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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Matter Of Public Trust: Republicans Explain That Lobbyists Have Absolutely No Influence In Our Legislature

Following is a guest blog by Peter Moulson.

Bill (SB103) (or “The Lobbyists bill”) which would have limited the roll-over of influence of New Mexico legislators who leave office and immediately become lobbyists, failed to pass the Senate Rules Committee and is therefore dead for the session.  Republican Governor Susana Martinez doesn’t think this revolving door serves her state well, and so she supported this bill.

The legislation was carried in the Senate by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque). “This is the same bill I have brought for three or four sessions now asking for a cooling off period between when a legislator leaves office and begins to lobby the same body he or she just left.

“It’s a matter of public trust.  We have developed a culture of family here, where we include the lobbyists, refer to them if they are former colleagues—as Mr. Speaker, Senator, Representative—and they have more access to us than the general public. I think that we don’t appreciate how the general public feels left out of this culture and believes that there is undue influence on decisions we make here.”

Voting against the bill was the Senate Republicans’ top man Senator Stuart Ingle. “I have never known a legislator that was retired who had any influence” he suggested. “And I have never known a legislator that paid attention to former legislators.”

Ingle was supported by Republican colleague Senator Gay Kernan: “I count on lobbyists to tell the truth” she explained with a straight face.

Next we tracked down the “Poster Boy for The Revolving Door” . Cravens resigned from the Senate last fall and immediately became Director of Government Affairs for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association—aka Chief Lobbyist .

Interviewed today, Cravens appeared upset as he felt under attack from all sides as the Governor had supported this bill. “I feel pretty hurt about all this. I’ve always helped the Governor and then they did this to me.” 

So, if our Republican politicians are to be believed, legislators pay no attention to former colleagues when they become industry lobbyists.  That is very odd, because in the following video taken this week we see Lobbyist Kent Cravens walking out of senior Republican Senator Stuart Ingle’s office carrying two US Post office boxes. Senator Ingle follows close behind Mr. Lobbyist Kent Cravens.

Who does not believe that there is a connection between lobbyists and legislators? 

Mr. Lobbyist Ex Senator Kent Cravens is a Board Member of ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative Republican corporate-funded organization which presents legislators with their pre-prepared legislation. He talks and dines with New Mexico’s conservative politicians, feeding them the legislation that his corporate organizations wish them to champion. That might well be considered back-door influence.

The question asked by the supporters of this bill is, if the Governor supported SB 103, why did she not work with legislators to ensure it passed? Did she really want it to pass or was it a sham? It should be noted that Senators Peter Wirth, Linda Lopez and Dede Feldman voted for the bill, presumably not convinced by Republican smoke and mirrors.

It was President Pro Tempore Senator Tim Z. Jennings who seemed to think he had the answer: “The accusations (of corruption) just come because they sell newspapers.”

Oh sure.

February 14, 2012 at 08:36 PM in Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2012 | Permalink