October 6, 2010; Source: Albuquerque Journal | The executive director of the Albuquerque Community Foundation claims his appearance in a TV commercial for New Mexico gubernatorial hopeful Diane Denish didn’t violate federal laws that prohibit foundations from engaging in political activities. Randy Royster said he’s in the clear because he’s not identified and he appears in his role as a private citizen.

Still, the bigger question being raised is if he exercised poor judgment as head of an organization that is nonpartisan. Paulette Maehara, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, says organizations that rely on external donors should avoid doing anything with political overtones because of the danger of alienating supporters. “There are too many risks,” Maehara says. “You don’t want to irritate one constituency over another. You could cause a contributor not to contribute anymore.”

Closer to home, Ed Rivera, president and CEO of United Way of Central New Mexico, offered a similar opinion. “It is a standard practice and/or policy for nonprofit CEOs and executive directors to refrain from activities that may imply or directly convey endorsement of partisan politics.”

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Royster appears only briefly in the ad, and in a scene with Denish looking over a set of plans. Royster said he agreed to appear in the commercial after receiving assurance neither his name nor employer would be shown.

With the uncomfortable chatter the ad has since caused, and Royster’s own concern that it’s being used to discredit Denish, he now thinks maybe it wasn’t such a smart idea after all. Says Royster, “Would I do it (again) today? No.”—Bruce Trachtenberg