In response to an investigation by a TV news organization, which found discrepancies in how candidates and lobbyists are reporting campaign contributions, some legislative leaders are asking for better rules that will improve transparency.
“We know that you share our desire to promote transparency in campaign finance and would appreciate your assistance in this regard,” Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen and House Majority Leader Nate Gentry wrote in a recent letter to acting Secretary of State Mary Quintana.
They’re asking Quintana’s office to create rules clarifying how lobbyists should report campaign contributions they or their clients make to candidates.
The recent criminal case against former Secretary of State Dianna Duran revealed that lobbyists reported contributions to Duran’s campaigns she never reported receiving — apparently because she instead used the money to keep her personal bank account in the black while she was gambling at New Mexico casinos.
Other candidates’ finance reports have been under scrutiny since then. KOB-TV decided to cross-check the finance reports of 10 legislative leaders — five Democrats and five Republicans — with what lobbyists reported donating to their campaigns.
KOB found the task nearly impossible. In their letter to Quintana, Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Gentry, R-Albuquerque, explained three problems that led to discrepancies:
- Lobbyists sometimes report donations as coming from themselves instead of their employers. Meanwhile, the checks come from their employers, so candidates record donations as coming from the employers, not their lobbyists.
- Some lobbyists are reporting multiple donations as one contribution, while the candidates are reporting each individually.
- When an organization has more than one lobbyist, sometimes multiple lobbyists are each reporting the same donation, making it appear that there were multiple contributions when there was only one.
The result is that news organizations like KOB and members of the public can’t accurately track money flowing from lobbyists and the organizations they represent to candidates — even if the lobbyists and candidates are reporting donations as the law requires.
The state’s campaign finance and lobbyist reporting systems “apply inconsistent rules that cause confusion,” House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, was quoted by KOB as saying. He said the result is that the systems “impose unreasonable burdens on members of the public who wish to learn who is paying for campaigns and how lobbyists make campaign contributions.”
House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, said KOB’s journalism “exposes the fact that this current reporting system we operate under has some limitations.”
And Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, called for a fix.
“It should be a priority, and I’m willing to work with anybody who’s interested in trying to find a solution to this,” KOB quoted Sanchez as saying.
Papen, Gentry, Egolf, Baldonado and Sanchez were among the 10 lawmakers whose reports KOB had difficulty reconciling with lobbyist reporting.
You can watch KOB’s report here: