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Teresa Leger Fernandez’s campaign has poured money into the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary race to run television and digital ads. In addition, two PACs have spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of the Santa Fe attorney.

Candidates in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party primary claim so-called dark money has entered the race after reports two groups together spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of Teresa Leger Fernandez.

Perise Practical Inc. and Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent the money in support of Leger Fernandez, Politico Pro reported Thursday.

Federal Election Commission records and data from the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics show Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent $250,750 on ads in support of Leger Fernandez. Perise Practical Inc. spent $50,000. The groups’ FEC disclosure documents both list their post office boxes in Arlington, Va., and both were signed by the same individual, David Brett Krone.

Dark money, or money spent by groups that do not disclose their donors, is common in politics. But many progressives have decried the influx of untraceable money because it’s often impossible to determine the individuals, groups or interests behind such spending.

In a written statement, Emma Caccamo, Leger Fernandez’s campaign manager, said: ”We’re proud to be running a New Mexico powered campaign, with contributions from all 16 counties in the district and no corporate PAC money. … We don’t know anything about any other groups and saw their ads when everybody else did.”

Leger Fernandez has been endorsed by a variety of groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressive EMILY’s List. On Thursday, she was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, an Albuquerque Democrat who represents the 1st Congressional District.

But three of her opponents in the seven-person Democratic primary race were quick to pounce on ad spending from groups that do not disclose their donors.

Former New Mexico Deputy Secretary of State John Blair’s campaign issued a statement denouncing the spending.

“Secret contributions from shady sources are simply unacceptable,” Blair said. “Dark money has corrupted our entire political system, and it’s the reason we haven’t been able to take on gun manufacturers, rein in pharmaceutical companies or pass a Green New Deal. Teresa must live up to the values of our party and demand those ads come down immediately.”

Michelle Barliant, a campaign staffer for candidate Valerie Plame, said in a telephone interview, “We stand with John that dark money doesn’t have any place in this race.”

Although Plame has raised the most money in the crowded Democratic primary, Barliant said no groups with undisclosed donors have spent money to support the former CIA agent.

Another candidate, Santa Fe-area District Attorney Marco Serna, also decried the spending and said he will be taking a “dark money out of politics pledge” he hopes every candidate, including Leger Fernandez, will sign.

Other Democratic primary candidates in the race include Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya of Rio Rancho, first-term state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Taos environmental attorney Kyle Tisdel.

In an interview with The New Mexican, Serna said Leger Fernandez claimed during a KOAT-TV/Albuquerque Journal candidate forum airing Sunday the only out-of-state groups she knows that have spent money in her campaign were EMILY’s List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political action committee.

“I find it hard to believe that her campaign was not aware of the ads that have been running both on TV and on social media,” Serna said. “It’s disingenuous, and I echo Blair’s call to ask these PACs to stop running ads in New Mexico because it’s the right thing to do and here in New Mexico this isn’t how we run campaigns.”

The Leger Fernandez and Plame campaigns have poured money into the primary race to run television and digital ads. Blair and Serna also have spent on television ads to a lesser degree.

In December, The New Mexican reported pro-Donald Trump forces had already spent thousands in TV or digital ads either attacking U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small or backing the president.

Torres Small is running for reelection in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the southern part of the state. The race against the survivor of the Republican primary likely will be one of the most competitive U.S. House contests in the country, political experts have said. Torres Small narrowly won the seat in a district that turned out heavily for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Although some candidates pointed out the groups’ spending in support of Leger Fernandez, the 3rd Congressional District campaigns have stayed largely positive, said longtime Albuquerque-based pollster Brian Sanderoff.

That sets it apart from the race in the 2nd Congressional District, where the Yvette Harrell-Claire Chase battle has been increasingly bitter.

“The mood of the two races … are night and day,” Sanderoff said.

Four Republicans are running for the seat in the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary: Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, Santa Fe engineer Alexis Johnson, Navajo Nation member Karen Bedonie and Angela Gale Morales of Rio Rancho, who is a write-in candidate.

(41) comments


Dr. Michael Johnson, why in the world would you think someone should share the reasons for his divorce with you, a complete stranger, on this very public forum? How rude of you to ask!

Jim Klukkert

[smile]Not rude so much as laughable. [thumbup]

Mike Johnson

Not really, you put yourself into the public domain when you run for office, since this reflects on this candidate, it is pertinent to the election. Many divorced people who run for office have their personal lives examined by the public, after all, we are electing them to represent us, we need to know who they are very thoroughly. Trump's divorces have been very public, and no one accused the people asking of being rude. And as Truman said, if you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen.

John Holm

David Krone, who registered the two PAC, was for a number of years years chief of staff for Harry Reid while he was leader of the Democrats in the Senate. One thing Reid was known for was raising a lot of money from Democratic donors and distributing it to his preferred candidates. Krone, given his experience, is now doing the same thing in DC for some part of the Party establishment (e.g. Pelosi), only now he is working with dark money. Obviously, we do not know who the donors are, but it is clear what the message being sent is. Some national leaders of the party want Teresa in Congress and they are ramping up her advertising exposure, especially relative to Valerie Plame. In short, knowing the donors in this case is irrelevant. The point is that this is the national party putting its finger on the scale. They must have some concern that the other Hispanics are taking votes away from Teresa and making the race with Plame close. For obvious reasons, no one wants to say this out loud.

joe martinez

It's "dark money" when the spending is not for your favorite candidate. They usually go to the perceived winner so they can get something back later. In this case, Leger-Fernandez is the favorite and these two organizations are going with the winner. It's not out of goodness of their hearts or strong philosophy.

Laurie Neufeld

So, just out of curiosity. If both sources have been named and identified, how, exactly, are they "dark money"?

Mike Johnson

The organization is named, but the people who fund it are secret and we are not allowed to know who they are.

Michael Campbell

Hard to believe somebody can use the images of a private individual and her family in

broadcast media without permission. By not asking whomever it is that is running these

to stop, TFL is complicit. And one day will find out who her "benefactors" really are

John Cook

Actually, it's really easy to believe. Ask the Governor or Claire Chase. Or any of the other dozens of politicians whose images are used in negative ads. Federal law prohibits coordination between a campaign and an independent expenditure. TLF is not at all involved in these ads. I note that, unlike so many independent expenditures, these are not negative ads. They are entirely positive and should cause no one a problem.

joe martinez

Perise Practical, one of the dark groups, is for equality and a better future for everyone. Can't beat that. Leger-Fernandez is pretty good at bringing other people's money into the district so who can turn down a free lunch. Perise is probably one of those "non-profits" that'll make a profit off the "free lunches". Just register Democrat and work for social justice in this district.

John Cook

Although neither you nor I nor Teresa's campaign know anything about Perise; I agree with you that we all should register as Democrats and seek justice in this district. As Teresa has done her entire professional lifetime.

joe martinez

Google says Perise is for affordable health care and voting rights in addition to what I mentioned. Probably for motherhood and apple pie and "social justice" like all good Democrats. Fernandez seems to know how to get the private sector to pay for government free lunch. I'll register Dem on my deathbed so it'll be one of theirs and not one of ours that goes.

John Cook

Lord, hasten the day.

Mike Johnson

This should not surprise anyone with half a brain and who has looked at her background, or talked to her "organizers" who call constantly. She is bought and paid for by the rich special interests to do their bidding, and now it seems there are even more of them than we can find out about. Just more NM corruption and purchased politicians, move along, nothing much to see here anymore, but vote for Joe Sanchez......he is honest, independent, and a real New Mexican.

John Cook

Well, I don't want to be unpleasant. You have that part covered. However, anyone who has looked at Teresa's background will see that she graduated from high school in Las Vegas, NM; got her undergraduate degree at Yale; her law degree at Stanford; was then a White House Fellow in the Clinton White House and then immediately came here to practice public interest law for the past 30 years. I can tell you that a young lawyer with those credentials could have written her ticket with every big lawfirm in New York or Washington and made big money. From special interests. Instead, Teresa has worked tirelessly here, in this district, for the people and tribes who needed her help the most.

Mike Johnson

"....Teresa has worked tirelessly here, in this district, for the people and tribes who needed her help the most." Indeed, theses rich special interests who need her "most" and are willing to pay to play through the nose. Corruption, pure and simple, not representing all the people and you admit it. Joe Sanchez for Congress!

John Cook

I admit that she has worked for many pueblos; for acequia districts; for affordable housing; with Washington to bring 900 million dollars to this district for those needs and for the disenfranchised. If those interests are 'special' then so be it; but they sure aren't rich. She has worked for poor people. All her life. She made that life choice when she could very easily have decided to work for the rich special interests in a big city law firm. These are the facts.

Mike Johnson

You cannot work for the pueblos and the acequias at the same time. I am a parciante, and we want Aamodt repealed and our water rights, stolen by the pueblos and the city and county of Santa Fe with no compensation to us, given back. She refuses, I asked her the question at one of the ward meetings, she is on the pueblo's side against the people in our valley. She wants our acequias destroyed and removed. That is a fact.

Jim Klukkert

Those darn pesky super rich Native Americans! Always throwing their big bucks around. If only we could give them some small pox blankets. If only they were 58% of Covid-19 victims here in NM. Oh, wait..... [unsure]

Jim Klukkert

And those darn pesky Indians, stealing our water rights after we Europeans got here first.

Oops, wait a minute, I will have to get back to you on that! [ohmy]

Jim Klukkert


Jack Hunter

Just lost my vote... This stuff has to stop and democrats should know better. This appears to be an example of someone more concerned about the office than the people she’s supposed to serve. The only Way to fix this is to out who did the ads and let the people decide if that’s an appropriate supporter for what is really BIG money in a race like this.

John Cook

If she lost your vote over this you must not have been swayed, before now, by her lifetime of work on the issues of this district and for the people of this district. It would be great to 'out' the people who put up this money. Teresa and her campaign have no way of knowing any more than Politico did or the competing campaigns do. A candidate doesn't know who the 'dark money' is. It's dark.

Paul Gibson

I understand your view, Jack, but Leger can't know that this is going to happen. By law, her campaign can have zero communication with outside PACs. During the Trujillo-Romero campaign there was a despicably racist dark money ad attacking Trujillo, but Romero's campaign had nothing to do with it and decried it immediately. I hope you will reconsider your change of heart about Teresa.

Mike Johnson

Correct choice Mr. Hunter. She is part of the socialist purge, the ones who took down Trujillo with dirty money ads for #ResistRomero, a proven thief who is still in the Roundhouse with all her crimes. The Santa Fe Ring and the "Bros" are funding all manner of ads to take down the best of out party, they will not succeed in "purifying" the party to reflect socialism.

Jim Klukkert

Mike- If you are referring to Bernie Sanders' fundraising, you would do well to remember that we raised millions on small donations. We Democratic Socialists win power through voting.

Purge is baiting us Mike, and I thought you were above that sort of thing. But if you want to talk Purge, you are in for a lesson in systemic violence against women, people of color and others.

White males of privilege should watch their talk. The times are changed, and the times are changing, towards Justice for All, not Privilege for the Few like You.

Mike Johnson

So Klukk, is that a violent racist threat against Anglos? I thought you were better than that kind of rhetoric. Just hide and watch as we conservative elect and keep in office the many in our party that reject socialism and violence.

Jim Klukkert

No Mike Johnson, that was not a 'a violent racist threat against Anglos.' It was a statement that the days when what you white male sons of privilege said was how our society was ordered are almost past, 'your old ways are rapidly fading.'

Never hidden in my life Mike, and that's my handsome face beaming at the world on my posts. I am letting everyone, including those who are shy or who well remember the dominant cultures violent backlash to dissent and deviance from the corporate line, not to be afraid. We the people will not be deterred by your uncivil tone, nor the history of political repression. It is a new day.

If you need to find racist and or violent threats, look to your own posts.

You are such a disappointment.

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

Remember voters, she is the one that pushed through Ranked Choice Voting which brought you Alan Webber as the Mayor of Santa Fe! Don't let this election be bought too!

Alan Courtney

RCV is the bomb!

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

She is in the ads with her family, how could she not know they exist?

John Cook

All the dark money ad has to do is copy and paste the video Teresa is using in her ads. That's how her family appears in the ads. It doesn't mean Teresa knows who the dark money people are. In fact, it isn't allowed for a candidate to send material or help to an independent expenditure. Or to even know they exist or that they are going to post ads until those ads appear.

Mike Johnson

Right making "tamales", or so she says, I bet she hasn't cook a meal in her life, and why did she reject and then retain her old married name form her divorced husband???? Hispanic name recognition, and the way she pronounces things......fake, phony, fraud.

John Cook

My, my. The good doctor doth froth at the mouth.

Mike Johnson

When people attempt to steal my democracy, and enslave us with special interest money and power, I get angry, I guess you don't care Mr. Cook, as long as they pay you and yours off somehow here.

Jim Klukkert

Mike Johnson~ Oh my goodness, LET'S NOT ELECT SOMEONE WHO CANNOT COOK!!!! But how are you going to throw the kitchen sink at her, if we cannot get the poor lady in the kitchen?

I wonder how many conservative men would be out of office if we could get this new standard of yours on the books. Mike-Mike, you are really shrill today. Hatred is so unbecoming, undermines all your arguments and credibility and is really ugly.

So you are voting for Valerie Plame, Marco Serna, or writing in Maggie Thatcher?

Jim Klukkert

Mike Johnson writes "When people attempt to steal my democracy." And there we have the heart of the problem. Mike feels entitled, and so believes our government is his little plaything, rather than belonging to We the People, who founded and continue this government 'to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare...'

Mike believes this to be all about his, and his like minded mostly white and male cronies', Welfare.

Sad that so that Mike spent so much getting his Ph.D., and did not learn the most important facts about this wonderful experiment in governance.

Mike Johnson

Joe Sanchez is the ONLY candidate from my party in this race that is worthy of being elected. The rest are typical NM corrupt incompetents, backed by rich, elite special interests who will not represent the people, only those who pay them.

Luis Fernandez-Zavla

Dr. Johnson: You talked in your post about me: the divorced husband, and "tamales". Let me inform you that as a former husband I witnessed the making of tamales every year after Thanksgiving. I is family tradition so important that in the divorced decree was established I receive 2 dozens of tamales per year (these tamales are really amazing!) . So it is not a fake ad, it is real (defendamos nuestras tradiciones nuevomexicanas, dfendamos lo que alamos) l. Second, could you just support your bubbly candidate (Sanchez) without going to the dark side of politics. . BTW: Sanchez name comes from Sancho, the funny guy from el Quijote. Luis Fernández-Zavala, Ph.D.

Mike Johnson

Thank you Dr. Fernandez-Zavala. Now tell me, why did you divorce her?

Lupe Molina

Ranked choice voting was a major improvement to our election process. It's the kind of reform mindedness that we need in DC.

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