Sunland Park among cities requiring no campaign disclosure
Sunland Park has no public records detailing who funded the mayoral campaign of the indicted Daniel Salinas. It’s one of many cities, towns and villages across the state that requires no disclosure of campaign donations and expenditures.
Want to know who funded the mayoral campaign of Daniel Salinas, who’s at the center of a massive public corruption scandal that has rocked Sunland Park?
The city has no public records that will provide that information. Sunland Park doesn’t require candidates to file campaign finance reports. In Doña Ana County, neither do the City of Anthony, the Village of Hatch, or the Town of Mesilla, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported today.
From the newspaper:
“Clerks from Hatch, Mesilla and Anthony explained that reports are not required and therefore the records did not exist. Mesilla town Clerk Nicholas Eckert said that a city can decide to impose its own rules for campaign finance reporting, but there isn’t a state law that mandates it across the board.
“There are such laws in place for county, regional and state candidates who run in the primary and general elections.
“Sunland Park City Clerk Liz Gamez did not respond to the inspection of public records act request; several attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. But the city’s new mayor pro tem, Isabel Santos, said there isn’t a finance-reporting requirement.”
Then how do we know who’s influencing municipal campaigns? State Rep. Andy Nuñez, who is also a Hatch trustee, was quoted by the Sun-News as saying he doesn’t file finance reports in trustee races because, “In Hatch, we don’t have to spend any money to run for election.”
He acknowledged that in some bigger cities candidates do spend money.
That includes Sunland Park, where the city was plastered in advance of the March 6 election with professionally made signs promoting the candidacies of Salinas and his slate of council candidates and Gerardo Hernandez, the mayoral candidate who lost to Salinas by fewer than 90 votes, and his slate of candidates.
Hernandez even had a massive sign hanging on the side of a tractor-trailer that was parked near a polling place.
The only thing we do know about Salinas’ campaign funding, thanks to court records, is that he allegedly took a $10,000 contribution from a company that law enforcement charges was involved, along with Salinas, in defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars.
The Sun-News pointed out in its article that the City of Las Cruces is working on reforming its campaign finance ordinance after former Mayor Bill Mattiace donated $10,000 from his campaign account to help pay for the funeral of his sister-in-law’s husband – a donation that was legal because the city doesn’t regulate how campaign funds can be spent.
Should the state implement requirements?
Should the state implement minimal requirements all municipalities must follow?
“I don’t think it would be a bad idea,” the Sun-News quoted Nuñez as saying, though he said he wanted to check with the municipal league.
Proposals have gone before the Legislature before. The municipal league has supported implementing requirements about disclosure of contributions and spending. But the Sun-News quoted the organization’s executive director, William Fulginiti, as saying such laws shouldn’t be so “onerous” that small towns can’t comply.
In an editorial, the Sun-News said the state should implement minimum standards that apply to all municipalities.
“Cities, towns and villages throughout New Mexico are free to decide just how much information they want to share with voters,” the newspaper wrote. “And far too many have decided they don’t want to share any at all.”
“Voters should have the right to know who is trying to influence the outcome of the election,” the editorial states. “And, they should have the right to know how much money a candidate has raised, and how that money was spent.”