The murky world of “social welfare” organizations with a political bent was in the news here last week. First, State Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against an entity known as New Mexico Competes, claiming it was illegally coordinating with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
New Mexico Competes, run by Sara Lister, a GOP activist and former Workforce Solutions official with the Martinez administration, has run radio ads praising Martinez’s handling of the behavioral health shake-up and sent mailers blasting Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks for opposing some of Martinez’s education proposals. Martinez’s political consultant Jay McCleskey denied any coordination between the governor’s campaign — with which he’s very involved — and New Mexico Competes and indeed these type of complaints to federal agencies by political parties typically don’t get very far.
I’m predicting we’ll be seeing more of New Mexico Competes before the next election, just like we’ll be seeing more of ProgressNow New Mexico, a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, grass-roots communications and advocacy organization working to unite, empower and enhance the progressive voice in the Land of Enchantment.”
And we’ll probably hear from a Hobbs-based group called GOAL Advocacy, a conservative nonprofit group dedicated to promoting “policies and common-sense solutions that create jobs and strengthen our economy and to educate Americans on the positive impacts the oil, gas and agricultural industries have on our economy.” GOAL is headed by Jason Heffley, a former staffer of U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce.
Listed as a contact on the GOAL website is Andrea Goff, who used to work for Martinez’s campaign and PAC. Goff was quoted in the infamous recent National Journal article about McCleskey, saying the governor had told her McCleskey was launching New Mexico Competes.
Farewell Prosperity: But it looks as though we won’t be seeing much of an apparently stillborn “social welfare” group called New Mexico Prosperity, which was headed by Jon Lipshutz, a veteran Democratic campaign operative who has worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Hillary Clinton 2008 presidential campaign and is now managing State Sen. Howie Morales’ gubernatorial campaign,
I wrote about Prosperity last April. As first revealed by The Santa Fe Reporter, which received a leaked 12-page document, the goals, according to the report, were taking back the Governor’s Office, “protecting” potentially vulnerable incumbent Democratic legislators, candidate recruitment, “rapid response” efforts, polling, focus group, direct mail, etc.
One section of the document said, “We will also coordinate with partner organizations as well as the [New Mexico Democratic Party] to form a formal [candidate] recruitment committee.”
“New Mexico Prosperity will be structured as a 501(c)4 entity,” the document said, referring to the IRS designation for these “social welfare” groups. “This allows us to accept unlimited contributions with limited reporting obligations. … Once each election cycle formally begins, we will form a ‘Super PAC’ that will be used for all electoral activities. We will still not be limited by contribution limits, but at that time, we will need to disclose all contributions received to the New Mexico Secretary of State.”
Lipshutz insisted last spring that the nonprofit’s mission had changed sometime between that document was written (sometime after the November election) and in mid-February, when the group registered with the Public Regulation Commission) and the document we had seen was just preliminary.
That point is moot. Lipshutz told me me that he left to run the Morales campaign. He said Prosperity’s board members told him they voted to shut down the whole effort, though it’s listed as “active and in good standing until 5/15/2015” on the secretary of state’s list of corporations.
Lipshutz said that despite the initial press coverage, Prosperity never really got off the ground: “We didn’t really do anything.”