Senior NM GOP official allegedly violated campaign finance laws
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
A complaint filed this week with the Federal Election Commission alleges that the New Mexico Republican Party’s executive director helped funnel $100,000 through a shell company to back Mark Moores during his failed bid for the House. of the United States last year – a violation of campaign finance laws.
The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group, filed suit against Kimberly Skaggs, the executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, other members of the Skaggs family, unidentified individuals, Teeter Jay, LLC and the Freedom Forward Fund and its Treasurer. The fund, according to the complaint, is a registered political committee that said it received $100,000, which was used against Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who now holds the seat.
Kimberly Skaggs and Republican Party officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
A Stansbury campaign representative declined to comment.
Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, said in an interview that the group did not know the source of the donations totaling $100,000. But the group says there is enough evidence the Skaggs family members were part of an effort to make a significant contribution to a political action committee without disclosing the source. The complaint asks the FEC to open an investigation into the donations.
“This is one of many examples of wealthy donors and special interests using one front company to make contributions on behalf of another,” Ghosh said. “This is not a one-time event, and it’s truly emblematic of a larger problem in campaign finance law.”
The complaint states that Teeter Jay, LLC was registered as a New Mexico National Limited Liability Company in August 2019. The registration reveals that the company is operated by a single member, Terryl Jay Skaggs. Teeter Jay’s mailing address is listed as a Las Cruces property owned by Kimberly and Joseph Skaggs.
“Teeter Jay does not have a website, social media account, business listings or online records, or any other discernible online presence,” the complaint states.
The company and the Skaggs family have taken an interest in the special election called to decide who would replace Deb Haaland after she resigned her House seat to become President Biden’s interior secretary.
In April 2021, Moores’ authorized campaign committee said it had received $2,900 – the maximum individual contribution – from Kimberly and Joseph Skaggs. Kimberly used the same Las Cruces address as Teeter Jay’s mailing address, according to the complaint.
In May 2021, the Freedom Forward Fund said it received two $50,000 donations from Teeter Jay, according to the complaint.
In a campaign finance report, the fund listed Teeter Jay’s address as a Tularosa property that does not appear anywhere on the company’s LLC registration document.
Those two donations accounted for about 90% of the Freedom Forward Fund’s total donations, according to the FEC’s website.
Documents filed by the FEC show that between May 11, 2021 and May 28, 2021, the fund spent $94,643 to oppose Stansbury, Moores’ opponent in a special election in June. Most of it was spent on digital advertising.
Stansbury won the election 60% to 36%.
The complaint says there is reason to believe that Kimberly, Joseph and Terryl Jay Skaggs, and possibly other unknowns, violated campaign finance laws that prohibit individuals from making donations on behalf of others. The complaint also alleges that Teeter Jay and the Freedom Forward Fund violated campaign finance laws.
“Straw donor contributions like those alleged here are serious violations of federal campaign finance law that have led to criminal charges and convictions in recent years,” the complaint states.
In addition to asking for an FEC investigation into the donations, the complaint asks the agency to impose sanctions and civil penalties to deter future violations. Ghosh said the federal agency can also make referrals to the Justice Department if it believes criminal laws have been violated.
He said voters have a right to know who is spending a lot to influence their vote.
“Transparency is essential to our electoral process, but it is seriously compromised when wealthy special interests trying to rig the political system in their favor can conceal their identities by making political contributions through shell companies,” Ghosh said in a statement. “This campaign spending scam violates federal campaign finance laws, but so far federal authorities have not prioritized enforcement of those laws. True transparency on who is spending a lot of money for elections means greater accountability and less corruption.