A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 17, 2006
If you want to know who is giving how much money to what politicians in New Mexico races during most of the summer and early fall, you’re pretty much out of luck.
The way state campaign laws are set up, candidates for state and county offices don’t file any financial-disclosure reports between July 6 and Oct. 9.
However, a conservative blogger from Cedar Crest has created a Web site called Ethical Reporting — subtitled The Campaign Finance Reporting Blog for Politicians With Nothing to Hide — on which candidates can post their contributions, expenses and in-kind donations as they come in.
Burgos has been a critic of the secretary of state’s Web site, saying it’s difficult to use and virtually impossible to search.
“I’m an active Republican with a conservative blog who has run for political office in the past,” Burgos says on his site. “Now that we have that out in the open, please know that this site will remain strictly nonpartisan.”
He later told me: “Nothing would make me happier than for Dems to participate as well.”
Burgos said he ran the idea by Matt Brix, executive director of New Mexico Common Cause.
“I think it’s a pretty creative effort on Mario’s part,” Brix said. “I would definitely encourage candidates to use it.”
So far, only one candidate is on the site’s List of Ethical Politicians. That’s state Rep. Kathy McCoy, of Cedar Crest, who won her seat in 2004 after defeating Burgos in the Republican primary. She’s posted all donations and expenditures she incurred since the July 6 report.
McCoy is a member of the state task force that is recommending changes in ethics and campaign laws. “I thought it was appropriate as a task-force member to take this first step,” she said.
McCoy is running against Democratic challenger Janice Saxton of Placitas.
Burgos — who spent about 20 hours over the past three weeks and less than $200 creating the site — said readers can add comments about individual contributions. “If somebody’s getting money from someone who’s dealing with the state, you can post a comment,” he said. Candidates in turn can respond to the comments, he said.
But he admitted there is one drawback: You can’t click a button and total how much McCoy or future participants have raked in or spent.
“I’m not a programmer.” Burgos said.
Both Burgos and McCoy say they support the idea of the state requiring “real-time” reporting of contributions as they come in.
“The way it is now, by the time the public can look at our contribution lists, the election’s over,” McCoy said. “This helps create cynicism in the public arena.”
“I don’t like the way the (ethics) task force is going with trying to set limits (on contributions and gifts),” Burgos said. “I’m for 100-percent disclosure. If you have lunch with a lobbyist, put it out there.”
Man of Mystery: Speaking of campaign contributions, all the candidates I spoke to earlier this week who had taken money from Jeffrey Epstein — the billionaire financier recently indicted in Florida on felony charges of soliciting prostitutes — said they’d never met Epstein.
It kind of reminds me of what my mom told me about taking candy from strangers.
I also was struck by The Palm Beach Post’s description of Epstein — accused of having sex with a string of teenage girls — “Epstein, now 53, was a quintessential man of mystery. He amassed his fortune and friends quietly, always in the background as he navigated New York high society.”
Five years ago in this paper, former New Mexican reporter Elena Vasquez, writing about Epstein’s gigantic mansion in Santa Fe County (on land he calls "Zorro Ranch"), picked up on the “mystery-man” aspect of his character.
“Epstein is as mysterious today as he was when he began building his estate. He apparently is a private man who has sworn his ranch employees to secrecy — making him an enigma to his 30 neighbors in the sleepy town of Stanley. One resident said her curiosity died down after many of her questions remained unanswered.
“ ‘They wouldn’t tell anybody anything,’ said (a neighbor), who has become friends with some of Epstein’s employees. ‘... Whatever they do there is their business, so I just let it drop.’ ”
Lamont/Lieberman: So far at least 20 Democratic U.S. senators have said they will back Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont in the general election against incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent after losing to Lamont in the Democratic primary. Only three Senate Democrats say they’re sticking with Lieberman.
Missing from both lists is New Mexico’s junior senator, Democrat Jeff Bingaman.
“Jeff’s not going to get involved,” Bingaman re-election campaign manager Terry Brunner said this week. “He’ll leave that decision to the voters of Connecticut. He’s got his own race to worry about.”
Bingaman is running for a sixth term against Republican Allen McCulloch of Farmington.
Other New Mexico Democrats haven’t been shy about the Connecticut race. U.S. Rep. Tom Udall is supporting the Democratic nominee, a spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed Lamont last week and urged Lieberman to step aside.