By Bud Shaver
Albuquerque, NM- In 2015 when the liberal “progressive” Pat Davis ran for City Council in Albuquerque, we believed that voters in his district needed to know what he stood for and what a vote for him meant. Not only were we residents of District 6 at the time, but two of the three abortion facilities in Albuquerque are located in this district, the Planned Parenthood surgical facility and the University of New Mexico’s Center for Reproductive Health. However, when you utilize your constitutional first amendment rights in Albuquerque it apparently comes with a stiff $1,000 price tag.
(Back of 2015 Mailer to District 6: Mugshot of Davis’ 2013 DWI)
In spite of a lack of evidence being submitted to the city’s ethics board proving that we had violated the city’s election code, when we sent postcards to voters in district 6, we received a public reprimand and were fined $1,000. We filed an appeal with the New Mexico Court of Appeals because we believe that the city’s election code is unconstitutional. The code requires, in part, that if any individual or group spends $250 or more in support of, or in opposition to a candidate for city office, they must register with the City Clerk’s Office, submit “campaign spending” financial reports, establish separate bank accounts for any such spending, attend a mandatory meeting prior to the election, are subject to having their books audited, and comply with other administrative and regulatory requirements.
“As important as it is to show to the truth about what abortion does to women and children, it is equally important to make sure that our constitutional right to do so peacefully are also protected. The complaint filed against us by Pat Davis’ staffer was merely an attempt to block our ability to inform voters in Albuquerque what happens to women and children when radical progressives obtain public office. We must always fight to protect our rights to free speech especially during a time when the first amendment is under attack. As Christians, we are called to stand up for what we believe to be right and true,” stated Tara Shaver.
Court of Appeals Ruled Against Us
Unfortunately, the three judge panel on the Court of Appeals, (Judge Julie Vargas, Judge Monica Zamora, and Judge Linda Vanzi) ruled that the city ethics committee’s ruling, based on their pure speculation that we “must have spent more than $250,” even though there was no evidence as to how much money was spent, was correct. The Court further ruled that the committee’s failure to follow a mandatory procedural rule, which should have resulted in a dismissal of the complaint was unimportant. The Court of Appeals sent the case back to State District Court to consider the constitutional rights issues. We then agreed to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning that we can pursue our constitutional claims in another court.
Abortion Free New Mexico’s counsel, Angelo Artuso, believes that the Albuquerque election code is not constitutional based on the ruling in New Mexico Youth Organized v. Herrera, 611 F.3d 669, a 2010 case from the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that New Mexico’s state campaign reporting act was unconstitutional because it automatically made anyone who spent $500 a year for “political purposes” subject to mandatory registration and reporting requirements.
“Despite the importance of free speech, especially speech concerned with political matters and elections, no one has ever challenged the City Election Code and its Measure Finance Committee requirements. The requirements are onerous and present a significant roadblock to public participation in the City election process. As such, these portions of the City Election Code need to be overturned” said Mr. Artuso.
We have decided to pursue this matter further to protect our constitutional rights to free speech in Albuquerque. The law supports our belief that the election code is unconstitutional. In order to protect our rights and bring the case in a more suitable venue, we decided to pay the $1,000 fine so that we can bring our constitutional claims in U.S. District Court.
The bottom line is that if you support or oppose a political candidate in Albuquerque and spend over $250.00 of your own money to voice your opinion, you ARE required to register with the city of Albuquerque and jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops. This is unconstitutional and we are prepared to challenge the existing rules. Freedom of speech should never have such a price tag on it. We want to clear the path for others like us who are compelled to speak the truth about abortion.