Integrity of democratic elections at stake - Albuquerque Journal

Integrity of democratic elections at stake

Take Back Our Republic ( is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to common-sense, conservative solutions to campaign finance reform. I ran political campaigns for decades before becoming the executive director of Take Back and I know how well-funded special interests manipulate the system for their own benefit.

Right now, “Concerned Veterans for America” – a Koch Brothers-funded organization fighting against transparency in our elections – is targeting New Mexico.

Over the last two months, CV4A placed op-eds in at least three different newspapers, each time defending Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of Senate Bill 96 – a bill that 9 out of 10 New Mexican voters want. It was also supported by a bipartisan majority in the state Legislature. (An anti-SB 96 op-ed by the group appeared in the Journal on May 26.)

SB 96 would have closed a loophole that “dark money” groups use to get around campaign finance disclosure laws. These groups, often from out of state, run vicious and frequently unfounded attacks – and in return want special consideration to influence government at the expense of local citizens.

SB 96 would have delivered to New Mexico the kind of transparency that allows voters to see who their elected officials really represent, shining a light on who funds the campaigns in exchange for access to state money once a candidate is elected. It was supported by 92 percent of the state’s business community. Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico’s House and Senate worked together to send it to the Governor’s Office to sign into law.

Then it was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Because of that veto, New Mexico still has two sets of rules. If an individual voter donates more than $200 to a candidate’s campaign, that person’s name, address and occupation are publicly disclosed in campaign finance filings. But nonprofit 501(c)(4) organizations like CV4A can take money without disclosing their donors and then use the money for electioneering, like attack-ad TV commercials and editorial pieces in newspapers.

Virginia-based CV4A is one of the organizations that would have been affected by the provisions of SB 96. CV4A spends millions of dollars each year – including money to support specific candidates and campaigns – but CV4A isn’t required to report who gave them the money they spend.

SB 96 would have leveled the playing field in New Mexico. If Gov. Martinez had signed the bill, donors who pay for political spending through dark money shell groups would have had to meet the same disclosure standards as New Mexico residents who donate directly to candidates’ campaigns.

As the amount of money spent to influence elections continues to increase, transparency in our electoral process becomes even more crucial. Voters deserve to know exactly who is spending money to influence the outcome of a campaign – because it is a clear indication of whose interests might ultimately be served if the candidate is elected.

Special interest influence isn’t a “victimless crime.” It has real, calculable costs to taxpayers that add up to billions of dollars each year. Research shows that states with higher levels of corruption spend more on budget items that benefit special interests and less on issues that benefit citizens. Studies also tie special-interest influence to higher levels of public debt, e.g. debt to fund private construction projects that are touted as “economic development.”

Each state resident pays more than $1,300 extra per year when these practices are allowed to continue, according to a University of Indiana study.

SB 96 wasn’t just a theoretical exercise in good government. It was an effort by citizens, acting through elected representatives, to institute common-sense transparency in New Mexico’s elections, and minimize political favors and access to public officials after the elections.

There will be another legislative session next year and hopefully the state Legislature will again send a disclosure bill – maybe even the same one – to the governor. The integrity of our democratic elections is at stake. New Mexico deserves common-sense, non-partisan disclosure, free from outside dark money influence.

John Pudner managed political campaigns for almost three decades, including Dave Brat’s 2014 upset win over U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


In this season of compassion, spare a thought for ...
During the weeks between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah ... During the weeks between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, I always recall warm childhood memori ...
Girls prep basketball overview: Volcano Vista is primed to ...
Featured Sports
No amount of coachspeak is going ... No amount of coachspeak is going to allow Lisa Villareal to dodge the inescapable truth that her Volcano Vista Hawks are running the proverbial ...
DA’s lawsuit seeks GPS data for defendants on pretrial ...
ABQnews Seeker
District Attorney Raúl Torrez on Thursday ... District Attorney Raúl Torrez on Thursday sued the administrator of the 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, alleging that court officials are violating the ...
Broad coalition urges support for PNM/Avangrid merger
ABQnews Seeker
After PRC meeting, AG Balderas concerned ... After PRC meeting, AG Balderas concerned about commissioners' impartiality
Sandia Prep junior sings her way to Carnegie Hall
ABQnews Seeker
Sofia Chalamidas hopes to attend college ... Sofia Chalamidas hopes to attend college at either New York University or Carnegie Mellon, and become a professional singer
Why 'But, Judge, it's Christmas!' can't carry any weight
From the newspaper
Every year around this time, I ... Every year around this time, I hear a phrase repeated over and over. I hear it when a party requests ...
Editorial: NMSU spreads cheer, lets folks clear tickets in ...
It's literally spreading holiday cheer, allowing ... It's literally spreading holiday cheer, allowing folks to clear parking tickets with a donatio ...
Editorial: Pastor's endorsement of candidate merits probe
Albuquerque megachurch leader Steve Smothermon has ... Albuquerque megachurch leader Steve Smothermon has been no stranger to controversy throughout the pa ...
Sora an elusive year-round NM resident
From the newspaper
Winter is an exciting time in ... Winter is an exciting time in New Mexico as we are host to a wide variety of bird species that spend ...