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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Three on PRC Back Public Funding for Races

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE Advocates for public financing of political campaigns on Monday pushed a pilot project for New Mexico's five-member Public Regulation Commission, saying it would help restore public confidence in elections.
    Three incumbent PRC members chairman Lynda Lovejoy and newly elected commissioners David King and E. Shirley Baca were among those supporting the proposal at a news conference at the Capitol.
    "I ran twice and both times it was very difficult for me to raise funds," Lovejoy said. "You find yourself having to make a choice whether you should be out campaigning and raising money or being at your office."
    Under the proposal, candidates for the regulatory agency who agreed to cap spending and snub private contributions would get public money for their campaigns. The pilot project would take effect in the 2004.
    The public campaign fund would cost about $300,000 a year. It would be paid for by regulatory fees collected by the PRC.
    To qualify for public financing, PRC candidates would need to collect $5 donations from a certain number of registered voters. The amount of public financing would be based on past PRC campaign costs.
    King said he thought the PRC was a logical place to start voluntary public financing of campaigns.
    "It's not called the 'Big Oil and Gas Commission,' '' King said. "It's called the Public (Regulation) Commission."
    King noted that the pilot project had bipartisan support on the PRC because he is a Republican and Lovejoy and Baca are Democrats.
    Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, said public financing of campaigns is needed "to restore confidence of New Mexicans in their elected officials."
    Feldman is co-sponsoring the measure in the Senate along with Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, while House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, is carrying the bill in the House.
    The campaign finance proposal is backed by New Mexicans for Campaign Reform, a statewide coalition of nearly 30 groups, said Santiago Juarez, an organizer for Progressive Alliance for Community Empowerment.
    Juarez criticized a bill backed by House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, that would make the PRC an appointed body with its members appointed by the governor.
    "We need to make it more democratic, not less democratic," Juarez said of the PRC.