I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Gary King and Bill Richardson will push ethics reform in upcoming legislative session
Attorney General Gary King announced today that he will support several ethics reform proposals in the upcoming legislative session, and Gov. Bill Richardson, whose administration is the subject of a federal pay-to-play investigation, promptly did the same.
King, in a news release, announced what he is calling an “ambitious legislative agenda” that includes enacting campaign contribution limits, creating a state ethics commission, enacting a whistleblower protection law, giving the Attorney General’s Office jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption, expanding the state governmental and conduct acts to apply to local governments and prohibiting legislators from becoming lobbyists for one year after they leave office.
Perhaps referring to the current climate of scandal — in addition to the federal grand jury probe of the Richardson administration, King is about to take the drawn-out criminal investigation into the state’s housing authority system before a grand jury — King said he’s ready to move forward with the reforms.
“I know this is an ambitious package of ethics proposals, but I sense there is keen interest among many legislators to move forward aggressively this year with major new ethics legislation,” King said in the release. “I certainly intend to work hard to help ensure their success, and I believe these bills will enjoy broad public support.”
Several hours after King put out his news release earlier today, Richardson sent out his own news release stating that he “welcomes” King’s support of the reform proposals.
“I look forward to working with the attorney general and lawmakers to once and for all pass a comprehensive ethics reform package,” Richardson said in the release. “I’ve proudly signed the ethics bills that have made it to my desk in recent years. This year, I look forward to signing those important reforms that, in past years, have failed by only a few votes.”
Richardson convened two ethics task forces in recent years to study and propose reforms, but some lawmakers have accused him of not putting his full weight behind the proposals. Richardson, in his release, said he’s asking lawmakers to pass several ethics reform proposals this year, including an ethics commission, campaign contribution limits and the one-year ban on legislators becoming lobbyists.
In 2007, following the scandal at the state treasurer’s office, momentum built for reform. The Legislature and governor approved a gift ban, an expansion of the public financing system and changes to the governmental conduct act but rejected other reforms including contribution limits and the ethics commission.
In 2008, ethics reform appeared dead on arrival in the Legislature, and nothing significant was approved, but many have begun to speculate that the current investigation of the governor’s administration might help give the reforms a new boost in the 60-day session that begins Jan. 20.
CDR Financial Products was paid almost $1.5 million in 2004 to advise the New Mexico Finance Authority on interest-rate swaps and restructuring escrow funds for $1.6 billion in bonds related to the transportation project dubbed GRIP, or Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership. Meanwhile, in 2003 and 2004, the company gave $75,000 to Richardson’s political action committee Si Se Puede!, and the company’s head, David Rubin, gave $25,000 to Moving America Forward, another Richardson PAC.
No information released publicly has directly linked Richardson to the probe, but the investigation centers around whether staffers in Richardson’s office influenced the hiring of CDR.