Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said today that Martinez won’t propose specific legislation but will “message election reform broadly to allow discussion of campaign finance-related legislation” during the 30-day session that starts Tuesday.
30-day sessions are designed for budgetary issues. To be considered, other topics need to be allowed by the governor.
With the 2012 election in full swing, addressing the situation is urgent. As NMPolitics.net reported in October, recent court decisions have rendered the state’s campaign-finance law “unenforceable,” in the words of one good-government activist. The issues:
- The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has deemed New Mexico’s definition of a political committee “constitutionally infirm.” That happened in 2010 when the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court’s rejection of an attempt by the secretary of state and attorney general to force two nonprofits to register as political committees.
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case means states can no longer limit the size of donations being spent on independent expenditures, so New Mexico’s law limiting such donations isn’t constitutional. Last week, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of state limits on financial contributions to be used in federal campaigns and for independent expenditures in state races. A state GOP lawsuit seeking to permanently undo those and other parts of the state’s contribution-limits law is pending.
At the very least, activists say disclosure laws need beefed up to ensure the public knows who’s spending money on campaigns.
Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, is among the lawmakers working to address the situation. In last year’s regular legislative session, he sponsored a bill that would have amended the Campaign Reporting Act to require disclosure of independent expenditures, rewrite the definition of “political committee,” and tweak the law in other ways. It passed the Senate but died in the House.
Wirth plans to try again this year.
Darnell has said Martinez “believes strongly that the public has a right to know who is funding political campaigns and has always gone above and beyond in disclosing contributors,” and that she “is willing to work with anyone sincerely committed to improving our campaign finance laws to ensure that the voices of candidates and political parties are not drowned out by special interest groups operating in secret.”
But the governor isn’t putting her weight behind campaign-related legislation from Wirth or anyone else, at least right now.
Martinez backing sunshine bills
Though she’s currently staying on the sidelines in the discussion about campaign reform, Martinez is backing a pair of government transparency proposals that she will allow to be considered during the session:
- Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, is sponsoring legislation that would require that agendas for public meetings be posted online and made available at least 72 hours beforehand.
- Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, is sponsoring a bill that would make clear in law that the names of classified state employees will be included in the sunshine portal – though Martinez’s administration has already done that without the law explicitly allowing it.