By Susannah Abbey
In June, an unnamed cohort of Republican politicians and operatives launched a new campaign they’re calling “Respect New Mexico.” The campaign’s web site declares “we’re Republicans and former Democrats who believe partisan divides are old and unhelpful,” suggesting that it is a bipartisan effort. Let’s note, however, that all legislative candidates listed on the organization’s web site are Republicans.
A recent article in the Albuquerque Journal paraphrases James Townsend, a Republican from Artesia, saying that the RNM campaign “is not targeted at any particular political segment.” At the same time, that very Journal article hints at the partisan leanings of the campaign: “[RNM] appears to target state voters who might be disillusioned by a recent progressive surge. The organization’s stated appeal is to people who would uphold “values, traditions, and proud heritage” over and above all.
The RNM campaign hides behind vague language (who doesn’t want to respect New Mexico?). Their home page features a 4-minute introductory video filled with murky rhetoric about how New Mexico is not California, New York or “Atlanta, Georgia.” Undoubtedly true. The site’s “about” page states that RNM’s targets are “generational poverty, record crime, a lack of opportunities…and an education system that offers too little support to our teachers.” These are ongoing issues that New Mexico politicians have been grappling with for years and are interrelated both in cause and in their potential for mitigation. However, the web site presents no specific strategy to address these problems nor any hint that RNM truly intends to. Nor are any of the group’s leaders named on the web site. The only real engagement available to anyone visiting the site is by donating money, buying merchandise, or signing up to volunteer.
So what is the true purpose of RNM? Without being able to read about it on their web site, it appears that the true goal is to raise money for Republican candidates. The site is paid for by the New Mexico House Republican Campaign Committee (NMHRCC) and PAC-22. Pac 22 is, in turn, partly funded through a Republican fund-raising web site called Anedot. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the Republicans behind this effort have already spent $160,000 on the web site and video, and are raising even more money by soliciting donations and selling bumper stickers, hats, t-shirts and yard signs. The only reason not to be up-front about their partisanship, it would seem, is to fool people of good faith and take their money under false pretenses.