Bill would forbid campaign spending on mani-pedis and medical costs

A statue outside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Heath Haussamen / NMPolitics.net

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, who is running for secretary of state, would prohibit expenditures to defray “normal living expenses” for the candidate and his or her family members.

Candidates for state political offices no longer could spend campaign funds on clothing, haircuts or doctor bills under a bill unanimously recommended Tuesday by a House committee.

With virtually no discussion, the House Judiciary Committee voted to send House Bill 310, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, to the full House for a vote.

Espinoza, who is running for secretary of state, said after the vote that she’s seen several examples of questionable — though legal — campaign expenditures on items for a candidate’s personal use.

Her bill would prohibit expenditures to defray “normal living expenses” for the candidate and his or her family members.

Specifically prohibited in the bill are campaign spending on telephone or Internet services for the candidate or candidate’s family that have no direct connection with the campaign, clothing, shoes, jewelry, watches and grooming for the candidate. That includes manicures, pedicures and hair styling.

Candidates would not be able to spend campaign money on medical expenses for the candidate or family members. Expressly forbidden in the bill are mainstream doctors and dentists, as well as alternative health providers, eye exams, glasses, contact lenses, health insurance premiums or deductibles, massages and gym or spa memberships.

Not listed in the bill are vehicle expenses — which in recent years have raised controversy in some campaigns. In 2012, Senate candidate Jack Sullivan filed a complaint against his opponent, then-Sen. Phil Griego, for spending thousands of dollars on items, including $5,000 in vehicle repairs and maintenance. However, in that instance, then Secretary of State Dianna Duran ruled that the expenditures did not violate the law.

In 2006, Patrick Lyons, then running for re-election as state land commissioner, was criticized for buying a pickup with campaign funds. Lyons, who said the truck was necessary to campaign around the state, sold the truck after it became a campaign issue.

HB 310 specifies legal campaign expenditures, which include advertising, political communications, campaign memorabilia, office space and equipment, paid staff, polling, fundraising and inaugural events.

Espinoza filed the bill Feb. 2 — the same day she filed petitions with the state required to run for secretary of state.

On the same day, she filed two other election-related bills in the House. One was HB 309, which would prohibit ballot questions that don’t have the force of law (such as questions on Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties’ ballots in 2014 asking voters whether to ease penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana). The other was HB 312, a longtime Republican favorite that would require photo identification at the polls.

Asked about this, Espinoza said two of the bills — the ones dealing with voter ID and ballot questions — had been introduced in previous sessions by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad. Brown is co-sponsor of Espinoza’s election bills.

Espinoza is the only Republican to file for the secretary of state position. Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver is the only Democrat running for the job.

The winner will fill out the remaining two years of Duran’s term. Duran resigned last year in the wake of a fraud investigation that resulted in Duran pleading guilty to two felonies and four misdemeanor charges.

Contact Steve Terrell at [email protected]. Read his political blog at tinyurl.com/Roundhouseroundup.

This BBSNews article was syndicated from NMPolitics.net, and written by Heath Haussamen. Read the original article here.