City Ethics Board confirms Keller violated campaign finance rules

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city’s Board of Ethics has determined mayoral candidate and State Auditor Tim Keller violated the Elections Code and the Open and Ethical Elections Code in the City Charter.

The board agreed that Keller violated rules when his political consulting firm took cash donations and counted them as “in-kind” donations.

The board believed it was unintentional and will not fine him.

Read: Board of Ethic’s full decision

Former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson filed the complaint.

Tim Keller responded to the decision with the following statement:

We appreciate the administrative clarification provided by the board today. I accept the decision of the board and appreciate their insight regarding segregation of accounts. The board’s decision will provide needed clarity going forward for maintaining an accessible and robust public finance system.

“Though our opponents have used trumped up terms like dishonest, “money laundering” and “cash under the table,” those assertions were always baseless and the board’s ruling confirmed that today. That came out loud and clear in today’s ruling which emphatically notes our good faith efforts.

Keller Attorney Molly Schmidt Nowara added, “It is very important to note that the Board did not impose any fine or reprimand and fully recognized that Auditor Keller was acting in good faith. This includes noting that the City Auditor had informally approved similar practices and that there was absolutely no intention to violate any rule or provision of the code and the Board.”

Keller continued, “I made the choice to run as a publicly financed candidate because I believe that how we elect our next mayor matters. I made this choice knowing full well that our current system is not perfect and that it would not be an easy endeavor. I will always be grateful to the six thousand residents who believed in our campaign from the beginning and stepped up to contribute $5 to help us qualify for public funding. Additionally, our campaign couldn’t have come this far without everyone who hosted a house party, knocked on doors, called voters, and put a sign in their front yard. You helped make this a publicly financed and publicly fueled campaign. Thank you.

“In our closing message of the campaign I made a broad call for unity above negative politics and smear attacks because those will never help turn things around for our city. To move forward, we must come together around real ideas that make a difference.

“I encourage every eligible voter in Albuquerque to come out and vote and thank the tens of thousands of Burqueños who have shown an incredible outpouring of support for our campaign.”

However, Tim Keller’s opponent, Dan Lewis, sees it much differently. He says the board should have fined Keller and made him give back the $38,000 in in-kind donations.

Lewis also says the rules are not complicated and the State Auditor should have known he was breaking the law.

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