|Thomas Nast cartoon of political corruption in 19th century American politics|
In the most recent decade, the Democratic Party had a bunch of grifters and schemers who entrenched themselves into local and state offices, unchallenged for the most part, because of close family ties and no oversight. One of the worst cases to go public was when the State Treasurer and former State Treasurer were arrested in 2005 for corruption. Then-Governor Bill Richardson appointed Doug Brown, a UNM Business School professor, to straighten things out as the acting State Treasurer. His story about what he found in the State Treasurer's office is horrendous:
An investigation by Deloitte & Touche begun weeks before had determined that the state’s checkbook was out of balance by $160 million, and unreconciled items stretched back over five years. The officer in charge of this department had no banking experience. His previous job was as a baggage handler for America West. Only one of my staff of 42 had any previous investment experience, and we were running a $5 billion portfolio. There were few controls, little disclosure, and no effective oversight. Investment guidelines, purchasing policies, and personnel policies were routinely ignored. All efforts had been directed to overpaying on commissions and purchases to generate the wherewithal for “campaign contributions.” The agency’s outside auditor was a small firm from downstate that had for years given the Treasurer’s Office clean opinions with no material weaknesses. That relationship was so cozy that other CPA firms had stopped bothering to bid. I came to appreciate Warren Buffet’s observation that there is seldom just one cockroach in the kitchen.Now for the scary part. Document shredders had been working overtime. The alarm contacts on doors and windows had been super-glued together to enable after-hours entry. Video cameras had been redirected and videotapes erased. Staff members who were reluctant to go along with these schemes had their personnel evaluations downgraded retroactively. One had her car vandalized. Alerted to this pattern of criminality, I had a detective agency check the premises for telephone bugs. They found five, including one on my phone.The most chilling moment came after I immediately had the alarm system repaired. The very next morning, an early-arriving employee went to her desk and realized she had forgotten to turn off the alarm. Her panic turned to puzzlement when there was no police response. The alarm was not working. Later that day, the alarm company revisited and informed us that someone had tampered with the system the night before by inserting a sophisticated lens to divert the electric beam.
Bill Richardson not only dropped out of the Presidential race in 2008, but his announced appointment to be Secretary of Commerce in the new Obama administration was withdrawn in December, 2008, when an investigation into his alleged improper business dealings began. Although charges were not pursued against the Governor, the Richardson administration became a tainted brand and the Democrats in the 2010 election were target of a vocal Tea Party movement and the Republican Party. The Republicans ran a non-politician, Susana Martinez, against Richardson's Lt. Governor, Diane Denish, on a platform of clean government and a racial appeal to the majority of New Mexico voters who were Hispanic to elect the state's first female Latina Governor. Riding on an anti-corruption appeal, Martinez defeated Diane Denish, 53.6% to 46.4%.
|NM Governor Susana Martinez|
Currently, five Democratic candidates are running to be the nominee of their party for Governor. The largest newspaper in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal, is a political supporter of Governor Martinez, and despite an occasional critical article, treats her with positive media coverage while attacking her Democratic opponents with articles of slander and innuendo. The press, which should be doing its job to cover politics fairly and with accurate information about the candidates who would be Governor, is too often partisan in its coverage and/or lacks the journalistic investigatory skills needed to dig beyond the smiling faces of political PR. This is a disservice to our state and is a primary reason why corruption and lack of transparency find fertile ground in New Mexico due to voter ignorance.
|Alan Webber and his family|
The key to getting good government is involvement in the political process by the voters. When we allow so much money in politics to control who gets elected, then the only antidote is transparency and grassroots participation. I volunteer for the candidates I like and I donate small sums of money. That is what I advise to others to do, especially in mid-term elections when the press and the voters seem to ignore it as less important than a Presidential year. Who we elect as our local government officials can mean the difference between a lousy or excellent quality of life for us in New Mexico. Working closely with local candidates will tell you a lot about their character. Please, get involved.
There are several political newcomers running for state-wide office. The years of political corruption have brought a response from many of our New Mexico citizens who are bravely coming forth to try and put an end to cess-pool politics. To my Democratic friends, I would like to recommend the following candidates for the Democratic New Mexican Primary scheduled for June 3, 2014:
Governor: Alan Webber
Lt. Governor: Debra Haaland
Treasurer: Tim Eichenberg
Attorney General: Hector Balderas
Secretary of State: Maggie Toulouse Oliver
State Auditor: Tim Keller
Commissioner of Public Lands: Ray Powell
U.S. Senator: Tom Udall
Congress CD-1: Michelle Lujan Grisham
Congress CD-2: Roxanne "Rocky" Lara
Congress CD-3: Ben Ray Lujan, Jr.
|Congressman (CD-3) Ben Ray Lujan, Jr.|
|Deb Haaland, a tribal administrator for the Pueblo of San Felipe, running for Lt. Governor|
|Hector Balderas, State Auditor, and his family. Hector is seeking the AG office.|
|Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Bernalillo County Clerk,|
wants to be Secretary of State
|CD-1 Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham with a fan|
|Ray Powell, Land Comissioner|
|Roxanne "Rocky" Lara is running against |
Tea Party favorite, Steve Pearce, for Congress CD-2
|Tim Keller, currently a State Senator, with his wife and new baby. Tim wants to be State Auditor.|
Senator Tom Udall
Tim Eichenberg is a candidate for State Treasurer
With positive candidates like these, I am optimistic that New Mexico can turn the corner on political corruption, but only if we people keep a close eye on our politicians and stay involved!
Update: October 2, 2015
Too bad New Mexican voters returned Republican Dianna Duran to Secretary of State. Now she stands accused of embezzling campaign funds to fuel an out-of-contral gambling habit. More bad news for our state's political and economic state of affairs and so it goes....