Letter – Legislature: Replenish public election fund, avert backroom deals

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The topic of how big money influences elections is top of mind as we prepare for the 2018 elections.

As a former judge, I’m particularly concerned with public financing of judicial elections (or the lack thereof). The public election fund that provides public financing of elections for the PRC (Public Regulation Commission) and higher courts in New Mexico is seriously depleted.

Over the last few years, money from that fund that was supposed to go to public financing has instead been diverted into paying for regular elections even though state law requires those funds to be used for implementation of the Voter Action Act. The public election fund is now $1.5 million short.

The legislature needs to replenish this fund so that judicial candidates have a public financing option. Big money in elections is bad, but it’s even worse in judicial races.

When a few well-connected insiders can use their money to influence our elections, we end up with a system that is full of backroom deals, cronyism and conflicts of interest. Judicial elections especially should be protected from the influence of big money contributions because our courts are charged with maintaining their impartiality above everything else. When judicial candidates have access to public financing, they can maintain the status of an independent judiciary because those candidates are not beholden to the whims and wants of their campaign contributors.

If the legislature wants to prove they care about maintaining the integrity of our judicial elections, they must replenish the public election fund.

Peggy Nelson, Taos

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