Campaign disclosure bill passes Senate unchanged
The Senate unanimously passed legislation that attempts to fix problems with the state’s campaign-disclosure law on Sunday, sending it to the House for consideration.
Although critics had problems with some elements of Senate Bill 11, the proposal appeared to have been propelled to unanimous passage by lawmakers’ desire to pass something — anything — that would mitigate the unlimited flow of political spending released by recent court decisions.
“If we don’t pass this bill, I can assure you we’re going to be worse off,” Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and the sponsor of the bill, told his colleagues.
The bill would require groups making independent expenditures to disclose information about where the money came from and where it went.
As NMPolitics.net has reported, recent court decisions have invalidated parts of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act and many, perhaps especially lawmakers, fear an influx of large amounts of undisclosed political spending.
Measure passed with little debate
Although representatives from several nonprofit organizations earlier spoke out against the bill, saying it was too onerous, and some lawmakers said they wished it were stricter, it was passed 40-0 after an hour’s discussion.
Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, asked a question about church groups; Sen. Clinton Harden, R-Clovis, asked about push polls; but the bill’s passage was foretold when Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque, said a conversation with Wirth had allayed his concerns and, although he’d voted against the bill in committee, he’d vote for it on the floor.
“I don’t see anything nefarious in the bill. …This thing is pretty neutral,” Payne said.
Still, some seemed resigned to the fact that the Legislature has only limited power to control the flow of money. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, expressed frustration that the bill could do nothing to prevent what many have called “hit pieces” against candidates.
“Are we simply identifying the car that hit you after it runs you over?” Ortiz y Pino asked.
NMPolitics.net liveblogged the discussion. You can read the archive here.
Compromise may ensure passage
Wirth told NMPolitics.net earlier in the week that he was trying to take into account everybody’s concerns, but that his top priority was closing loopholes left by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and a recent court case in New Mexico that invalidated parts of our campaign finance law.
“Last year, the reason it didn’t pass was because the attorney general had a different version and was pushing something that the nonprofits really hated and was unconstitutional, in my opinion,” Wirth said. “What we’ve been trying to do is work with the attorney general… and they’ve pulled way, way back from where they were.”
The attorney general’s chief counsel, Stuart Bluestone, said Thursday he was pleased with the bill as passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same version passed by the full Senate Sunday.
“We think it strikes a fair balance and it’s not prohibiting anybody from saying anything. It just is trying to get disclosure of where the money is coming from that’s trying to affect elections,” Bluestone said.
From the fiscal impact report:
It requires that any person who makes an independent expenditure that is not otherwise required to be reported under the Campaign Reporting Act (Act) shall file a report of the expenditure with the SOS within three days. Such independent expenditure reports are required to identify:
- the name and address of the person who made the expenditure;
- the name and address of the person to whom the expenditure was made;
- the date, amount and purpose of the expenditure; and
- the name and address and the amount of each contribution not previously reported for, each contributor contributing $100 or more in the aggregate during the previous year that were earmarked for an independent expenditure or made in response to a solicitation that refers to the independent expenditure.
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