Democrats Unveil Ethics and Transparency Package
House Democrats Introduce Legislation
Focused on Transparency & Ethics in Government
Rebuilding trust and honesty in our government
SANTA FE – Today House Democrats previewed a slate of bills focused on Transparency & Ethics that will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session. These bills address the current broken campaign finance reporting system, pension forfeiture for corrupt elected officials, an independent ethics commission, and the lack of accountability for political donations used in inaugurations.
“I first introduced a bill to create a statewide independent ethics commission in 2010, as well as 2011, 2013, and 2015,” said House Democratic Leader, Rep. Brian Egolf (D – Santa Fe). “Clearly with what has transpired with our former Secretary of State Dianna Duran and the current questions around the Governor’s political financing regime, the time to create an Independent Ethics Commission is now. We need to have a mechanism to receive complaints and concerns from the public and investigate them in an expedited and transparent way, just like we have for our judicial branch. We need to also make sure that those findings are shared with the public within an appropriate length of time. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we already have a basic blueprint from past legislation and the Judicial Standards Commission. We simply need to act now.”
“On campaign finance reporting, we need to implement a system similar, if not better than, the Federal Election Commission. Under that system, 100% of campaign reports are checked for honest mistakes and clerical errors, which are then allowed to be corrected before the reports are finalized. This will ensure that campaigns accurately report their information and that people around our state receive accurate information as soon as possible, and without errors. There is a move right now to have this addressed by a rule change from the Secretary of State’s office. However, as an independent branch of the government of elected policy makers, it’s up to the legislature to make a clear statement of policy on campaign finance reporting and lobbyist reporting and ensure that the basic components needed for that system do not come and go at the whim of any future Secretaries of State,” said House Democratic Leader, Rep. Brian Egolf (D – Santa Fe).”
“New Mexicans are rightfully concerned with corruption,” said Rep. Matthew McQueen (D – Galisteo). “As recent events unfolded around our former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, it became clear that the legislation adopted in 2012, which was supposed to ensure that elected officials guilty of corruption lose their pensions, is cumbersome at best. We need to fix that. If an elected official is guilty of corruption, the loss of their pension should be swift and certain; they should be off of the state’s payroll once and for all. If you read the current statutes, it’s not clear and it’s not certain. We need to give our current Attorney General and any future attorney general the tools they need to make sure this does not happen again. The bill I am proposing would trigger mandatory pension forfeiture upon convection, a guilty plea, or a plea of no contest to any felony related to the office that a public official was elected to. We need to rebuild New Mexico’s trust in our state government.”
“Our Caucus is turning its attention to bringing inaugural committees into the sunshine,” said Rep. Javier Martinez (D – Albuquerque). “This is an area of money in politics that has been virtually ignored. We are proposing that inauguration committees be required to register with the Secretary of State and report contributions and expenditures, and we will be proposing a limit on contributions. This is important because every four years, gubernatorial inauguration committees raise money totaling nearly $1 million from many sources, including out-of-state corporations, lobbyists, local businesses, and hard-working New Mexicans. In 2015, 90% of funds raised to the Gubernatorial Inaugural Committee were in the form of contributions of $5,000 or more. New Mexicans should have the opportunity to easily view information about these big donors, and see how this money was spent. Building trust and transparency should come first – while a Governor-elect may choose to voluntarily disclose donors – addresses, occupations and employers are not disclosed, and we don’t know where that money was spent.
Common Cause New Mexico also added the following statements of support for an Independent Ethics Commission and on addressing our broken finance reporting system.
“Now is the time to enact a truly independent ethics commission in New Mexico,” said Viki Harrison, State Director of Common Cause New Mexico. “Even before this fall’s firestorm with the former Secretary of State, polling data showed that eight in ten New Mexico voters believed corruption in our state was a problem. Last year at this time Common Cause New Mexico found that 86% favored an independent ethics commission. We are confident there is now even more public support to ensure we see action in this year’s legislative session.
“A public disclosure database is only as good as its usability—and the Secretary of State's Campaign Finance Information System's (CFIS) electronic records system is in need of some serious overhauling. Our research into lobbyist expenditures and contributions, PAC spending and candidate filings has been difficult to gather and analyze. In addition, basic website functions such as the “find” function do not work well, and the speed of the system is very slow. Without uniformity in the language used on reports such as drop down menus and assigned reporting, it is very difficult to track contributions and expenditures from and to PACs, candidates and parties in New Mexico,” said Viki Harrison, State Director of Common Cause New Mexico.
House Democrats are ready to work across the aisle to ensure that ethics and transparency is returned to New Mexico.