Common Cause New Mexico Archives
The Ball Drops
Governor Richardson recently announced that he would withdraw his name from consideration as Secretary of Commerce due to concerns that a federal investigation into the connection between campaign contributions and state contracts would disrupt the confirmation process. In this regard, it's worth noting that if New Mexico had campaign contribution limits and/or publicly financed campaigns for executive offices such as governor, our state wouldn't be facing this enormous mess. During the upcoming legislative session, Common Cause New Mexico will push harder than ever for these and related ethics reforms that should have been enacted years ago.
Election Process Works Fairly Well In NM
The New Mexico election protection coaltion fielded voter queries and comments throughout the day, both from callers to the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline and to our volunteers out in the field. In general, the election process went well in New Mexico. We've had some complaints of voting equipment breakdowns, but in general county election officials responded rapidly to replace these malfunctioning machines. At two precincts in Bernalillo County, we had reports earlier in the day of poll workers making illegal requests for ID from all voters, but the county clerk's office quickly issued directives to election officials to cease these improper requests. We heard reports from Chavez County of voters receiving calls indicating that Election Day is actually November 8. We're still looking into these allegations. One polling place ran out of paper ballots in Santa Fe County, and poll officials xeroxed copies of the ballot for voters, which will have to be handcounted. Finally, contrary to a Dona Ana County Clerk's Office press release from Monday, substantially more absentee ballots were outstanding in the County on Election Day than was previously asserted. There was widespread concern about absentee ballots in Dona Ana County since it was learned that the county clerk's office failed to comply with a New Mexico law requiring a 24-hour turnaround on dispersal of such ballots. Almost 4,000 ballots haven't been returned, meaning some voters in that County will not have their votes counted. Heath Haussamen has the story here.
Questioning the Accuracy of Voter Misconduct Claims
After carefully examining the evidence, Common Cause New Mexico has concluded that recent assertions regarding “undeniable proof that there was voter fraud in the June election” are simply inaccurate. Contrary to the claims of a Republican spokesperson, the registration forms that the party released to the media on October 16 do not constitute clear evidence of “voter fraud in the 2008 primary in Albuquerque." (“NM GOP Finds 28 Suspect Voters”, Santa Fe New Mexican, October 17, 2008). The New Mexico Independent covers the story here.
Count Every Vote New Mexico
In collaboration with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NALEO, the All Indian Pueblo Council and numerous other groups, Common Cause New Mexico has launched Count Every Vote New Mexico, a nonpartisan, state-based program designed to ensure that voters' rights are protected. We're educating voters about crucial election information as well as recruiting attorneys, laws students and other volunteers to operate in rapid response teams dispersed throughout the state on Election Day. Most importantly, we're promoting the Lawyers' Committee's English-language voter information hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, and NALEO's Spanish-language hotline, 888-VE-Y-VOTA, which will connect into our operations here in New Mexico. If you're interested in participating, call (505) 323-6399.
Good for Your Health?
An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican discusses Common Cause New Mexico's recent report on the healthy care industry. The report, which you can read here, analyzes the substantial influence this industry has over the policy-making process with regard to health care. As we continue our push to expand public campaign financing in New Mexico, we need to emphasize the role of large campaign contributions from private industries in shaping debates over important public policies. Read the full story here.
Noel Withdraws Name As Elections Head
With just two months before the general election, Jim Noel has sent a letter to the Secretary of State Mary Herrera turning down the job as New Mexico's elections director. This follows blistering complaints from New Mexico Republicans that Noel's relationship to Tom Udall, a candidate for U.S. Senate, creates an intolerable conflict of interest. The Albuquerque Journal has the story here.
(Click on "trial premium pass" and watch a brief ad to view article.) The New Mexico Independent has the story here.
Scope Broadens in Metro Court Case
Scott Sandlin of the Albuquerque Journal reports that the judge in the Metro Courthouse case has broadened the scope of the trial to include evidence about other public construction projects, including the district courthouse and the Metropolitan Detention Center. Federal prosecutors have charged former Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon and four others with siphoning off over $4 million from public funds for the construction of Albuquerque's Metropolitan Courthouse. The case already includes allegations of related fraud in connection with the state Department of Transportation headquarters in Santa Fe. Read the full article here. (Click on "trial access pass" to read the story.)
State Elections Adminstrator Resigns
On the cusp of what is expected to be the most hectic New Mexico election season in decades, the state's elections administrator, Daniel Miera, has resigned his post. This follows the resignation of the state's Bureau of Elections director, Daniel Ivey-Soto, a few months ago. This means New Mexico's Bureau of Elections is missing its two top officials just a few months before November's general election. Barry Massey has the full story here.
The Associated Press' Barry Massey has done a superb job covering the strange circumstances surrounding the Democratic primary race for state senate district 30. Because only a handful of votes separate the winner, incumbent David Ulibarri, from the supposed loser, Clemente Sanchez, a recount has been ordered. Unfortunately, dozens of ballots from two separate Cibola County precincts have gone missing--enough to alter the results of the race. Common Cause has learned that the Attorney General's office is weighing whether to look into this mystery. We encourage them to do so. Having a recount without having access to all the ballots cast doesn't seem particularly useful. Here is Massey's story on the missing ballots. Here is his story about the Secretary of State's decision to revise the requirements for doing the recount.
UPDATE: Here is Massey's latest story, detailing the recount, which was done without any official public inquiry into the missing ballots.
UPDATE 2: The Attorney General has announced an investigation into the missing ballots.
A New Day for Ethics Reform
There's good reason to believe that the results of the recent primary election in New Mexico have created a promising new environment for ethics reform in our state. Heath Haussamen gives the details in the New Mexico Independent. Read the full article here. This means Common Cause and its allies has a wonderful new opportunity to push hard for expanding Clean Money elections, implementing campaign contribution limits, creating an indendent ethics commission and other crucial reforms. In the coming months, we'll be implementing an aggressive plan to lay the groundwork for this effort. We'll need your help. Use the contact information below to get involved.
Eye on the Election
Common Cause New Mexico's executive director, Steven Robert Allen, appeared on KOB-TV Channel 4's "Eye on New Mexico" program this weekend to discuss issues and concerns surrounding Tuesday's primary election in New Mexico and the general election in November. Allen is joined by Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The show aired at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 1.
Where's the Money?
With New Mexico's June 3 primary just a few days away, we're getting new insights into why elections have so often gone awry in our state. The New Mexico Independent reports that an audit of the Secretary of State's office has revealed some shoddy accounting practices under former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, New Mexico was given millions of dollars in federal money to improve the way elections are administered in the state. The new audit indicates that much of that money hasn't been accounted for. Read the article here. The Albuquerque Journal gives its take here.
In a related story, Kate Nash of the Santa Fe New Mexican writes that the public still doesn't have easy access to campaign finance reports at the Secretary of State's website. That article is here.
Dialing for Dollars
In an article posted on Wednesday, May 28, at Clearly New Mexico, former Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Matt Brix points out that presidential candidates have been dancing around the issue of whether or not they will use public financing for their post-primary campaigns. This is happening despite the fact that McCain, Obama and Clinton all supposedly support public campaign financing for Congressional races.
As it stands, there are some serious problems with the presidential system, but it's a mistake for these candidates to be hypocrites on this issue. In an election year characterized by the hugest glut of private campaign cash in history, there's no better way for presidential candidates to prove a commitment to fair and clean elections than by using the system designed to keep that flood of cash in check.
On May 19 and 20, the Albuquerque Journal printed a pair of stories outlining the latest ethics debacle at the New Mexico Legislature, this time involving state senators who worked for an artificial turf company that acquired lucrative contracts with the state. The stories are available here and here. (Click on "trial access pass" and watch a brief commercial to read the articles.) Today, the Journal printed an excellent editorial on why we need an independent state ethics commission to combat this sort of highly questionable activity. It's also worth noting that these scenarios are a common symptom of so-called citizen legislatures. If we don't pay our elected officials a full salary, they're forced to get work elsewhere. The odds of that outside work creating troubling conflicts of interest is much too high. We need to consider paying our legislators to avoid this problem.
News You Should Use
The New Mexico Independent has a pair of intriguing stories by Barbara Armijo on disgraced architect Marc Schiff (see 5.06.08 and 5.09.08 posts below). Read them here and here. It looks as if Schiff has some troubling links to the construction of Albuquerque's future firefighter academy.
Also, an audit of expenses at the NM Secretary of State's office is raising some eyebrows.
Yet money still hasn't been spent to upgrade the SoS's rickety campaign finance reporting system.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Eileen Welsome has a very interesting article at Clearly New Mexico about the close relationship between Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and Marc Schiff, the architect who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges in the Metro Courthouse scandal (see previous posts below). Welsome also digs into Schiff's role designing Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta Park and Museum. Read the full article here.
Housing Authority Scandal
Haussamen offers an examination of why so little progress has been made on the investigation into the disintegration of the state's affordable housing system in 2006. The answer? The case is extremely complicated, and it seems much of the documentary evidence was either destroyed or removed. We're waiting on the Attorney General's office to find a way to move this thing forward.
Revisiting Metro Court
This morning's Albuquerque Journal has a pair of stories offering updates on the long-delayed Metro Courthouse case, which is now scheduled to go to trial in September. Here's the first article, examining the hiring of architect Marc Schiff. The second article takes a look at how valuable marble from the project ended up in a home owned by former Senate President Manny Aragon. (You'll need to click on "trial access pass" to read these articles.)
Common Cause New Mexico's southern branch held its annual luncheon on April 24. Michael Martin, the president of NMSU, was the keynote speaker.
Universal Voting Rights
As we gear up for a busy election year, Adam Cohen writes in the New York Times that the federal government needs to step in to prevent individual states from suppressing voting rights. Here's the editorial.
Over at Clearly New Mexico, Eli Il Yong Lee just posted his thoughts on the dire need for an independent ethics commission here in New Mexico. The key word? Independent. Here's the link.
Are We Ready?
Trip Jennings has an interesting article today in the newly launched online newspaper, the New Mexico Independent. Jennings article provides a glimpse into New Mexico's preparedness for the looming June 3 primary election. Read the entire article here.
Barrey Massey has a related story in the Santa Fe New Mexican about County Clerks' concerns that they might not have the support they need to run a successful election. Here's the article.
Only in New Mexico
Yesterday, Jim Baca put up a clip of Common Cause president Bob Edgar on his blog. Edgar was in New Mexico earlier this week to drum up support for Common Cause's ethics reform initiatives. Here's a link to Baca's clip.
In a single sentence at the very bottom of yesterday's post, local blogger Joe Monahan announced that UNM student David Odegard is the winner of Monahan's ethics contest. Monahan announced the contest in February, saying he would give $500 to the college undergraduate who came up with the best lobbying/PR plan to pass campaign contribution limits in New Mexico. Rules required that the plan be 950 words or less. Congratulations to Odegard on winning the contest. Monahan hasn't actually posted the winning entry yet but he says he'll put up "pics of the presentation" by the end of the week. No word yet on who won the $150 second place prize.
Great News in Congress
Last night at 10:30 p.m., following a bruising debate, the U.S House of Representatives voted 229 to 182 to adopt a resolution creating an independent Office of Congressional Ethics. This vote followed a massive Common Cause effort involving both grassroots organizing and good old-fashioned legislative lobbying. It's a major step forward for the country and should serve as a useful model for Common Cause New Mexico as it seeks to create an independent ethics commission in our state. Here is the Common Cause press release.
Clean Elections in Santa Fe
Here are the unofficial totals from last night's election in Santa Fe. Charter Amendment 4, requiring the Santa Fe City Council to pass "meaningful" public campaign financing for the city, passed easily with 61.4 percent of the vote. Julie Ann Grimm has a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican about the public campaign financing and ranked-choice voting amendments. Read it here. And here is Dan Boyd's take on the charter amendments in the Journal North. (You have to click on "trial premium pass" and watch a brief ad to read this article.)
The challenge from this point forward is to make sure the Santa Fe City Council adopts a full public campaign financing system like the one currently used in Albuquerque and Portland, not a partial measure along the lines of Tucson's system. This is crucial because by retaining large sums of special-interest money in elections, the Tucson model fails to adequately address the problems that public campaign financing is designed to fix. Common Cause New Mexico will advocate strongly for a model that takes special-interest money out of Santa Fe elections entirely, freeing candidates to represent all their constituents equally, not merely a handful of influential campaign contributors.
For now, though, we should simply celebrate. Santa Fe voters have shown they have the vision to move their city forward, joining a tiny handful of cities in limiting the destructive influence of private money in campaigns.
Victory in Santa Fe
Two and a half hours after polls closed, KSFR 101.1 FM is projecting that Charter Amendment 4 will pass by a wide margin. The Santa Fe New Mexican also projects that it will pass. This amendment will require the Santa Fe City Council to create a public campaign financing system for all races within the city. Congratulations to Common Cause activists and supporters who worked hard to pass this important reform. In the coming weeks and months, we need to stay engaged to make sure that the city council creates a full system of public campaign financing with safeguards in place to address privately funded candidates who attempt to outspend their publicly financed opponents. If you're a Santa Fe resident and wish to get involved in this effort, call Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen at (505) 610-4790.
Eye on Ethics
Common Cause's executive director Steven Robert Allen will appear on KOB-TV Channel 4's "Eye on New Mexico" this Sunday, March 2, at 10 a.m. to discuss why ethics reform didn't get accomplished during the 2008 legislative session. Co-hosts Dennis Domrzalski and Nicole Brady led an energetic discussion with Allen and Senator Joe Carraro.
Allen will also be on Santa Fe's public radio station, KSFR 101.1 FM, this Saturday, March 1, at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the public campaign financing measure appearing on the city ballot on Tuesday, March 4.
Monahan Announces Ethics Contest
A couple weeks ago, local political blogger Joe Monahan claimed that anonymous sources (what he calls "alligators") had told him ethics advocacy groups like Common Cause were responsible for the lack of progress on ethics reform in New Mexico. These alligators seemed to shift the blame away from the legislators who actually blocked or stalled ethics bills during the recently concluded legislative session.
Criticism of this peculiar logic was widespread in the New Mexico blogsphere, with many bloggers focusing on Monahan's regular use of anonymous sources. He was asked recently about the negative reaction on a local radio show. You can listen to his comments here (scroll down).
To show his heart is in the right place, Monahan announced on Monday that he's organizing an ethics reform essay contest. He says he will award $500 to the college undergraduate who comes up with the best plan for passing a campaign contribution limits bill during the next session. Contest details are available on his blog.
So far, the contest has been met with skepticism among fellow bloggers--see this post at M-pyre and this one at Democracy for New Mexico. Regardless, ethics advocates look forward to reading the winning entry, which will be announced by March 30.
More on Santa Fe Clean Elections
In today's New Mexican, Julie Ann Grimm has an excellent story discussing the success of Albuquerque's public campaign financing system in the context of an initiative that will appear on the ballot in Santa Fe on March 4 that would create a similar system for municipal races in Santa Fe. Here's a link to the full article.
In another recent article in the New Mexican, Steve Terrell suggests that Common Cause and other supporters of public campaign financing should stop wasting money on helping constituents contact their legislators. Instead, Terrell advises, in the interests of getting this bill passed, we should do as the corporate lobbyists do and just shell out for a nice dinner for senators and representatives. (We're pretty sure he was being facetious.)
Haussamen just posted an article that says New Mexico voters will have to force our state's politicians to take ethics reform more seriously. Here's the link.
Santa Fe Clean Elections
Today's Santa Fe New Mexican has a very good article by Julie Ann Grimm on the charter amendments appearing on the municipal ballot in Santa Fe on March 4, including a measure that would create a public campaign financing system for all citywide offices. Read the full article here.
End of the Line ... For Now
The session ended at noon yesterday with our state legislature failing to enact any serious ethics reform legislation. Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican sums up the situation here. Although Common Cause members and supporters didn't get the reforms we wanted, we did raise awareness about the importance of these issues. Thanks to everyone who participated in this effort. As most of you already know, this is a long-term project. Between now and the next session, we need to build the reform movement even further. Over the next few weeks, we'll urge legislators who haven't signed our Voters First Pledge to do so. We'll also shift most of our energy to promoting a measure appearing on the ballot in Santa Fe on March 4. Charter Amendment 4 would create a public campaign financing system for municipal races. Although legislators buried a bill that would have cut special-interest money out of statewide elections, Santa Fe voters will have a chance to adopt this important reform for citywide races in a few short weeks.
HB 309 would create an independent state commission with subpoena power to investigate allegations of unethical behavior by public officials. The bill passed the House floor yesterday and has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, where it will probably die. We're told the committee has no plans to hear it today, and the legislative session ends at noon tomorrow.
On the Record
Clearly New Mexico just posted a video montage collecting legislators' thoughts on the public financing of campaigns. Here's the clip (click on "video link"). The bill in question, HB564, was tabled in the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week.
On the Floor
The House state ethics commission bill, HB309, passed the House floor this morning and now goes to the Senate. Senator Beffort's state ethics commission bill, SB437, was substituted in the Senate Rules Committee and now is simply a whistleblower protection bill. It passed the Senate floor this morning as well. Despite its narrow scope, it's a good piece of legislation, and we're hopeful for its prospects in the House. The campaign contribution limits bill, SB387, was scheduled for the Senate floor today but was skipped for some reason. It might be up later in the day.
The Senate also considered SB45 today. This memorial makes Senate proceedings available via the Internet. After a lengthy debate, it passed 27-13. There seems to be no movement in the House to pass something similar despite the fact that money has already been allocated for this purpose.
There's been some small developments with two of the main ethics bills. Representative Garcia's ethics commission bill, HB309, finally passed out of the House Appropriations Committee this afternoon after lengthy debates and some minor amendments. Senator Sanchez' campaign contribution limits bill, SB387, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. We're hoping it will be scheduled for the floor tonight or tomorrow. The other major ethics bill, HB564, which would expand public campaign financing to statewide executive races, has been tabled in the House Appropriations Committee. It will take a large and rapid push for any of these bills to have a chance of passing both chambers before the session ends Thursday.
Too Much Reform?
Common Cause New Mexico's role in advocating for ethics reform has been the subject of quite a bit of online debate today. Joe Monahan started it off this morning by claiming that Common Cause and other ethics reform advocates are at fault for the slow movement of ethics reform legislation this session because we asked for too much reform too quickly. M-pyre, Democracy for New Mexico and Clearly New Mexico respond here, here and here, respectively.
Ethics Commission Bill Finally Moves
HB309, which would create an independent state ethics commission, finally moved out of its first committee yesterday, after two long debates regarding due process protections for those accused of ethics violations and various grammatical technicalities in the bill's language. It now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. The legislative website hadn't updated this information as of noon Saturday.
The domestic partnership bill, HB9, was tabled today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which then promptly adjourned. This means Senator Sanchez' campaign contribution caps bill, SB387, remains in limbo.
The big story is that there is no story. So far this legislative session there's been precious little evidence of the political will necessary to implement much-needed ethics reform. Haussamen has the best analysis here.
We're still waiting on movement for HB564 (public campaign financing), SB387 (campaign contribution limits) and HB309 (state ethics commission). Sadly, we're running out of time. The session ends next Thursday at noon.
UPDATE: The public campaign financing bill, HB564, got tabled in the House Appropriations Committee this evening. A problem has arisen because there isn't a specific appropriation for it in the House budget bill, HB2.
A Joke on Us
An article in this morning's Albuquerque Journal correctly describes Tuesday's Democratic "caucus" as an embarrassment, one in a long string of electoral embarrassments for New Mexico. Click here for the full article. The Santa Fe New Mexican follows the story here. Haussamen reports on NM Democratic Party Chair Brian Colon's apology for the chaos here.
The election was run entirely by the state Democratic Party, which must shoulder most of the blame. Bad weather and an exceptionally large turnout were factors, of course, but party organizers should have been prepared for the worst, especially considering New Mexico's long history of incompetent election management. It's a testament to New Mexico voters that so many turned out despite this troubled history.
One of the biggest downsides of all this is that an announcement of the results is still days away, meaning the media will be focused almost exclusively on the election. The legislative session, which ends next Thursday, is coming down to the wire, with several important bills, including public campaign financing bill HB564, still hanging in the balance. Call House Speaker Ben Lujan, who has co-sponsored this reform, at (505) 986-455-3354 and let him know how important it is that this bill be brought to a vote on the House floor as soon as possible.
Democracy, New Mexico-style
A mere 117 votes separates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a state Democratic presidential causus that might not be decided for days. (Every single other Super Tuesday state has already declared the results of its primary or caucus.) In addition to the delay, several irregularities have been reported. Long lines. Insufficient ballots. Missing ballot boxes. Here's one take from Haussamen. Here's another from Terrell. And another from Nash. And another from Monahan.
In legislative session news, state ethics commission bill HB309 is still stuck in the House Judiciary Committee, although Committee Chair Al Park says it should move out quickly on Friday. Public campaign financing bill HB564 never got discussed at all. We're told it should be on the House Appropriations Committee schedule tomorrow afternoon. The campaign contribution limits bill, SB387, didn't get addressed either because the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting was cancelled. It's been slow going for all these ethics reform bills, but we're still hoping to see some movement in the next couple days.
On the Radio
Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen discusses an updated report on the health care industry's contributions to New Mexico political campaigns with KUNM 89.9 FM's Jim Williams.
Senator Michael Sanchez' campaign contribution limits bill made it through the Senate Rules Committee yesterday after being improved by an amendment. It's still not a great bill--the caps are absurdly high--but at least now political committees are clearly capped, not just individuals. It now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Click here for a link to the bill.
In other news, we've learned that tomorrow afternoon the public campaign financing bill (HB564) will be heard before the House Appropriations Committee and two state ethics commission bills (HB309 and HB344) will be head before the House Judiciary Committee. Of course, this schedule could change at a moment's notice.
Lack of Trust
Steve Terrell has an interesting story on a study from the Ethics Resource Center that indicates high levels of pessimism regarding ethics in government--and the study is based on surveys of government employees themselves. We're not alone, New Mexico.
Also, Haussamen has an update on the lack of progress on ethics reform during the 2008 legislative session. Thankfully, there's a little bit of good news. It looks like the public campaign financing bill, HB564, has cleared the Voters and Elections Committee and will move on to the Appropriations Committee.
Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen will be on Arcie Chapa's call-in show to discuss the prospects for ethics reform during the 2008 legislative session. The show airs Thursday, January 31, from 8 to 9 a.m. on KUNM 89.9 FM.
Allen will also appear on KNME-TV Channel 5's current affairs show "New Mexico in Focus" to talk about the various legislative ethics proposals with co-host David Alire Garcia, Representative Dan Foley and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. The program airs Friday, February 1, at from 7 to 8 p.m.
We Have a Bill!
Rep. Gail Chasey introduced HB564 yesterday to expand public campaign financing to statewide offices such as Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. Here's a link to the bill. It currently resides in the Voters and Elections Committee. Here's a list of that committee's members. If you see your representative on this list, please call them to let them know how important it is that they support this bill. You can find your representative's contact information by clicking here.
Rep. Gail Chasey
New Mexico blogs have been wonderful about highlighting Common Cause's efforts to push this issue. Democracy for New Mexico has a post today about our Voters First Pledge. The Santa Fe New Mexican's Steve Terrell talked about the pledge on his legislative blog a couple days ago.
Haussamen mentions the newly introduced public campaign financing bill here.
Also take a look at a puzzling editorial by David Roybal running in today's Albuquerque Journal, in which Mr. Roybal begins by saying he's sceptical of public campaign financing then makes a series of arguments that point to why it's such a good idea. (Click on Trial Access Pass to read full article.)
In a KUNM 89.9 FM interview, Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen explains how public campaign financing would cut special-interest money out of large statewide elections in New Mexico.
And on his blog today, Haussamen highlighted Common Cause New Mexico's Voters First Pledge, our request of New Mexico legislators to openly support public campaign financing. “It will be interesting to see who signs this," he writes. "It’s further evidence that lawmakers will have a difficult time ignoring ethics reform during the current session.” Click here for the complete article.
Haussamen's latest entry in his online ethics reform coverage outlines the differences between Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez' two campaign contribution caps proposals, SB264 and SB387.
Ethics Reform Can't Be Ignored
Haussamen just posted a blog suggesting that plans by state legislators to avoid addressing ethics reform during the one-month legislative session aren't working.
The Guv and This Morning's Press
Gilbert Gallegos, Governor Richardson's spokesperson, released the following statement late Wednesday: "Governor Richardson supports public financing of campaigns and still plans to put the issue on the agenda for the session--as soon as today." Today means yesterday. We've learned through the rumor mill that the announcement will probably come today or tomorrow. There are also two major stories on ethics reform in today's papers. Click here for Steve Terrell's New Mexican article. Click here for Tripp Jenning's report in the Albuquerque Journal.
Disappointing News on Ethics Reform
We finally got some ethics bills introduced this week. HB309, sponsored by Mary Helen Garcia, would create an independent state ethics commission. SB264, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, would finally create campaign contribution caps in New Mexico.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Not really. SB264 seems to be a very weak bill. It takes out language from drafts of similar bills that clarify that political committees and other entities, in addition to individuals, will be subject to the limits. Even worse, a public campaign financing bill, the most important recommendation of Governor Richardson's Ethics Reform Task Force hasn't been introduced at all.
The clock is ticking. Next week is the deadline to introduce bills during the session. Use this link to find out your legislators' contact information. Give them a call and tell them you want real ethics reform in 2008!
UPDATE: Late this afternoon, the outlook on the main ethics reform bills looks slightly brighter. Haussamen, as usual, has a fine update on his blog. The best news is that Speaker Lujan is still considering sponsoring a Clean Elections bill. Some vocal support from Governor Richardson on this issue would be extremely helpful right about now.
Can We Get Some Action, Please?
In a blog posted Friday, Heath Haussamen offers a smart, in-depth examination of why ethics reform has made zero progress thus far during the 2008 legislative session, despite polls indicating massive public support for it. Read the whole article here.
"Eye on New Mexico" Ethics Debate
Tune in this Sunday, January 20, at 10 a.m. to KOB-TV Channel 4's current events show "Eye on New Mexico." Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen will discuss the crucial ethics reforms being considered during this year's legislative session. In an occasionally heated debate with political blogger Mario Burgos and co-hosts Dennis Domrzalski and Nicole Brady, Allen argues strongly for the need to pass bills to create:
1) voluntary public campaign financing for statewide executive offices such as governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer;
2) campaign contribution limits (New Mexico is one of only a handful of states with no such limits); and
3) an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints against public officials.
These bills are the major recommendations of the 2007 Ethics Reform Task Force, a bipartisan group charged with designing new ethics policies in the wake of a series of governmental corruption scandals and allegations in New Mexico. If you can't view the program live, you can watch, download or subscribe to podcasts of all "Eye on New Mexico" shows at their website.
Governor Supports Public Financing
We still have a chance in 2008 to cut special-interest dollars out of New Mexico elections! We learned earlier today that Governor Richardson has listed appropriations for public campaign financing in the budget he presented to the legislature. Public support for this reform remains very high, but much more pressure is needed. Click here to urge your state legislators to help pass this crucial bill during the 2008 session.
Subcommittee Doesn't Recommend Clean Elections
As the Albuquerque Journal reported this morning (hit the "trial access pass" button to read the article), the Ethics Subcommittee is not recommending that the legislature consider public campaign financing during the 2008 session (which starts today). Click here to urge your state senators and representatives support Clean Elections in New Mexico.
Ethics and the Session
This morning, the Albuquerque Journal printed a guest editorial by Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Steven Robert Allen on the need to pass public campaign financing, and other key ethics reforms, during the 2008 legislative session. The session starts tomorrow. Other important ethics proposals under consideration include creation of an independent state ethics commission and caps on campaign contributions.
New Federal Probe
The Securities and Exchange Commission hearing examining the connections between Guy Riordan and the Treasurer's Office scandal wrapped up yesterday. (See previous three posts on this site for context.) An article in this morning's Albuquerque Journal suggests that federal investigators might launch a new criminal probe into the broker's activities. (Click on "trial premium pass" to read article.)
This morning's Albuquerque Journal has a front-page, above-the-fold story about Guy Riordan's testimony yesterday before the Securities Exchange Commission. Riordan claims federal investigators tracking government corruption in New Mexico were on a witch hunt aimed at Governor Bill Richardson. (Click on "trial premium pass" to read story.)
More on Montoya
Michael Montoya continued his testimony before the Securities Exchange Commission yesterday. See the 12.11.07 entry below for context. The Albuquerque Journal has today's account. (You'll need to click on "trial premium pass" to read these articles.)
Next year, former New Mexico Treasurer Michael Montoya will begin serving a 40-month sentence for his involvement in an elaborate kickback scheme that also brought down his successor, Robert Vigil. In today's Albuquerque Journal, Montoya delivers a powerful argument for why we need an independent bipartisan state ethics commission. (Click on "trial premium pass" to read the story.)
Clean Elections in NM
Yesterday, Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen was interviewed by KUNM reporter John West. The discussion centered on why New Mexico is one of the top three states in the nation with the best potential to pass new public campaign financing legislation in 2008. Listen to the entire interview here.
For purposes of making a public records request, you would think an email would satisfy the state law requirement that such a request be "written." According to an article in today's Albuquerque Journal, however, the Attorney General's Office disagrees. (You'll have to click on "Trial Access Pass" to read the article.)
Stop trying to get corporations to be socially responsible. Stop trying to achieve any particular social objective like global warming or a national healthcare system ... Put all our efforts into a citizen's movement for democracy. That would include the public financing of campaigns and would require any network, any broadcaster using the public airwaves to provide advertising for all candidates.
--Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor
Reich spoke these words of wisdom in a wide-ranging interview centering on the effect of consumerism on democracy. Access the full interview here.
Civic Engagement in the 21st Century
On Thursday evening, December 13, at the Kiva Auditorium in Albuquerque, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court, will deliver a presentation on the role of civic engagement in a healthy democracy. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. O'Connor will also answer questions about her role on the Court and key opinions. Her appearance is sponsored by New Mexico First. Although it's free and open to the public, tickets are required. To reserve yours, visit New Mexico First's website. You can suggest a question for O'Connor by clicking here.
Independence and Ethics
Heath Haussamen posted an excellent entry today on his blog about the need for strong, independent ethics bodies at the state and federal level. Read his full post here. As Haussamen so articulately notes, it's simply not reasonable policy to allow legislators to have exclusive power to investigate ethics charges against their peers. The results of such a set-up are predictable. In New Mexico, no legislative committee considering an ethics complaint has found a violation since 1992.
At the Roundhouse
Members of Governor Richardson's Ethics Reform Task Force will present recommendations before the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, November 20, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Former Common Cause New Mexico Director and current Vice Chair Matt Brix will be among the task force presenters. The meeting will take place in room 307 at the State Capitol in Santa Fe and is open to the public. Common Cause supporters are encouraged to attend. For a full agenda, click here.
More on Murphy
An article in today's Albuquerque Journal (you'll need to click on "trial access pass" to read it) reveals that New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT) officials waited a year and a half to tell the two groups bidding on the DOT headquarters project that they had given the groups' confidential proposals to Michael Murphy to be analysed. Murphy has been in the headlines regularly in recent months after being indicted in the alleged metro court scandal in Albuquerque (see "The Plot Thickens" below). Today's article examines some of the details connecting these two troubling cases in which contractors, engineers and high-profile government officials have been accused of skimming off large sums of money from major government construction projects.
A couple weeks ago, Carter Bundy began running a series on Heath Haussamen's blog about various ethics reforms that need to be considered during the upcoming legislative session. The first installment explained why we should finally start paying our state legislators. The second installment, which was just posted on the blog today, provides an articulate analysis of why we need to change the way we regulate lobbyists in our state. Bundy's series is based on the detailed recommendations of Governor Richardson's Ethics Reform Task Force.
The Plot Thickens
New federal filings tie together two alleged scandals involving construction of a Downtown Albuquerque courthouse and plans to build a new State Transportation Headquarters. The filings also add startling new details to the public record. Two Albuquerque Journal articles, here and here, outline the story. (You'll need to click on "trial premium pass" to read these articles.)
Truth and Transparency
Common Cause New Mexico's executive director Steven Robert Allen will appear on the public access Channel 27 call-in program "We the People" this evening from 6 to 7 p.m. to discuss ethics reforms being considered during the upcoming Legislative Session (Jan. 15-Feb. 14) and the Santa Fe municipal election (March 4). If you don't have cable, you can watch the show on your computer by going to quote-unquote.org and clicking on "Channel 27's Media Stream."
Not Perfect, But ...
An article in this week's Newsweek says public financing of campaigns might not be a cure-all for our troubled electoral system. Still, it's certainly a lot better better than what we've got now. Columnist Anna Quindlen pays special attention to the statewide financing system used by our neighbors in Arizona.
The southern chapter of Common Cause New Mexico has succeeded in convincing the New Mexico State University regents to make their meetings more open and friendly to the public.
An article in the American Prospect says New Mexico is among the top three states in the nation with the best potential to push through new public campaign financing laws in 2008. Common Cause New Mexico will lead the fight to pass these measures during the upcoming legislative session (Jan.-Feb.) and the city election in Santa Fe (March 4). Find out how you can help by calling 323-6399 or emailing sallen[at]commoncause.org.
Excellent article in Santa Fe New Mexican about Bob Edgar's visit
Photo by Alex Burr
Common Cause President Bob Edgar was in Albuquerque on Saturday, Oct. 20, to deliver the keynote speech at our annual luncheon. He really energized the crowd, preparing Common Cause activists for a full slate of ethics reform proposals to be considered by New Mexico legislators in January and Santa Fe voters in March. Click here for an article about Edgar's visit that appeared the day before the luncheon in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The reporter, Steve Terrell, offers a more personal view of his encounter with Edgar on his blog.