New Mexico – STATEMENT OF SENATE RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SENATOR LINDA M. LOPEZ
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 10, 2011
Three days ago, at his request, I met with the Secretary Designate of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Harrison Schmitt. Mr. Schmitt's reason for requesting the meeting was to inform me of his refusal to allow a Senate conferee background check, which is a check all designated cabinet secretaries and high level appointed officials undergo as part of the Senate's confirmation process.
First, I sympathize with Mr. Schmitt's and all conferees' discomfort when it comes to the background check process. It is an extensive review that includes a search for any prior criminal convictions and of the Federal Civil Court Records; verification of appointees' assertions related to financial circumstances or improprieties such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and outstanding loans; and a review of disclosure statements related to potential conflicts of interest and ownership in business entities.
However, the New Mexico State Senate is constitutionally charged with confirming top state government officials because of the tremendous influence and authority and power provided to those individuals in their official government capacity. The forty or so individuals we confirm to these top positions are responsible for expenditures in the billions of dollars, investing the state's multi-billion dollar pension funds, and promulgating regulations that impact citizens across the entire state of New Mexico.
The New Mexico Senate adopted background checks in 2007. They are part of a procedure that all high-level appointees must undergo as they put themselves forward into positions of public service and public trust. The review process is in place to protect the public and to provide the citizens of our state with an increased sense of confidence in their government. As such, there can be no exceptions to the background review process.
At the Senate Rules Committee hearing on Monday, February 14, we will discuss Mr. Schmitt's refusal to adhere to the confirmation process. This will not be a hearing of Mr. Schmitt's qualifications for service, nor to receive public input related to his appointment.
At this time, Mr. Schmitt's refusal to comply with the background check process has left me with no choice but to oppose his confirmation.