The Case for Campaign Contribution Limits: How Bob Perry bought a state Supreme Court

bob-perry1

As we’ve said before, the passage by the legislature of a campaign contribution limits bill – which now awaits Governor Richardson’s signature — was long past overdue.  New Mexico was one of only five states in the nation with no caps whatsoever. Texas is another.

Perhaps that’s why Bob Perry, the multi-millionaire Houston homebuilder, and his wife Doylene Perry have found New Mexico politics so hospitable.  In 2008, Bob wrote campaign checks to the New Mexico Republican Party totaling $240,000.  In the 2006 cycle, the Bob and Doylene dropped a total of $361,000 into the state — to the following beneficiaries:

Continue reading

Pay to Play and Ethics Reform

Is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson just a high-profile scapegoat for the glaring need for ethics reform in New Mexico?

Take a look at this piece by Marjorie Childress at the New Mexico Independent, in which several well-respected political observers assert that “play for play” politics are rampant, especially in New Mexico, one of five states with no contribution limits. (Yup, Illinois is one of them.)

“There’s a lot of pressure that stems from the design of our government itself for people to give,” says UNM political scientist Lonna Atkeson. “Even if the politician doesn’t demand it, maybe people think it’s expected that they’ll contribute. What they receive may not be what they want. So are they actually buying access or something else? It can create the appearance of corruption even when it doesn’t exist.”

Adds New Mexico Common Cause executive director Steve Allen:

“The way it works is very subtle and, frankly, not illegal.”

The best way for New Mexicans to keep this from happening again is to make pay for play explicitly against the law, says Allen. Continue reading

Behind the Times

When it comes to suitable ethics laws, New Mexico is simply behind the times.

Consider this.

* New Mexico is one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions (Incidentally, Illinois is one of the other four!!). Congressional and presidential elections have contribution limits.

* New Mexico is one of nine states without an independent ethics commission.

* New Mexico is one of two states that offers absolutely no compensation to its legislators.

* New Mexico is one of nine states that does not require open conference committees in its legislature.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Steve Terrell sheds light on yet another shortcoming. Turns out New Mexico is one of six states that does not webcast, or broadcast by television its legislative floor sessions.

I wonder how this lack of suitable ethics laws is affecting progress in other policy areas like health care, land use, or energy.

Power Shifting

The next two weeks mark the American quadrennial event of party conventions for both Democrats and Republicans.

Of course, this week the Democrats meet in Denver, while the Republicans gather next week in my town(s) of origin, the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

For a time, the seat of American political power will shift away from Washington, D.C. The figurative shift is noteworthy because it marks a time-honored tradition for our political system.

The unfortunate reality about this presidential election year is that another, much more disturbing shift is taking place.

I’m talking about the eyebrow-raising shift in PAC donations from Republicans to Democrats. Seems money finds its way to the party most favored to have power after the upcoming election. Continue reading