- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Many uncollected fines stemming from campaign finance violations show a lack of enforcement by New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a state lawmaker said Sunday.

Sen. Peter Wirth is sponsoring a bill that would improve campaign finance transparency. Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, is sponsoring the same bill in the House. But Wirth thinks legislation may not be enough if Duran doesn’t pursue fines.

“The secretary of state needs to follow through,” the Santa Fe Democrat told the Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1DdlZcn ).

The newspaper reviewed campaign finance data obtained through a public records request. It found Duran waived more than a third of fines and more than 60 percent went uncollected. Her office amassed only 4 percent of nearly 2,000 fines levied against candidates during the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections.

State law requires that candidates’ reports list donations and expenditures. The public documents are also supposed to list the donations’ sources.

A late campaign finance report triggers a letter from state officials, saying the candidate will be fined $50 per working day until the report is filed. If the candidate offers an explanation within 10 days, that fine could be waived.

The newspaper found the secretary of state’s office received 774 explanations for the 1,984 fines its staff assessed.

Ken Ortiz, Duran’s chief of staff, did not immediately respond Sunday to a message seeking comment.

State law allows for Duran to refer delinquent fines to the state attorney general’s office for investigation and possible prosecution. Ortiz said previously that none had been referred as of the end of the January.

James Hallinan, spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas, declined to confirm whether Duran had referred any fines for possible prosecution.

“The attorney general’s office routinely receives referrals for investigations, however, we do not comment on referrals regarding individuals who are accused but not charged,” Hallinan said.

Wirth said some campaign violations may be inadvertent. But it’s a problem for Duran to waive numerous fines and not refer others for investigation, he said.

“Campaign finance laws are serious and need to be followed,” Wirth said.


Information from: The Daily Times, https://www.daily-times.com

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