By Cynthia B. Hall, Candidate for PRC
Chief Judge Barbara Vigil of the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico will hear arguments at 4 p.m. today (May 31) from publicly-funded PRC Candidate Cynthia B. Hall and others concerning whether New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna J. Duran should release matching funds as required by state law.
Hall hopes for a decision today on the Temporary Restraining Order and Amended Petition for Writ of Mandamus she filed over the last week.
This hearing has the potential to remedy the damage the Secretary of State has done to Hall and other publicly-financed candidates in their races for the PRC and New Mexico Court of Appeals.
The court is located at 100 Catron St. in Santa Fe.
The Secretary of State, contrary to the mandate of New Mexico’s Voter Action Act, has withheld matching funds from these publicly-funded candidates for two weeks.
Her office released a press release yesterday that argued matching funds are unconstitutional.
Park has already reported receiving and spending nearly $140,000.
Hall and Karen Montoya, another PRC candidate in District 1, each received $30,533 in public financing to run in the primary.
The Voter Action Act says the Secretary of State must immediately issue to Hall and Montoya additional funds to match any spending by Al Park that exceeds the public financing amount, up to a cap of 200 percent of their original disbursement.
So, Hall and Montoya would receive another $30,533.
The Secretary of State currently faces two matching funds lawsuits.
In the last few days the Republican Party of New Mexico, the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC, and PRC Candidate Al Park teamed up in federal court.
They sought to prohibit the Secretary of State from releasing the matching funds. These Plaintiffs, along with Intervenor Al Park, cited Citizens United in their assertion that the release of matching funds would infringe upon the free speech rights of donors.
The other lawsuit, and the subject of today’s hearing, is a State lawsuit brought by Cynthia B. Hall against the Secretary of State, in order to compel the Secretary of State to release the matching funds.
Hall states that she believes the Republican Party’s and Al Park’s objective, to eliminate matching funds, will fatally undermine public financing in New Mexico.
Hall believes that the outcome of this hearing will affect political races in the future, rendering it unlikely that citizens who are not career politicians, with significant financial backing, can compete in these races.
Today’s hearing could also set a legal precedent for other states.
If the Secretary of State is allowed to disregard state law, plaintiffs in other states could point to this case in their efforts to gut public financing.
Almost certainly this would make it easier for corporate interests and big money to assert even greater control over our democratic process, according to Hall.
This is an important moment in the implementation of our public financing law, as the matching fund provision is rarely used and has not been challenged before now.
JUNE 1 UPDATE:
Late yesterday afternoon, Presiding Judge Barbara Vigil ordered New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna J. Duran to follow the law and release matching funds to Cynthia B. Hall, publicly-funded Democratic candidate for the PRC in District 1.
The Secretary of State, contrary to the mandate of New Mexico’s Voter Action Act, had withheld matching funds from Hall and other publicly-funded candidates for several weeks.
Last week, in response to the Secretary’s refusal to release the funds, Hall filed a Temporary Restraining Order and Amended Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
Judge Vigil signed the Writ of Mandamus filed by Hall and ordered the Secretary of State to comply forthwith.
The Judge also instructed Hall to file a new Writ of Mandamus on Friday if the Secretary of State continues to withhold the funds.
The Secretary of State’s office said they would notify Hall if they decide not to follow the Judge’s orders.
The Secretary of State still faces a federal matching funds lawsuit. In the last few days the Republican Party of New Mexico, the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC and PRC Candidate Al Park teamed up in federal court.
They sought to prohibit the Secretary of State from releasing the matching funds.
These Plaintiffs, along with Intervenor Al Park, cited Citizens United in their assertion that the release of matching funds would infringe upon the free speech rights of private and corporate donors.
During yesterday’s hearing, the judge did not allow Al Park or any other candidates to intervene in the lawsuit.
This represents a victory for the Hall campaign as well as for other publicly financed candidates in the state, such as Karen Montoya and Judge Victor Lopez of Albuquerque.
For the moment, the matching funds provision of New Mexico’s Public Financing Law has been upheld.
This could also mean protection for matching funds as provided for in municipal elections in places like Albuquerque.