On Friday, the New Mexico State Ethics Commission (SEC) dismissed a “frivolous and politically motivated” ethics complaint lodged against Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-Truth or Consequences) after her Democrat opponent, Karen Whitlock, filed the last-ditch charge alleging conflicts of interest regarding Dow’s work for an educational non-profit, in an apparent move to spoil the incumbent’s campaign.
“The SEC also noted in their response, Dow’s counterclaims of possible Campaign Reporting Act violations regarding the original complainant, Karen Whitlock, as well as possible violations by the New Mexico Senate Democrats PAC, and the Brian Egolf Speaker Fund PAC,” wrote a press release from the New Mexico House Republicans.
One item from the complaint is still subject for review regarding disclosures, but Raúl Burciaga of the Legislative Council Service already cleared Dow publicly in a September Silver City Press article, where he noted, “his nonbinding opinion, Dow also correctly disclosed her financial relationship with Appletree on her financial disclosure forms. Dow, who until January 2019 was Appletree’s CEO, was only required to state that she received more than $5,000 annually from the nonprofit organization.”
“I am relieved that the ethics commission is finally taking steps to address Karen Whitlock’s fraudulent and unethical complaint against me and the many false statements she made under oath,” said Dow. “Absent an immediate and honest apology and retraction of the false claims, Karen Whitlock and her campaign will have to account for the dishonesty and mud-slinging she has brought to this race and inflicted upon our community.“
The House Republicans’ release adds:
By design, complaints filed with the SEC, are meant to remain confidential. However, a press release was made available to media outlets by Whitlock’s campaign immediately upon the filing of the baseless claims. The complaint was filed against Representative Dow during a “blackout” period (60 days prior to any election) that the SEC designed to prevent the commission from being used as a tool by candidates in an election year. Rep. Dow immediately responded to the SEC and filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint was a baseless political ploy.
Rep. Dow’s dismissal request additionally brought to light potential Campaign Reporting Act violations. It was discovered that Grindstone Research, LLP used the Inspection of Public Records Act to “research” the documentation used in the false ethics complaint. Whitlock does not identify Grindstone Research as a business expenditure or in-kind contributor in her finance reports. Grindstone was most recently paid by the New Mexico Senate Democrats PAC a payment of $12,000 in their September filing and also lists New Mexico House Democrats as a client on their website. The Senate Democrats PAC does not, to date, report contributions to Whitlock’s campaign. Whitlock does transparently report receiving $28,152.31 in in-kind contributions from the Brian Egolf Speaker Fund PAC, although the Brian Egolf Speaker Fund does not report that in their filings. The Speaker Fund does report expenditures to a business, Mailquick, which is the mail shop that has paid for the postage on the numerous campaign mailers to voters that feature the false, and now dismissed allegations.
“There’s an old saying that folks in glass houses should not throw stones, that being said, I am disappointed to see the Ethics Commission become a tool to smear the good name of tireless public servants,” said House GOP Leader Jim Townsend (R-Artesia). “I am confident that Rebecca Dow will rise above these outrageous claims. I just hope that for the sake of New Mexicans, who want to trust in Santa Fe, that the apparent campaign finance violations by the Speaker and Karen Whitlock are thoroughly investigated. Many lawmakers have fought tooth and nail for transparency and those in power need to respect the rules and report correctly.”
Whitlock is a Democrat Party favorite, with the endorsements of Sen. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the anti-gun Mike Bloomberg group “Moms Demand Action,” and anti-life groups EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico. Dow defeated Whitlock by a comfortable margin in the 2018 Midterm Election.
The response letter from the State Ethics Commission can be found here.