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Monday, January 28, 2008

Guest Blog: PRC Candidate Jason Marks

Jmarks_3This is a guest blog by Democrat Jason Marks, who's currently Chairman of the Public Regulation Commission. Jason is running for reelection to a second four-year term on the PRC from District 1 in the Albuquerque area, and using public campaign funding to do so. See below the fold to learn how you can help keep a clean election (and clean energy) advocate on the PRC.

“We have the best government money can buy.” 

In unguarded moments, elected officials have been heard to acknowledge that large campaign contributions buy “access,” but in no event -  no how, no way - does a contribution ever buy a vote or official decision.  Yet, outcomes we see from our political system seem impossible to explain aside from money and campaign contributions exerting a disproportionate and undue influence.

I learned this first-hand in 2005, in my first month on the PRC when Qwest “introduced” a bill in the Legislature to end its obligation to put $2 million/year into a fund supporting rural phone line extensions, thereby increasing the company’s profits by that same amount.  This fund had been created in the late 1980s as an alternative to a $2 million Qwest rate decrease.  After examining the issue, I agreed with Qwest that it no longer made sense to put an additional $2 million/year into this fund, but disagreed that Qwest was entitled to put the money into its own pocket - it was originally ratepayer money and the only fair solution was to tie the termination of Qwest’s annual funding obligation to a rate decrease.   I screwed up my courage and argued this before one Legislative committee after another, only to see Qwest’s bill pass through each. 

Unlike many business vs. consumer debates where lawmakers can justify their support of the business side by saying a new regulation “will cost jobs” or “deny consumers choice,” this Qwest bill had no other side - it was $2 million of unjustified profit for Qwest at the expense of  $2 million for ratepayers.  Using some political chits in the House, we were able to force an amendment so that Qwest would only get half the ratepayer money.  This version passed both houses and would have become law except for a Governor’s veto (there’s a story in that, too).  With that lucky break, later that year, I was able to push through a docket at the PRC dealt with the issue fairly:  Qwest $2 million/yr funding requirement was ended in exchange for a permanent 19 cent/month decrease in all New Mexico phone rates.

As my example shows, in matters with low visibility to the public, the interests of constituents and voters can wind up under-represented at the expense of making big-dollar contributors happy.  Fortunately, thanks to activists for ethical government in Arizona, Maine, and elsewhere, we now have an alternative model for financing political campaigns that cuts out the distorting influence of money for a few offices.   New Mexico’s publicly financed election law substitutes a measured amount of publicly-provided campaign financing for qualifying candidates in exchange for their pledge not to seek or accept private contributions beyond a limited amount of “seed money.”   Today, public campaign financing is available at the state level only for Public Regulation Commission and appellate judicial (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) races.   At least two candidates ran for PRC in 2006 using public financing, but neither was successful.   But here in Albuquerque, a version of this system was used successfully by progressive candidates in the last city council election!!!

This year, I am running for reelection as your Public Regulation Commissioner for the Albuquerque area. Those who know my work at the PRC know I can’t be bought-off by big campaign contributions from corporate interests. But I need the help of all who believe in clean elections as I run my reelection campaign under the state’s public financing law.  We need to show success with the state-level public financing law in order to argue for exanding it to more offices in the future.

In just three years on the PRC, I have proven myself by:

  • holding Qwest accountable for their investment shortfall
  • sponsoring and passing a three-year rate freeze for basic telephone services and eliminating the $85 “trouble isolation charge”
  • reducing PNM’s gas rate increase request by more than half
  • fighting the title insurance industry for needed reforms
  • moving New Mexico towards a clean and sustainable energy future with PRC rules that create targets for large scale solar energy and distributed generation
  • passing regulations to discourage utilities from building any new coal-fired generating plants that contribute to climate change
  • ending unethical practices in the PRC’s Insurance Division, and replacing the former Insurance Superintendent and his chief deputy
  • keeping my promise by keeping the 505 Area Code in Albuquerque.

How You Can Help
Despite this strong record of accomplishments on the PRC, I am drawing opposition in my drive for reelection. Prior to my election in November 2004, the district I represent had been held by a Republican since it was created in 1998, and word on the street is that they want it back. Moreover, the PRC has an unfortunate history of being looked at by long time politicos as an opportunity to sneak into a cushy, well-paid state job on the strength of a familiar name. I can promise you, I won’t let the PRC revert to the bad old days of ineffective partisans. I am a strong campaigner and I will hold this seat. But I can’t do it alone - people who support my work and people who support the concept of clean elections need to show that support with $5 contribution in my name to the public election fund so that I can qualify for public financing for my campaign.

In order to qualify for public financing, I must collect several hundred $5 qualifying contributions from voters in PRC District 1. These contributions can be in cash, or in a check payable to "Public Election Fund" – not to my campaign. The Secretary of State has a special form that needs to be filled out for each qualifying contribution. The form and further instructions can be downloaded from my website at  www.jasonmarks.com. Each member of your household who is a registered voter in PRC District 1 can submit a qualifying contribution and get me to my goal faster. (One qualifying contribution per person is the limit, so if you've already helped in this way, thanks!) Please go to the website and download the form today - our deadline is approaching: www.jasonmarks.com.

Jason Marks

This is a guest blog by Democratic PRC candidate Jason Marks. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

January 28, 2008 at 01:48 PM in 2008 PRC Election | Permalink


You rock. You have my vote and will have my $5 shortly.

In our couple of brief meetings at campaign events, it's clear that you work hard and have integrity, just what we need in our public officials. Keep it up.

BTW who is your competition on the Democratic side? I'd like to know who the corporate Democrats are who are trying to unseat you.

Posted by: Jason Call | Jan 28, 2008 2:34:14 PM

Jason -

Thanks for your support. At this time, I'm not seeing any primary challengers. From what I am hearing, I do have 1-3 Republican challengers.


Posted by: | Jan 29, 2008 9:32:21 PM

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