I’ve been following a bit of the discourse over at Democracy for New Mexico regarding the fight to pass comprehensive meaningful as least some sort of ethics legislation this session. And the thing I’ve noticed most is how much New Mexico’s lawmakers are looking to national politicians for ways to fight reform. First, because lawmakers don’t like the good work non-profit groups are doing exposing their voting records, they’re trying to poison attempts to reform campaign finance laws by attaching provisions that would force those non-profits to reveal their donors. ((If the non-profits are operating illegally, there are avenues in place to investigate them and enforce the laws. New Mexico lawmakers should not be waging a personal war on non-profits, however, that are trying to inform he public about the legislative process.))
Now, on the face of it, this is the exact same tactic being used by Republicans in the U.S. Senate to thwart a proposed reform of the way Senate candidates file campaign finance reports (full disclosure, I’m a Sunlight Foundation employee and this is one of our big issues).
But beyond that, if New Mexico lawmakers are so concerned about their voting records being made public, they should change the way they’re voting! In addition, didn’t they sign up for this job? If New Mexico state senators don’t want to be in the public eye, if they don’t want their actions to be scrutinized, they’re in the wrong business.
That’s what’s so disheartening about Barb’s post at DFNM about Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. This guy went out and told his colleagues that the boogey man the Loch Ness Monster aliens from outer space a blogger had said mean things about the senators. And he used that as justification to oppose a revolving door lobbying reform bill (see Jim Baca for more on this bill). That sort of thing is straight out the playbook of national politicians (even President Obama has stooped to discounting bloggers recently).
Now, I know I’ve been slacking a bit on the blogging front lately (hey, new job and all) but I hope that the few of you out in New Mexico still reading this will call your senators (especially you folks who can call Sen. Howie Morales) and tell them to adopt some meaningful reforms. Also, tell your friends to call! It’s not a big list, and they’re not hard reforms:
- Require electronic disclosure of campaign finance reports so people know who is giving money in a timely fashion.
- Enact a limit on the amount of money donors can give to individual candidates. In a recession like this one, it’s even harder for the little guy to make his voice heard with his wallet, while the big corporations, special interests and fat cats can still line the campaign pockets for lawmakers. This is a practice that should be reined in, and it’s a shame New Mexico still hasn’t done it.
- Enact the revolving door law, which would prevent former lawmakers from lobbying their former colleagues for one year after they leave office. This should be a no-brainer, but thanks to Sen. Sanchez the legislation was voted down today.
- Open up the legislative process by streaming committee meetings and floor sessions online. New Mexico may not have a large population, but its geographic size is prohibitive to not just citizens but also for journalists trying to cover the legislative sessions.
There are probably more, but that’s a really, really good start. With all the ethics problems plaguing the state lately, however, I’d think it would be an easy task to get New Mexico lawmakers to become open and transparent. Looks like they’re going to fight it tooth and nail.