The online news source New Mexico In Depth (NMID) has started a campaign called “Follow the Message.” The campaign’s purpose is to track election-related mail to better inform voters about campaign tactics and the source of their funding.
The Follow the Message campaign acquires the information by having citizens submit actual materials to the NMID website.
Sandra Fish is NMID’s data journalist. She said election campaigns for candidates are required to report their spending and funding to the state, but New Mexico does not require campaign contribution groups to report.
“The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed individuals and organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent expenditures in campaigns where they don’t coordinate with candidates,” Fish said.
As a result of the decision, Fish said, it is hard tracking the money that contributors spend on these election groups, and that public knowledge of these actions is lacking.
According to NMID, it is able to track down information about the groups paying for campaign messages by researching the messages themselves.
Eric Tyson, an investor from Cerrillos, NM has contributed some direct mail pieces to the Follow the Message project. The mail was delivered during the primary election earlier this year.
He said campaign mail has a large impact on some political races and often it comes from outside groups sending negative messages about candidates they oppose.
“Political information is vital to our democracy,” Tyson said. “NM In Depth is making a better democracy and a more informed citizenry by reporting on political messaging in state and local races.”
According to NMID, it is especially looking for campaign mail from competitive races due to their high level of activity and more intense distribution of campaign messages.
So far the campaign has received over 40 messages. The submissions can be viewed at the Follow the Message webpage.
Fish said NMID welcomes all kinds of campaign messages, not just mail. This could include campaign mail photos (front and back), campaign robo-call recordings, and tips on current TV and radio advertisements.
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