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AG says Duran wrong on campaign finance violations

SANTA FE — Secretary of State Dianna Duran told Attorney General Hector Balderas this week that he submitted three late campaign finance reports a few years ago and would have been dinged more than $5,000 if fines had been mandatory.

Balderas said she was wrong about two of the three late reports she cited, and he claimed the errors point up flaws in her operation.

“I am very concerned about the integrity of the data and records at the Secretary of State’s Office, and I’m also very concerned that other candidates may have been falsely accused as well,” Balderas said Thursday.

A spokesman for Duran said later that she had relied on incorrect information from a staffer in making the allegations about Balderas’ late reports.

The spat was the latest development in a growing rift between the Democratic attorney general and the Republican secretary of state over campaign finance reporting and enforcement.

They announced in February they had formed a joint task force, made up of staff members from the two offices, to study the issue. It met twice.

Last week, Balderas made “final recommendations” to improve the system. He said fines for violating the Campaign Reporting Act should be made mandatory again, the secretary of state should establish a better system for tracking enforcement of campaign reporting, and a special training officer should work with candidates.

Balderas also said he remained concerned about enforcement, saying the AG’s Office had received only one criminal referral from Duran’s office for violations of the Campaign Reporting Act.

Duran sent a letter to Balderas on Tuesday saying that his recommendations are insufficient to solve the problems and ensure accountability, and that she was “somewhat disappointed” in them.

Mandatory penalties, she wrote, are “a public policy decision best left to the Legislature.” The Legislature in 1995 gave the secretary of state authority to waive fines for good cause.

Duran said her office’s records showed a report due from Balderas in April 2011 — when he was state auditor — was filed 140 days late, subjecting him to a potential $5,000 fine. Her office’s electronic filing system reflects that a report due April 11 that year was submitted on Aug. 29.

Balderas, however, provided the Journal with copies of his campaign treasurer’s emailed submission of the report on April 11 and the Secretary of State’s Office’s acknowledgement that it had been received that day. The electronic filing system wasn’t available for that report; Duran had notified Balderas and other candidates the previous month that the system wouldn’t be working.

Duran also said a report from Balderas due Oct. 8, 2012, was submitted a day late; Balderas provided a letter from her office telling candidates the reports weren’t due until Oct. 9 because of the Columbus Day holiday.

A report from Balderas due April 9, 2012, was filed two days late. Balderas provided a letter from his campaign treasurer telling Duran it was late “due to personal circumstances” and that the campaign “will promptly satisfy any late penalties that your office may assess.”