In a step toward a more open and transparent government, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver launched a new online resource today aimed at tracking the financial interests of elected officials around the state. Financial Disclosure Documents have been a part of public service in New Mexico for years but were previously only available in hard copies found in Santa Fe.
“The business dealings of our public officials should be accessible and available to scrutiny by all New Mexicans,” said Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver in a press release. “This kind of transparency should give confidence to New Mexicans that the vast majority of public officials working on their behalf are living within the law and maintaining the public’s trust.”
Of course transparency, or lack thereof, has led to some big stories in recent years around (especially Republican) lawmakers who’ve failed to comply with ethics guidelines in disclosing their financial dealings. Of note is the story of Republican Representative Paul Pacheco (Albuquerque) who appeared to have steered government contracts to his family business.
While ProgressNow New Mexico was diligent in weeding out this and other conflicts of interest in the past, having access to these kinds of financial records makes it possible for any citizen in the state to check and see who their representatives are possibly beholden to.
Here’s some other stories of some public officials who got into hot water after either NOT submitting correct financial disclosures, or who did but no one looked at them until something bad was happening.
- That time former Republican Representative Andy Nunez used campaign funds for personal things like tires and tools.
- That time former Sec. of State Diana Duran was jailed for embezzlement and money laundering.
- That time a former Republican Senator resigned after violating state ethics laws regarding his financial disclosures.
According to the press release, “all statewide elected officials, State legislators, and State agency heads or officials whose appointment to a board or commission is senate confirmed are required to file an annual financial disclosure statement.”
Also, “some State employees are also required to file an annual financial disclosure statement by executive directive as are State employees and public officials with financial interests that may be affected by their employment but who are otherwise not required by law to file.”
This is good news for the citizens of New Mexico and we’re fortunate to have a Sec. of State who not only follows through on her promises, but does so quickly.