How much, and what kind of information must lobbyists disclose. It’s a familiar issue at the Roundhouse.
New Mexico’s lobbyists already publicly say how they spend money, although it varies lobbyist by lobbyist how detailed those reports are.
Now New Mexico’s state lawmakers are being asked to require lobbyists to disclose the issues they’re working and the sources of their compensation — and how much that is.
More than four weeks into the 2015 legislative session, however, the New Mexico Legislature has resisted those efforts. One lawmaker called legislation mandating disclosure of lobbyist compensation an example of government overreach. Meanwhile, in the hallways of the Roundhouse some have wondered if government has the legal right to make a lobbyist disclose elements of a private contract with his or her employer.
But a survey of states shows that some already gather such information.
Just to the north, Colorado lobbyists are required to disclose not only monthly compensation but who pays them.
And in Wisconsin lobbyists are required to report a variety of information, including expenditures, compensation and the matters they work on.
In Colorado and Wisconsin then voters and the media have the opportunity to better understand how — and from what sources — some of the money flows in the Legislature.
Another way Colorado and Wisconsin differ from New Mexico is the disclosure of the issues and specific legislation lobbyists are working. Colorado requires lobbyists to disclose that information. So does Texas, which serves as a middle ground if Colorado and New Mexico are at opposite poles. The Lonestar State requires lobbyists to list matters they worked on according to general categories. However, Texas doesn’t require lobbyists to report the terms of their compensation.
In this regard, Oklahoma is similar to New Mexico. According to the guide for lobbyists published by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Oklahoman lobbyists are only required to disclose their expenditures. Terms of compensation and the matters being lobbied on are not required to be reported to the public.
Arizona also does not require lobbyists to report compensation. This reporting is left to the principals that employ a lobbyist, according to the Arizona lobbyist handbook. Still, not every principal is required to report compensation. Public bodies, from government departments to state universities who employ lobbyists, have to disclose how much they pay them. Private businesses and individuals who hire lobbyists do not have to meet this requirement. That means not all lobbyists have their compensation disclosed.
With three weeks to go in the legislative session, one proposal, House Bill 155 from Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, would have required lobbyists to disclose compensation as well as the bills and issues they are working on. But the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee earlier this month removed the requirement for lobbyists to disclose compensation as well as to report in detail who they spend money on, Steinborn said. It left in the mandate for lobbyists to say what issues on which they are lobbying, however.
The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. A hearing could be held on the legislation next week.