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Report Finds 2014 Most Expensive Midterm Election in History

PHOTO: Campaign money played a bigger role in 2014 than in any midterm election in history, but that isn't stopping some civic and community groups from trying to keep elections clean. Image credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
PHOTO: Campaign money played a bigger role in 2014 than in any midterm election in history, but that isn't stopping some civic and community groups from trying to keep elections clean. Image credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
March 13, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. - In New Mexico and nationally, the corrupting influence of money in politics is getting worse, according to reports by Clean Slate Now and the Center for Responsive Politics that show that last year's midterm election was the most expensive in history.

Outside spending on Senate elections has more than doubled since 2010, and campaign contributions from political action committees rose by 34 percent for U.S. House candidates in 2014. But Mark Mehringer, executive director of Clean Slate Now, said he sees a bright side in the growing movement for clean elections, noting that an increasing number of candidates are choosing not to take PAC money.

"It's essentially a way of taking a principled stand and making it clear to voters that you care about not being bought, and you're going to do something," he said. "You're not going to come out with this line once again that everybody else does of, 'Well, they can contribute to my campaign but they're not buying my vote.' Nobody believes that line."

The League of Women Voters, with more than 150,000 members and supporters nationwide, recently testified before the Federal Elections Commission, urging the agency to set new rules requiring full disclosure to help stem the tide of money flowing into elections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

Mehringer said disclosure is a key component for clean elections, and that making it possible for average citizens to play a bigger role in campaign finance could be a game-changer. Clean Slate Now recently endorsed the Government by the People Act, legislation to provide matching funds for candidates who refuse PAC money.

"Instead of congressional candidates relying on special-interest groups for their funding," he said, "the matching funds from the Government by the People Act will ensure that individual contributions matter as much or more than those special interest group contributions."

Another nonpartisan group, Represent Us, also is working to introduce Anti-Corruption Acts in states, cities and towns across the nation.

The Center for Responsive Politics report is online at opensecrets.org. The Clean Slate Now report is at cleanslatenow.org.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM