Pledge targets influence of money in politics

To the Editor:

This was the dark money election.

Elections are supposed to be the way voters hold elected officials accountable to the will of the people, not to the will of the people with the most money.

Nationally, political candidates and their allies spent some $4 billion on campaigns. Here in New Mexico, only 65 percent of spending reports have been tallied so far and the cost of elections in the state has already topped $32 million.

All of this money has a devastating impact on Americans generally and New Mexicans in particular.

Once a longtime leader in job growth New Mexico is now ranked dead last nationally. At the same time, the income gap between the state’s wealthiest residents and middle and lower classes has widen to an unprecedented level, and the number of New Mexicans on food stamps has surged to 400,000. It’s no secret that New Mexico needs to jumpstart economic growth and create many more high-quality jobs.

But currently our state government isn’t designed to work toward solutions on these pressing problems. Our broken system keeps elected officials focused elsewhere. They are increasingly attentive to the tiny group of individuals and corporations funding their campaigns. Meanwhile, the needs of the rest of us – the local mechanic, teacher and small business owner – go unaddressed.

This status quo is unacceptable. Government should work for all New Mexicans, not just the people financing elections. The New Mexico Pledge can help us get there, and solutions are in sight.

The movement is already achieving real policy and political wins around the country, and the New Mexico Pledge campaign is a golden opportunity for New Mexico to lead the movement to another win in 2015.

The New Mexico Pledge is based on three fundamental principles we all believe in. First, we deserve to know who is influencing our elections and government. Second, a robust democracy encourages broad participation and ensures we all have a voice in government decisions. And third, public officials must be held accountable when they break the public trust. By renewing our commitment to these shared values, we can ensure that a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people endures in the 21st Century.

We can achieve this democratic vision. Community leaders in our state have laid solid groundwork over the past two decades, and there is now a real opening for reform in New Mexico. Since launch- ing just a few months ago, thousands of New Mexicans have already signed the Pledge in support of state legislation to increase government transparency and accountability.

For example, implementing better technology that makes disclosing election and lobbying spending easier and more transparent will improve our right to know the forces shaping public policy. Moreover, strengthening and expanding public campaign financing will amplify the voices of everyday New Mexicans in the election process while also encouraging a more diverse and representative pool of candidates to run for office.

And a bipartisan ethics commission will ensure enforcement of tough ethical standards for all public officials.

These commonsense reforms are winnable, especially if even more New Mexicans speak out in support.

If you’re tired of paying a heavy price for the overwhelmingly influence of money in politics, join me and thousands of your neighbors in pledging your “support for solutions that address the harmful impact of money in politics, increase transparency in our government, and help get our state focused on big issues that impact us all.” The future prosperity of New Mexico depends on it.