Campaign videos serve as backdrop to state websites
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Redesigned websites for two independent state agencies are blurring the lines between governance and politicking by using video footage from the campaign trail as a backdrop for information about government services.
State House Republican minority leader James Townsend on Tuesday called the agencies’ use of campaign-related video unfortunate, saying that “political aspirations should not cloud our duty of service.”
The backsplash for the Office of the State Auditor’s home page is the same video footage from a 2018 campaign ad for newly elected State Auditor Brian Colón that was paid for by the campaign committee New Mexicans for Colón.
The video footage shows Colón high fiving a child at a public park and conversing with young men and women at a boardroom table and again outdoors.
Agency spokeswoman Stephanie Telles said the video footage was donated by Colón without any cost to taxpayers and is appropriate because it communicates the state auditor’s goal of protecting New Mexico families.
She said an overhaul of the website this month makes it easier to search for independent audits of local government agencies and help agencies communicate with public accountants.
The new website also provides a scrolling view of posts on the Facebook site “Brian Colón for State Auditor,” with recent posts by Colón from local fairs and parades and alongside firefighters clutching Colón-endorsement signs. The Auditor’s Office reviews the finances of local and state government agencies for waste, fraud and abuse.
On the State Land Office website , Stephanie Garcia Richard runs along the rim of a vast desert canyon and sits with young children in a classroom. Those images also appeared in a promotional campaign video paid for by the political committee Friends of Stephanie Garcia Richard and still available on YouTube.
Land Office spokeswoman Angie Poss on Tuesday said no state money was used in the video’s production for the agency website and that the footage also shows landscapes, industries and interests that affect work at the agency.
The State Land Office oversees energy and mineral leases across 14,000 square miles (36,000 square kilometers) of state trust land to help fund schools, universities and hospitals.
Garrey Carruthers, a former governor and Republican appointee to the state’s newly founded Ethic Commission, said the website videos are the kind of thing the commission can evaluate when it convenes for the first time next year.
“We have known in the past that people in public life definitely use their position to advance their cause for re-election, some more egregiously,” he said. “I couldn’t comment on whether this is good, bad.”
Colón, a former state Democratic Party chairman, and Garcia Richard, a former education administrator and state legislator, won their seats last year as Democrats consolidated control over all statewide elected offices outside the judiciary and flipped the state’s only GOP-held congressional district.
Since taking office Jan. 1, Colón has launched a special review of state financial settlements that resolved workplace complaints.
Garcia Richard has lobbied the Legislature unsuccessfully to raise royalty rates for oil and natural gas production on state land to shore up funding for education, and made her mark as the first woman to lead the agency by erasing gender-specific pronouns such as “he” or “his” from state agency rulebooks.