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Few details available on campaign finance task force

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Since the Attorney General and Secretary of State announced in late February that their offices will form a task force to address campaign finance reporting laws, details about the task force have been scarce. But advocates of government transparency say that is to be expected given the demands of an ongoing legislative session.

"I think both agencies are sincere about this," said Viki Harrison, director of Common Cause New Mexico, which is part of a national nonprofit organization that advocates for "open, honest and accountable government."

Attorney General Hector Balderas and Secretary of State Dianna Duran announced the task force a week after The Daily Times reported that in the past two election cycles Duran's staff had collected only 4 percent of the nearly 2,000 fines she imposed for violations of the Campaign Reporting Act. Another 34 percent of the fines assessed were waived and there was no action taken on the rest.

According to a Feb. 20 press release, the task force will be composed of staff members from both offices. After reviewing findings, they will recommend policy reforms and possible legislative solutions, according to the press release.

Duran's chief of staff, Ken Ortiz, has not returned emails or phone calls seeking more information about the task force since it was announced. And Balderas' spokesman, James Hallinan, said his office would release more information in the coming months.

Duran's office has also not said why enforcement of the Campaign Reporting Act has not appeared to be a priority or whether the office plans to refer current cases where fines haven't been paid to the Attorney General for investigation.

Harrison said the task force announcement needs to be followed up with more details, but the offices may need to wait until March 21 when the legislative session ends.

One of the questions Harrison wants answered is what role the public will play in the task force.

"Common Cause thinks this is a very critical thing for both of them to do," she said, "and we are really looking forward to seeing the nuts and bolts of what the task force is going to look like."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.