4 Investigates: Gov's records differ by $147K; staff acknowledges system flaws
Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
January 12, 2017 07:25 PM
Editor’s Note: This story is the third in a five-part series looking into campaign finances, the problems associated with New Mexico’s current system and solutions for better transparency.
Susana Martinez’s political team is a fine-tuned machine when it comes to fundraising. For her re-election bid in 2014, her campaign raised $5.5 million to defeat challenger Gary King. Martinez was able to convince private donors from every corner of the state to contribute, as well as political action committees and lobbyists representing various interest groups. This is how candidates win campaigns.
State law requires candidates to report which lobbyists and PACs have made contributions. On the flip side, lobbyists and PACs are required to report which candidates they are reporting to. In a perfect system, the numbers should align with each other. But through data collected from the NM Secretary of State’s Office, and an exhaustive review of the records by the 4 Investigates Team, KOB has found that Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign records do not match up with what lobbyists and PACs have reported to the tune of $147,081.
WHY DON'T NUMBERS MATCH?
In politics, the world is defined by winners and losers; us versus them. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that someone did something nefarious. It’s how we’ve all been trained to react when money is missing. But, in this case, as an investigative unit, we can’t immediately jump to that conclusion, and here’s why.
The software used by the NM Secretary of State Office to keep track of campaign finances does not cross-check numbers, does not ensure a campaign’s math is accurate and does not red flag any potential problems. Additionally, the smallest clerical errors could confuse anyone trying to cross reference numbers.
For example, the Secretary of State’s system allows lobbyists and PACs to report contributions to Susana, Susan, Suzanna, Susanna, even Susie Martinez. The different versions of the governor’s name would trip up any software trying to match up numbers to the correct spelling -- Susana Martinez.
Also, a lobbyist could report he sent a check to Susana Martinez’s campaign, but the money actually went to one of her several political committees. The 4 Investigates Team verified this did happen in some cases. Politicians often speak at or host fundraisers for political action committees; a donor may assume his contribution is going to an official campaign and report it as such, when it in fact, it’s deposited into a PAC account. That would misalign the numbers.
WHAT DOES GOV.'S CAMPAIGN SAY?
We invited the governor’s 2014 campaign manager, Missi Sousa, to look at our findings. After our exhaustive research, we provided her all of our data and gave her time to do her own independent research.
“We want to get it right,” Sousa said. “The governor is committed to transparency and we are proud of our strong compliance operations.”
Sousa explained the 2014 campaign used a team of attorneys and accountants to ensure all of the filings to the Secretary of State were accurate. She pointed us to their private database that contained answers to each discrepancy we pointed out. Sousa believes her campaign finance tracking software was able to account for every missing dollar we flagged. However, she acknowledged that 4 Investigates could never independently verify that by using the Secretary of State’s public system.
In Part 4 of this series, the 4 Investigates Team looks for solutions to the problems we raised. We talk to the Acting Secretary of State and people experienced with public data and explain how there are other systems that would increase transparency and cut down on clerical errors. Part 4 airs Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on KOB.
Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Updated: January 12, 2017 07:25 PM
Created: November 17, 2015 09:42 PM
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