Monday, October 12, 2009

How We Do Business in New Mexico

If you missed my story on Think New Mexico's proposal for serious restrictions on campaign contributions, you can find it HERE.

The arguments for and against campaign contribution limits. of course, are familiar.

But one thing in the new Think New Mexico study that appealed to my inner history buff was the section titled "New Mexico's Long Struggle Against Political Corruption," which deals with The Lincoln County War, The Santa Fe Ring, etc.

from my story Sunday:

Though it's been in the news frequently in recent months, political corruption in this state hardly is new.

According to Think New Mexico's report, it goes back at least to the state's territorial days.

"The Lincoln Country War (1878-1881), which is usually recalled as a backdrop for the exploits of Billy the Kid, began as a political fight over government contracts for beef and other provisions," the report says. "Those government contracts were heavily influenced by the patronage of the powerful 'Santa Fe Ring,' a group of lawyers, judges, businessmen and politicians from both parties who gained control of the territorial legislature and dominated the economic life of New Mexico by manipulating public offices for private gain."

The report quotes historian David Holtby in a recent essay titled "Statehood Era and the Federal Presence in New Mexico," who argues the Santa Fe Ring damaged the reputation of the state.

"In the minds of many influential people in Washington D.C. in the 1880s and 1890s, New Mexico Territorial politics indelibly soiled its reputation."

President Theodore Roosevelt endured headaches from New Mexico corruption. "Roosevelt fired two territorial governors, including one of his own appointees who had approved a fraudulent land transaction at the behest of the Santa Fe Ring within a few months of moving to New Mexico."

The Think New Mexico report says, "Unfortunately this culture of corruption has continued into modern times. It can be seen in the troubling attitude that this is simply how we do business in New Mexico."

The Think New Mexico report does not appear to be available online yet. You can read a summary of it HERE