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This Week In Local Dark Money News

January 06, 2017 | dark money watch |
Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski

When it comes to dark money — money spent trying to influence voters by groups that do not disclose their donors — the focus is often on the federal level. But a considerable amount of dark money is also going to state and local elections. Our weekly roundup looks at dark money spending at the local, state and federal levels.

Democrat Peter Wirth, the new majority leader in New Mexico’s state senate, is hoping to tighten the state’s campaign finance laws, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports. Wirth plans to propose legislation aimed at restricting super PACs from coordinating with candidates and tightening reporting requirements for campaign spending and fundraising. Wirth proposed similar legislation in 2016 and has been pushing for tougher campaign finance laws since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which removed restrictions on corporate spending on elections. Although his previous efforts failed, Wirth told The New Mexican that the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, has indicated her interest in the bill.

Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker said in separate interviews recently that passing campaign reform will be a top priority, the Daily Journal reports. Current state law does not restrict politicians from using campaign contributions for personal expenses. An investigation by The Clarion Ledger last February found elected officials using campaign funds to buy clothes and pay off credit cards. The Clarion Ledger also found that “many campaign finance reports are incomplete, incorrect, illegible or missing.” State lawmakers were unable to pass campaign finance reform legislation last year.

A truck is raising questions about campaign finance in Michigan, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports. During the summer of 2014, the truck acted like a billboard, holding a sign over a busy roadway, urging voters to support a state House candidate — Republican Liz Fessler Smith. But the truck was never reported as an independent expenditure, according to a complaint filed last year with the secretary of state’s office. Rep. Jim Runestad, Smith’s primary opponent in 2014, said that he worries the use of the truck is similar to allowing corporations like Walmart to pass out bags with candidates’ logos on them. The state is currently reviewing the complaint.

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