Update to Campaign Finance Reporting Act Needed to Close Dark Money Loopholes — SB 42 Provides A Fix

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A Senate bill (SB 42) to amend the Campaign Reporting Act and require better disclosures from dark money groups will solve a problem that Common Cause New Mexico, the NM Ethics Commission and others have discovered.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) and Katy Duhigg (D-Bernalillo) will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee today.

At present, independent expenditures made by political committees in the last week before an election do not have to be reported until 30 days after the election, and some ads run by independent groups to applaud or criticize candidates do not have to reveal their funder.

Under the current act, any sophisticated, well-advised group can legally maintain its anonymity for a large proportion of its spending in our state’s elections.

“The public is left in the dark during the crucial last days of a campaign when TV spending is at its height, accusations are flying and voters are still making up their minds,” said Mario Jimenez, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico.

“Voters have the right to the greatest amount of information possible so they can make up their minds.  Closing this loophole will result in greater disclosure, something we have found in poll after poll an overwhelming majority of New Mexico voters want to see,” he said.

SB 42 also addresses candidates who loan themselves money for their campaigns, but without much of a paper trail to prevent false loans, trace repayments, or interest charged.  A recent Supreme Court case involving Sen. Ted Cruz has brought up the potential for corruption in this area. (Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate)

According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Katy Duhigg, Nebraska and California have laws providing some guardrails.

Common Cause urges citizens concerned about transparency and corruption to call or write their legislators in support of SB 42.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard as equals in the political process.