Newcomers should seek prohibition on legislators becoming lobbyists
State Sen. Dede Feldman was tireless, relentless, peerless.
Across a 16-year career in the Senate, she sponsored bills to prohibit legislators from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving office.
Feldman was dedicated to her cause. But most of her colleagues had an aversion to making it unlawful for legislators to jump right into the lobbying business.
The result was predictable. Her bills to stop unsalaried lawmakers from re-inventing themselves as well-paid lobbyists were always dead on arrival in legislative committees.
Feldman, D-Albuquerque, is retiring from the Senate at year's end. We can only hope that somebody else will advance the cause of lobbyist reform.
Many longtime legislators want nothing to do with a temporary prohibition on their becoming lobbyists. They do not want to close a door that may hit them in the wallet.
But that door should be slammed shut, and perhaps this is one issue where only the greenest legislators can lead.
A one-year ban on legislators becoming lobbyists would be a good cause for the freshman class of '13 to embrace.
More than 20 people brand new to the Legislature will be elected this fall. These freshmen,
Republicans and Democrats, can demonstrate their idealism by making lobbyist reform their signature issue.
Forget being good followers of the party caucuses. Instead, the freshmen should band together for better government with a bipartisan bill.
If the freshman class puts its numbers behind lobbyist reform, it might shame the established lawmakers into doing the right thing. That would be a belated tribute to Feldman, who was so earnest for so long.
Feldman is writing a book about the Legislature, including sections on New Mexico's repeal of the death penalty and passage of the state law banning cockfighting.
She also could include a page or two about the futility of her efforts to stop legislators from cashing in as lobbyists.
Almost a year has passed since Kent Cravens, right, resigned from the state Senate just after a special session. He immediately went to work for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association as a lobbyist.
Cravens, a Republican from Albuquerque, did exactly what Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said should be illegal. But the Republicans did not rally to the cause of lobbyist reform.
They, just like most of the Democrats in the Legislature, patted Cravens on the back and congratulated him on his new career in schmoozing for laws his employer wants enacted.
There was, at least, a wicked irony to Cravens' graceless exit.
A Democrat, Lisa Curtis, ended up winning the appointment to succeed Cravens in the Senate.
Republican regulars in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties howled with outrage. A Democrat should not get a seat that a Republican had been elected to, they said.
But none had the courage to denounce Cravens, who started it all by bolting from the job he had been elected to do to take one that paid better.
If he had not resigned from office, there would have been no vacancy and no chance for Curtis to get the seat.
Cravens looked out for himself, not the people who elected him. He is the one who let down the public.
There was outrage over Curtis getting the appointment, but almost none over Cravens' self-serving maneuver.
Gov. Martinez said Cravens had served in the Senate with class. Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, told Cravens nobody was reading what the critics were writing about him. Feldman's bill for reform died as usual, never a threat to be approved.
The fact that Cravens was voting on redistricting laws and other bills in the special session, all the while knowing he was about to jump into a lobbyist's job, should have bothered everybody. But only Feldman and a handful of others cared enough to try to change the system.
The freshman class of '13 must lead on lobbyist reform. We already know that most of the veteran lawmakers do not want to touch this issue.
These established legislators might want to be the next Kent Cravens.