Thursday, March 13, 2003
Campaign Funding Faces Test
By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
SANTA FE The Senate on Wednesday gave the green light to a pilot project of public financing of campaigns in New Mexico, sending the measure to Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson has said he supports the idea.
The pilot project would use the Public Regulation Commission as a test group for public financing beginning in 2004 when two of the five PRC members are up for election.
"We need to start reforming our electoral system and our campaign reporting system in New Mexico, and that's a good place to start," Richardson said of the PRC plan in a recent interview.
The Senate, with little debate, agreed on a voice vote Wednesday to go along with a House bill (HB 420), sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, to create the voluntary public financing system for PRC candidates.
Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, who carried the measure in the Senate, said enacting a pilot project for the PRC was a good way to test public financing of campaigns in New Mexico.
Candidates for the PRC who agreed to cap spending and forgo private contributions could get public money for their campaigns.
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.
The pilot program would cost about $300,000 and would be paid for by regulatory fees collected by the PRC.
House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, had argued against public financing of PRC races because he said it would force regulated companies to pay for the campaigns of candidates with whom they disagree.
The pilot project for PRC candidates is backed by New Mexicans for Campaign Reform, a statewide coalition of nearly 30 groups, including Common Cause.