New Mexico, like many states and Washington, D.C., is experiencing an ethics scandal that seems to grow by the day. Despite an attempt on my part, and on the part of some of my colleagues in the state legislature, the vast majority of ethics reform legislation introduced during the 2006 legislative session failed to pass. We simply cannot let another opportunity to enact real reform pass us by during the 2007 legislative session.
In an attempt to build momentum for ethics and campaign finance reform during the 2007 session, Governor Bill Richardson formed an ethics reform task force last week (link to: http://www.governor.state.nm.us/press/2006/may/050106_02.pdf). The task force convenes an able group of New Mexicans who bring a diverse set of views and experiences to the table.
Governor Richardson and task force co-chair Garrey Carruthers (a former New Mexico Governor) have said that all options for reform are open (link to: http://www.abqtrib.com/albq/nw_national_government/article/0,2564,ALBQ_19861_4673011,00.html). I certainly hope that’s the case.
I believe the task force must consider the following reforms, as outlined by Common Cause New Mexico in a recent Albuquerque Journal opinion piece. “First, our state must ban gifts to public officials from persons having a financial interest in their official duties. Campaign contributions could be exempted from a ban because they are disclosed to the public. Second, New Mexico must develop an independent ethics oversight commission to ensure full compliance with ethics laws and rules. Third, campaign reports should be filed more often and should disclose more information such as the employer of every donor. Independent expenditures, including those coming from outside of New Mexico should be reported. Current law does not require this kind of disclosure and is the main reason the national Campaign Disclosure Project gives New Mexico disclosure laws a failing grade every year.”
“There is substantial room for improvement in the area of lobbyist disclosure. A good start would be to require lobbyists to disclose what bills they are interested in influencing each session.”
I would add full public financing of all statewide and legislative offices, like we have for the PRC and Albuquerque city races, to the list of needed reforms.
What do readers of this blog think are necessary steps for ethics and campaign finance reform in New Mexico? Stay tuned for more information about upcoming meetings of the ethics reform task force