Nonprofit Newswire | NM Court Rules Advocacy Groups Need Not Register as PACs

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June 30, 2010; Source: New Mexico Independent | Can anyone explain why the Attorney General of New Mexico seriously entertained the idea that the SouthWest Organizing Project and New Mexico Youth Organized (part of the Center for Civic Policy) should register as political committees?

Both organizations—clearly nonpartisan, clearly not backing specific candidates for public office, clearly engaged in organizing and advocacy and public education but not political campaigns—were the subjects of complaints from two state senators who weren’t particularly pleased about the two nonprofits’ efforts in 2008 to get citizens to understand the shortcomings, as they saw them, in the legislators’ stances on health care.

No offense to the AG, but the SWOP and NMYO advocacy was pretty standard stuff—direct mail efforts asking the organizations’ constituents and members to remind the senators of what might be better stances on health care than their articulated public positions. The state appellate court appears to understand the difference between political advocacy and electoral campaigning and ruled against the AG’s efforts to limit the organizations’ public policy advocacy rights [PDF].

The court was unequivocal that these organizations did not and do not violate any of the tests to qualify as a political (campaign) committee, finding the AG’s argument—“if it ‘walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck’”—unpersuasive and lacking in supportive evidence.—Rick Cohen