Guide to Campaign Finance Solutions

Posted by Viki Harrison on November 23, 2015


Disclosure

So many problems with the NM Campaign Finance Reporting System have come to light in the past few months that it's hard to keep up. Here's a one-stop summary, with a compendium of recent articles and a review of the solutions that Common Cause New Mexico has long championed.

While serving as Secretary of State, the office that governs and oversees our state's election and campaigning laws, Dianna Duran was indicted and pled guilty to charges of fraud and embezzlement, resigning amid the scandal. In fact, both of her most recent predecessors were also investigated and embroiled in controversy.

A report from the Center for Public Integrity released earlier this month gave New Mexico a grade of 'F' for political financing and a 'D-' for overall government accountability.

Just last week, KOB Eyewitness News 4 released a four-part series detailing discrepancies totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars between lobbyist contribution and spending reports and the reports filed by candidates. Analysts, journalists and average citizens agree that the Secretary of State's website for tracking campaign finance reports is cumbersome and riddled with misinformation, making it nearly impossible to follow the money trail and enforce the laws.

The media have extensively covered the need for campaign finance reform in recent weeks. Below is a sampling of just some of the stories:

---UPDATED---

Transparency may win in NM Sec. of State's Office after all - KOB-TV 4

SoS updates guidelines for New Mexico lobbyists - New Mexico In Depth

Editorial: Duran sentence a message to clean up NM Politics - Albuquerque Journal

'Dark Money' Grows in Politics Even as States Try to Stop It - Associated Press

Ethics Reform: If not now, when? - Commentary, NMPolitics.net

New Mexicans slam Duran's sentence as too lenient - The Santa Fe New Mexican

Public agencies spent $7.2 million to lobby in 2014-2015 - New Mexico In Depth

Duran gets 30 days in jail - NM Political Report

4 Investigates: NM's campaign finance system misleads, fails voters; legislators stunned - KOB-TV 4

Tis the Season, a New Mexico Money-in-Politics Reform Wish List - New Mexico In Depth

New Mexico's Rankings Symptom of Real Problem - Rio Grande Sun

Editorial: Duran’s resignation just start of cleaning up SOS - Albuquerque Journal

Changing officials is not enough - Las Cruces Sun-News

Our view: Improve integrity by enforcing laws - The Santa Fe New Mexican

Report: NM Ranks Low For Ethics, Accountability - KUNM Radio

Inconsistent reporting hurts efforts to follow political money in NM - NMPolitics.net

Secretary of State’s Office wants to ‘bring clarity’ to campaign reporting - NMPolitics.net

Election oversight must be fair and free - Letters to the Editor, Albuquerque Journal

Steps we can take to return power to the people - Letters to the Editor, Las Cruces Sun-News

Duran case highlights need for ethics panel - Letters to the Editor, Albuquerque Journal

Duran case demonstrates the importance of transparency - Letters to the Editor, NMPolitics.net

Reader view: New Mexico needs an independent, nonpartisan ethics commission - Letters to the Editor, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Creating clarity and accountability in New Mexico - Letters to the Editor, Albuquerque Journal

The Line: Transparency in Government - New Mexico in Focus

We have the solutions to give back influence to everyday New Mexicans and make state government more transparent and accountable. Along with our partners, we have long advocated for reasonable, specific reforms that would improve our campaign finance system.

Our 2013 report, Lobbying in the Land of Enchantment, gave recommendations in these categories, all of which are vital now that so many problems have arisen:

  • Transparency - More sunlight on the activities and expenditures of lobbyists in New Mexico and ensure accountability for lobbyists who have such easy access to policy makers.
  • Website Improvement - A public disclosure database is only as good as its usability—and the Secretary of State's Campaign Finance Information System's (CFIS) electronic records system is in need of improvement. 
  • Enforcement - To allow for some measure of lobbyist accountability, the Secretary of State should ensure compliance with existing law through more spot checks or audits of lobbyist registration and reports.
  • Limits on Ex-legislators and Relatives Lobbying - Such lobbyists are well known to their former colleagues, and their experience and knowledge of the process makes them more influential than the average constituent or citizen lobbyist. 
  • Lobbyists and Fundraising - Political donations from lobbyists should be limited as these campaign cash gifts foster the public’s perception that votes are linked to contributions from special interests and lobbyists with an inside track. 

And our 2014 report on PACs in NM gave these recommendations, again, all still desperately needed: 

  • Pass a Meaningful Disclosure Law - Voters deserve to know who is paying for the advertisements and communications about candidates.
  • Improve Website Usability - Upgrading our Secretary of State’s system will allow the SoS to get better data so voters are fully informed about who is funding New Mexico elections.
  • Uniform Language on Reports - Without uniformity in the language used on campaign finance reports, it is very difficult to track contributions and expenditures from and to PACs in New Mexico.
  • Increased Website Audits - We need resources available within the SoS’ office to do increased audits and spot checks of reports by PACs in New Mexico.

In addition, we need a nonpartisan, independent State Ethics Commission to hold officials accountable by:

  • Giving advisory opinions to elected officials to determine conflicts of interest or address ethical concerns
  • Clarifying campaign reporting laws
  • Initiating, investigating, and adjudicating potential violations of campaign finance laws or reporting requirements for candidates and other campaigns for all state or county elected offices
  • Having the authority to compel people to testify and turn over evidence, as well as levy fines
  • Protecting both whistleblowers and those potentially accused falsely

To this end, Common Cause New Mexico and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government have jointly submitted letters and memos to the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office with our recommendations.

CCNM - FOG Memo to the SoS - June 2015.

CCNM - FOG Memo to the SoS - July 2015.

SoS Response - July 2015.


Office: Common Cause National, Common Cause New Mexico

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

Tags: Disclosure Laws, Disclosure, Limit On Campaign Contributions, Empowering Small Donors, Fighting Big Money, The Revolving Door , New Mexico Pledge, Fixing Public Campaign Finance, Creating an Ethics Commission , State Ethics

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