Monday, August 3, 2009

Non-Profits Win, AG & SOS Lose Court Case

U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera has sided with the Center for Civic Policy, New Mexico Youth Organized and the Southwest Organizing Project,in a lawsuit against the state Attorney General and the Secretary of State.

The dispute goes back to before the 2008 primary election when the non-profits sent out mailers critical of several state lawmakers, who, the mailers said, side with special interests over their constituents.

Some of those legislators were facing primary opposition, and some of those -- namely Sens. Shannon Robinson and James Taylor and Rep. Dan Silva, all Albuquerque Democrats -- lost their primaries.

Robinson was especially vocal in accusing the CCP and NMYO of being "political committees." In a lengthy and rambling speech on the Senate floor during last year's special session, he called the mailers "obscene material" and said, "It's not educational; it's designed to create hatred."

Attorney General Gary King agreed that the mailers were political and ruled the groups should register as PACS and reveal their contributors.

The organizations argued they were engaged in an "educational" campaign and never advocated voting for or against any candidate.

Judge Herrera, in a 30-page ruling, agreed with the non-profits.

CCP policy director Matt Brix issued a statement saying, "Judge Herrera looked at the facts of the case in light of the law. This ruling represents one more victory for the nonprofit sector in New Mexico in its battle to defend the First Amendment and fulfill its mission of educating the public about how the legislative process works and how legislators vote."

Another lawsuit, filed by Robinson, Taylor and Silva against the non-profits, was thrown out of state court late last year.

UPDATE: Here's the attorney general's reaction:

"We are disappointed in the outcome of today's ruling and we will take some time to thoroughly review the court's decision before deciding our next course of action. We are assessing our options and will likely make that public in a few days."

Here's the judge's ruling.

Non Profit Decision