After six years of trying to require “dark money” organizations and other independent-expenditure groups to report their political backers, supporters of campaign-finance reform got their bill through the state House of Representatives on Monday night. The House on Monday passed Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Jim Smith, D-Sandia Park. The bipartisan vote was 41 to 24. Six Republicans joined with the 35 Democrats to vote for the bill. The Senate had already passed the bill, but it will have to go back there for consideration of House amendments.
A legislator from Santa Fe County is proposing to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance law that allows state lawmakers to accept campaign donations while they are in session. State law bans state representatives, senators and candidates for the Legislature from raising money from Jan. 1 until they adjourn. But the statute only prohibits soliciting contributions. It says nothing about legislators accepting money.
A new survey of New Mexico business leaders shows most think there is a real problem with the influence of money in politics. And some business groups are getting serious about plans to clean up state government. Nearly 90 percent of business leaders think all political spending should be made public, according to a poll of 250 business leaders, commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington D.C.-area think tank. It follows the release of a CED-sponsored report conducted in conjunction with the University of New Mexico, “Crony Capitalism, Corruption, and the Economy in the State of New Mexico.” The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry is one of many groups speaking out in support of proposals they say would give voters—and businesses—more confidence in their leaders.
The New Mexico Secretary of State’s proposal to change campaign finance rules hit a roadblock when Dianna Duran resigned Thursday evening. In an email on Thursday night, Interim Election Director Kari Frequez wrote,”In light of Secretary Duran’s resignation on Thursday evening, the Office of the Secretary of State has cancelled the rulemaking hearings.”
The public hearing was scheduled for Friday morning and was partly intended for members of the public to weigh-in on possible changes to campaign finance laws. Fresquez wrote that the intention of cancelling the meeting was to give Duran’s eventual replacement a chance to possibly revise the proposal. “As the governor is charged with appointing a Secretary of State, it is appropriate that he or she have the opportunity to shape the policy and rules of the office in order to successfully administer not only campaign finance, but also every other aspect of the office,” Fresquez said in her email. Several New Mexico lawmakers and their campaign finances have come under review by the Secretary of State’s office both leading up to and since Duran’s legal troubles began.
One former state senator—who resigned this year after violating ethics laws—continued to spend money raised by his campaign committee according to his most recent campaign finance report. October 13 marked the latest deadline for political candidates to report any expenditures made from or donations made to their campaigns from April 7 to Oct. 5. According to the report filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State by former State Senator Phil Griego, his campaign spent $6,000 on constituent meetings, car repairs and rent for office space since Griego resigned amid controversy in March of this year during the legislative session. One watchdog who has pushed for stronger ethics laws in New Mexico says the spending is not allowed.
Two more state representatives are facing scrutiny over their campaign finance reports following media reports. State Representatives James Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, and Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, are the latest to see their campaign finance reports be examined for alleged improprieties. The Albuquerque Journal reported Madalena spent campaign funds “on surgery expenses, attire from a Nike factory store and to help a ‘needy family’ in his legislative district.” Madalena told the newspaper that he is working on amending the reports. But he also told the newspaper to look at the campaign finance reports of Nuñez, a Republican (who used to be a Democrat) in a key swing district.
A bill that would shed more sunlight on campaign ads and so-called dark money political donations gained approval today during the first of three scheduled committee hearings in the House. The measure, co-sponsored by Rep. James E. Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, saw only one dissenting vote in the House Safety and Public Affairs Committee. Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said she wasn’t surprised by the wide margin of support. “A much more complicated version of this bill has passed the Senate three times, the last two times unanimously,” Harrison said. “This is not a partisan issue.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]THE COMMITTEE FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization. [/box]
A new poll of New Mexico business leaders released today shows serious concern about the lack of transparency in New Mexico’s government and campaign finance system. The poll shows overwhelming support for reform amid worries from the business community about the lopsided influence of political donors compared to every day voters. The poll was commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board (CED), a nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization, and conducted by Research & Polling, Inc.
A sample of 307 New Mexico business leaders was interviewed by telephone. All interviews were conducted between February 2nd, 2015 and February 18th, 2015. The statewide sample of business leaders included the board members of 11 Chambers of Commerce throughout the state, the largest private sector employers in New Mexico, the largest employers within various business sectors, Albuquerque Economic Forum members, Albuquerque Economic Development (AED) members, and members of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Association (MVEDA).