SANTA FE – Republican Rep. Steve Pearce and New Mexico’s top election official are moving to settle a dispute about access to a stockpile of campaign cash that Pearce raised while in Congress and sought to use in his run for governor.
Under the proposed agreement filed last week, the state would allow candidates to use donations collected while in federal office for state office runs, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported . The contributions cannot be larger than what it is allowable under New Mexico law, and they must have been reported to the Federal Election Commission.
“Those conditions were included to prevent future federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico’s campaign finance laws,” said Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
Pearce had filed the lawsuit after Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, instructed him that only $11,000 of the more than $900,000 in campaign cash could be transferred. Oliver cited a state law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election.
Pearce’s lawyers claimed Oliver misinterpreted state law, effectively violating Pearce’s right to free speech. They argued the funds should be treated the same as state candidates’ contributions that roll from one election cycle to the next.
A federal judge sided with Pearce last year, placing a preliminary injunction on the state from enforcing limitations on campaign transfers.
Pearce was given access to the campaign funds while litigation continued.