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.
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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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