Lawmakers Should Act on Ethics and Campaign Reforms
- Heather Ferguson & Viki Harrison
In the wake of the guilty plea of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran to embezzling campaign contributions and intensive media coverage of discrepancies in legislators’ and lobbyists’ campaign finance reports, Common Cause New Mexico is calling upon the legislature to fix the campaign reporting system and create an independent ethics commission to prevent further scandals.
“It’s an old refrain for us, but one worth repeating, now more than ever,” said Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. “There are only two paths forward – more scandals, more plea bargains, more bad report cards and further erosion of public confidence OR enforcement of the law and passage of real reform that sheds light on campaigns and prevents corruption in the first place.”
In a letter to legislative leaders, Harrison and Heather Ferguson, Common Cause Campaign Manager and the director of the New Mexico Pledge Campaign, which has more than 6,000 supporters through online signers and social media in support of common sense solutions to reduce the influence of money on politics, offered to open their library of “solutions” they have discovered through studies of NM PACs, lobbyists and campaigns over the past four years. “I wish we’d had some these solutions in place several years ago,” Harrison said.
Among the recommendations:
- Regular audits of campaign finance reports, the use of fines and other enforcement mechanisms for both lobbyists and candidates in violation
- Improvements on the Secretary of State’s web site to allow cross checking of contributions to candidates, expenditures and donations from lobbyists and PACs
- An independent, non-partisan ethics commission with enough funding to educate public officials, investigate conflicts of interest and other problems, and recommend sanctions
- Disclosure of who is paying for advertisements sponsored by independent groups
- Enforcement of the ban on co-ordination between independent PACs and candidates’ campaigns
- More specific reporting requirements for lobbyist including disclosure of what bills the lobbyist is spending money on and to whom it is being given
- Limitations on lobbyists as fundraisers and donors to campaigns
- Limitations on former legislators and relatives of legislators acting as lobbyists
The material Common Cause has assembled is posted on its new solutions webpage. The site includes a compendium of recent articles and editorials from around the state on these issues, polling data, and links to studies that Common Cause has done in the past.
Harrison hopes it can provide a baseline for action – by the public as well as legislators. “These issues are not new,” Harrison said in her letter to legislators, “and they are not going away. The time for action is now.”
Harrison cited the group’s efforts to require more transparent and accurate lobbyist reports last year, an effort that she said was only partially successful.
Discrepancies in the reporting of campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interests were the subject of a recent media report, which spurred those legislators targeted to call for reform.
“Without some needed reforms, we are afraid that the appearance of wrongdoing will persist,” she said.
For more information on ethics, transparency and campaign reform, please contact Viki Harrison or Heather Ferguson.
Common Cause New Mexico is the convener of the New Mexican Pledge campaign (newmexicopledge.org), which incorporates businesses and ordinary New Mexicans feeling the personal impact of the current system.