Ethics complaints get attention as elections near

During the legislative session earlier this year, something very typical happened: an attempt to create an independent ethics commission failed to pass the Senate. NM Political Report wrote about the history of this happening over the last decade. This year’s version was pushed by Rep. Jim Dines, an Albuquerque Republican. Dines’ legislation would have put the question to voters to decide if such a commission should be created under the state constitution. One issue that received pushback was how the ethics commission in Dines’ proposal would have published all of the ethics complaints, even those deemed frivolous, after a review by the commission.

SOS candidates face attacks for their parties’ presidential candidates

In a sign of just how unpopular the two presidential candidates for major parties are, both Secretary of State candidates are fielding attacks for supporting their own party’s nominee. The Democratic Party of New Mexico hammered Republican Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza for speaking at rallies headlined by Trump running mate Mike Pence. “Nora Espinoza’s embracing Donald Trump’s misguided values will do nothing to restore integrity to the secretary of state’s office or to help implement the reforms New Mexico needs,” DPNM Vice-Chair Juan Sanchez III said in a statement earlier this week. Related: Poll: Clinton leads Trump in NM, Toulouse Oliver leads SOS race

Friday, the Republican Party of New Mexico responded by saying Democratic candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s support of Hillary Clinton was problematic. “Toulouse Oliver cannot credibly campaign on an ethics platform if she thinks Hillary Clinton should be president despite her long history of dishonesty and crooked dealings,” RPNM spokesman Tucker Keene said in a statement.

Poll: Clinton leads Trump in NM, Toulouse Oliver leads SOS race

The Democrats running for president and Secretary of State continue to lead in their races, though a third party candidate on the presidential ballot who is familiar to New Mexicans is getting a lot of support. A poll commissioned by NM Political Report and conducted by Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton leading in a four-way race for president with 40 percent support among New Mexico registered voters. Republican candidate Donald Trump trails Clinton with 31 percent of support while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson gets 16 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein 4 percent. Related: Poll: NM voters support bringing back the death penalty

Only 9 percent of registered voters remain undecided in the presidential race, according to the poll. Johnson is a former two-term governor of New Mexico.

SOS dismisses ethics complaints against Espinoza

Secretary of State Brad Winter cleared the Republican candidate seeking to fill his seat of six allegations filed against her in an ethics complaint last month. Those six allegations, filed by state Democratic Party Treasurer Robert Lara, accused candidate Nora Espinoza of multiple violations of the New Mexico Campaign Reporting Act. Lara, an attorney, previously told NM Political Report that he filed the ethics complaint as a private citizen and not on behalf of the Democratic Party. While Winter dismissed all of the allegations, his office did give guidance to Espinoza on addressing some issues. “Although we do not find any violations of the [Campaign Reporting] Act, the Espinoza campaign is cautioned to ensure that all campaign reports submitted in the future accurately reflect the name and purpose of all expenditures and in-kind contributions,” Winter wrote.

NM politicians backing Trump speak at Pence rally

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spent his Tuesday Albuquerque town hall defending the character of his party’s controversial presidential nominee in wake of constant negative headlines. So did a few other local Republicans who spoke at the event, including Congressman Steve Pearce and State House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. Pearce said he was won over during the Republican National Convention with a few “dramatic revelations of the character of Donald Trump.”

Among them was Trump’s “disarming and revealing” words about his evangelical Christian supporters. “He said, ‘I’m getting support from the evangelicals and I’m not sure I deserve it,’” Pearce said. “That’s what I am looking for in politicians who will be transparent.”

Another moment of revelation?

SOS fixes campaign finance site glitch

The Secretary of State’s office fixed a problem in the state’s troubled campaign finance reporting system. NM Political Report confirmed the fix with a spokesman in the office on Thursday. SOS spokesman Ken Ortiz said the problems came in a rarely used part of the website and said it was, indeed, one that no one in the office had used. He said the problems had been fixed before work hours on Thursday. The problem in the coding caused it to appear on one section of the system that the candidate failed to list the required “purpose” for each of their campaign purchases.

SOS ethics complaint publicizes problems with campaign finance website

In response to allegations of breaking campaign finance laws, Republican Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza said her accuser manipulated documents to create false accusations. Espinoza sent Secretary of State Brad Winter a four-page letter defending campaign finance reports she filed in 2016. These reports accounted for expenses and donations going back to last year. Espinoza, however, also accused Robert Lara, who filed the complaint last month, of falsifying documents in an attempt to attack her. “Mr. Lara created a form of his own design with his own headings and terminology which nowhere appear in statute.

Complaint says Espinoza violated campaign finance rules

A campaign finance complaint filed against New Mexico Secretary of State hopeful Nora Espinoza alleges a handful of violations including improperly reporting expenditures and contributions. Democratic Party of New Mexico treasurer Robert Lara filed the complaint last week but the complaint was only made public on Monday. The complaint lists multiple instances of Espinoza, who is finishing out her term as a Republican state representative, paying off credit card bills with her campaign fund as well as paying organizations without listing what was paid for. Lara also wrote in the complaint that Espinoza also failed to report an in kind contribution by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, for his services. The instances of alleged violations date back to before Espinoza announced her intention to run for Secretary of State.

Toulouse Oliver campaign responds to ‘baseless’ complaint

The Secretary of State campaign of Maggie Toulouse Oliver responded to a complaint from her Republican opponent over campaign finance donations from PACs unrelated to Toulouse Oliver’s campaign. The Democrat’s campaign says the complaint is baseless and a political ploy by Nora Espinoza’s campaign. “The complaint against Maggie Toulouse Oliver is completely baseless and politically motivated,” Toulouse Oliver campaign manager Alan Packman said in a statement. “This complaint is about a PAC-to-PAC contribution and has nothing to do with Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s campaign committee for secretary of state. Republicans are falsely attacking Maggie because they are trying to cover up the corrupt legacy of Republican former Secretary of State Dianna Duran who pleaded guilty to corruption charges.”

SOS candidate says PAC-to-PAC donation broke campaign law

A Secretary of State candidate is accusing her opponent of an ethics violation for campaign contributions in 2014 from PACs unconnected to the campaign. Nora Espinoza, the Republican candidate, says that Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democrat, violated ethics rules when a donation from Verde Voters PAC paid money to another PAC, SOS for Democracy, earmarked for “TV ad buy–Maggie Toulouse Oliver.”

Both PACs are unconnected to the Toulouse Oliver campaign. The PAC-to-PAC donation happened during Toulouse Oliver’s first unsuccessful run for Secretary of State. Zach Cook, an attorney and state representative representing Espinoza’s campaign, wrote a complaint to the Secretary of State saying that state law says the PAC money transfer should be considered an in-kind donation to Toulouse Oliver’s campaign. Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico which advocates for campaign finance and ethics laws, said that this argument “just doesn’t make any sense.”

“The enforcement would be a nightmare because compliance would be impossible,” she said.