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A Cool Million

Well, according to an article by Colleen Heild, it looks like part of Eli Lee’s quietly built empire for progressive change is going to see some sunshine (subscription):

An Albuquerque nonprofit that distributed mailers portraying Sen. Shannon Robinson and other lawmakers as being in the pocket of big business must register as a political committee, according to Secretary of State Mary Herrera.

In a letter Herrera sent Monday after consultation with the state Attorney General’s Office, she said, “It appears that New Mexico Youth Organized is operating as a political committee for purposes of the (state) Campaign Reporting Act.”

The group, an arm of the Center for Civic Policy, has 10 working days to “correct this matter and provide a written explanation of the apparent violation,” the secretary of state said.

Eli Lee, executive director of the Center for Civic Policy, said in a statement late Monday that his group strongly disagrees with the directive and will “pursue all legal remedies at our disposal.”

Which raises the question, why is Mr. Lee so hell bent on keeping his donors a secret until after the election in November? Who is he protecting? As a former not for profit executive director, I can assure you that timely disclosure of his donors would be a rather simple task – if he was so inclined. But, of course, he is not.

Mr. Lee wants nothing (not even public outcry) to get in the way of his plan to influence the election in November. There is too much at stake:

The center received nearly $600,000 in contributions last year and expects to spend more than $1 million this fiscal year.

Let’s put that $1 million dollar number in perspective. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, in 2004 (the last time all State House and Senate seats were up for re-election) the total amount spent by 201 candidates was just shy of $5.3 million dollars for an average expenditure per campaign of about $26,000. Mr. Lee is targeting nine races, and expecting to spend more than a million dollars for an average expenditure in excess of a $100,000 – over 4 times the amount spent in 2004!

He’s buying the election, and he is doing it by skirting the exact same campaign finance laws, he insists he wants in New Mexico. My only request, keep Mr. Lee’s actions in mind the next time some legislator or political activist gets on a soap box and proclaims the need for campaign finance reform. Remember how they quietly supported Mr. Lee and his agenda with no concern to limiting his expenditure or seeking disclosure of his sources.