Sec. of State targets Dems for investigation; Takes no action on similar issue with Republican Governor

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Santa Fe – An Albuquerque Journal inquiry led Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran to issue complaint letters to three Democrats seeking statewide office yesterday.  But, ProgressNow New Mexico has learned that the Journal made her office aware of a similar violation by Governor Martinez but the Secretary took no action until we got involved.

Update: The Secretary of State responded to our inquiry.  See her response in the updates at the end of the post.  

In a story appearing in today’s Albuquerque Journal, UpFront columnist Thom Cole writes:

In response to an inquiry from me, the Secretary of State’s Office said a posting from [Sen.] Lopez on her website violated the prohibition on soliciting political donations during the session…

Again in response to inquiries from me, the Secretary of State’s Office said live donation pages on ActBlue for Morales and Keller were also violations of the session fundraising prohibition.

ActBlue is an independent non-partisan organization that permits individuals and campaigns to fundraise online through their third-party platform.   It is most closely associated with progressive causes and Democratic candidates.

But do third-party donation links count as solicitations for donations by candidates?  Now the Secretary of State thinks so.

After the Secretary of State issued complaints against Democrats, we checked Republican candidates who are also prohibited from fundraising during the legislative period.

Just like Democrats routinely use ActBlue, Republicans often use Piryx.  So we checked there.  Within 10 minutes we’d found eight fundraising pages for prohibited candidates:

  • Governor Susana Martinez,
  • Sen. Craig Brandt,
  • Sen. Mark Moores,
  • Sen. Lisa Torraco ,
  • Rep. Alonzo Baldonado,
  • Rep. Kelly Fajardo,
  • Rep. Jason Harper and
  • Rep. Terry McMillan.

Cole even writes that he was able to find Governor Martinez’s Piryx page with a simple “donate to Susana Martinez” Google search.

Using the same language the Journal’s Thom Cole used, we asked if these were also violations:

 Piryx Complaints, SOS

Earlier today, the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that they had issued violations against these eight Republicans as well.

View the letters here: Governor Martinez 2-7-14, Senator Craig Brandt 2-7-14, [Sen.] Mark Moores 2-7-14, [Sen.] Lisa Torraco 2-7-14 ,Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, Rep. Kelly FajardoRep. Jason Harper and Rep. Terry McMillan.

When we shared the news with Cole, he tells us that had he also flagged the Governor’s Piryx.com page on Thursday for the Secretary’s office but “had not heard back.”  That’s right.  It appears that within minutes of receiving an inquiry from the Journal, the SOS used the Journal’s inquiry to fire off violations against Democrats but took no action against Republican Governor Martinez – at least not until ProgressNowNM got involved and made a public inquiry.

McCleskey caught in a lie?

Cole did mention the governor’s Piryx donation page in his original story:

Currently, there are no live donation links on the websites of Martinez’s re-election committee or Susana PAC, but a Google search for “donate to Susana Martinez” turned up a donation page on Piryx, which provides a service similar to that of ActBlue.

[Martinez campaign manager and political consultant] McCleskey said Thursday that the page doesn’t belong to the Martinez campaign or Susana PAC and that they have no control over the page.

But, that can’t be accurate.  Both Thom Cole and I attempted to set up Piryx accounts earlier today and found that campaigns cannot receive funds from those accounts unless they link the campaign’s bank account to the page.  And after our inquiry to the Secretary of State about the campaign fundraising page, the page was taken down.

Piryx Setup

UPDATE, April 14, 2014:  The Secretary of State’s office responded to our request by saying it was taking no action against the Republican candidates since the links were removed from their websites and the third-party links appeared to be inactive.  Complaints against Democrats were withdrawn earlier after the Albuquerque Journal reporter who was cited as the complainant withdrew his name from the complaint.

Read the letter from the SOS:  Complaint Pat Davis 4-14-14