June 25, 2014

Follow the Money: How the NM GOP's Network of PACs Moves Money

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On Sunday, the Albuquerque Journal ran a story outlining various political action committees supporting Democratic candidates in elections. The Journal’s author, Thom Cole, and everyone interviewed agreed that the structures are legal so long as they are transparent, which they are. Today, the editorial page called for the attorney general to investigate, ignoring the network of conservative PACs providing the same support for Republican candidates in those very same races.

 

How does it all work? Let us show you.
Take the Builders Trust PAC, a political action committee affiliated with the homebuilders association, which gives almost exclusively to conservative candidates.

In just one week in December 2013, this PAC gave maximum contributions to Republican State Reps. Terry McMillian, Nate Gentry and Paul Pacheco.

That same week they gave another $15,600 to three different Republican PACs:

  • $5,200 to New Mexico Forward, led by former Republican State Rep. David Doyle,
  • $5,200 to the Republican Leadership PAC led by Republican House Whip Nate Gentry, and
  • $5,200 to NM Future PAC, a new PAC backed by Nate Gentry and paying big dollars to the firm run by the governor’s campaign manager.

They also gave two $5,200 contributions to the governor’s Susana PAC.

Newly funded, those packs started spending.

During the same week that Builders Trust PAC funded the campaigns and PACs, Gentry’s PAC added to McMillian’s coffers giving $1,000 to McMillian’s campaign as a cash contribution and another $3,104 in kind. He also gave another $2,798 to Pacheco’s campaign.

 Screenshot 2014-06-25 12.45.54

The same thing happens again later for State House candidate Geoff Rodgers. Builders Trust PAC has maxed out its contribution to Rodgers in 2014 but it has also contributed to both the Republican Leadership PAC and New Mexico Forward, both of which have directly given money to Rodgers’ campaign.

 

And it is not just Rodgers, Pacheco or McMillian who benefit. These PACs have directly contributed to more than a dozen Republican candidates this campaign cycle alone.
That was just one donor and a handful of conservative PACs in one week. All told, we’ve tracked at least eight political action committees (see our report on those PACs and who runs them here) supporting conservative campaigns for the state legislature: ABC PAC, New Mexico Forward, Republican Leadership PAC, NM Future PAC, PAC 22, NM Taxpayers Alliance, Republican State Leadership Committee, and the Republican Campaign Committee of NM.

(remember, the Journal said “Republicans don’t appear to have a similar large web of interacting PACs.” 

PAC-to-PAC to Candidate
It’s not just industry PACs funding political PACs. The GOP PACs grant to each other, too.

For example, around the same time Gentry was writing PAC checks to McMillian and Pacheco, Gentry’s PAC also provided another $4,000 in kind to Doyle’s New Mexico Forward PAC. Doyle has bundled that money with others and given contributions to Republicans Andy Nunez ($5,000), Geoff Rodgers ($4,000) and Sarah Maestas Barnes ($1,000). Doyle’s PAC has already sent emails attacking Barnes’ opponent in HD15.

 

The same thing happens again for State House candidate Geoff Rodgers. Builders Trust PAC has maxed out its contribution to Rodgers and contributed to both the Republican Leadership PAC and New Mexico Forward, both of which have directly given money to Rodgers’ campaign.

 

And it is not just Rodgers or McMillian who benefit. These PACs have directly contributed to more than a dozen Republican candidates this campaign cycle alone.

 

And then, of course, there is Susana PAC, which reported spending more than $800,000 in the 2012 election for conservative candidates in state. Since 2012, they have already raised another $250,000 and spent more than $300,000.

 

It should be noted that the system the Journal is so quick to rail against is not new, nor are its origins on the left.

 

2010 | Republican Majority Fund network

In the 2010 election, a former staffer for then-congresswoman Heather Wilson ran a PAC called the Republican Majority Fund. All told, the PAC raised more than $114,000 from Republican donors (many of whom also gave to candidates), then gave that money to the very same Republican campaigns including Dianna Duran, Nate Gentry and David Doyle.   It even funded county Republican parties across the state. The reward for running such a system? The PAC manager, Enrique Knell, was appointed to Governor Martinez’s administration and now serves as her spokesperson.

 

2012 | Reform New Mexico Now network

In the 2012 cycle, contribution limits meant little to Republican operatives who set up a network of PACs to support Republican candidates and attack Democrats. Remember Reform New Mexico Now PAC? It was funded by big oil and gas companies, including Devon Energy who jumpstarted Reform PAC with a $100,000 donation.

 

Reform spun off $60,000 of those dollars to into another new PAC, Safer NM, which attacked a Democratic district attorney candidate who opposed Governor Martinez’s handpicked replacement for her former Dona Ana County DA gig. That same candidate, Amy Orlando, received maximum contributions from Governor Martinez’s re-election campaign account, then $10,000 from the governor’s Super PAC, then $60,000 in extra help from a new PAC spun off from another Republican PAC set up to support candidates who supported Susana.

Here’s how the Santa Fe Reporter explained it at the time:

Had Orlando been elected, her ties to the Martinez administration—along with its PACs—would run deep. A longtime acquaintance of the governor, Orlando received donations of $10,000 from Susana PAC and $4,600 from Martinez’ reelection campaign. Safer also spent all of its money to buy mailers from Red Tag Strategies, an Albuquerque consulting firm. Red Tag’s phone number leads to the voicemail of Adam Feldman, a former Martinez administration official. (SFR left several messages, but Feldman did not return calls.) Even without the extra bump from Safer, which spent close to $56,000 in the race, Orlando spent more than double what D’Antonio did—$156,555 to his $75,023. D’Antonio narrowly won, by about 3,700 votes.

-Justin Horwath, Santa Fe Reporter, Nov. 2012

 

 

So, what’s the point?
Exactly.  The Albuquerque Journal’s story on political committees funding Democrats is no story without the companion piece exposing the network of Republican PACs doing the same thing.

Yet, the Journal chose to do a one-sided story, ignored plain evidence that the same thing happens on the Republican side, then editorialized for an investigation into perfectly legal political activity.

#JournalFail