By Associated Press - Saturday, February 21, 2015

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A new task force is being created to overhaul campaign finance practices in New Mexico, state officials said Friday.

Attorney General Hector Balderas and Secretary of State Dianna Duran announced that the task force will review issues of campaign finance reporting, enforcement and the referral process. The panel will be made up of employees from both their offices.

“I am focused on putting real teeth into the law and will present these legal solutions to the New Mexico Legislature,” Balderas said in a statement.



Duran’s office only collected 4 percent of roughly 2,000 fines imposed on candidates during the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections, the Farmington Daily Times reported (https://bit.ly/1w9cqsI) earlier this month. The newspaper said Duran waived one-third of them, and no enforcement action was taken on any of the fines.

In the same statement Friday, Duran asserted that she has been working “diligently” since taking office in 2011 to address problems tied to the state’s Campaign Reporting Act.

“We have made many improvements in working towards voluntary compliance and education,” Duran said. “I am excited to work with Attorney General Balderas in forming a task force that will look into the many areas within the Act, that need to be addressed, in order to assure transparency and accountably.”

Common Cause New Mexico, a state branch of a national organization that advocates government accountability, praised the idea of a task force. “This is something that we have advocated for many years,” said Viki Harrison, Common Cause New Mexico’s director.

New Mexico lawmakers in both the House and Senate are currently considering a bill that would improve campaign finance transparency.

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.

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

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