Ok, let’s give Governor Richardson the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Let’s assume that he has signed ethics legislation which limits campaign contributions because he wants to do some good. I know, considering that Governor Richardson has raised more money from questionable sources than anyone else in New Mexico, it’s a stretch. But, let’s be optimistic here in viewing this latest presidential campaign ploy (subscription):
Currently, there is no limit on gifts to most public officials or employees.
The new law will impose a $250 limit on the value of individual gifts that can be accepted by a state official, employee or candidate for state office.
There will be a yearly cap of $1,000 on the combined value of gifts that can be given to any one state government official or employee by a lobbyist, their employer or government contractor.
The gift restriction will cover items including food, lodging, transportation and tickets to sporting events or entertainment. However, exempted from the $250 cap will be retirement gifts to a state official or employee [hmm, this must be the deferred payment plan?].
Violations of the new law will be a petty misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
So, here is my question? Who is going to go to jail for six months when the $1,000 gift cap is exceeded? Will it be the lobbyist, who spent $475 on dinners and entertainment during the session on a particular legislator? Or, will it be their employer who maybe invited the legislator and his or her family to enjoy a couple of sporting events at a $475 value. Or, maybe the secretary who sends a card with flowers for a legislators birthdays at a cost of $55? Should it be the secretary if she was the last one to send a gift that puts them over the top?
This law is ridiculous. If they really wanted ethics reform to deal with gifts to legislators, then they should have just outlawed all gifts. Period, end of story.