City needs more — not less — transparency

by Debra Helper

Councilor Carmichael Dominguez’s proposal (“Santa Fe mulls proposal to halt ballot initiative finance reports,” Oct.13) to remove a campaign disclosure requirement to avoid lawsuits challenging that requirement is illogical and undermines our power as voters.

A crucial power we, the people, still retain is the power to vote. Transparency is key to an informed vote. In today’s post-Citizens United era, one in which unlimited campaign donations and spending have been allowed, we need transparency more than ever. Whether one agreed with the soda tax or not, the knowledge that each side was funded by millions of dollars from outside interests (Michael Bloomberg of New York on the pro side and global soda companies on the anti side) helped one understand where the ads and biases were coming from, thereby informing one’s vote.

If Dominguez truly and solely wants to prevent such lawsuits, I invite him to support the effort toward passing a 28th constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United — the 2010 Supreme Court decision that wrongly declared that money is speech and corporations are people.

In this context, billionaire donors (like Mr. Bloomberg), multinational corporations (like soda companies), unions and super-PACs argue they should be allowed unlimited influence since money is deemed a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Furthermore, corporations demand First Amendment rights — a constitutional right our Founding Fathers intended for persons, not business constructs — because they have been deemed persons. Such outsized influence drowns out the voice of the vast majority of U.S. citizens. An effort to overturn Citizens United and return power to all the people of the United States is what is needed.

There is a grass-roots, nonpartisan effort underway to overturn Citizens United, but it will require time and effort. Nineteen states (including New Mexico) have passed legislation indicating support of a 28th Amendment, so real progress is being made.

In the meantime, however, we need transparency to know who is buying our officials and influencing our elections. The right to free speech is paramount, but it is not by definition a right to anonymity of speech. Voters have a right to know not only how much is being donated and spent, but who is donating. In accordance with the wishes of a majority of voters, this year the New Mexico Legislature passed legislation to increase transparency of campaign donations, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the legislation.

New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (www.nmmop.org) is a grassroots nonpartisan organization dedicated to getting big money out of politics and increasing transparency while also protecting the power of the vote.

We are allied with a grassroots nonpartisan national organization, American Promise (AmericanPromise.net), working to pass a 28th Amendment to return power to all the people of the U.S., thus not limiting power to a minority with vast amounts of money used to influence politicians and elections. Please join in this effort.

Originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican,’My View’, Oct 21, 2017 http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/city-needs-more-not-less-transparency/article_29fde72b-14b9-5fd9-b88f-4ebf6dc7d02a.html