Finance

Top NM GOP official allegedly violated campaign finance laws

Mark Moores

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A complaint filed this week with the Federal Election Commission alleges the executive director of the New Mexico Republican Party helped funnel $100,000 through a shell company to support Mark Moores during his failed bid for the U.S. House last year – a violation of campaign finance laws.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group, brought the complaint against Kimberly Skaggs, the executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, other members of the Skaggs family, any unknown persons, Teeter Jay, LLC and the Freedom Forward Fund and its treasurer. The fund, according to the complaint, is a registered political committee that reported receiving $100,000, which was used against Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who now holds the seat.

Kimberly Skaggs and Republican Party officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

A representative with Stansbury’s campaign declined to comment.

Saurav Ghosh, the director of Federal Reform at Campaign Legal Center, said in an interview the group doesn’t know the source of the donations totaling $100,000. But the group says there is sufficient evidence members of the Skaggs family were part of an effort to make a large contribution to a Political Action Committee without disclosing the source. The complaint is calling on the FEC to launch an investigation into the donations.

“It’s one of many examples of wealthy donors and special interests using a shell company to make contributions in the name of another,” Ghosh said. “This is not a unique occurrence, and this is really emblematic of a larger problem in campaign finance law.”

The complaint says Teeter Jay, LLC registered as a New Mexico domestic limited liability company in August 2019. The registration discloses that the company is managed 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 has no website, social media account, business listings or online records, or any other discernible online presence,” the complaint states.

The company and the Skaggs family took 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 reported receiving $2,900 – the maximum individual contribution – from both 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 reported receiving 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.

FEC filings show that between May 11, 2021, and May 28, 2021, the fund spent $94,643 opposing Stansbury, Moores’ opponent in a June special election. Most of it was spent on digital advertising.

Stansbury won the election 60% to 36%.

The complaint says there is reason to believe Kimberly, Joseph and Terryl Jay Skaggs, and possibly other unknown people, violated campaign finance laws that prohibit individuals from making donations in the name of another. 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 indictments and convictions in recent years,” the complaint states.

Besides seeking 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 were violated.

He said voters have the right to know who is spending big to influence their vote.

“Transparency is essential to our electoral process, but it is seriously undermined 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 shell game of electoral spending violates federal campaign finance laws, but so far, federal authorities have not prioritized the enforcement of those laws. Real transparency about who is spending big money on elections means greater accountability and less corruption.”

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