Unions give $180,000 to group for New Mexico races


Associated Press

Labor unions have contributed $180,000 to a Democratic-leaning political committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence legislative and other state races in New Mexico.

The political action committee Patriot Majority New Mexico received $100,000 from an American Federation of Teachers' political committee last month and $80,000 from a committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in late May, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

The PAC was a top spender in New Mexico's fiercely contested legislative races two years ago when Democrats retained majorities in the House and Senate.

Democrats have long controlled the Legislature but the GOP hopes to pick up enough seats in this year's elections to gain a majority in the 70-member House for the first time in 60 years. Republicans could receive a boost from having GOP Gov. Susana Martinez running for re-election this year in much the same way Democrats benefited in 2012 from having President Barack Obama at the top of the ballot to draw voters to the polls.

Patriot Majority is a "super PAC" that's free from campaign contribution limits because it independently advocates the election or defeat of candidates. Its campaign work cannot be coordinated with candidates. Typically, PACs run advertisements and send out mailings for or against candidates.

The group spent about $61,000 last month for research by a Denver-based firm and nearly $19,000 for "strategic services" by a consulting firm formed by David Contarino, who was former Gov. Bill Richardson's chief of staff and top political adviser. Contarino lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Patriot Majority spent almost $1.4 million on New Mexico races in 2012, while a political committee with ties to the governor dumped $2.4 million into legislative campaigns.

Craig Varoga, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist who runs Patriot Majority, said in an email statement Tuesday the group had an "independent record of fighting to protect people against Republican legislators and fat cats who sell out the state's children, working families and natural resources."

Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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