Fixing the Public Campaign Financing System in Albuquerque

Posted by Viki Harrison and Heather Ferguson on June 2, 2015


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The City of Albuquerque has a system for the public financing of campaigns instituted by 69% of Albuquerque’s citizens in 2005.  However, since that time, several court rulings impacting the matching funds provisions, set forth in the Campaign Finance Codes in Article XVI of the City’s Charter, require a fix to our system.

Since 2009, Albuquerque’s public campaign financing system has been used by: Mayor Richard Berry, Councilor Don Harris, Councilor Dan Lewis, Councilor Ken Sanchez, Councilor Brad Winter, Councilor Diane Gibson, Councilor Isaac Benton, and Councilor Rey Garduno.

On June 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of public campaign financing in the Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett decision. However, the ruling struck down one mechanism used in some public financing programs, including our current law. Before the ruling, our system gave additional matching funds to publicly financed candidates when they were faced with a privately financed candidate who outspent them. This is no longer possible without necessary changes to the law. These changes include, primarily, a small dollar matching system that is allowed under the law.

Our proposed changes would:

  • Allow publicly financed candidates to accept small contributions of $100 or less that are matched with additional public funds on a 4-1 basis. This provides publicly financed candidates the ability to continue to effectively compete with a privately financed opponent.
  • Keep the current limits of matching payments to 200% of the candidate’s initial allowance.

Our proposal keeps as is:

  • A candidate seeking public funds must still continue to collect $5 contributions from voters in their districts. If they reach a certain threshold, they receive a block grant to run their campaigns. This part of public campaign financing remains untouched.

This proposal will NOT:

  • Cost the City of Albuquerque any extra money (the current caps on funding remain the same)
  • Expand our current public financing system; it only fixes the current system

This system has seen bipartisan support since it was first introduced in 2005 and passed overwhelmingly by 69% of Albuquerque’s voters. This fix will makes the system functional again, give influence back to every day citizens, and inspire broader engagement in the democratic process in our city.

Common Cause New Mexico is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.

Office: Common Cause National, Common Cause New Mexico

Issues: Money in Politics, More Democracy Reforms , Money in Politics, More Democracy Reforms

Tags: New Mexico Pledge, Fixing Public Campaign Finance, Disclosure Laws, Limit On Campaign Contributions, Empowering Small Donors, Disclosure, Fighting Big Money

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