The Santa Fe New Mexican‘s exposé of taxpayers’ reimbursement of questionable expenses by the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities — including “two $70 bottles of Valdipiatta wine, four Birra Moretti beers that cost $8 each and a $28 glass of WhistlePig whiskey” — is good journalism. But it misses a larger point.
The coalition “works in partnership to create one voice to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and concerns,” focusing on “community and economic development, site employment, environmental remediation, and adequate funding for LANL.” Its budget is covered by a $100,000 annual grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as fees paid by the local governments that participate in the organization’s activities.
As an advocacy entity, the coalition attempts to influence public policy in a number of ways. Its activities include pressing for funding for the “development and operation” of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and efforts “to preserve GRT paid by LANL and Sandia Labs.”
So once again, New Mexico’s taxpayers are covering the costs of an organization engaged in lobbying and politics. As Errors of Enchantment has documented again and again, it happens all the time — from the Tourism Department to the Gallup-McKinley County School District.
The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the case of Mark Janus, an Illinois employee forced to support the agenda of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He’s suing to be freed from the payment of forced tribute to the union, given what The Wall Street Journal called the blurry “distinction between political advocacy and collective bargaining.”
The smart money’s on a majority of the justices ruling for Janus — and the First Amendment. But New Mexicans don’t have to look to Washington for court-ordered relief from taxpayer-funded politics. State legislators can simply pass a law that bars bureaucracies at all levels of government in the Land of Enchantment from using public revenue for lobbying, electioneering, and the like. It’s a no-brainer that would ensure that no one is compelled to contribute to causes/candidate with which they disagree. And as a added bonus, there would be no more subsidization of “two Grey Goose martinis, three glasses of Natura Rose wine and three glasses of Tito’s vodka.”