Campaign finance reform on the agenda again in New Mexico
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Senate majority leader and longtime open government advocate Peter Wirth says the time might be right for an overhaul of the state’s campaign finance laws.
The Santa Fe Democrat has been pushing for years to require more reporting of campaign spending and fundraising and to address the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which removed caps on how much corporations, unions and interest groups can spend as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates.
One measure that Wirth plans to push again when lawmakers return to Santa Fe next month would change that.
“It has bipartisan support and, frankly, bipartisan opposition,” Wirth told The New Mexican (http://bit.ly/2iBIOid ).
Since New Mexico has never defined coordination, legislative analysts have said that without a new law, the state’s campaign spending system will continue to have serious holes.
Wirth sponsored a reform bill with Republican Rep. James Dines during the last legislative session. The Senate gave unanimous approval, but it died in the House, which has consistently been the cemetery for Wirth’s previous legislation on campaign finance.
Hopes for the bill faring better in 2017 have been buoyed by the victory in November of Maggie Toulouse Oliver as secretary of state. She took office in December after campaigning for greater transparency in election finance.
Wirth said Republican Gov. Susana Martinez also has signaled interest in his bill.
A spokesman said that while Martinez has yet to see the latest proposal, she has always been open to discussing the issues.
The 2017 proposal is expected to mirror the previous measure. Under that legislation, super PACs would have been prohibited from making an expenditure of $500 or more “at the request or suggestion of, or in cooperation, consultation or concert with, a candidate, campaign committee or political party” or their representatives.
Super PACs got the name because of their legal ability to raise and spend as much money as they want as long as they do so independently of candidates. A regular PAC can coordinate with candidates, but it’s subject to contribution limits set by law.
Reform advocates say the state is generally limited under the ruling in Citizens United to requiring greater transparency in spending and fundraising.
States that have tried updating their laws since Citizens United have either loosened rules or tightened regulations by requiring that campaigns and committees provide more information about donors and expenses, said Denise Roth Barber, managing director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
New laws have spurred new legal challenges, she said.
“Opponents of disclosure are targeting disclosure requirements and contribution limits,” she said.
Legal challenges have generally been unsuccessful in rolling back rules requiring more information on donors and political spending, Roth Barber said.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com