Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Taping Private Conversations

One of the strangest political stories stories out of New Mexico last year was the infamous Keith Gardner tape.

Gardner, Gov. Susana Martinez's chief of staff, didn't realize when he was talking with an erstwhile friend that the guy was recording the conversation. There, Gardner called former Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings all sorts of nasty names, said that his hometown of Roswell was evil and sucking the life  out of him, and talked about how he used a private email account to do state business because his state email account was public record.
O'Neill's bill would put this man out of work

Jennings used clips from the tape in his re-election campaign. (But he still lost.)

However, that tempest never would have left the teapot had the state would have had a law like one being proposed in this year's Legislature by Sen. Bill O'Neill, D-Albuquerque.

Senate Bill 127 would prohibit the recording of "confidential conversations" without the permission of all parties.

And yes, O'Neill told me yesterday, this would apply to situations like Gardner's. In an email, the senator said:

A dozen other states have `all party consent' statutes (California, Illinois, Florida, etc.) Going back to my pre-Legislature days, I have always felt it creepy when people are recorded surreptitiously; I remember in particular such an incident that played out that way in a workplace situation, where a board member of the non-profit that I was employed with taped a phone conversation he had with my co-worker. In a political context, how can work in a bi-partisan way if we are worried about being secretly taped? How can we be effective as elected officials?

The Senate Rules Committee will get the first crack at this bill