The sentencing phase of ex-New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran over campaign finance violations captured the attention of media, elected officials and key opinion leaders around our state. It also captured the attention of The Garrity Group Public Relations team.
The sentence includes the things that often go with finance related crimes: restitution, fines and certain prohibitions. But this sentence, because the person is a statewide elected official, also includes a mandated submission of letters to the editor, public speeches and outreach to acknowledge her wrongdoing and to help others from going down the same path.
While the crime she is potentially guilty of committing (as of this writing there are some legal maneuvers that could vacate the sentence) pales in comparison to other elected officials, the District Court Judge handed down a sentence that is ripe with public relation opportunities to restore her reputation.
Discussions with our team, after the live television coverage ended, included the following observations for how ex-Secretary of State Dianna Duran could use the sentence to her benefit:
- Use the letters to the editor to show remorse for the victims who donated to her campaign and to raise awareness about the issue of gaming addictions.
- Use the public appearances to acknowledge her crime as a way to introduce solutions on how to keep this from happening to others by proposing changes to the laws she was charged to uphold (she is also a former State Senator).
- After her rehabilitation, aligning with anti-gaming groups as a spokesperson
- Start an affinity group to address the issues of rebuilding trust in government
The ingredients of rebuilding trust include clear, consistent and transparent information. Trust is an issue that has plagued State Government Officials.; according to the annual 2015 Garrity Perception Survey, only 20 percent of New Mexico residents trust State Government Officials. But the elephant in the room (and donkey, to be fair) is that nearly half of New Mexico residents distrust state government officials.
The proposed sentence handed down by District Court Judge Glenn Ellington to the ex-Secretary of State should be a rally cry for all elected officials to rebuild trust with the electorate by leveraging the same tactics to promote (and enact) meaningful change to win back trust of the residents and electorate.