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Survey: Political ethics have hurt economic development

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seventy-eight percent of New Mexico business leaders believe the ethics-related behavior of elected state officials has negatively impacted economic development here, according to a recent poll.

The poll was sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc. surveyed 252 individuals between December and January. Research & Polling also conducts polls for the Journal.

In an interview, CED Executive Vice President Mike Petro said that though the results speak to some of the challenges New Mexico has faced in the past, he believes the numbers are “a positive sign” for the state.

“The business community in New Mexico is making the connection between corruption, cronyism and economic development,” said Petro. “That doesn’t happen in every state. And in New Mexico, you see that changes are starting to occur.”

Petro pointed to the state’s recently approved ethics commission as an example of such a change. In November, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly backed a constitutional amendment that created an independent ethics commission. The details of how the commission will operate are currently being debated in the Legislature.

Among the takeaways from the poll:

n When asked about the impact of the ethical behavior of elected officials on economic development in the state, 51 percent described the impact as “somewhat negative” while another 27 percent called it “very negative,” meaning nearly four out of five think the impact has been in some way negative.

n Twenty-three percent of leaders feel that things in New Mexico are headed in the right direction, an increase of seven percentage points from the year prior.

n The vast majority of business leaders – 91 percent – either strongly or somewhat support a Legislative proposal that would require all political contributions and expenditures from individuals, corporations, political action committees, nonprofits and unions to be made public.

n Most business leaders believe the ethics commission should be as nonpartisan and independent as possible (97 percent), that commissioners should be well-qualified and free of any past ethical complaints (95 percent), and that every credible complaint should receive a through and fair investigation (94 percent). More controversial was creating a transparent and public process for the investigations (79 percent) and releasing the details of the commission’s findings to the public (77 percent).

The business leaders surveyed include members of the Albuquerque Economic Forum, Albuquerque Economic Development, the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Association, the board members of the various chambers of commerce throughout the state, the largest private sector employers in New Mexico, and the largest employers within various business sectors.

This is the fourth year the poll has been conducted in New Mexico. Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, said he was not surprised by the results.

“Business leaders in New Mexico are still very concerned about the state’s image as it relates to ethical behavior,” he said.