New web portal launched for tracking money in politics

There’s a new web portal for tracking who’s behind the money in elections, a task that can be arduous. 

For New Mexico voters, the primary sources of campaign finance data are the websites of the New Mexico Secretary of State and the Federal Election Commission. And at the federal level there are also reports filed by broadcasters with the Federal Communications Commission that show who is buying airtime for television ads. Called “NAB” reports, which stands for National Association of Broadcasters, these are often the first sign one has of a group planning to spend money in an election. But searching those filings on the FCC site is onerous. The Center for Responsive Politics, or opensecrets.org, has pulled all of the reports filed by New Mexico broadcasters into a user-friendly portal.

Lawmakers get started on ethics commission enabling legislation

For a window into how legislation is made, few moments were more educational than a sparsely attended meeting Tuesday afternoon in a cavernous, mostly empty room on the University of New Mexico campus. On the surface, the meeting was congenial as two state lawmakers, legislative staff, attorneys and representatives of civic organizations hammered out the beginnings of draft legislation that would fill out the details of the state’s first independent ethics commission if voters give the go ahead in November. But beneath the amicable discussions there was a rematch of sorts, perhaps noticeable only to those aware of the contentious history surrounding the idea of an independent ethics commission. For almost 15 years, lawmakers offended by the notion that they needed anyone to watch over them squared off against other legislators who touted independent oversight as a way to restore public trust in government. Legislative opposition knew no political party, with both Democrats and Republicans chafing at the idea of an independent oversight body.

National PACs jump into 2nd congressional district race; we analyze the ads

The southern New Mexico congressional race is finally getting the national attention many have been expecting. With a major push by Democrats to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the two women vying for the District 2 seat vacated this year by Rep. Steve Pearce are getting help from their national parties. That’s because the seat, long held by Republicans, is considered by national analysts as one that has a chance of flipping to Democratic control. Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, a water lawyer from Las Cruces, and Republican Yvette

Herrell, a state lawmaker and real estate agent from Alamogordo, have each been subjected to attack ads by Democratic and Republican PACs hoping to boost their preferred candidate’s chances. And the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is endorsed by House Republicans, added the race to fall advertising reservations.

Martinez campaign brain McCleskey backs four Republican judicial contenders

The 2018 election will be pivotal for discerning the kind of imprint Gov. Susana Martinez— the first female governor of New Mexico and the first elected Latina governor in the United States — leaves on New Mexico policies and laws. There’s a good chance many of her priorities, if not her methods, will live on if her successor is Republican Steve Pearce. Not so much if Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham moves into the Governor’s Mansion. How much she shapes New Mexico’s appellate court for the long term is another area worth watching. Six judges on the 10-member court are Martinez appointees.

Industry showers campaign funds on Lyons, who may be their future landlord

The campaign accounts of state land commissioner candidates Pat Lyons, a Republican, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat, tell remarkably different stories. Sixty percent of Lyon’s $268,000 — garnered from 172 donations — comes from companies or individuals employed in the oil and gas or agriculture industries, which are principle sectors that do business with the State Land Office. Half of that amount, or 30 percent of his total funds, comes from companies that have active leases with the State Land Office. Those lessees are largely oil and gas companies, ranchers or dairy producers. See Lyons Donors

 

Garcia Richard has raised $220,000 from 1,036 donors, 72 percent of which are $200 or less.

ABQ Democracy dollars most likely headed for election, just not in November

Albuquerque’s city attorney said last night while he doesn’t have a firm answer about when the city would hold an election on a successful ballot initiative, city charter language stipulates that an election is required. “At some point this matter will have to be heard,” said Esteban Aguilar, Albuquerque city attorney, at a special meeting called by the Bernalillo County Commission to reconsider its decision last week not to place a public financing ballot initiative referred to as “democracy dollars” on the November ballot. Once again, the commissioners didn’t muster enough votes to place the ballot item, kicking it to the city. The Albuquerque city charter allows questions to be placed before voters through direct petition rather than always having to be green-lighted by the city council. Albuquerque residents submitted to the city clerk earlier this month almost 28,000 petition signatures to ask voters to decide whether to increase the amount of money publicly financed candidates receive, and to change the date of city elections. The city clerk certified almost 20,000 of those signatures, enough to trigger a vote under city rules.

BernCo refusal of Democracy Dollars ballot item could be costly to ABQ

Leaders of the Albuquerque “Democracy Dollars” public financing ballot initiative want the Bernalillo County commissioners to call a special meeting next Tuesday to vote again on placing the charter amendment proposal on the November ballot. This time with a public comment period on that issue alone. If commissioners refuse, the city may be on the hook for a special election. The question at issue is whether a special city election will be triggered if the county commission does not allow voters to vote on the petition this November. NM In Depth has asked the city attorney, but has yet to receive a reply. 

Article six of the city charter addresses how amendments to the charter can be made.

Democracy Dollars proposal squashed by Bernco commissioners

The Bernalillo County Commission voted last night not to put a public financing proposal on the November ballot. The vote was 3-2 with Democrat Steven Quezada and Republicans Lonnie Talbert and Jim Smith voting against the measure. Almost 28,000 Albuquerque voters signed petitions to put the measure on the ballot, to fix a city public financing statute that was hobbled by a U.S. Supreme Court decision back in 2011. Quezada told the Albuquerque Journal he had too many questions about the proposal, and asked, “…why am I making a decision that the city councilors aren’t doing?” Talbert was more blunt, according to the NM Political Report.

ABQ Democracy Dollars proposal would increase mayoral campaign cash

A decade ago, it seemed Albuquerque’s new public financing program had proven itself. All three mayoral candidates in 2009 used public money to run their campaigns, keeping expenditures under $400,000 each, well below the almost $1.2 million the incumbent mayor had spent in 2005 to get re-elected. Public financing freed candidates to talk to voters rather than spend all their time fundraising, supporters said, while making it possible for them to compete against candidates raising money from big donors. They also hoped reducing the amount of money spent might inspire more confidence in the political process. Then a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case invalidated a provision in Albuquerque’s law that provided additional funds when expenditures by private competitors exceeded the initial city disbursements to publicly funded candidates.

Immigrants share harrowing tales from detention

Carlos Medrano of Mexico had to wait six days before guards let him call his family from the Otero County correctional facility where he spent two and a half months, incarcerated by a private prison company that holds undocumented immigrants for the federal government. “They didn’t respect us,” Medrano told New Mexico state lawmakers through a translator in Santa Fe on Monday. Roberto Gonzalez of Anthony, New Mexico, talked about the sadness he felt at not seeing his family for three months. Gonzalez was arrested outside a courthouse where he had gone to conduct business that “he had a right to conduct” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, he said through a translator. Like Medrano, Gonzalez found himself locked up in one of two facilities in New Mexico that house undocumented immigrants for ICE.