Albuquerque- According to a new report from KOB, State Auditor and Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller appears to be in violation of the campaign finance law with an illegal campaign finance scam. Keller opted to finance his campaign with taxpayer dollars, meaning he is explicitly forbidden from accepting other monetary contributions to his campaign. Keller is clearly in violation of the law by routing illegal contributions through his campaign’s consulting firm, which then passes an “in-kind” contribution along to Keller’s campaign in the form of time and services. Ultimately, Keller has enlisted outside donors to pay his campaign bills without passing the contribution through his own campaign account.
“The man who is supposed to keep New Mexico’s finances clean is breaking the very law that he helped write,” said RPNM spokesman Dominic Pacheco. “Keller is accepting monetary contributions improperly designated as in-kind contributions in order to subvert the law that clearly states he is not allowed to accept cash contributions as a taxpayer-funded candidate. The Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Albuquerque City Clerk should investigate this illegal campaign finance scam and take immediate action against Keller and his campaign.”
KOB’s Chris Ramirez asked Keller’s top staffer directly about the illegal end-around by which his campaign accepts contributions – and she admitted to the entire scheme on camera:
KOB: People write checks to Rio Strategies. Rio Strategies then uses that money to supplement the campaign?
Lane Hunt: Yeah, it’s an in-kind service to the campaign.
KOB: When we look at the definition of an in-kind, it’s stated as a good or service, other than money. How do you rationalize accepting money into Rio Strategies?
Lane Hunt: So any in-kind contribution has a value and that value is described as anything that is fully committed to running this campaign as a clean campaign as part of the public finance system. It allows for this kind of in-kind contribution and we are using that to support Tim’s vision to get him elected.
KOB: What are these people in-kinding to you? If you are saying it’s not money, it’s a good or service, what is that good or service?
Lane Hunt: They are in-kinding services to the campaign.
KOB: Basically what you are saying is they are paying for your time as Tim’s campaign manager?
Lane Hunt: And all the things that go into supporting this broad grassroots effort. It’s water. It’s Post-Its. It’s clipboards. It’s office space. It’s all the things that support the broad network of people working to support the campaign.
KOB: But you are the recipient of the money?
Lane Hunt: Right, and yes, and that is the in-kind that any individual provides to the campaign.
In response to Keller’s illegal contributions, the Republican Party of New Mexico has asked all relevant state and city officials to investigate his actions. A letter was sent by the party today to the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Albuquerque City Clerk.
This is Keller’s latest and most egregious violation of campaign finance law. Over the summer, he was also exposed for using an outside dark money group to supplement his taxpayer-funded campaign spending. Keller has proven over and over that he won’t let the rules get in the way of his political ambitions.