On the surface, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s proposed changes to campaign finance reporting rules appear to be a wonky topic. But to some outspoken opponents it’s a free speech violation. Burly Cain, the New Mexico state director of Americans for Prosperity, compared the proposed changes to forcing an 80-year-old woman to “wear an armband to say what she believes on her arm.”
Officials with the secretary of state’s office say they are simply attempting to update outdated sections of the state’s Campaign Reporting Act that are no longer legally valid after high-profile court decisions. This includes the state law definition of “political committee,” which is broadly defined as two or more people who are “selected, appointed, chosen, associated, organized or operated primarily” for influencing an election or political convention. This definition was found to be “unconstitutionally broad” in New Mexico Youth Organized v. Herrera, a 2009 court case, according to Secretary of State Chief Information Officer Kari Fresquez.
Tuesday was a filing day for New Mexico candidates, the first for the general election. It was another important day as Republicans fight to hold their two-year majority in the House and take over the Senate, while Democrats hope to take back the House and hold the Senate. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission, with light editing. New Mexico In Depth the secretary of state contest, plus 16 key legislative races, and we’ll check out the super PACs too. You’ll find the money coming in between Sept.
From 76 cents to Hillary Clinton to the $5,400 maximum for a variety of candidates, more than 5,000 New Mexicans kicked in cash to presidential campaigns through the end of April. More than half those donors are giving in repeated small amounts to Democrat Bernie Sanders, who far outstrips all other candidates in number of donations received. The Vermont Senator has received 18,879 donations, compared to 5,346 given to Clinton through April. These donations include, in many cases, multiple donations from the same person. This story originally appeared in New Mexico In Depth.
Marijuana-related businesses and their executives donated at least $13,500 to House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, a report filed Sunday reveals. Of that, $10,000 came from Ultra Health LLC and its founder, Duke Rodriguez, a former Lovelace Medical Center executive. The Scottsdale, Ariz., based for-profit recently took over management of Santa Fe’s New Mexico Top Organics, according to Peter St. Cyr’s recent report in the Santa Fe Reporter. Gentry, an Albuquerque Republican, received $5,000 each from the company and Rodriguez.
New Mexico’s campaign finance system received a ‘B’ grade from one campaign finance watchdog. The National Institute on Money in State Politics released its scorecard on the disclosure requirements for contributions to state campaigns and gave grades to each state. This report looks at campaign finance requirements for candidates, candidates committees and political parties but not political action committees that are increasingly becoming a huge part of elections. The study also looked at committees that support or oppose statewide ballot questions, but New Mexico does not such a practice. New Mexico was one of 29 states to receive a “B” grade or higher.
The House panel that deals with elections issues passed a bill that supporters say would modernize the campaign finance reporting system. The unanimous vote in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee came after months of media attention on scandals involving campaign finance, some of which was caused by a confusing and outdated system of campaign finance reporting. Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, said that with the current system “most of the information is reported in what’s called PDF format, which is a non-searchable report. We can’t follow the money very well, is how I would put it.” He said this bill came from work on how to make the process more transparent, which involved working with the Secretary of State’s office.
The acting Secretary of State is looking deeper into Phil Griego’s post-candidacy campaign finance spending following a report by New Mexico Political Report. Mary Quintana, who is in charge of the Secretary of State’s office until Gov. Susana Martinez can make an appointment, asked Griego for more information on Griego’s use of campaign finance funds after his resignation earlier this year. The Albuquerque Journal first reported on the October 26 letter. “It has been brought to our attention that possible violations may have occurred,” Quintana wrote. She referred to the 2015 Second Biannual report and expenditures made between April and September.
Today is the second and final time that candidates will file campaign finance reports in 2015, an off-election year for legislative races. With Dianna Duran in a heap of legal and political trouble from alleged campaign finance violations, mixed in with charges like identity theft and money laundering, more attention is now on campaign finance reports. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, James Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, and others are facing scrutiny over their reports. Still, it is an off-year and statewide positions are not up for grabs (though the Secretary of State position could be up depending on if and when Duran leaves office). The most high profile races in 2016 will be legislative seats, with control of both the House and Senate in the balance.