Acting SOS plans to clarify lobbyist contributions

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New rules could help clarify how lobbyists report campaign contributions to candidates in New Mexico, according to acting Secretary of State Mary Quintana.

Quintana mentioned the office’s intention to clarify the rules associated with the Lobbyist Regulation Act in a response to an Oct. 30 letter from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.

Papen and Gentry wrote Quintana listing concerns that arose during reporting of a KOB-TV series on campaign finance that is airing this week. In their letter, the two legislative leaders cited “serious shortcomings” in the lobbyist reporting system.

As New Mexico In Depth reported in September, lobbyists often donate on behalf of their clients. But some list the clients as the donors in their reports and others don’t. Some of those listings are also unclear about who the recipient is – a candidate or a candidate’s political action committee.

The two lawmakers noted the KOB conclusion that the lack of rules for lobbyists listing campaign donations make it difficult to verify that such contributions are being reported properly by candidates.

In her letter, Quintana agreed.

“As your letter highlights, there are shortcomings in the law which naturally lead to confusion, and may unfortunately lead to a fundamental misunderstanding in the intent of filing individuals and the appearance of wrongdoing even when the filing individuals are reporting in compliance with the law,” Quintana wrote.

She added that her office would work with lawmakers and others as it creates the new rules.

But with a lobbyist filing detailing contributions and expenses on lawmakers due Jan. 15, it’s unlikely such rules will have an impact anytime soon.

On Tuesday, lobbyist J.D. Bullington, who lists 24 clients this year, handed a check to Rep. Jimmie C. Hall, R-Albuquerque, in a third-floor lobby at the Roundhouse.

Bullington said the check came from a client, and will be reported on his January disclosure. He said lobbyists and clients must donate now, because lawmakers can’t accept donations during the legislative session in January and February.

In NMID’s analysis of 2013-14 lobbyist contributions, Bullington topped the list with $130,600 in donations.

Quintana took over as secretary of state after Dianna Duran resigned hours before pleading guilty to six of more than 60 criminal charges related to her reporting and use of campaign contributions.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will name a replacement for Duran, with an election on the office held in 2016.

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