March 22, 2016

NM gets a ‘B’ for campaign finance reporting

New Mexico’s campaign finance system received a ‘B’ grade from one campaign finance watchdog.

Hands With CashThe 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. Twelve states, meanwhile, received a D or worse.

The study found a national average of 77 points; New Mexico received 85 points. Maine led the way with a perfect 100 score. Mississippi ranked dead last with just 37.5 points.

New Mexico fared well in “completeness of electronic filing” and the format of electronic data format but fell short on the requirements that a contributor’s employer and occupation be listed.

New Mexico actually received a perfect 50 points on timeliness and quality of data, thanks in large part to electronic campaign filing.

Viki Harrison of Common Cause New Mexico was heartened by the grade while still looking at other areas the state can improve.

“How nice to finally get something besides a D or F on a campaign finance scorecard – we have said for years that our candidates and parties have to report and disclose the money they spend on elections, so why not require the independent groups who spend big money to disclose as well?” the Common Cause New Mexico executive director asked in a statement to NM Political Report about the study.

Common Cause New Mexico advocates for more transparency in government and elections, including on campaign finance.

The B grade is, indeed, a sharp contrast to the F grade that New Mexico received on independent spending disclosure requirements in a report from the same organization in 2014.

In fact, New Mexico received zero points overall out of 120 in that study, failing to even partially meet any of the scored requirements.

Legislation to improve independent campaign disclosure has consistently failed despite some wide bipartisan support.

“Senator Peter Wirth and Representative Jim Smith have gotten the bill through the Senate four times, three times unanimously, including this last session,” Harrison said. “And last year it passed all three assigned House committees with only one dissenting vote – insanely bi-partisan in a partisan world – what is holding it back?”

Wirth is a Democrat from Santa Fe, while Smith is a Republican from Sandia Park.