Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation that would have required independent groups to disclose their funding and raised contribution limits for some candidates. The bill was an effort to shine light on dark money and shift power from independent groups to those running for office.
The Legislature had worked for years to try to come to agreement on the issue. Senate Bill 96 would have required liberal and conservative groups alike to come out of the shadows.
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the governor would side with the Koch brothers and ALEC and ignore the 90 percent of Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico who support campaign finance transparency,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. “This is one more responsible bipartisan bill to add to the 2019 ‘to do’ list.”
The 30-day legislative session in 2018 is focused on the budget, and other items can only be considered with the governor’s approval. So the 60-day 2019 session is the next time the legislation is likely to be brought up for consideration.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed corporations, unions and other groups such as nonprofits to raise and spend unlimited amounts to affect elections as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates. That has shifted political funding and power away from candidates and to third-party groups, which have dramatically increased their spending, largely without disclosing how it’s funded.
The bill would have required any so-called independent expenditure group that spends more than $1,000 during a campaign to disclose donors and spending information. It also would have doubled contribution limits to many candidates for public office. For legislative seats, limits would have risen from $5,000 to $10,000 per election cycle. The limit would have fallen for candidates for statewide races like governor from $11,000 to $10,000.
In her veto message, Martinez wrote that she supports “efforts to make our political process more transparent.” But, she wrote, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”
“The requirements in this bill would likely discourage charities and other groups that are primarily non-political from advocating for their cause and could also discourage individuals from giving to charities,” Martinez wrote.