$$$ in Politics: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know | By Viki Harrison

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]VIKI HARRISON is the Executive Director of Common Cause NM and the former Executive Director of NM Repeal, where she led the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty in NM. A stalwart of NM politics and advocacy and a graduate of UNM, Viki was also part of the team that secured NM’s […]

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]VIKI HARRISON is the Executive Director of Common Cause NM and the former Executive Director of NM Repeal, where she led the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty in NM. A stalwart of NM politics and advocacy and a graduate of UNM, Viki was also part of the team that secured NM’s historic cockfighting ban.[/box]

There’s an old classic by Ray Charles titled “You Don’t Know Me,” that features these lyrics:

No you don’t know the one
Who dreams of you at night;
And longs to kiss your lips
And longs to hold you tight
Oh I’m just a friend.
That’s all I’ve ever been.
Cause you don’t know me.

And boy is that an apt description of all the money flowing into our elections here in New Mexico! The influence of independent spending over our political process is growing with each campaign season, and this money is often drowning out the voices of everyday New Mexicans. From 2006 to 2012, spending by non-candidates in New Mexico more than doubled, from $6 million to $14 million, and in 2014, more than $2 million was spent in October alone. At the same time, New Mexico currently has a set of laws for disclosure that are in dire need of reform, as they are unclear and largely unenforceable due to recent court rulings.

Given the current laws in New Mexico, the above song might as well apply to independent campaign contributors and lobbyists who are not required to identify themselves clearly to the Secretary of State – or to the general public. And without the basic information to identify the people seeking to influence public policy through their contributions and conversations, we’ll never know whether our elected officials are truly responsive to us.

How can we? In 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a major section of the New Mexico law governing the disclosure requirements for independent groups. Consequently, the current system legally allows for millions to be spent on campaign activities undetected, such as mailers, robo calls, and opposition research. This ruling created a huge gap in our system that Common Cause New Mexico has been trying to fix for several years with a requirement that contributors to all those TV ads be identified and “coordination” between candidates and independent groups be exposed. This year, Rep. Jim Smith is carrying a bill to do just that. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth.

In addition, information on lobbyists in New Mexico, who have extraordinary access to citizen legislators, is often dated or indecipherable, leaving ordinary citizens wondering, like Butch Cassidy, “Who are these guys?” We think New Mexico ought to update its lobbyist regulation act so citizens – and the legislators themselves – can see clearly who is seeking to influence them and on what issue. Rep. Jeff Steinborn is carrying another bill to do that.

Then perhaps the lobbyists and special interests will not be crooning that old tune.

“You think you know me well, Well you don’t know me.”

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…

A rare NM lizard is now listed as endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the dunes sagebrush lizard to the list of endangered species on Friday and is expected to designate…
Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

The U.S. Department of Interior announced $520 million in funding for 57 projects throughout the United States to improve water infrastructure and drought resiliency…
Survivors, advocates plead for Speaker to allow RECA expansion vote

Survivors, advocates plead for Speaker to allow RECA expansion vote

Millie Chino of Laguna Pueblo teared up as she spoke about her spouse, who died in September due to a health condition linked to…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Progressives going after incumbents in hot Democratic primaries

Progressives going after incumbents in hot Democratic primaries

By Justin Horwath, NM In Depth It’s a safe bet Democrats will barrel into 2025 with their supremacy intact at the New Mexico Legislature.…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

The U.S. Department of Interior announced $520 million in funding for 57 projects throughout the United States to improve water infrastructure and drought resiliency…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report