Aspiring councilors will have the opportunity to apply for public financing of their campaigns. That means we will be footing the bill for their campaign staff, mail pieces, signs, and even event tickets. (Read the complete set of regulations here.) Qualifying candidates will receive $1 for every registered voter in the district in which they are running.
One "ethical" candidate would get almost $37,000 of our money to spend pretty much as they choose; and that's just to start. Should a non-participating candidate raise more than the participating candidate we taxpayers will helpfully match their hard work with our money. Matching funds also extend to Measure Finance Committees who campaign against a qualifying candidate by name. Every dollar a committee raises will be matched by us.
You may be sitting there thinking well that sounds fair... after all, how would an "ethical" candidate compete if they could be out spent by candidates and committees with deep pockets and effective fundraisers. Without going into the lunacy of that concept, the whole Open and Ethical Elections Code pre-supposes that candidates receiving taxpayer money are ethical to start with.
Paulette de'Pascal is running against incumbent Councilor Brad Winter for the district 4 council seat. She announced on her blog that she has qualified for public financing of her race against Councilor Winter. We're all paying for her campaign even though most of the people in the city can't vote for her or against her. We're trusting her with our money... even before she's been elected.
That's really where the rub is. You see according to public records, Ms. de'Pascal is right in the middle of a bankruptcy proceeding that cannot be discharged due to civil embezzlement claims. She is also in the middle of a divorce that if court records are any indication, appears to be somewhat messy. In all such cases, information that one might wish to remain private has a way of finding the public; especially when one of the parties involved is running for office.
According to the documents, embezzlement allegations are being pursued by Dr. Ronald Ziemann a local dentist and estranged husband of Ms. de'Pascal. According to court records, Ms. de'Pascal served as Dr. Ziemann's "dental office manager." She was in charge of all receivables, payables, bank accounts, hiring and firing of employees, purchasing, etc. In short, she had control of the money both personally and professionally.
Dr. Ziemann alleges in court documents that Ms. de'Pascal failed to file and pay CRS-1 taxes due to the State of New Mexico resulting in a claim from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department of $46,000. In addition, Ziemann alleges the Ms. de'Pascal "wrote business checks for the purchase of personal items for herself" amounting to over $60,000.
The court documents are, shall we say extensive. Later allegations include a claim that Ms. de'Pascal "stole another approximately $41,969.32 in cash from the business."
We have to take into account that the case has not yet been fully adjudicated. For all we know the allegations could be false. In fact, we're quite sure that Ms. de'Pascal will deny them.
(Sidebar)With New Mexico's recent history of public corruption, Montoya, Vigil, Aragon - indicted and awaiting trial (Subscription), is it really a good idea to give taxpayer money to people who are not even public officials? There's really nothing stopping an "unethical" candidate from pocketing the money... your money. As with all legislation of this type, it often has the opposite effect from the one intended (See McCain-Feingold). The result, instead of a clean campaign we end up with a campaign con.
We can't understand why someone would submit themselves to this kind of scrutiny after a messy divorce that included allegations of embezzlement... much less running for public office at a time when court proceedings are still pending. A candidate's dirty laundry will always be hung out for public inspection and there's none dirtier than divorce linen.