Monday, November 9, 2009

Political Work for Denish Billed to State?

I guess we all were too bleary-eyed last Wednesday night after going through all those invoices and other documents from the lieutenant governor's office -- a classic post 5 p.m. document dump -- to notice a couple of other questionable payments charged in 2004 to the state by a public information officer contracted using federal stimulus money.

As Jim Scarantino of New Mexico Watchdog pointed out today, on her invoice dated July 30 , 2004 Lauren Cowdrey charged the state for eight hours of work, partly for a DNC media binder. On that day, Denish was in Boston for the Democratic National Convention (aka the DNC).

In her next invoice, dated Aug. 13, 2004. Cowdrey billed nine hours on Aug. 4, which included "work on Kerry for Saturday." Three days later Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his running mate John Edwards came to New Mexico on a "whistle stop" train trip, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M. and Albuquerque.

UPDATE: Denish's chief of staff Josh Rosen released the following statement:

"The part-time employees hired by the Lieutenant Governor’s office spent their time assisting with state duties, such as promoting a micro-loan program that has helped more than 1,800 New Mexico small businesses expand and create jobs. The invoices are five years old, and as far as we can recall, any work relating to an event for Sen. Kerry or the 2004 election was limited to fielding media calls and providing logistical information about the Lt. Governor’s role. The Lt. Governor does not permit her state staff to set up political events during work hours, and as the office continues to review documents, problems will be addressed if they arise. But let’s not forget that these allegations continue to come from a right-wing organization that exists solely to distort information and make partisan political attacks, not to present facts in an objective manner.”

(Note: While I do link above to the report in NM Watchdog and give credit to Scaranatino for first noticing and reporting the "Kerry" and "DNC" billings, I'm not basing anything on "allegations ... from a right-wing organization." I'm basing it on copies of the invoices given to me personally by Rosen himself.)

Two Republican gubernatorial candidates -- Susana Martinez and Allen Weh -- have issue statements criticizing Denish.

"This stimulus money was clearly intended to be used for the benefit of New Mexicans, but Lt Governor Denish used it for politics, public relations, and personal assistants,” Weh said.

"Denish owes voters a complete and honest explanation about her role in misusing money that should have gone to create jobs and move our state forward,” Martinez said.