Bill to increase political reporting, raise contribution limits clears Senate

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth

An almost decade long saga may end this year if the latest effort to reform New Mexico’s unconstitutional campaign reporting act makes it to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, would increase public disclosure of money spent to influence elections by requiring certain groups not covered by the act now to begin reporting their political spending. The bill also raises campaign contribution limits. The bill passed the Senate today easily, with only Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn and Republican senators Craig Brandt, Pat Woods, Bill Sharer, Cliff Pirtle, and Mark Moores voting against it, and now heads to the House. A similar bill passed the Legislature in 2017 but was vetoed by former governor Susana Martinez.

Public disclosure of legislation a lobbyist works on moves forward

Lobbyist Tom Horan talks to the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee about why he opposes a lobbyist disclosure bill during the 2019 legislative session. An effort to require more transparency from lobbyists passed its first hurdle in the House. The idea behind HB 131 is pretty simple: lobbyists would report a few weeks after a legislative session ends what bills they worked on, including their position on each bill, if they had one. One of the bill co-sponsors said the measure aimed to help the public have a greater understanding of how policy is made. “We’re approached in the hallway, approached in the bar, people talk to you at a reception,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the House’s State Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee Monday.

Lobbyist loophole fix heads to gov. as lobbyists spend nearly $90K

A bill requiring full disclosure of lobbyist expenditures is heading to the governor’s desk after being fast-tracked through the Legislature as part of the “rocket docket,” a set of bills prioritized after gaining legislative approval in previous sessions only to be vetoed by former governor Susana Martinez. Meanwhile, lobbyists or their employers have already reported spending almost $90,000 during the session. SB 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a requirement that lobbyists and their employers report a total of smaller lobbying expenses. Transparency advocates characterized it as a step backward in an ongoing effort to create more transparent government. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100.

Money greases wheels of political machine, while legislative process is shrouded in secrecy

Each year, a small group of lawmakers doggedly push for improvements in the state’s disclosure laws related to campaign finance, lobbying, and discretionary infrastructure money available to lawmakers. Here are key initiatives New Mexico In Depth continues to follow. Steinborn works toward full disclosure of lobbyist spending on lawmakers, bills

For New Mexico’s volunteer legislators, campaign contributions provide more than just dollars to run an election. The money allows them to crisscross the state to meet constituents or go to legislative meetings. They can pay for telephone costs, stamps, conference travel out of state, and they can be donated to charities the candidate selects.

Feverish spending in NM CD2, with $12 million raised to date

Everyone knows by now that outside groups are spending big to influence the outcome of New Mexico’s southern congressional district. Republican Yvette Herrell and Democrat Xochitl Torres Small are campaigning to represent the district. Getting a handle on how much cash is pouring in can be tricky. Fortunately, there are a couple important tools. One, the Federal Elections Commission requires a lot more timely reporting of campaign finance data than does New Mexico.

When money buys the message, it pays to know who’s spending

During an election year, the public — including University of New Mexico students —  is bombarded with political advertising, online, television radio, in the mail, or over the phone.  

The messages are easy to understand: stay away from — or vote for — this person. Less easy is tracking contributions for advertising, because in the current system donors are able to obscure their identities through so-called “dark money.”

This article was published by both New Mexico In Depth and the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico. Anthony Jackson is a Fellow for NM in Depth and a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted on Twitter: @TonyAnjacksonDark money is untraceable contributions that can come from unions, corporations, nonprofits or any group registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(4) and also 501(c)(6) to make it more complex. Donations from these groups can go directly to candidates or to political groups.

New internet ad threatens to soften Democratic support in northern NM

A new internet ad featuring five Hispanic activists from rural northern New Mexico is taking aim at the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Invoking land, culture and heritage, the speakers urge viewers to not support Democratic candidates just because they’re Democrats. Phrases appear in writing as each person is talking that lead the viewer through a series of statements that progressives are intolerant, divisive, that they are attacking tradition and want to control the land. From there, the ad states that progressives have taken over the Democratic party and that it’s time for “traditional New Mexico Democrats” to stand against them, concluding with “Vote People over Party.”

The kicker? The internet ad is funded by New Mexico Turn Around, a group with a political action committee largely funded in recent years by Republican New Mexico oilman Harvey Yates.

Patrick Lyons fundraising for Land Commissioner campaign raises legal and ethical questions

A campaign fundraising letter that public land commissioner candidate Patrick Lyons sent ranchers who lease land from the State Land Office is raising legal and ethical questions a month before voters decide whether to return him to the job he held for eight years. Should Lyons win the seat this November, he will be in charge of renegotiating leases with companies seeking to renew those agreements. About 30 percent of the money Lyons has raised so far in his run has come from lessees, according to a review of campaign finance records. A copy of the letter was shared with New Mexico In Depth and is addressed “dear agricultural lessee.” It goes on to describe Lyons’ record as a rancher and farmer, and as previous land commissioner. It then states, “I am running for Commissioner of Public Lands in 2018 and need your help to get elected so that the agricultural lessees have a voice at the State Land Office.” The letter asks the reader to consider donating $100 to $1,000 before concluding, “Let’s make sure agriculture has a voice in the Land Office.”

Lyons used a list from his previous time in office to reach out to ranchers, and didn’t duplicate the effort for the oil and gas industry.

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.