The issue that has the left in a twist is the potential inclusion of language in the Albuquerque City Charter that would require non-profits -501(c3)s - to register as Measure Finance Committees when engaging in electioneering in a municipal election. The amendment was brought up by Charter Task Force member Chuck Gara at the April 2nd meeting.
The amendment was an attempt to level the playing field by requiring political non-profits who want to play in city elections to live up to the same standards that political parties, advocacy groups, and private citizens have to live by. Currently, non-profits like Eli Lee's Center for Civic Policy use their non-profit status to shield their activities and their donors from the public.
[Sidebar]These are the same groups that we told you about last year (read it here and here). They use tax deductible donations to fuel a political artillery barrage targeting opposing candidates. Democrats - particularly the far left wing of the party - used non-profits to great effect in the 2008 election.
Ironically, Eli Lee himself sits on the charter task force - which explains some of the histrionics over at New Mexico for Democrats (read it here). Lee is the behind the scenes power that gave us people like Debbie O'Malley, Martin Heinrich, Eric Griego (twice now), and the Albuquerque Un-Ethical and Hidden Elections Ordinance.
Eli Lee and his non-profits were part of a scheme hatched in 2007 by the Proteus Fund. The objective was to use closely related - in fact, incestuous - non-profits to pursue liberal causes, develop far left candidates, and target candidates who oppose their agenda. Take a moment and read the report for yourself. It gives you an idea of how political operatives think and how successful political strategies are born (read it here).
The New Mexico Center for Civic Policy currently has six employees, including executive director Eli Lee. New Mexico operates with a strong staff-driven model and has a three-person board for its c-3 organization and a three-person board for its c-4. One of the c-3 board members is from a partner organization and two of the c-4 members are from partner organizations. The others are chosen for what they bring as individual leaders of community and state organizations.At least a few of the non-profits that are a part of Lee's political scheme are Common Cause, Conservation Voters New Mexico, League of Young Voters, SAGE Council, and Southwest Organizing Project. These groups engage in coordinated political activity. They have become New Mexico's 527 organizations and one of the causes that they are most proud of championing is "clean campaign" laws (even they add quotes).
All of this is part of their plan... it's all in there. Gara's amendment is a threat to their scheme and their hidden donors and activities, a threat to their power. Lee and his non-profits don't want to play by the rules. They want to continue to exercise their 1st Amendment right to free speech while denying every other group theirs.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.As you might have guessed we're big proponents of the 1st Amendment. The beauty of this particular Constitutional provision is that its prohibition against abridging the freedom of speech cuts both ways. It protects equally the people, politicians, pornographers, and preachers. You might not like what some person or group has to say, but the 1st Amendment protects their right to say it.
Provisions that require groups to register with the city in order to express their opinion are patently unconstitutional. Sure, that goes for Lee's non-profits but it also applies to the older parts of the city's election code that already restricts every other group that wishes to express their opinion in a city election.
Lee's non-profits and their allies on the left have a point, but instead of working to fix the Constitutional problems with Charter as it exists they're targeting a measure that makes everyone play by the same rules. Of course, leveling the playing field would take away the advantages non-profits currently enjoy. It's hypocritical, and it's a double standard. And it's why the founders created the 1st Amendment in the first place.
The City of Albuquerque Charter has some Constitutional problems. The task force should be working to fix those problems. It would help if Eli Lee and his non-profits would stop trying to protect their own power and start working to protect everyone's Constitutionally protected freedom of speech.