Gov. Susana Martinez has built a house of cards in Santa Fe, and it’s New Mexicans who are being left to pick up the pieces as the cards begin to fall.
The secretary of state who Martinez supported resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to criminal charges; her secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department is under investigation; and now her closest political adviser — a man she says she still speaks to daily — is under FBI scrutiny for political fundraising irregularities.
The house of cards is starting to fall.
Martinez swept into office in 2010 and again in 2014 with the overwhelming support of New Mexicans who believed promises that her administration would stand up to corruption and fight for open and transparent government.
Under Martinez’s watch, however, the exact opposite has occurred. Her administration has become mired in investigation after investigation – casting a long and dark shadow across the entire state.
Moreover, as the corruption she allows to exist has started to surface, New Mexicans are still struggling to find jobs and the state’s economy continues to languish. Forbes magazine recently ranked New Mexico the fourth-worst state in which to do business. In fact, New Mexico is experiencing the worst recovery from the recession in the country and it is the only state with more people moving out than in.
It’s time for Martinez to stop looking the other way and to start focusing on doing something to clean up the mess that’s been made in Santa Fe since she took office.
Martinez has even broken her recent promises to focus on New Mexico’s problems not her national profile. On Thursday, Martinez was in Las Vegas, Nev., where she assumed the chairwoman position of the Republican Governors Association — with her disgraced political adviser, Jay McCleskey, at her side.
While padding her political résumé in Sin City, she left behind many unanswered questions here in New Mexico about the various scandals paralyzing her administration.
Recently, news broke that the governor’s political action committee directed political funds to an untraceable shell corporation managed by McCleskey to avoid public scrutiny. This comes on the heels of news that federal authorities are investigating McCleskey’s political fundraising practices and whether the state Taxation and Revenue Department used its auditing power to retaliate against the governor’s former political allies.
But, as we know, it doesn’t end there. The governor continues to ally herself with her hand-picked Taxation and Revenue secretary, Demesia Padilla, who is accused of pressuring state employees to give favorable treatment to a former employer. The governor also has close ties to Dianna Duran, the former secretary of state who resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to money laundering and embezzlement charges.
Instead of flying around the country to raise her own political profile and to raise cash for Republican candidates, Martinez should focus on New Mexicans concerned about the integrity of state government. The first step is for Martinez to answer some basic questions. Why has she been unable to deliver on the central promise of her campaign to create jobs by rooting out corruption? Why have corruption and scandal flourished in Santa Fe under her watch? Is her political ambition more important than meeting every New Mexican’s expectation of clean government? New Mexicans deserve answers.
Over the past five years, Martinez has built a house with no foundation, and now it’s falling. Hardworking New Mexican families struggling to get ahead expected more and deserve better.
Debra Haaland is the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Haaland is the first elected Native American to be chairwoman of a major state political party.