his runoff elec­tion. Aragon raised more than $58,000 for his run and had $5,000 in the bank.

City Councilor Dan Lewis

State Au­di­tor Tim Keller

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