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You can only follow the money if you can see it

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By Sherry Robinson

If you’re trying to buy an election or throw an election, you’re in high clover. If you’re a concerned citizen or a reporter trying to find out who is buying elections, you’re in the weeds.
That was just one thought I had last week, sitting in a roomful of New Mexico journalists at a seminar titled, appropriately, “Follow The Money.”
Campaign finance is now so murky that it took a day for two smart people from the National Institute on Money in State Politics just to show us the websites we can use to tease out campaign donations. Seminar organizers were the Society of Professional Journalists and New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
Even with these tools, the big numbers and their donors still can’t be identified.
The Citizens United case in 2010 spawned a raft of organizations with lofty names that can accept donations in any amount without revealing the donor, as long as they abide by a few flimsy rules.
You have the familiar 501(c)3, which is most nonprofits. The 501(c)4 is a social welfare organization that supposedly promotes the common good for a community.
The 501(c)5 is a labor organization operating for the betterment of working conditions. The 501(c)6 is a business group, like the chamber of commerce.


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