Friday, July 20, 2012

Federal Campaign Finance Reforms Blocked--New Mexico Efforts Continue

This week the U.S. Senate halted efforts to advance legislation that would require independent groups to disclose the names of contributors who give more than $10,000 to independent groups for use in political campaigns. The measure, known as the DISCLOSE Act, (“Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections”) was drafted in response to the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said that corporate campaign donations are a form of free speech and cannot be limited by government.

In a letter to the Governor before the last Session of the Legislature, Attorney General King stated: “Many of us are concerned that under current U. S. Supreme Court interpretations, there may be many so-called independent groups, corporations, non profits or others that will seek to expend substantial sums of money to influence elections without making fair disclosure of the sources of their funds.  We do not believe that is in the public interest, and we firmly believe that requiring full and fair disclosure of the funding sources for all electioneering materials and expenditures is fully consistent with and authorized by the U. S. Supreme Court in the well known Citizens United decision, as well as other court precedent.”

AG King then proffered legislation that creates campaign disclosure requirements for third parties that campaign for or against political candidates in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the measure did not make it through the legislative process at that time. Not one to give up, the AG will try again in the next Session to enact a good, strong bipartisan supported law requiring disclosure of election campaign contribution funds.  Unfortunately, to the detriment of political funding transparency, what AG King predicted about the explosive growth of secret big-money electioneering has already come true in our state.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Journal Wrong...Again

In its continuing effort to discredit or otherwise misrepresent the work of the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, the Albuquerque Journal today editorialized that AG King should drop any investigation into the Governor's Office like a hot political potato.  Unfortunately, the paper either cites incorrect "facts" or simply employs its favorite smear-by-innuendo tactic to make its points.

Let's start at the bottom of the Journal's editorial and work our way up.

The paper states that, "King has a rash of unfinished cases around."  Of course, there is no mention of which cases, or more importantly, why they are still unresolved. I'll take a wild guess and say that one of those the Journal is referring to is the Region 3  Housing Authority case...first indicted in 2009.  Between the two separate cases there have been more than 20 Defense motions, including two motions to disqualify the AGO. Consequently, two appellate court decisions upheld the AG's right to prosecute the cases.  Those delays should rightly be attributed to the Defense...not the Attorney General.  In fact, we have been ready take the cases to trial since 2009. But somehow the Journal is determined to continue to say that these and other cases are 'languishing' because of something the AGO is or isn't doing.  Apparently the real reasons do not fit the script though.

Next up, the Journal's contention that AG King's
"conflict of interest" has led to major delays and "seriously jeopardized" the corruption case against Rebecca Vigil-Giron.  Nowhere does the Journal mention that the judge in this case expressly and unequivocally said in his official order that:

  1. The Court finds no intentional wrongdoing on the part of the Office of Attorney General;
  2. The Court finds that the prosecution was not motivated by vindictiveness or with a political purpose; 

In non-legalese...the judge could not find any real conflicts. But once again, the Journal refuses to rely on factual information, in this case, from the judge himself.

Now, to the meat of the Journal's visceral reaction to the Attorney General looking into possible wrongdoing in the Governor's Office. The paper once again trots out the conflict horse saying AG King, "can't see the conflict-of-interest forest for the political-advantage trees."  I am not sure if it was a mistake, but the editorial then states that it is indeed the Attorney General's job to, "represent the state and investigate allegations about public agencies and actions of public employees."  And in the same breath the editorial says if the AG does deign to investigate, he opens himself up to more criticism than usual (ostensibly from the Journal) for being politically motivated because of his political plans.

But saving the best for last, the Journal posits that AG King should finish investigating and prosecuting other cases and not bother the Governor, i.e.,"...leave any investigation of the incumbent's administration to others."  Seriously?  If memory serves, the Journal frothily advocated investigating former Governor Bill Richardson for any perceived infraction the paper could gin up.  But not this time, not by this Attorney General anyway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AG Helping New Mexicans Avoid Foreclosure

Holding on to the American dream of homeownership has become a nightmare for many New Mexicans. AG King is trying to do something to alleviate the economic and personal stress that comes with facing the specter of foreclosure. It is called the Homeownership Preservation Program.

It’s not sexy or particularly newsworthy apparently, but the program certainly will positively affect the lives of a good many of our state’s homeowners who find themselves in the seemingly hopeless position of losing their homes.

The Attorney General’s Office issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) last week to solicit contractors capable of providing a number of remedial services recently funded by a
legal settlement reached with top national banks for foreclosure abuses and fraudulent practices. The settlement allocated millions in potential homeowner relief; approximately 11 million dollars over the next three years will come directly to New Mexico for Attorney General King’s program.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No Reason for "Rule of Reason" in Public Records Requests

Last week’s NM Supreme Court Opinion to narrow the use of executive privilege to deny public records requests is being hailed by Attorney General King as a welcome clarification of the privilege’s application in the Inspection of Public Records Act context.  The AG is responsible for enforcing IPRA and a discussion of the effect of the Court’s ruling will be included in the published update of the law that the AG’s office provides to public bodies, including state agencies.

The Court’s opinion also concluded that release of public records cannot be denied by government officials who claim that disclosure is protected by the “rule of reason,” a court-created doctrine under a prior version of IPRA.  Essentially, the “rule of reason” was used to claim that the release of certain documents was not in the public interest, even if they were not specifically exempted by IPRA.  The NM Legislature has since amended IPRA to enumerate specific exceptions to disclosure; exceptions that can be granted only if they fall under the exclusionary provisions in IPRA or if they are otherwise exempt from disclosure by provisions of law.  In simple terms, the Court says there is no longer any reason for the “rule of reason” regarding release of public documents.

AG King says this case makes it clear that any exemptions to IPRA lie squarely within the purview of the Legislature.