Blogger's Note: Here's the Albuquerque Journal Editorial from Nov. 3, 2013 about the Lobbyist Report released by NM Common Cause this week (see post above)
Thanks to the Journal Editors for noticing!
Removed from the intensity that defines a legislative session, it is hard to argue in favor of sketchy spending reports from lobbyists, of lackluster monitoring of those reports, of unreported committee votes, or of lawmakers in a revolving door that allows them to start hustling their former colleagues the same day they leave office.
That’s why it is important these four basic, good-government reforms, as spelled out in a new report from Common Cause New Mexico, get traction now, before the 2014 session heats up and once again makes the going slippery at best.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with lobbying – getting a viewpoint heard by those in power is essential to the democratic system of government. It’s the secrecy in which lobbying is often couched and the influence that secrecy obscures that are the problem.
Clearer, more detailed campaign spending reports by lobbyists that are spot-checked by the secretary of state would simply put those groups on record for their role in trying to shape public policy.
Making all legislative committee votes public would do the same for voters’ duly elected representatives and remove the specter of back-room deals.
And requiring a modest cooling-off period before an ex-lawmaker can lobby former colleagues on pending legislation helps mitigate the perception of influence peddling and a good-ol’ politician network.
Stopping this revolving door on her end is why Gov. Susana Martinez administratively instituted a two-year ban on former executive branch officials lobbying a state agency or the Legislature.
Cooling-off periods from one to three years before lobbying have been introduced since at least 2007, with bipartisan support ranging from lawmakers to Attorney General Gary King to then-Gov. Bill Richardson’s ethics-reform task force to Martinez. All have failed.
But the revolving lawmaker/lobbyist door at the Roundhouse, along with unreported committee votes and sketchy/unmonitored lobbyist spending reports, continue to erode trust in the citizen legislators who serve New Mexicans.
They perpetuate the belief that fancy dinners and gifts on the sly, not strong arguments, are what get things done in New Mexico.
So before the 2014 session heats up, these reforms should be embraced by the many good-government advocates inside the Roundhouse. Getting the reforms into law will restore the faith of those outside of it.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.