February 15, 2016

Senate panel OKs two bills to fix campaign finance problems

Two campaign ethics bills moved forward from a Senate panel on Monday as the end of the legislative session neared.

The Senate Rules Committee passed both bills, but they received very different receptions.

Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, had a bill that would give the Secretary of State’s office access to campaign banking records to better accomplish audits.

“It allows the Secretary of State to go into my account, your accounts, and check what the checks were written for and how the deposits were without getting a court order,” Cotter said.

The proposal passed with no recommendation after Senators expressed concerns that it would provide access to campaign banking records by political appointees in the Secretary of State’s office.

Not naming former State Senator Rod Adair, Ivey-Soto nevertheless referred to him, saying that the campaign manager of his opponent ran the ethics and elections office in the Secretary of State’s office, and still wants to see him out of office.

Under this proposal, if he again works for the Secretary of State’s office, he would have access to Ivey-Soto’s campaign bank accounts.

“Honestly, we couldn’t trust that there wouldn’t be an access and being used for a political purpose,” Ivey-Soto said.

Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, expressed similar concerns, though said he would likely be able to support legislation that called for “more than one person” to make the decision to access campaign bank records.

The legislation passed on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

One ethics bill actually received a welcome response from the committee. The legislation would streamline the electronic campaign reporting system in New Mexico to make it easier to cross-reference donations from lobbyists to legislators, so to avoid potential perceived problems.

“This fixes the problem that was a cause of a number of the KOB reports where they were trying to understand ‘do these really match up’?” Ivey-Soto, a sponsor of the legislation said.

He said after the multi-part investigation, KOB-TV found that the records really do match up on those who keep “really good records.”

After a unanimous vote, the bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Secretary of State’s office supported both pieces of legislation.