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Appeals court: Cowboys for Trump is a political committee

Morgan Lee
Associated Press

Santa Fe, N.M. – A federal appeals court has turned away a constitutional challenge by the support group Cowboys for Trump and co-founder Couy Griffin to New Mexico election laws and registration requirements for political groups.

In a written order obtained Wednesday, the Denver-based U.S. 10th District Court of Appeals declined to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld state registration requirements for Cowboys for Trump as a political organization.

Griffin, a Republican county commissioner from Tularosa in southern New Mexico, sued New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in 2020 in response to mounting pressure on Cowboys for Trump to register as a political committee in New Mexico, and Griffin’s concerns that might lead to other disclosure requirements about contributions and spending.

In this May 13, 2021, file photo, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin presides at a public meeting in Alamogordo, N.M., in a shirt with a "C4T" logo that stands for Cowboys for Trump.

Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich of the 10th Circuit cited several shortcomings in Griffin’s legal appeal, while declining to reverse the lower court’s dismissal.

Contacted Wednesday, Griffin said the latest court decision was unfair and that he is discussing how to respond with his attorney Sidney Powell, a former lawyer to the Trump reelection campaign.

“It’s a tough decision and an unfair decision because all I’ve tried doing is supporting Trump and standing up for our freedoms,” Griffin said in a text message.

The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June 2020 arbitration decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports and pay a fine of $7,800.

Griffin forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into the promotional group called Cowboys for Trump that staged horseback parades to spread President Donald Trump’s conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.

Separately, Griffin is confronting misdemeanor criminal charges in the Jan. 6. insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, where he appeared on an outdoor terrace and tried to lead the crowd in prayer.

Griffin denies allegations that he knowingly entering barricaded areas of the Capitol grounds with the intent of disrupting government as Congress considered the 2020 Electoral College results, though he has openly ascribed to unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election.