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Poll: Big money in politics equals serious problem

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There is a crisis in New Mexico when it comes to voter confidence in government and politics, according to a new public opinion survey conducted for Common Cause New Mexico.

Among the poll’s findings:

• 80 percent of New Mexico voters statewide believe the influence that large campaign donors have on politicians is either a very serious problem or somewhat serious problem.

• 77 percent believe the impact that large campaign donors have on election outcomes is either a very serious problem or somewhat serious problem.

• 79 percent believe corruption in New Mexico is either a very serious problem or a somewhat serious problem.

• 65 percent believe elected officials are generally more responsive to lobbyists than they are to voters.

• 30 percent approve of the Legislature’s job performance overall, while 43 percent disapprove and 19 percent have mixed feelings.

• 38 percent of New Mexico voters believe things are going in the right direction, 37 percent feel things are on the wrong track and 20 percent have mixed feelings.

Research & Polling Inc. conducted the poll for Common Cause, surveying 467 registered voters statewide by telephone in late December and early January. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus about 4.5 percentage points.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, said the survey results were in line with national polls finding voter concern about the influence of money in politics.

“Frankly, there was nothing in this poll that shocked me,” Sanderoff said.

A Journal poll in 2006 found that 61 percent of New Mexico voters believed the state had about as much government corruption as other states. A Journal poll in 2007 found nearly nine out of 10 voters supported tougher ethics laws, such as additional restrictions on lobbyists and creation of an ethics commission.

Common Cause, which has 35 state organizations, describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to honest, open and accountable government and to encouraging citizen participation in democracy.

“The vast majority of elected officials in New Mexico are hardworking, ethical people who want the best for our state, and Common Cause New Mexico wants voters and legislators to know there are simple ways to return voter trust to government,” said Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico.

The survey found broad support among voters for campaign finance and lobbyist reforms and the elected officials who support change. Among the poll results:

• 78 percent of voters support a requirement that former legislators wait at least two years after leaving office before becoming paid lobbyists at the Legislature.

• 75 percent support a ban on judges from receiving political donations from people with cases before the court.

• 70 percent support the Legislature considering a bill this year to increase the amount of money available to publicly financed candidates for the state Appeals and Supreme courts and the Public Regulation Commission so they can compete more effectively with candidates financed by private donations.

The Legislature overwhelmingly approved such legislation last year, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it, saying she wanted lawmakers to consider broad reform of how we elect judges and that she would be willing to address the issue of public financing in that context.

• 86 percent support the Legislature considering a bill this year to require some donor disclosure by groups that engage in electioneering and don’t now have to report contributors.

Such legislation was introduced in the Legislature last year; it passed the Senate, but the session ended without a House vote.

• 64 percent said they are either much more likely or somewhat more likely to support a candidate for public office who strongly pushes for campaign finance and ethics reforms related to money in politics.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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