Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
A District 7 City Council runner-up candidate said on Wednesday she hoped the state attorney general’s office as well as the Internal Revenue Service would investigate a local pastor for supporting his opponent from the pulpit.
Tammy Fiebelkorn, a Democrat, faces Lori Robertson, a Republican, for the seat vacated by Diane Gibson. In a November 16 service at Legacy Church, Pastor Steve Smothermon endorsed Robertson, who was in the audience.
In a video posted by the church, Smothermon can be heard telling her congregants, “We need people like her (Robertson) in city council to make sure this crazy guy they call mayor doesn’t keep doing it. move forward with its program. ” He also informed them that Robertson had set up an information booth in the church foyer for people who would like to speak to him after the service.
“I’ve always been told that 501 (c) (3) nonprofits are not supposed to engage in political discourse,” Fiebelkorn said. “I really hope the GA and IRS will look into this and see if what he did violated the church’s nonprofit status. Most importantly, I truly hope that the voters in District 7 come out and make their voices heard. “
Responding Wednesday, Robertson said: “My opponent is trying to fabricate a scandal that does not exist” and has “repeatedly tried to portray me as a right-wing extremist”.
She went on to say that she did not know if any IRS rules had been violated.
“What I can say is that I enjoyed the opportunity to share my faith and meet with constituents and discuss my solutions to the problems in our city,” said Robertson.
Smothermon, who publicly challenged the validity of the governor’s COVID-related restrictions on church attendance and mask warrants, and was fined by the state’s health department, said, “We don’t Surely we have done nothing wrong and believe that we have conducted ourselves within the bounds of the law, given our First Amendment rights.
“The separation of church and state was originally intended to protect the church from government persecution. Indeed, this country was largely founded by those who seek religious freedom, ”said Smothermon.
The attorney general’s office did not open an investigation into Smothermon or Legacy Church on Wednesday.
“We have not received any complaints regarding this specific case,” said Jerri Mares, spokesperson for the GA office.
David A. Tucker II, regional spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service, said that “due to privacy regulations, the IRS does not comment on or discuss an individual’s or a company’s relationship. organization “with the federal agency. This includes commenting on whether a complaint has been filed against an individual or organization, or whether the IRS has opened an investigation.
The IRS website addresses the problem in general terms. Under its 501 (c) (3) statute concerning churches and religious organizations, these entities “are absolutely prohibited from participating directly or indirectly in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.
Violation of this ban “may result in the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes,” the website says.
Feibelkorn, which owns an environmental and business consultancy, got 24% of the vote in the regular local election, while Robertson, a real estate agency, got 32%. As neither of the two candidates won at least 50% of the votes, a second round is required.
A runoff will also take place in District 9, where Republican Renee Grout and Democrat Rob Grilley are vying for the seat vacated by Don Harris, who did not run for a fifth term.
The last day for early voting is December 4; Election day is December 7.