« Support Maya People of Chiapas at Valentine's Celebration | Main | "Moderate" Amendment on Stimulus is a Horror »

Friday, February 06, 2009

Anti-Reform Dems Teaming Up to Defeat Ethics and Campaign Finance Bills AGAIN

First, to set the stage, be sure to read Cocopost's piece on the dinosaurs in suits that populate the New Mexico Legislature -- especially on the Senate side. As she says:

There is a quaint charm to our New Mexico State Senate. It's the Jurassic Park of New Mexico politics -- dinosaurs in suits. The place still runs under Manny's Rules - just without Manny. It's where good bills go to die horrible deaths - like Domestic Partnership. And the bills it spawns just rise straight out of some primordial political muck.

SSANCSenate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez: Ethics Obstructionist
The latest legislation that is emerging from the NM Senate's "primordial political muck" is designed to kill all the campaign finance and ethics reform bills introduced this Session by lumping them together into a super-bill. Even worse, the anti-reformers -- led by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez -- are threatening to add a provision to require nonprofit groups that work on issue advocacy and voter education to be treated like PACs. This, despite the fact that the nonprofits are NOT political action committees, and are required to follow stringent rules and laws that bar them from partisan actions. Cute, isn't it? This way, certain long-time foes of change can pretend they're for reform while making sure it won't happen. And they apparently believe we won't see through their antics, or won't care.

But New Mexicans are noticing that the State Senate has been the serial killer of major ethics laws over the past few years. That they’ve killed contribution limits, an independent ethics commission, public financing of statewide races – you name it. And that they’ve killed the reforms not just once, but repeatedly. Meanwhile, many Democratic anti-reform legislators continue to claim to be FOR ethics and campaign finance reform. Somehow, however, they just can't get it done with a Dem-dominated House and Senate, as well as a Dem Governor. Funny how that happens.

Unfortunately for the obstructionists, folks are noticing that ethics bills almost always die in Sen. Linda Lopez's Rules Committee, and that Sen. Lopez is close with Michael Sanchez. Folks are witnessing how Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez works with Senate Pro-Tem Tim Jennings and others to make sure change-agent legislators are given committee assignments that ensure their power is diluted or negated. People are getting the reasons why Sen. Michael Sanchez -- who's supposed to be the leader of the Democratic caucus in the Senate -- stayed "neutral" when Sen. Carlos Cisneros, the caucus choice for Pro-Tem, was successfully challenged by Dem-In-Name-Only Jennings.

Sen. Michael Sanchez was clearly more concerned with ensuring that the anti-reform, anti-domestic partnership cabal retained power within the committee structure than in representing his Caucus.

Let's travel back to 2007, to examine how Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez handled the ethics issue at a prior Session where it was getting a strong push. Remember how he defended the Senate’s killing of ethics reform?

'What did the Legislature do to warrant the push for the change?’ Sanchez asked. ‘Give me something factually that we've done to warrant all the changes that have been proposed’ [Reform Proposals Find Little Momentum, Albuquerque Journal, February 17, 2007].

Okay, ignore the fact that it's more than a little wacky to claim the Legislature shouldn't act to improve ethics until someone's been caught. But now that the Manny Aragon courthouse scandal has resulted in convictions, shouldn't ethics reform be at the top of Sen. Sanchez's to-do list? Think again:

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, meanwhile, said Tuesday that ethics proposals in that chamber — campaign contribution limits and an ethics commission, for example — may be rolled into a comprehensive reform bill. And he said some senators have suggested broadening campaign reporting laws to include nonprofit groups that get into political activity.

"If they're going to get involved in campaigns, they should probably disclose where the money's coming from," he said. [Denish promotes ethics bills to lawmakers, Deborah Baker, AP]

First of all, nonprofits DON'T get involved in campaigns, by law. They are strictly prohibited from acting during prescribed dates before and during election cycles. But what we really have here is a situation where the Senate Democratic Majority Leader finally pledges to allow ethics reform, but in a manner that is guaranteed to kill the bill. Clearly, he intends to once again bury ethics reform -- this time by tossing all the measures into one unwieldy bill -- and then amending it with unacceptable and unconstitutional provisions targeting nonprofits.

HmartHouse Majority Leader Ken Martinez: Ethics Obstructionist
Another recent example of the anti-reform herd's antics -- this time on the House side -- is on display in a video by GOP Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of the Feburary 5th meeting of the House Voters and Elections Committee. While discussing Rep. Jeff Steinborn's campaign contribution limits bill, Rep. Ken Martinez, the Majority Floor Leader, reveals his anti-reform fervor. He also manages to showcase his ignorance about the legal identities of the groups he's trying to hand-cuff and discredit.

Click on the "On Demand" button at the video website, go to Part II of the February 5th HVEC video and move to the 20 minute mark. Here we have Rep. Martinez holding forth on how campaign finance reform would put legislators like himself at a disadvantage because "the 527s" would still have free rein.

The 527s? Which 527 groups are active in legislative matters? I haven't heard of any, have you? Obviously Rep. Martinez doesn't know the difference between 527s and the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy groups that status-quo legislators are so up at arms about. Why? Because their perfectly legal work shining the light on voting records and campaign donors lets ordinary people in on what's really going on in Santa Fe. Message to Rep. Martinez: 527 groups can legally be active during election cycles. The 501(3)(c) nonprofits cannot, because they are not political action groups. They advocate on issues and educate on records. Period.

At any rate, Martinez claims these 527's would "force" legislators to vote against the wishes of constituents and their own personal positions on issues. I'm not sure how voting to represent the majority views of your constituents would jeopardize your electoral chances with your constituents, but Martinez is definitely scared about it. Could it be that he's really worried about votes legislators take to please their big donors that really AREN'T supported by constituents? And that, in fact, Martinez's fear is related to the chance that legislator voting records and campaign donor lists might be revealed by groups dedicating to keeping citizens informed? After all, citizens took a more negative view of their legislators in at least three Senate districts last year when they were provided with factual data on their records. Can't have that!

Act Now to Stop the Charade
So where do we go from here? Clearly anti-reform Dems, led by their Senate and House Leaders, are hooking up with anti-reform Repubs to make sure nothing significant in the way of ethics reform gets passed again this year in Santa Fe. Their behavior is becoming more and more blatant and more and more arrogant. They obviously believe they'll be immune to the wrath of the voters if they keep PRETENDING to be for change. We need to show them otherwise.

Take a minute and call or email your legislators and Democratic Senate and House Leaders to let them know you see through their shenanigans and don't approve. Do it now, before it's too late:

  • Find your legislators here.
  • Find Senate Leaders here.
  • Find House Leaders here.

Technorati tags:

February 6, 2009 at 01:57 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, GLBT Rights, NM Legislature 2007, NM Legislature 2009, Progressivism | Permalink

Comments

Speak truth to power, Barb. We need more people to do that and we need a ton of emails and call to our lawmakers. This is unacceptable.

Posted by: roadrunner | Feb 6, 2009 4:32:56 PM

remember when obama said ENOUGH at the dem convention...well that is still where we are ENOUGH. I will bet one thing - if the non profits had to disclose their money raising...SunCal would not be on the list. However, I would bet each person listed within this article is taking huge sums of money from SunCal or similar interests.
Leave the nonprofits alone. That is our only source for truth.

Posted by: mary ellen | Feb 6, 2009 4:54:43 PM

An absolutely spot-on analysis. Just watched the video. Amazing.

If anyone is looking for documentary proof of Martinez's role as Senator Sanchez's junior partner in the House, here it is. Ken is either a master of obfuscation and misdirection -- or he's a complete ignoramus. Three times in 20 minutes Martinez asks Steinborn, the bill sponsor, the same damn question about what to do with campaign contributions received in the "off-cycle". And at the end of 20 minutes, he still doesn't get it that the bill clearly defines that THERE IS NO OFF-CYCLE for reporting purposes. You be the judge. Is Martinez deliberately confusing the issue and using his prestige as the only "lawyer" on the committee to sway the others? I'm increasingly inclined to believe he's just an incompetent attorney. Go to 28:09 in the second video and watch the part where Martinez announces, "I'm a lawyer," but then proves incapable of understanding the simple proposition that the Primary Election reporting cycle commences the day after the General Election. Forty-five other states have figured out how to make contribution limits work, but it's too complicated for Kenny.

Also catch the bit where Martinez starts wringing his hands and spouting some illogical jibberish about how sad it was that most of last year's candidates for Congress in N.M. were millionaires and thus Steinborn's limits bill somehow will make it harder for regular folks to run for the state legislature(?). Whaa? Ben Lujan and Martin Heinrich? Darren White? Millionaires?

In any event, Martinez is doing his darnedest to slow down the ethics reform bills on the House side so that Sanchez will have an easier time running out the clock when they get over to the Senate. It's deja vu all over again. At least in this one instance, a little bit of the usual nonsense got captured on video.

Posted by: luis | Feb 6, 2009 5:13:56 PM

Grrrrr! It's time to primary these weasels. Who wants to take on Linda Lopez? She's easily the most vulnerable of the slime buckets.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Feb 6, 2009 5:43:42 PM

luis: Your comments are excellent and on the mark. I watched the videos you discuss and they are just as you say. Ken Martinez is a joke.

How does Michael Sanchez control so many? What does he use to do it?

Posted by: froggy | Feb 6, 2009 6:32:08 PM

The problem with "taking on" the state senators is that they all just got reelected for 4 years. If you want to do something, first get their campaign finance reports and add up the $$ they collected and spent. Then find a worthy candidate to oppose them and start raising the $$ needed for 2012.

I still say that what is really needed is a Constitutional amendment at the Federal level, though I know that will take a LOT of work.

BTW I was listening to that hearing live, and Arnold-Jones also expressed some confusion. I admire her for putting on this web cast (at her own expense!), but as we get more access to these hearings, you all are going to be finding out just how dumb some of our legislators are...

I also fault the Legislative Council Service, they are supposed to vet these bills before they are entered, but they don't seem to catch a lot of the problems. Maybe they just have too much to do, as there are something like 1,000 bills introduced in the long (two month) session each cycle.

The only bill I know of that is trying to address public financing is Eric Griegos, and it is stuck in... Lopez' Rules committee. Even it has some SERIOUS flaws. Like basing the amount of public $$ given to a qualifying candidate in the general election on the # of registered voters in that candidate's party, instead of all the registered voters. A candidate in the minority party has to send campaign flyers to ALL the voters, duh. Especially to the ~20% "Other" voters.

Griego's bill is SB 165 (18 pages long).

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 7, 2009 2:31:53 AM

Ellen,
Where to begin?

First, you are entirely mistaken in your reading of Griego's public financing bill. See Section 10, Subsection C starting at the bottom of page 11.

The amount of funds dispersed to qualifying general election candidates of ALL parties (including independents) is based on the number of ALL registered voters -- not just the number registered in the candidate's party as you erroneously state.

However, the distribution for primary elections IS based on party registration (Section 10, Subsection A). And to state the obvious (which apparently is necessary here) minor parties and independents don't have to run in primaries -- so they don't get primary dough. As for major party primaries, there is a different distribution based on party registration. For example, why would we want to give a huge windfall to a Republican primary candidate running in a district in which only 17% of registered voters are Republicans? Or to a Democrat in a primary with a low Dem registration %? The formula is simply based on the number of voters a candidate needs to communicate with in a two distinct types of elections -- primaries and generals. Not hard.

In fact, the SB165 distribution formula is based on the PF system used for the PRC and statewide judicial offices. As you should recall, Green Party candidate Rick Lass received the same amount as the Democrat for last year's general election.

In fairness, you are not alone in your misunderstanding of these bills. You're in the same boat with Kenny Martinez on this.

Constitutional Amendment. Like you, I too would like to see the U.S. Constitution amended to make it easier to clean up the corrupting influence of campaign money. I would also like to have a date with Scarlett Johansson. Not gonna happen. I presume you want a CA to overturn the Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision? You do realize that to amend the U.S. Constitution, passage is required by 2/3 majorities of BOTH houses (composed of lawmakers who have thrived under the current finance regime) and then it must be ratified by 3/4s of the state... oh no... LEGISLATURES!

We do agree that Janice Arnold-Jones deserves tremendous accolades for opening the House up to webcasting. However, this doesn't give her an automatic free pass on other ethics reform issues. Arnold-Jones apparently has been "confused" about contribution limits for a long time. In 2007, Mimi Stewart succeeded in passing a bill similar to Steinborn's through the House by a big margin (51-16). Arnold-Jones was one of those 16 out of 28 Republicans who cast the NO vote. Arnold-Jones is solidly with Republican Party chair and oil man Harvey Yates on this issue. He's making it very clear that contribution limits are not in the interest of the GOP. So we'll be seeing a lot more feigned confusion before this session runs out. It's a more acceptable public posture than announcing straight-up one's opposition to ethics reform.

One of the biggest obstacles to passing ethics reform in New Mexico has been the usually deliberate, although sometimes unwitting, campaign of disinformation mounted against it. Ellen! Please! I implore you.! Don't contribute to it.

Posted by: luis | Feb 7, 2009 11:26:26 AM

I stand corrected. I should have printed out the whole 18 pages instead of trying to read it off of the computer screen.

10.C (5):
each voter in the state; and
(5) for the office of state legislator, one
dollar fifty cents ($1.50) for each voter in the candidate's
legislative district.

OK, for HD 51, the district I was using as an example, there are 4,000 Democrats, 11,118 voters total.

In an uncontested Democratic primary, the qualifying Democratic candidate would get $600.

In the general election, the qualifying Democratic candidate would get $16,677. That's better than the $6,000 I had assumed, but still not a lot.

Then Section 5C limits the total distribution to 3 times this initial amount IF sufficient funds are available.

OK, now we have slightly over $50,000 total for a publicly funded candidate. Nate Cote raised and spent more than $80,000 to defeat minority whip Terry Marquardt in 2006.


Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 7, 2009 1:54:57 PM

Very good. We're making progress here. It certainly helps to read the bill before you attack it and blame the Council Service for not reading it. As for the Cote-Marquardt example, now perhaps you see why contribution limits will serve as important antecedent to effective public financing.

Posted by: luis | Feb 7, 2009 2:41:19 PM

luis-you are right on target again. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and thoughts.

Posted by: Old Dem | Feb 7, 2009 3:06:07 PM

After reading this post I emailed the leadership and my Reps the ones that I had an address for, Sen Jennings and Sen Lopez I couldn't find, anyway I thought some might find it interesting that Floor Leader Ken Martinez responded to assure me that, quote: "I have woked hard on this issue" and "We will continue to work and hopefully progress on these issues." If nothing else I made it clear to him that we voters are well aware of the pretend reform and charade some are participating in.

Posted by: VP | Feb 7, 2009 5:36:10 PM

Senator Tim Jennings doesn't use email. Call his secretary and ask for the fax number.

luis, I have written up some suggested clarifications for HB 495 (and I did print out the bill before working on it, thank goodness it is only 8 pages). I sent the suggestions to Jeff Steinborn, co-sponsor Paul Bandy, the chair of the HVEC, and all the legislators who commented on the bill on Feb 5.

I heard back right away from Rep Martinez, who promised to print out the suggestions and run them by the LCS, and later heard from Rep Rehm.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 8, 2009 8:39:03 AM

We need to get a law passed to require legislators to have email accounts. In this day and age not having one is ridiculous and speaks volumes about how far out of touch those who don't have them are. What year is it?

Posted by: roadrunner | Feb 8, 2009 10:15:09 AM