With governor and her staff, transparency is a campaign slogan, not reality

Reading New Mexico In Depth’s 2018 Special Legislative Edition, you might notice a glaring hole in our reporting: There is no comment or perspective from Gov. Susana Martinez or her spokespeople. It wasn’t for lack of trying by New Mexico In Depth. This column ran Sunday in our 2018 special legislative edition, in newspapers around the state, including in Santa Fe and Las Cruces. On Tuesday, New Mexico In Depth did not receive an advance copy of the governor’s speech to the Legislature, as other news outlets did. In years past we have received the text version prior to the speech, along with other media outlets.

Compliance with ABQ lobbying rules falls way short

One way to cut through the din of constant political noise during an election is to look at the money flowing through the political system. Laws that require campaign and lobbying reports are meant to help the public learn about groups or people attempting to influence election outcomes through donations, or official decisions by spending money on elected officials once they’re in office. Those laws are only worthwhile, though, when they are followed. Take, for example, Albuquerque’s lobbying ordinance. It looks good on paper.

FOG class helps you request (or provide) public info like a pro

Gaining access to public information can often be a contentious process for journalists or other members of the public, even when government employees charged with providing access have the best intentions. A daylong class next week offered by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NM FOG) aims to help those seeking and providing public information better understand laws and recent court opinions concerning access to public information. And for attorneys, the class provides required continuing legal education credits. “The continuing legal education class the foundation offers is a great resource for records custodians and attorneys who have an obligation under the law to provide public information,” said NM FOG Executive Director Peter St. Cyr.

Sandra Fish wins FOG Dixon Award

We’re so proud of the work our friend and former colleague Sandra Fish did for New Mexico In Depth, including the Openness Project, a special website at opennessproject.com that made it easier for New Mexico voters to follow the money in elections. She was honored for that work by another great organization that works for government transparency here, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

Governor vetoes campaign finance reform

Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Friday vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required greater public disclosure by those who spend big money in New Mexico political races. The governor vetoed Senate Bill 96, a goal long sought by good-government groups and those who wanted greater information on the influence of money in politics. “While I support efforts to make political process more transparent, the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances,” Martinez wrote in her veto message. One of the legislation’s sponsors, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, responded to news of the veto Friday morning. “I am disappointed but not surprised that the Governor would side with the Koch brothers and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and ignore the 90% of Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico who support campaign finance transparency.

What financial disclosure forms don’t require reveal as much as what they do

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell is a race horse owner, as she points out on her Twitter biography and her financial disclosure document. As a Republican lawmaker from Roswell, Ezzell often proposes and advocates for legislation that impacts the racing industry. At least seven of the 13 members of the House Education Committee are current or former educators, and one is a former school board member. At every meeting they take action on legislation that could impact their current or former livelihoods. Then there’s House Speaker Brian Egolf, the Santa Fe Democrat criticized by Republicans for failing to disclose his client – a medical cannabis provider – before the Department of Health.

Lobbying fix faces new opposition

The sponsor of legislation that would require lobbyists to disclose more about what they spend each year on state lawmakers and other public officials said he was considering changing the bill after a fifth state lawmaker publicly stated his opposition Friday morning. “Clearly there is heartburn with some of the progressive ideas that I’ve proposed” in SB 168, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said. Steinborn’s reconsideration came after Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, became the fifth lawmaker on the Senate Rules Committee to openly block the legislation. On Wednesday Candelaria had voted against a motion to not pass SB 168 out of the Senate Rules Committee, joining three other Democrats against four Republican Senators who wanted to table the legislation. The bill’s main goal is to fix a transparency loophole the Legislature created last year that allows lobbyists to disclose much less about how they spend money on public officials.