News Column

GOP Files Complaint Over Anti-Martinez Ads

May 4, 2012

Steve Terrell

Susana Martinez

The New Mexico Republican Party has formally complained to the Federal Election Commission about an Albuquerque-based political organization that has produced ads and reports critical of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Independent Source PAC is headed by Michael Corwin, a private investigator who has worked for former Gov. Bill Richardson and other Democrats.

The political-action committee is registered as both a federal and a state PAC.

According to the most recent Federal Election Commission report, filed last month, the PAC spent nearly $129,000 on cable television advertising in February and March. The report says it was for President Barack Obama's re-election. But the state GOP says that's false.

"Corwin's activities have nothing to do with the presidential campaign and everything to do with smearing Republicans at the state and local level on issues like driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, and ending social promotion in education," GOP Executive Director Annaliese Wiederspahn said in a news release.

Corwin, however, said Thursday that the ads that ran this year criticizing Martinez were for the purpose of helping Obama.

The governor, he said, has been touted as a potential GOP vice presidential candidate and also was being groomed to be a key Republican spokeswoman to try to lure Hispanic votes away from Obama. Corwin contended that his PAC's ads -- especially one claiming the administration improperly awarded a state fair horse-racing contract to political supporters -- ensured Martinez would not play a major role in the presidential campaign.

On the federal level, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission, the PAC is funded entirely by the Communications Workers of America, which since last year has contributed $190,000.

On the state level, the PAC last month reported to the Secretary of State's Office that it collected just more than $11,000 between last October and March from several contributors. The PAC reported spending $3,275 on radio advertising in October 2011.

According to a Republican news release Thursday, the PAC committed fraud "in order to avoid New Mexico state laws, which places limits on PACs engaged in these activities at the state level." The state has a $5,000 cap on political contributions from labor unions and businesses.

However, Corwin said Thursday that federal courts have ruled that independent groups like his aren't bound by such caps.

The Republicans also claim the PAC has illegally failed to file numerous required disclosure reports with the Federal Elections Commission.

Corwin said the GOP complaint was "retaliation for our requesting investigations of illegal acts by Martinez. We are whistle-blowers!"

Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

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