Some have wondered whether the information contained in the state’s campaign finance reporting system is secure, given that the elected official whose office is responsible for that system is facing criminal charges related to abusing it.
Years of past reports filed by Secretary of State Dianna Duran and other candidates, political committees and lobbyists — which are all available online — shouldn’t be at risk, experts tell NMPolitics.net. Duran is facing charges including fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and tampering with public records.
A spokesman for Duran’s office hasn’t responded to requests for comment, but officials with two good-government groups — Common Cause New Mexico and the N.M. Foundation for Open Government — say they aren’t that concerned.
Viki Harrison, Common Cause’s executive director, noted that Duran is accused of illegally tampering with her own finance reports, but not those filed by others. She also said Common Cause has worked with employees in the Secretary of State’s Office, and she hasn’t seen “any reason not to trust (Duran’s) employees.”
FOG Board President Greg Williams said the issue of criminal prosecution is outside the organization’s usual area of expertise, but, speaking generally, he believes prosecutors have “the means to ensure that records are maintained” once they file charges in a case against a government employee.
The spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to discuss the situation. James Hallinan said the office won’t comment any further on the case against Duran before a preliminary hearing is held.
Regardless of whether information on the government website is secure, the nonprofit National Institute for Money in State Politics has taken reports from the secretary of state’s website to create its own database containing the same information. Staff there told NMPolitics.net that even if reports in a state’s database were compromised and altered, that wouldn’t change the institute’s database.
“If data was altered after we collected it, that changed data does not appear on our site,” said Pete Quist, the institute’s research director.
“It is not possible for an outsider to alter data at our site, whether that data is downloaded or scraped,” added Edwin Bender, the institute’s executive director.
Concerns about the integrity of the data in New Mexico are “a perfect example of why our current system of funding political campaigns is eroding the public trust,” Bender said. “All elected leaders have to answer for the failings of a few, whether those failings are accurate, politically motivated or just perceived.”
Incidentally, you can look through the information in the institute’s database on Duran here.