A series of scandals involving government contractors and lobbyists has undermined public trust in government at a time when state and local governments face serious challenges that will require public confidence and support to solve. Most of these scandals involve “pay to play” corruption in which special interests make political contributions in order to increase their chances of receiving public dollars.
To combat pay to play corruption in New Mexico, in 2009 Think New Mexico published a report recommending that the Legislature and Governor enact legislation prohibiting government contractors, special interests seeking major government subsidies or tax breaks, and registered lobbyists from making political contributions to state or local elected officials. In addition to prohibiting these special interests from donating directly, Think New Mexico recommended barring them from bundling political contributions from other donors and delivering them to candidates.
These reforms would build on New Mexico’s Gift Act, which passed the legislature by a strong bipartisan majority and was signed into law by Governor Richardson in 2007. The Gift Act prohibits state contractors, recipients of major government subsidies, and registered lobbyists from making gifts worth more than $250 to state candidates or public officials.
A dozen other states have enacted laws banning political contributions from government contractors, lobbyists, or both, and elected officials in those states report that the reforms have improved the political cultures of their states.
Banning political contributions from lobbyists and those with a financial interest in legislation will reduce corruption and enhance public trust in government. It will also help ensure that scarce public dollars are allocated on the merits, not on politics. Every dollar spent on a politically connected contract or subsidy is a dollar that is not available for important public services.
During the 2010 legislative session, Think New Mexico championed legislation to implement our proposed reforms. House Bill 118 passed the House on a vote of 46-24 before running out of time in the Senate.
Read a letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal about Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • March 31, 2012
Listen to KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio “Our Times” program featuring Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • June 25, 2011 (mp3, 52:04)
Read Albuquerque Journal article on the progress of Think New Mexico’s legislation to ban political contributions by lobbyists and major government contractors • March 4, 2011
Read Las Cruces Sun-News editorial endorsing Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • November 8, 2009
Read Truth or Consequences Herald editorial endorsing Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • October 21, 2009
Read Rio Grande Sun editorial endorsing Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • October 15, 2009
Read Santa Fe New Mexican story on Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • October 11, 2009
Read Associated Press article on Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • October 11, 2009
Listen to KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio story on Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption • October 27, 2009 (mp3, 11:41)
Listen to KSVP Artesia AM 990 Interview with Associate Director Kristina Fisher about Think New Mexico’s initiative to end pay to play corruption Part I (mp3, 5:27) and Part II (mp3, 6:26) • October 23, 2009
Read Think New Mexico’s opinion editorial on Heath Haussamen’s nmpolitics.net • October 12, 2009