It seems like a long time ago, right? Every day and every night the news was filled with stories of former New Mexico Treasurers Robert Vigil and Michael Montoya, and their scandalous, kickback driven investments of taxpayer funds. Of course, it wasn’t really that long ago. In fact, it’s only been four years.
And, four years later, it looks like we’ve still have all of the EXACT SAME corruption problems. Sure it’s different people taking money. But, the result is basically the same. New Mexico taxpayers are the big losers. Four years ago we had lost millions of dollars. Now we’ve lost billions of dollars.
So, who is to blame? Well, we can obviously start at the top. A little less than four years ago, our Governor Richardson made the following proclamation:
Governor Bill Richardson has ordered “a comprehensive review of state investments and investment contracts, and is proposing a number of strict new procedures regarding the state investment process,” his office announced Tuesday. The announcement comes on the heels of State Treasurer Robert Vigil and former State Treasurer Michael Montoya being arrested and charged with extorting kickbacks from brokers handling state investment accounts.
Richardson said the state will conduct “a top to bottom review of all investment practices and a review of all investment contracts and has directed state agencies to conduct an internal assessment of all investment activities at all levels of state government.”
Well, in light of the ongoing federal investigations, we have only two possible conclusions to draw:
- The Governor failed miserably in his promise to conduct a top to bottom review of all investment practices.
- The Governor and his administration conducted this full assessment and decided it was in their own self interest to keep pay to play schemes in place and continue the time honored practice of defrauding taxpayers.
It will be interesting to see if the current federal investigation turns up the results of the”internal assessment of all investment activities” that was required of each state agency. Actually, why wait fro the federal investigation to be complete. Maybe one of our state’s remaining reporters will file a FOIA request to get a peak at those assessments.
But, is it only the Governor who is to blame? No. As mentioned above, there are appointees who obviously failed to do their jobs. There are also the legislators who acted as enablers:
Until 2005, the ERB was limited in what types of investments it could make, primarily stocks and bonds with a history of paying dividends.
The legislature changed that in 2005, but it took the ERB the better part of a year to get into a position to diversify its investments to include hedge funds, private equity funds that invest in companies that are not publicly traded and other specialty areas.
We’ve got another round of elections coming up. First, the Albuquerque City elections, and then before we know it, we’ll have the statewide elections in 2010. If we vote the same people back into office time and time again, the cycle of corruption will continue. Isn’t time to say enough is enough?