Inside the Capitol

Monday, July 12, 2004

How much should we know about candidates?

SANTA FE – How much should we be told about candidates? The column on drug testing of elected officials elicited some varying responses to that question.
Most respondents worried that drug tests are an invasion of privacy but some insisted that elected officials must be held to a higher standard, especially if they advocate higher standards for everyone else.
Sen. Steve Komadina, a Corrales physician, has announced he intends to introduce legislation next year setting up a system of voluntary drug tests for elected officials. Results would be posted on the secretary of state’s Web site. Those refusing to take the test would be so noted, along with any explanation they might like to make.
Several years ago, legislation was introduced mandating drug tests for all candidates, with the results printed on the ballot. That produced a suggestion that every candidate be given an I.Q. test, with the results also posted on the ballot. Somehow, the drug test bill lost its steam after that.
Ten years ago a California political scientist released a study indicating that good looks can determine a winner. The California secretary of state obliged that year by printing the pictures of all candidates on sample ballots. No one protested, but some probably should have.
In this year’s presidential race, we are sure to see many invasions of privacy. Both the president and his wife made missteps in their younger days. They were revealed four years ago, but that won’t make them old news. And there are George W’s business failures and the Bush family ties to the Saudis.
Vice President Cheney will be hit with Halliburton, which is either new or old news, depending on how it is spun. John Kerry will be saddled with Jane Fonda and running mate John Edwards will have to deal with having been a successful personal injury lawyer.
But the most interesting invasion of private life is likely to be that of Kerry’s wife, Teresa. Stories are screeching around the Internet about Kerry’s politically incorrect business decisions regarding the Heinz Corporation.
It takes a real stretch of the imagination to picture the very Republican Heinz family turning over its business decisions to the new husband of a woman who once was married to a relative. One would think the Heinz Corporation would prefer to make its own business decisions rather than turn them over to a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts. But that’s the inside scoop that “the media won’t tell you.”
Somewhat more credible are Mrs. Kerry’s contributions to controversial causes. Those are sure to be very carefully scrutinized and questioned.
One reader wrote that rather than drug test results, he wanted to know where the candidates got their contributions and how much, so he’d know where their loyalties were likely to be. New Mexico law requires that contributions be reported to the secretary of state periodically before and after each election. It is then posted on the secretary of state’s Web site, where Komadina would have drug test results posted.
Also on the secretary of state’s Web site is information about how candidates spend their money. For statewide candidates, most of it is spent on instate TV ads, but it also is nice to know how much candidates spend for out-of-state consultants, printing and ad preparation.
Political action committees and lobbyists also are required to submit periodic reports to the secretary of state. Political action committees include not only those attached to special interest groups but those established by public officials, such as Gov. Bill Richardson’s Moving America Forward Committee and PACs set up by members of Congress, who donate to other candidates.
Other personal items that voters have a right to know about candidates include any conflicts they may have with their business, employment or investments. Usually those aren’t known until after they are elected, although some candidates voluntarily release their income tax returns and challenge others to do the same.


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