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Roundtable Tonight on How to Fix Campaign Finance Reform

The public is invited to a roundtable discussion on campaign finance reform with Sen. Tom Udall in Santa Fe tonight.(cohdra/morguefile)
The public is invited to a roundtable discussion on campaign finance reform with Sen. Tom Udall in Santa Fe tonight.(cohdra/morguefile)
October 13, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. -- In this, the final month before the election, television airwaves are crowded with half a billion dollars' worth of political ads - many of them funded by super-PACs using funds from undisclosed donors. That's the topic of a roundtable discussion on campaign finance reform scheduled for Thursday evening in Santa Fe and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall.

Sen. Udall sponsored a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that established legal personhood for corporations and declared that donation limits and donor disclosure requirements violated First Amendment rights.

Executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, Viki Harrison - who will also take part in the event - said Citizens United opened the floodgates for so-called "dark money."

"It unleashed the super-PAC on us,” Harrison said. "Before that we had PACs but they were still regulated into how much money they could take in. And the contribution limits with super PACs don't exist."

On the state level, proposed reforms to the Campaign Disclosure Act have passed the state Senate four times but are now stalled in the House.

Harrison said that Udall's bill would restore parts of the campaign reporting act that were gutted in a previous court decision.

"When it was created, the parties and the candidates were the big spenders,” she said. "Now we have independent groups, we have the super PACs. And it needs to be overhauled so everybody knows at least who's spending what."

Harrison is urging the U.S. Senate to confirm a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear a challenge to Citizens United in the next few years.

Thursday’s event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NM