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Thursday, February 10, 2011

NM Senate Rules Chair Linda Lopez Announces Her Opposition to Appointment of Harrison Schmitt as EMNRD Secretary

SLOPEBravo! What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Rules are rules and requirements are requirements. State Senator Linda Lopez, who chairs the New Mexico Senate Rules Committee, released a statement today explaining that the refusal of Gov. Susana Martinez's Secretary Designate of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), Harrison Schmitt, to submit to a required background check has left her no choice but to oppose his confirmation:

"Three days ago, at his request, I met with the Secretary Designate of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Harrison Schmitt. Mr. Schmitt’s reason for requesting the meeting was to inform me of his refusal to allow a Senate conferee background check, which is a check all designated cabinet secretaries and high level appointed officials undergo as part of the Senate’s confirmation process.

"First, I sympathize with Mr. Schmitt’s and all conferees’ discomfort when it comes to the background check process. It is an extensive review that includes a search for any prior criminal convictions and of the Federal Civil Court Records; verification of appointees’ assertions related to financial circumstances or improprieties such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and outstanding loans; and a review of disclosure statements related to potential conflicts of interest and ownership in business entities.

"However, the New Mexico State Senate is constitutionally charged with confirming top state government officials because of the tremendous influence and authority and power provided to those individuals in their official government capacity. The forty or so individuals we confirm to these top positions are responsible for expenditures in the billions of dollars, investing the state’s multi-billion dollar pension funds, and promulgating regulations that impact citizens across the entire state of New Mexico.

"The New Mexico Senate adopted background checks in 2007. They are part of a procedure that all high-level appointees must undergo as they put themselves forward into positions of public service and public trust. The review process is in place to protect the public and to provide the citizens of our state with an increased sense of confidence in their government. As such, there can be no exceptions to the background review process.

"At the Senate Rules Committee hearing on Monday, February 14, we will discuss Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to adhere to the confirmation process. This will not be a hearing of Mr. Schmitt’s qualifications for service, nor to receive public input related to his appointment.

"At this time, Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to comply with the background check process has left me with no choice but to oppose his confirmation."

One has to wonder what kind of personal financial data Schmitt has decided must be kept hidden from the committee and New Mexicans. There is certainly room for the existence of numerous potential financial and other conflicts of interest in the areas that come under the purview of the EMNRD, as well as state government generally, for someone who has been involved with the for-profit sector in similar areas, as Schmitt has been.

Just one example we know something about:

NASA will launch the next lunar robotic mission to the moon from the eastern shore of Virginia at the commercial space launch pad of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island or 'Space Island' the NewSpacers are becoming prone to say. The LADEE spacecraft will be placed in orbit around the moon to explore the faint atmosphere aboard rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corporation - which Schmitt serves on the governing board of directors. Standby for lunar launch in 2012 - a first in Virginia! [emphasis added]

Take Action: You might want to contact Sen. Lopez to thank her for standing up for required transparency rules in the appointment process and urge other members of Senate Rules Committee to do the same.

February 10, 2011 at 02:40 PM in Energy, Linda Lopez, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink

Comments

Thank you Senator!

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Feb 10, 2011 4:06:15 PM

Transparency, please, Dr. Schmitt.

Thank you, Senator Lopez, for standing on principle. This is what we need for NM.

Posted by: bg | Feb 10, 2011 4:32:46 PM

Senator Lopez is also one of the few legislators to publicly support the repeal of the 2003 tax breaks for the wealthy.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 11, 2011 10:14:50 AM