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Super PACs Worry Former Party Bosses

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A former New Mexico Republican Party chairman and former state Democratic Party chairman have found some common ground.

Both suggest that independent political groups in New Mexico, such as super PACs, played a troubling role in this year’s elections.

Former Republican Party head Harvey Yates, in a Journal column Sunday, honed his attack on Reform New Mexico Now, a Republican-leaning group headed by Gov. Susana Martinez adviser Jay McCleskey, which Yates said used “dishonest” attacks to win.

Meanwhile, former Democratic Party chairman Jamie Koch railed in his own Sunday column against the political attacks from the independent political groups – both Democratic and Republican – often funded by anonymous donations and held to lower standards of accountability, he said.

Yates charged McCleskey’s independent political group weighed into the re-election bid of Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, manipulated Jennings’ words and distorted his record. Jennings went on to lose that race to Republican challenger Cliff Pirtle, ending his 34-year tenure in the state Legislature.

“I believe the state would be well-served if both parties severely clipped the wings of such political operatives,” Yates said. He charged that “half-truth” attacks from third-party political groups – a force new to state politics in 2012 – may push lawmakers to think only about how votes could be manipulated in attack ads during a future re-election bid, rather than the merits or flaws of proposed legislation at hand.

McCleskey, however, countered that his group’s ads were accurate.

“The ads were entirely factual, issue-based, and an accurate representation of the record, which is why the voters agreed and rejected Tim Jennings. Unfortunately, Harvey Yates is using this campaign as an opportunity to lash out, because he is bitter about his lack of influence with the Martinez administration,” McCleskey said in a statement.

Koch, the former Democratic Party chairman, said any third-party political groups and super PACs in New Mexico should be required to publicly report any expenditures over $5,000 and the donors who foot the bill to prevent the anonymous attacks that largely went unchecked leading up to the Nov. 6 general election.

“Tell us who you are. Tell us where your money comes from. Tell us where you spend it. Then we will decide who and what to vote for,” Koch said in a column published Sunday.

Koch said that Democrats and Republicans have failed to demand that level of disclosure for third-party political groups, but that New Mexico should lead the nation in demanding more political transparency.

Contact Journal politics reporter James Monteleone at jmonteleone@abqjournal.com
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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