The Ethics Fight: Is Monahan just a shill for little birdies & alligators

Here’s one you don’t see every day. The DFNM blog takes on Joe Monahan for shilling for legislators who are trying to kill ethics reform. DFNM nails this one dead-on the money. M-Pyre is on it too. Bravo!

So it seems that earlier today Monahan scolded Common Cause for pushing too hard on ethics reform and even went so far as to call upon the organization’s donors to rethink their priorities. Monahan’s source, as usual, was one of his trademark “alligators.”

This wouldn’t be the first time that Blogger Joe has carried water for the status quo crowd. Notice the Monahan m.o. at work. His “alligator” accuses citizen advocates of “asking for too much all at once”, and then immediately pluralizes the complaint into “critics say.”

Opinion polls show overwhelming public support for substantive ethics reform now – not at some murky future time when certain self-appointed potentates of the legislative process deign to pass some pale palliatives and then call it reform.

Unfortunately, developments over the last three years have demonstrated that some key legislative leaders apparently don’t share the public’s disgust in wake of New Mexico’s cavalcade of corruption scandals. Two State Treasurers sentenced to prison time and a slew of indictments and plea bargains in the Bernalillo Courthouse kickback scheme — none of this appears to be enough to get their attention. They are still in deep denial about a crisis that is a ticking time bomb that demands action sooner rather than later by our elected lawmakers.

Consider the significant point that Monahan – and his anonymous Roundhouse alligator – both fail to mention in their “asking for too much” scold. The fact of the matter is that Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, AARP and numerous other organizations have been actively pushing Clean Elections, Contribution Limits and an independent Ethics Commission for three years.

How long have they been asking for reform? Too long.

What Joe won’t tell you

The real story is more complicated than what you get from Monahan’s simple-minded shillling. For one thing, what we’re witnessing is some of the continued fallout from last year’s contest for Speaker. While Speaker of the House Ben Lujan may be old school in many ways, he does get it on this issue. He understands that future Democratic legislative electoral prospects depend upon his party being able to move substantive reforms forward.

The facts speak for themselves. Lujan was the sponsor of public financing for the PRC. And he was the driving force behind passage of public financing of judicial races last year. But this session, the momentum he started for Clean Elections has been blunted – both from within his own party and from their allies in an anti-ethics coalition composed of leaders from both parties on the Senate side.

All of this behind-the-scenes leadership intrigue has meant slow-going for ethics reform this session. So far the legislature has given the most consideration to the ethics commission proposal. The contribution limits bill being considered is moving, albeit slowly. Clean Elections legislation has been put on hold.

What Monahan’s alligator knows, but neither he nor Joe will tell you, is this: History and experience have shown that real reform has never been achieved without significant public pressure. And so you see, that is precisely why Joe’s alligators are complaining so loudly — they’re feeling the heat. But reform advocates have also learned that the window of opportunity can be short-lived. That’s why anti-reform defenders of the status quo are pinning their hopes on playing a waiting game of delay and deflect until the storm of public revulsion dies down.

So now the alligator and his ally in the blogosphere try to shift blame and re-spin the ethics story as being about overly aggressive citizen advocates. Yup, that’s really hard-hitting journalism – the kind worthy of Fox News. It’s a story designed to distract us from the real question we all should ask and keep asking: Why are some legislative leaders putting the deep freeze on ethics reform – and right before a big election no less?

Herein lies the great irony of this ethics fight. Those leaders in both parties who are invested in preserving the status quo by derailing ethics reform may very well be successful this time. But by their success, they very likely will lead some of their legislative followers over the cliff. Let’s face it. The real story will get out there over the next few months, one way or another.

So in the words of the late, great Ernie Mills, “Don’t say we didn’t tell you.”

UPDATE: Since this posted, a number of other NM bloggers have weighed in on the Joe Monahan question:

Duke City Fix



Burque Babble

John Fleck left this comment on Cocoposts that sums the issue up pretty well:

Monahan has, in the past, defended his use of anonymous sources with zeal. But we’re not talking hear about downtrodden whistleblowers speaking out against their powerful bosses – the sort of people who genuinely need the protection of anonymity. We’re talking about people speaking out with impunity, hiding behind anonymity to protect their political (economic? is there a distinction?) interests. There’s a big and important difference, and it is an example of why the use of anonymous sources has become corrosive, both on the part of mainstream journalism and the new flavor of on line discourse practiced by Joe Monahan.


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