Supporters, opponents weigh in on campaign finance rule change

Comment period for proposed rule extended to July 19

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
A sign alerting voters to a polling place is display Feb. 13, 2016, in front of Aztec City Hall.
  • Written comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. July 19.
  • There are three upcoming public meetings about the proposed rule.

FARMINGTON — A new campaign finance rule proposed by the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office is touted as a measure that would increase transparency, but opponents have condemned it as an anti-free speech change that will hurt nonprofit organizations.

The proposed regulations would clarify reporting requirements for political action groups and other groups that sponsor political ads. It also would require groups that spend more than $1,000 on advocacy or election-based communications, such as ads, to report spending and information about the donors who paid for it.

In a press release, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the rule will provide "clarity and guidance to help candidates, elected officials and political committees comply with the law."

Advocates for the rule, such as Common Cause New Mexico, have asked people to write comments in support of the rules, which would go into effect prior to the next election cycle.

Nearly 30 people representing 14 organizations signed a letter today opposing the proposed rule.

The rule is similar to legislation that Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed this spring. In the letter, the organizations requested that language taken from the vetoed legislation be removed from the rule. Opponents say the rule could force nonprofit groups to disclose donors' information. The information would be available in an online database, which would make people hesitate before giving to a nonprofit, opponents say.

When reached by phone Tuesday, state Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, said he voted against the legislation because of the impact it would have on nonprofits. He said political contributions should be disclosed, and political action committees should have to disclose their donors.

"Nonprofits are a different category," he said.

Deputy Secretary of State John Blair said in an email the rule is not anti-free speech, as opponents claim.

“Over ninety percent of New Mexicans support additional disclosure and transparency in political campaigns, and we won’t be tricked by out-of-state, hyper-partisan groups funded by the Koch brothers," he said. "The draft rule does not ban anyone from participating in politics but you will have to disclose where your money is coming from and how you’re spending it.  Any claims that this is an anti-free speech measure are one-hundred percent false.”

The Secretary of State's Office announced today that the comment period for the proposed campaign finance rule has been extended to 5 p.m. July 19 for written comments.

Comments can be sent to or faxed to 505-827-8081. They can also be emailed to Kari Fresquez – Proposed Rule at the Office of the New Mexico Secretary of State, 325 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

Three public hearings will also allow people to offer input. The first of those meetings, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday in Santa Fe, can be watched online at Other meetings are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon July 18 in Albuquerque and from 9 a.m. to noon on July 19 in Las Cruces. Those meetings also can be viewed online.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.