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Editorial: Duran the last choice to oversee campaign reform

re·form – verb

1. make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.

What does embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran not understand about the problem with putting her name and the word “reform” in the same sentence?

It should be apparent to even the most apolitical that someone who is charged with fraud, embezzlement and other crimes for allegedly using her campaign money for personal expenditures, including at casinos, simply has no business overseeing campaign finance reform.

Yet Duran has scheduled a public hearing Friday on a package of proposals her office has crafted to make the system more transparent and accountable. Cue the circus calliope, because as they say, you gotta laugh or you’re gonna cry.

The state Attorney General’s Office has charged Duran with 65 violations that stem from her apparently depositing campaign contributions into her personal bank account, moving large amounts of cash between her campaign and personal accounts, and withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars at eight casinos across the state. For Duran to think she has any credibility when it comes to reforming campaign finance in New Mexico – something that is long overdue – is ridiculous.

It is a disservice to the staff of the Office of the Secretary of State, which has done the heavy lifting on the proposed reforms, the taxpayers who keep that office running and the voters who have what some might consider a naive expectation of a fair and democratic election process.

Many of the proposals by themselves make sense – from establishing online voter registration to clarifying existing law. However, the group Common Cause makes excellent points in its recommendation to 1.) require disclosure from groups including labor unions and national PACS so voters have a clue as to who is funding whom, and 2.) eliminate loopholes so candidates can’t coordinate with corporations or unions on advertising yet evade contribution limits and reporting.

SOS’ Interim Election Director Kari Fresquez says the goal is rules that help the office administer an ambiguous law and provide “a fair, consistent way to guide everyone.” Yet there is nothing morally ambiguous about a public official heading up an effort to reform the very laws she is facing criminal charges for violating.

For the umpteenth time, Duran needs to step down and focus on her legal woes.

New Mexico needs to reform campaign finance, but under the leadership of someone who isn’t facing criminal charges for breaking campaign finance laws.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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