AP NEWS

New Mexico legislative caucuses stockpile money for 2020

October 16, 2019
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FILE - In this March 16, 2019, file photo, Democratic state House Speaker Brian Egolf, center, of Santa Fe, N.M., discusses accomplishments by lawmakers at the close of a 60-day legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M. Money is being stockpiled by leading state legislators under specialized political committees that can collect five-times as much cash per donor as standard campaigns and committees. Six-month campaign finance disclosure reports are due by Tuesday evening as Democrats defend their majority in the state House and Senate. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
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FILE - In this March 16, 2019, file photo, Democratic state House Speaker Brian Egolf, center, of Santa Fe, N.M., discusses accomplishments by lawmakers at the close of a 60-day legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M. Money is being stockpiled by leading state legislators under specialized political committees that can collect five-times as much cash per donor as standard campaigns and committees. Six-month campaign finance disclosure reports are due by Tuesday evening as Democrats defend their majority in the state House and Senate. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Money is being stockpiled by leading state legislators under specialized political committees that can collect five-times as much cash per donor as standard campaigns and committees, according to campaign finance reports posted Tuesday.

Campaign finance reforms enacted this year by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democratic-led Legislature allow leaders in the state House and Senate to create up to four legislative caucus committees — one for each party in each chamber.

As Democrats prepare to defend their majorities in the state House and Senate in the 2020 elections, political contributions already are being routed through those committees, that may be used to provide strategical services to select candidates or potentially coordinated political canvassing among campaigns that was hamstrung under prior regulations.

The caucus committee designated by Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf, an architect of the reform provisions, collected just over $290,000 in cash during a six-month period ending Oct. 2.

Recent contributors to the Brian Egolf Speaker Fund ranged from the animal welfare group Animal Protection Voters to California-based oil production giant Chevron, New Mexico’s main investor-owned electric utility and an array of teachers’ unions.

A contribution of $25,000 came from the Committee on Individual Responsibility that receives political contributions from attorneys throughout the state.

The committee paid more than $100,000 to Albuquerque-based Advanced Legislative Leadership Services for fundraising and “legislative and campaign support,” according to filings with the New Mexico secretary of state’s office.

The caucus committee designated by House Republican minority leader James Townsend received $120,100 in contributions over the same six-month period. Donors included prominent oil-sector leaders and companies.

An updated financial report was not immediately available for the caucus committee designated by Senate Democrats ahead of a Tuesday evening filing deadline.

The New Mexico secretary of state’s office had no notification of a caucus committee from Senate Republicans.

Egolf has said previously that he foresees the caucus committees as a new path for providing campaign strategical services to legislative candidates and potentially coordinating door-to-door canvassing with U.S. Senate or presidential campaigns, and that those “in-kind” contributions must be publicly reported.

Advocates for the full disclosure of spending sources in elections say the new category of political committee places more power in the hands of legislative leaders and raises new concerns about the tracking and enforcement of contribution limits.

Candidates for the Legislature or statewide offices such as governor currently can collect up to $5,000 in campaign contributions per elections cycle, including primary elections, whether they are up for election that year or not.