State Ethics Commission Obtains List of Accounts With Possible Campaign Funding Problems

SANTA FE, NM (AP) – After a four-year hiatus, state election regulators have resumed spot checks on campaign finance disclosures by politicians, election candidates and political committees, with 10 accounts referred to New Mexico’s fledgling State Ethics Commission and state prosecutors for possible enforcement action.

Random sampling of campaign finance disclosures from the 2020 general election cycle taps into a recently deployed electronic campaign finance reporting system at the Secretary of State’s office that reconciles a complex web of contributions, transfers and expenses the country.

State law requires an annual sampling of 10% of accounts, triggering a review of approximately 110 accounts. The results were released on Friday. Regulators attributed the hiatus in part to the scarcity of resources.

The alleged violations included groups receiving contributions from unidentified sources and not registering as political committees.

In addition to the 10 referrals, six committees or candidates are currently working to resolve differences with the Secretary of State’s office. The agency focuses on education and voluntary compliance.

State Chief Electoral Officer Mandy Vigil, who oversaw the campaign finance review, said politicians and committee treasurers have new opportunities and tools at their disposal to quickly clarify and reconcile possible violations of the law on state campaign reports. A web-based dashboard alerts possible violations in real time as reports are completed online.

The Campaign Reporting Act includes political contribution limits, currently set at $ 5,200 for what candidates or committees can accept. Political committees can make contributions of up to $ 5,200.

Regulatory scrutiny of the 2020 campaign fundraising records extends to political committees that engage in independent spending – a consequence of the 2019 legislation that called for financial disclosures by certain so-called black money groups that operate on the periphery of a coordinated political campaign.

Among them, Enchantment PAC resolved an initial concern about incomplete reporting of independent expenses. The committee is affiliated with the progressive advocacy group OLÉ.

Persistent campaign accounts linked to deceased and disgraced politicians have also been flagged for discrepancies and returned for possible enforcement.

Fines for late campaign finance disclosures are piling up against former state senator Phil Griego and his campaign account which still has a balance of over $ 40,000. Griego spent 15 months in prison in 2019 linked to convictions for fraud, corruption and ethical violations after using his post as state senator to profit from the sale of a state-owned building.

A political account of former Democratic state representative Luciano “Lucky” Varela, who died in 2017, has been reported for enforcement of payment discrepancies.

The account, managed by a parent, donated $ 2,500 in May to the political campaign of Santa Fe mayoral candidate Joane Vigil Coppler, and brought in a balance of about $ 15,200. It no longer accepts contributions.

Vigil Coppler challenges incumbent Mayor Alan Webber in a three-way race that ends on November 2.

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