New Mexico voters helped the state take an important first step last month toward reducing/punishing government corruption when they approved a constitutional amendment creating an independent state ethics commission. New Mexico is one of just six states that doesn’t have one, and it’s a good-government reform a long time coming – our last Tax and Revenue secretary just pleaded not guilty to state charges of embezzling money from an ex-client and abusing her Cabinet post; our last secretary of state pleaded guilty to state felonies and misdemeanors after embezzling campaign donations to feed a gambling habit; a longtime state senator recently got a year tacked onto his 18-month state sentence for fraud, bribery and other charges; a former state treasurer did federal time for racketeering; his predecessor did federal time for attempted extortion; and a former state Senate leader went to federal prison for his role in a construction kickback scandal.
And those are just the high – make that low – lights.
So this first step is an important one: it created a seven-member panel to function as a clearinghouse of sorts for complaints involving state officials, legislative employees, lobbyists and government contractors.
But sometimes the second step is the hardest.