Starting next year, the Internal Revenue Service will no longer collect the names of major donors to thousands of nonprofit organizations, from the National Rifle Association to the American Civil Liberties Union to the AARP. Democratic members of Congress and critics of money in politics blasted the move, announced last week by the Treasury Department, the IRS’ parent agency. The Democrats claim the new policy will expand the flow of so-called dark money — contributions from undisclosed donors used to fund election activities — in American politics. For their part, Republicans and conservative groups praised the decision as a much-needed step to avoid chilling the First Amendment rights of private citizens. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United unleashed these groups, typically organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign ads.
The state Republican Party is targeting a liberal political action committee for donating directly to Democratic candidates in state legislative races. The Republican Party of New Mexico wrote a complaint to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office citing donations from Enchantment PAC to Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, and Democrat Natalie Figueroa, who is challenging state House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, as “against New Mexico statutes” and “in clear violation of the law.”
Enchantment PAC, which is also funding liberal advocacy organizations like Organizing in the Land of Enchantment, gave $1,000 to Sanchez and $600 to Figueroa during the general election cycle. State law, however, does not address the type of spending the GOP cited in its complaint. Reached by phone, GOP spokesman Tucker Keene referred to the written complaint, which he said the party sent in the mail to the Secretary of State on Tuesday. “Independent expenditure committees are not supposed to spend directly to candidates, they’re required by law to be independent,” Keene said earlier in a statement.
With seven primary elections left, Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders pledged to a packed Albuquerque Convention Center to continue his push for a political “revolution.”
Sanders said that he is “in this fight until the last battle.”
Sanders currently trails former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton by 760 delegates. He’s quick to point out that 525 of Clinton’s delegates are super-delegates who pledged support for her on their own and without voter approval, a process he called “kinda dumb” and “undemocratic.”
Related: VIDEO: Bernie Sanders discusses New Mexico issues with NM Political Report. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Sanders needs to win 67 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to take the lead. In an interview with CNN earlier this week, Clinton called her delegate lead “insurmountable.”
“Just because Hillary Clinton said something doesn’t necessarily make it the case,” Sanders told NM Political Report in a short interview before the rally. “We are now at about 46 percent of the pledged delegates.
Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich want the president to take action on some anonymous campaign finance donations. The two were among 29 Senators who urged President Barack Obama to make the action after provisions in a recent spending bill would “roll back some efforts to bring greater transparency to political spending” according to a joint press release from the two New Mexico Senators. Specifically, the Senators want Obama to address potential anonymous campaign finance contributions from federal contractors. The letter, courtesy of Udall’s office, is available at the bottom of this post. “Republicans secured language blocking the Internal Revenue Service from revising or issuing new rules governing the political spending of 501(c)(4) organizations,which some groups currently exploit to establish de facto political committees that can accept unlimited donations while enjoying both the anonymity and tax preferred status provided by 501(c)(4) status,” the letter states.
The big spending by a political action committee in the recent Las Cruces elections is receiving national attention. USA Today cited the spending by GOAL WestPAC in trying to defeat incumbent mayor Ken Miyagishima as one way that money is increasingly flooding into local elections. In New Mexico, the focus of the Goal WestPAC is “the economic and business climate” in the state, said Mark Murphy, the PAC’s chairman and president of Strata Production, an oil-and-gas exploration company in Roswell, N.M., about 180 miles northeast of Las Cruces. Murphy and his company also have donated $35,000 to the super PAC, records show. PAC officials decided to target Miyagishima and city politicians over what Murphy called a “history of overregulation and taxation,” including support for a 2013 gross receipts tax.
State lawmakers are coming under more scrutiny since New Mexico Secretary of State’s office recently started investigating a handful of state legislators for possible campaign finance violations. State Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo and Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, are all under fire for discrepancies in their campaign finance reports. But perceived problems with campaign spending aren’t limited to them. New Mexico Political Report also found questionable campaign spending by state Reps.
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.