I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Federal judge rules for nonprofits, says state action hurt their free speech
A federal court judge ruled today that the state of New Mexico was in the wrong for trying to require two nonprofit organizations to register as political committees after they sent mailings to constituents in 2008 that were critical of several state lawmakers.
In the closely watched federal case, Judge Judith Herrera overwhelmingly sided with the two nonprofits — New Mexico Youth Organized and SouthWest Organizing Project — ruling that requiring such action was infringing on the two organizations’ free speech rights.
Specifically, Secretary of State Mary Herrera and Attorney General Gary King contended last year that several mailings the two nonprofits sent out in 2008 triggered a state law requiring them to register as “political committees” engaged in electioneering. Because of that, Herrera sought to force the two nonprofits to register with the state.
The practical result of that would have subjected the two nonprofits to the much broader requirement of disclosing all donors — disclosure requirements far beyond those that govern nonprofits.
Today’s ruling appears to be a strong victory for the nonprofits, although it is unclear whether the state will appeal. A call to the Attorney General’s Office was not immediately returned.
The two nonprofits sued the state late last year after the secretary of state sent letters telling them to register as political committees.
The issue surrounding the mailings, and whether or not they were meant to influence a political election, has reverberated across New Mexico’s political community since then. The Legislature even considered several bills during this past legislative session that would have required much stricter disclosure laws for nonprofits than the state currently has. None was passed.