Steve Allen, who's served as Common Cause New Mexico's executive director for four years, will leave the nonprofit in mid-January.
Allen will move to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico as director of public policy, where he'll be the organization's chief Roundhouse lobbyist. He says one of his biggest accomplishments at Common Cause was helping the state pass campaign contribution limits, a law that's since been targeted in a lawsuit from the Republican Party of New Mexico. Members of both parties decry the law, Allen says, which limits individual statewide election donations to $5,000 and local election donations to $2,300.
"I've had leading Democrats come up and tell me I'm feeding into the hands of Republicans," he tells SFR. "I've had Republicans come up to me and say the [opposite]. I think that in itself show that it's good reform."
While Common Cause had Allen working primarily on election-related policies, he'll get to dip more into immigration affairs at the ACLU, an issue he says he takes personally because his parents and wife are immigrants.
But he pinpoints his respect for the ACLU to an incident he covered as a reporter for the Weekly (Albuquerque) Alibi. In 2005, Laura Berg, a nurse at the Albuquerque Veterans Affairs hospital, wrote a letter to the Alibi criticizing the George W. Bush Administration for the War in Iraq and its tepid response to Hurricane Katrina. After the letter published, her superiors confiscated her computer. The FBI started investigating her for sedition, a federal crime involving conspiracies to violently overthrow the government.
"That is completely ludicrous," Allen says. "She certainly had a right under the First Amendment to hold these opinions and say them in public."
As Berg's story went national, Sen. Jeff Bingaman demanded an investigation of her workplace. Eventually, the charges against her were dropped. Allen gives the ACLU, which took her case on from the beginning, much of the credit.
"The ACLU was with her the whole time," he says. "It's the kind of organization I've always wanted to be a part of."
Allen will stay with Common Cause through January 10. In the meantime, Common Cause is looking for his replacement. View the job description here: