Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nonprofits are Good for New Mexico

By Ona Porter

Following the close of the 2008 legislative session, and in preparation for a special legislative session on health care, New Mexico Youth Organized (NMYO) and Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) distributed mailers to the constituents of six legislators. The mailers informed constituents about how their legislators were voting on critical issues and provided information about the source of contributions their legislators were receiving from special interests. Believing this to be political campaign intervention, Secretary Mary Herrera, acting on the advice of Attorney General Gary King, ordered the nonprofits to register as political action committees (PACs). A lawsuit disputing the claim quickly followed.

Recently, Judge Judith Herrera issued an important federal court decision in this closely watched case. In her decision, Judge Herrera sided with decades of legal precedent, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Free speech is a value that all of us hold sacred. The implications of having nonprofits, whose primary purpose is not the election or defeat of candidates, register as PACs for simply speaking out about an issue are chilling. If nonprofits were forced to register as PACs, it would severely restrict the ability of thousands of organizations across New Mexico to serve their communities. Perhaps most importantly, it would leave critical voices unheard.

Click here to read the full Op-ed