Thursday, April 30, 2009

Issues and Answers

Diane Kinderwater
I'll be appearing once again on Diane Kinderwater's Issues & Answers on KCHF, Channel 11.

I taped the show yesterday. We talked about politics. the Legislature and other fun stuff.

The show will air 10 a.m. Friday, 10 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday.

Check it out.

UPDATE: Friday morning -- I corrected the air time on Saturday.

Val's New Blog

Val Kilmer didn't show up at last weekend's Democratic State Central Committee meeting, unlike other Dems running (Diane Denish) or considering running (Michael Sanchez) for governor.

Maybe he was busy working on his new blog, Val Kilmer The Real Deal.

As Joe Monahan observed, there's not really any politics there, just deep thoughts on love, life, New Mexico and the Millennium Summit, which took place in Montreal earlier this month.

Update: (Tuesday 1:30 pm) Monahan tells me that The Real Deal is not the real deal. He passed along a message from a woman named Shelli Carlisle who says she's behind the blog:

"..there has been a misconception that val kilmer the real deal is val's blog. I am so sorry for the confusion, it is not val's blog, it is my blog, val has absolutley nothing to do with it, the quotes are from various past interviews. Please pass that along to your readers and i will clarifiy it on my blog, my apoligies."

Indeed, there's now a disclaimer there: "This blog is my personal blog. It is not affiliated or approved by Mr. Kilmer."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Tommy for Sheriff?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 30, 2009

Tommy Rodella lost an important vote before the state Supreme Court less than a year ago. The high court unanimously ousted Rodella from his position as Rio Arriba County magistrate judge.

But Rodella plans to go before another body next year — Democratic primary voters in Rio Arriba County.
Tommy Rodella
The retired state police officer this time is running for Rio Arriba County sheriff. He told me that Saturday, during the state Democratic Party’s Central Committee meeting in Albuquerque.

Rodella, who attended the meeting with his wife, state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, said he expects a crowded field in the race to replace Sheriff Joe Mascarenas, who can’t seek a third term in 2010.

A crowded field didn’t hurt Tommy Rodella in 2006, when he won the Rio Arriba Democratic primary for the Magistrate Court seat. He beat five other opponents, ending up with 24 percent of the vote, 231 votes more than his nearest rival, Rio Arriba County Probate Judge Marlo Martinez. (Martinez, who also was at the Central Committee meeting Saturday, said he’s backing Rodella to fill the sheriff’s job, which is likely to be determined in the primary.)

The magistrate seat was ill-fated for Rodella from the beginning.

Gov. Bill Richardson had appointed him in March 2005 to replace retired Magistrate Judge Tony Martinez. Just four months later, however, Richardson’s office announced Judge Rodella resigned after meeting with the governor about a case in which Rodella drove from Española to the Tierra Amarilla jail to free an acquaintance suspected of driving while intoxicated.

But things didn’t get easier for Rodella after he became judge again.

The state Judicial Standards Commission investigated him and said he was guilty of misconduct in three cases. The commission recommended his removal from office.

Last May, the state Supreme Court heard the case. Most of the questions from justices were about a case in which Rodella was accused of improperly telling an alleged victim in a domestic violence case she didn’t have to show up in court to testify against her husband.

During the commission’s investigation, Rodella and his lawyers in court documents strongly implied that the charges against Rodella were politically motivated because Richardson wanted him out of office.

At one point during the Supreme Court hearing, Justice Richard Bosson asked Rodella’s lawyer if he was saying the commissioners are “political stooges of the governor” and demanded if he had any evidence of that. Pennington admitted he didn’t.

The court ruled that Rodella should be removed from office and that he not be allowed to run for judicial office again.

But that ruling doesn’t prevent him from running for sheriff.

You say you want a resolution: At the Central Committee meeting, the main concern for many delegates I talked to was a “gay marriage” resolution. The resolution put the state party on record in its official platform as actively supporting and advocating “on behalf of marriage equality and equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation.”

With very little discussion, the Democrats thwarted an attempt to remove that resolution and voted 309-35 to approve the platform — marriage equality and all.

But that was only one of 38 platform resolutions approved. With even less discussion at the meeting, the Dems also voted in favor of resolutions to:

* Support the passage of HR 676, which would establish a national single-payer health insurance system, which would be publicly financed and privately delivered.

* Support the efforts of U.S. Rep. John Conyers and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy “to investigate possible crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.”

* Save the College of Santa Fe. The state should consider temporary state ownership of the embattled college then later “re-privatize” it.

* Repeal the 1996 Telecommunications Act and enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to discourage media consolidation.

* Use diplomacy, not force, in Afghanistan.

That’s just a few of them.

Of course, most political platforms, state or national, are promptly forgotten shortly after they are written. Candidates aren’t bound to follow any of the planks.

But just because a lot of the candidates won’t be reading the platform doesn’t mean you can’t. You can find that document online HERE.

Richardson Says Terminate Aldus Equity Contract

This just in from the governor's office:

Gov. Bill Richardson is ordering the State Investment Office to finalize sweeping new investment policies and bring them to the full State Investment Council for its next meeting on May 26. If approved, the State will require its investment managers to disclose any and all placement fees, marketing arrangements and other payments these managers make, relative to their investments for the New Mexico Permanent Funds. Until a new policy is in place, Gov. Richardson has ordered a suspension of alternative investments by the SIC.

“In the past few weeks, several serious questions have been raised regarding the arrangements between the state’s external investment managers and the marketers those investment funds pay to represent them,” said Gov. Richardson. “While this practice has been fairly common in the investment industry, the added potential for conflict of interests concerns me. For this reason, today I am ordering broad policy and procedural changes be implemented by the State Investment Office, pending review and approval by the full Council next month.”

These measures would supplement the legislation signed by Gov. Richardson April 7, which requires disclosure of third party marketing agents who are hired by outside money managers to market their funds to institutional investors like the SIC. The State Investment Office supported that legislation (HB 876) and recommended its passage. The Investment Office neither hires placement agents nor pays their fees.

Gov. Richardson has also instructed State Investment Officer Gary Bland to initiate termination of the SIC’s private equity advisor, Aldus Equity Partners, due to concerns raised by an ongoing investigation in New York, in addition to significant due diligence and follow up by Investment Office staff in recent weeks.

“At this time, we believe it is the most practical step for the Investment Office to take, given the realities of the current environment,” said State Investment Officer Gary Bland. “Private equity is a critical asset class, and under existing circumstances, we feel it appropriate to forge ahead.”

In the interim, the State Investment Office will employ existing financial consultants to guide its private equity allocation, while simultaneously looking for a permanent private equity advisor.

The State Investment Office today manages $11.8 billion in state endowment funds. Under historically challenging market environments, these Permanent Funds have seen positive investment returns of more than $2.7 billion under Gov. Richardson, while also distributing more than $3 billion to state beneficiaries. Performance data through the first quarter of 2009 ranks investment returns for the SIC’s Land Grant Permanent Fund in the top 30% of public funds around the country for one and three-year periods, and in the top 5% of public funds nationwide for the quarter ending March 31st.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

State Agrees to Pay Domestic Partner Benefits

This in from the American Civil Liberties Union

ALBUQUERQUE – In response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, New Mexico has agreed to provide retirement health insurance to the domestic partners of state employees.

“We are very pleased that the state has agreed to settle this litigation and provide the insurance. It wasn’t fair that the state forced lesbian and gay employees to pay the high cost of health care for often inferior health insurance for their families when they worked just as hard as their straight colleagues,” said Peter Simonson of the ACLU of New Mexico. “I’m sure this will be welcome news to all lesbian and gay state employees, but especially to those who have retired or are planning to do so soon.”

The ACLU brought the lawsuit on February 5, 2007 on behalf lesbian and gay state employees and their domestic partners. The lawsuit charged that it was a violation of the state constitution’s equal protection guarantees for the state to treat lesbian and gay employees differently from its straight employees. The settlement will reached with the state will cover both gay and straight employees and their domestic partners.

“This is fantastic news. We can finally start planning our retirement,” said Havens Levitt, who has been a teacher for the Albuquerque public school for 25 years. “Until now, our only option was for me to keep working because my partner’s employment doesn’t provide insurance for her and private insurance was just too expensive. It means a lot that the state has acknowledged I should be treated the same as my straight colleagues.” Levitt and her partner, Rebecca Dakota, have been partners for 13 years. Dakota is a self-employed consultant to non-profits and an independent filmmaker.

Pursuant to the settlement, the state has agreed to develop a process for enrolling those interested during the next open enrollment period, which comes this fall.

Spector Leaves GOP

Phil Spector
Wait a minute ... That's Arlen Specter?

Never mind ...

(Want more dumb Specter jokes? Try THIS )

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dems Overwhelmingly Pass Platform Advocating "Marriage Equality"

I should have blogged this hours ago. Too busy to blog most of this Saturday.

But here goes:

With little debate or discussion Saturday, New Mexico Democratic Party leaders voted overwhelming to approve a platform that includes a call to legalize same-sex marriage.

Three hundred and nine members of the state Democratic Party Central Committee voted for a package of 38 resolutions — which included the “marriage equality” resolution and a resolution calling for the establishment domestic partnerships. Only 35 members voted against passing the resolutions.

The committee met at the Kiva Auditorium at Albuquerque Convention Center.

Actually the state party platform since 2006 has included language about same-sex marriage. But the new resolution is stronger, calling for Democrats to actively push laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Party platforms are not binding on candidates and most of the time they are largely forgotten once they are passed.

Even so, Albuquerque lawyer Lynn Perls, a Central Committee who worked for the marriage equality resolution, said the resolution will send a message to national leaders and legislators. “The real meaning of this resolution is the Democratic Party stands for equality for all citizens,” she said.

Santa Fe City Councilor Patti Bushee said before the vote, “It’s important that the progressive party of New Mexico take a stand. Domestic partnerships is old news. We’ve seen in Vermont and Iowa that marriage equality is where we’re heading.

Recently in Iowa the state Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. In Vermont the state legislature passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage.
The vote was strong enough that the legislature was able to overturn a veto by the governor.

But support for same-sex marriage is much weaker in the New Mexico Legislature.

Earlier this year the state Senate voted 25-17 to defeat a bill that would have established domestic partnerships for same-sex and other unmarried couples. Ten of the Senate’s 27 Democrats joined Republicans to defeat the bill, which would have provided far fewer rights to same-sex couples than would legal marriage.

One of those Senate Democrats, Richard Martinez — who also is Rio Arriba Democratic Party chairman — was at the meeting and voted against the platform.

Martinez told a reporter that he believes the resolution will hurt the party. “Marriage is a religious issue and should not be part of the party platform,” he said.

The only Central Committee member to speak against the resolution was Al Kissling, who was the 2006 Democratic nominee for the Southern New Mexico 2nd Congressional District. Kissling moved to have the resolution removed from the package of platform resolutions. Pointing out that he’s a retired minister, Kissling said, “The state shouldn’t push a religious rite.”

However, his motion quickly was voted down.

The 2008 platform said the party is in favor of “outlawing discrimination based on sexual preference, including restrictions on civil marriage, and repealing the (federal) Defense of Marriage Act.”

But the new language passed Saturday is stronger, saying the party “including its members and officers should actively support and advocate on behalf of marriage equality and equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation, because equal rights under the laws are guaranteed under the U.S. and New Mexican Constitution.”

In addition to passing the platform, the Central Committee re-elected Albuquerque lawyer Brian Colon to another four years as state party chairman. Colon was unopposed for the unpaid position.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heath is Suing

Blogger Heath Haussamen is suing the New Mexico Finance Authority for refusing to give him copies of subpoenas related to the CDR investigation.

You can read Heath's post about the suit HERE and see the petition itself HERE .

What's screwy about the situation is that one of the few documents the governor's office has released about the investigation is the subpoena the grand jury sent them.

Why would releasing the NMFA document jeopardize the grand jury investigation, as the agency claims, when releasing the governor's document doesn't? Maybe that'll get answered in court.

Postscript for the Mystery Contribution

In my most recent Roundhouse Roundup column, I reported that art collector/philanthropist Eugne Thaw had given $25,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson's re-election campaign last May -- even though his re-election had been sealed about a year and a half before.

On Wednesday, Mr. Thaw told me he couldn't remember why he had given Richardson that contribution, but promised to check into it.

He called me a few minutes ago. He said the contribution was for "debt reduction" for the campaign. "I was solicited to contribute to reduce the debt," he said.

It's true, that at that time Richardson's presidential campaign, which had ended a few months before, was in debt and was soliciting contributions to bring that down.

But last May, according to the campaign finance report, Richardson's re-election campaign had more than $500,000 in the bank.

Also, Thaw already had contributed the maximum amount allowed by law for the presidential campaign.

Perhaps Thaw made a well-meaning mistake and contributed to the wrong campaign. Or perhaps whoever solicited him steered him wrong.

What a Tangled Web We Weave

Here's another link between impeached Illinois Gov. and future reality show star Rod Blagojevich and our Gov. Bill Richardson -- besides that old $20,000 campaign contribution Bill gave Blago and the "French connection" drug deal they were in together.

Bloomberg is reporting that Blagojevich’s top fundraiser represented CDR Financial Products Inc. -- that company at the center of the grand jury investigation that halted Richardson's cabinet appointment early this year.

Reports Bloomberg:

Milan Petrovic, who raised $1.96 million for Blagojevich, introduced CDR to Illinois budget and debt officials, according to e-mails obtained under a public records request. He and his lobbying firm also donated $20,000 to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a one-time Democratic presidential candidate who withdrew from consideration as U.S. Commerce Secretary following disclosure of the CDR probe.

Richardson “is a public official I admire,” Petrovic, 43, said in a telephone interview, declining to comment further.

Read the whole story HERE.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Contributing to Long Gone Campaigns

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 23, 2009

Elections end. Campaigns crash and burn.
BILL RICHARDSON in Manchester the night before the NH Primary
But one thing that seems to be eternal is the fundraising machinery of campaign committees of both successful and unsuccessful candidates. That and the checks to campaign consultants long after the election is over.

Take Bill Richardson. His campaign for president ended in early January 2008, but in the first three months of this year, he found enough people who like him to raise more than $64,000 for that long dormant campaign. That enabled Richardson to pay off his remaining $27,000 campaign debt and still have more than $24,000 in the bank. That's according to his presidential campaign's latest campaign finance report filed last week.

Nearly all of the debt was owed to a Hobbs company owned by U.S. Rep. Harry Teague and state Transportation Commissioner Johnny Cope for air travel during Richardson's presidential run. That was paid off in early January, according to the report.

Only one of the contributors listed in the federal report, which was filed last week, is from New Mexico. That was Tariq Mussani, who listed his occupation as business manager for Sundance Services Inc. in Eunice, an environmental consulting firm for the oil and gas industry.

Richardson's largest contributor in his most recent report was the political action committee of Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, which gave $5,000 to his presidential campaign.

Re-elect Bill: But the presidential campaign committee is not the only organization of a long-gone Richardson campaign that still is showing signs of financial life. Richardson's re-election campaign — remember the 2006 election, which supposedly ended in early November 2006? — received more than $30,000 last year, including a $25,000 contribution from a local art collector and philanthropist.

This was Gene Thaw, a nationally recognized art collector who turned his 5,000-acre Wind River Ranch in Mora County over to a conservation and education nonprofit.

Thaw also is a partner of Richardson benefactor Gerald Peters in a local aviation company. That company has loaned Richardson its jet for campaign purposes. According to campaign finance records, Thaw made his contribution in early May 2008.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Thaw said he couldn't remember why he gave $25,000 to Richardson's campaign last year. "I like Bill Richardson, and I've always supported him," Thaw said.
GOV.  BILL RICHARDSON the night he won re-election in 2006
According to the Institute of Money in State Government, Thaw also contributed $31,000 to Richardson before the 2006 election. He's also been generous to other Democrats. He gave a total of $88,000 to federal candidates last year, including Barack Obama and New Mexico congressional candidates. Of that, $2,300 went to Richardson's presidential campaign.

F L Electric of Truth or Consequences was the only other contributor listed in the report. The company gave the re-election committee $5,000 last May.

Leave no consultant behind: The Richardson 2006 re-election campaign not only raised money last year, it spent some, too. In May 2008, the campaign spent more than $26,000 on consultants for unspecified work.

Dan Sena, whose address was listed in Arlington, Va., was paid $13,021 by the re-election campaign, while Dan Kloke of Albuquerque got $10,800 and Tasha Caldwell, also of Albuquerque, was paid $3,350.

Both Sena and Caldwell had been employed by Richardson's presidential campaign. Sena — who has worked for Richardson's PAC Moving America Forward and the Democratic Governor's Association, which Richardson chaired — was field operations director of the campaign. Caldwell was deputy compliance director of Richardson's fundraising effort.

All three were paid May 16, 2008, one week after Thaw's contribution, according to Richardson's campaign finance report filed last year. (Not that he really needed Thaw's money to pay the consultants. According to the report, Richardson's re-election campaign had more than $527,000 in the bank as of May 27. The campaign's next finance report is due next month.)

All this raises the question of what the Richardson campaign needed consultants for in the spring of 2008.

Legally, the governor can't run for re-election. And surely it wasn't for advice on seeking some federal office. There are strict laws that say money raised for state campaigns can't be used by federal candidates and vice versa.

So what did these consultants do for Richardson last May?

Nobody who could say could be reached for comment Wednesday. Directory assistance said the number for a Daniel Sena in Arlington had been disconnected. Kloke is not listed, and Caldwell couldn't be reached for comment.

Amanda Cooper, who held high positions with both the Richardson re-election campaign and the presidential campaign, did not return a phone call Wednesday. Pahl Shipley, a Richardson spokesman who worked on the presidential campaign, also didn't return a call.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tower of Power

Did anyone predict otherwise?

This just in:

SANTA FE—State Cultural Affairs Department Secretary Stuart Ashman announced today that he will respect the decision of the National Hispanic Cultural Center board of directors to remove former state Sen. Manny Aragón’s name from the center’s torreón.

“The NHCC board and its naming committee have studied their clearly defined policy and made this decision based on serious deliberation,” said Ashman. “It was the board that voted to put Mr. Aragón’s name on the torreón, and it has now voted to remove it. The department will honor the board’s decision.”

The NHCC Naming Policy Committee met to discuss the Aragon-Torreón matter on March 26. The committee reviewed the board’s official naming policy as well as a series of phone and written correspondence from the public, press articles, the plea agreement in the United States v. Manny Aragón, the Oath of Office mandated by Article XX, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution and a list of NHCC funding bills sponsored by Aragón. After hearing the committee’s recommendation at its April 16 meeting at the NHCC in Albuquerque, the board voted 7 – 2 to remove Aragón’s name from the torreón and to leave the building unnamed at this time.

“This is an awkward and unfortunate situation for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, its board of directors and the people of New Mexico,” said Ashman. “As we follow the board’s direction, it is important that visitors to the NHCC – and all New Mexicans – never forget the many contributions that Sen. Aragón made during two decades of service to their state and to this beautiful cultural center.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A True Crime Story

Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's grandfather, Harry "The Whiz" White was an Irish boxer turned Irish bartender who was murdered at Niagra Falls in 1934.

Here's a teaser:
By the time the cops showed up at 5 a.m., the place was wrecked and eight men lay bleeding in the sawdust on the floor. Blue gunsmoke hung in the air below the white tin ceiling. Harry White was near death, a deep knife wound slashed across the width of his belly.
Read the whole article in the Niagra Falls Reporter HERE.

Dana, I Feel Your Pain!

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post has a column with which political reporters across this great land of ours can identify. (It's HERE.)

On Tuesday, I learned that I am a right-wing hack. I am not a journalist. I am typical of the right wing. I am why newspapers are going broke. I write garbage. I am angry with Barack Obama. I misquote Obama. I am bitter. I am a certified idiot. I am lame. I am a Republican flack.

On Thursday, I realized that I am a media pimp with my lips on Obama's butt. I am a bleeding-heart liberal who wants nothing more than for the right to fall on its face. I am part of the ObamaMedia. I am pimping for the left. I am carrying water for Obama. Lord, am I an idiot.

I caught some hell this week because of my coverage of the local tea party , but often I get it from the Democrats when I write something that doesn't make the party in power look so good..

Just an occupational hazard, I guess.

By the way, if you're reading this, George Soros, your check is late. If it's not here by Monday I'm going to have to have to go ahwead and write what The Club For Growth tells me to.

Gary King Explains "Pay-to-Sue"

My story about Attorney General Gary King's response to the Wall Street Journal editorial that accused him of being of being part of "a nationwide 'pay-to-sue' operation" is HERE.

King was one of several Democratic state officials named in the editorial who took large campaign contributions from a Houston lawyer representing New Mexico and those other states in a lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

King said the editorial is "part of the ongoing battle where there are organizations trying to prevent attorneys general from pursuing consumer cases" and part of an effort "to drive us into a situation where law firms that are pro-consumer could not contribute to candidates, whereas all the businesses could continue to contribute to the candidates who they could convince to terminate the lawsuits."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where Is He Now?

Since halting his Commerce secretary bid in early January, Gov. Bill Richardson has shied away from national press interviews. You never see him down in the Capitol TV studio, where he once relished frequent spots on CNN, Fox and MSNBC talking-heads shows.
BILL RICHARDSON in Denver, August 2008
But he's in The Washington Post today, sharing huevos rancheros in the Governor's Mansion with reporter Philip Rucker in a where-is-he-now story. You can see it HERE.

Richardson doesn't get grilled very hard on the pay-to-play grand jury investigation that ruined his cabinet nomination.
The governor said he is "very confident that we did nothing wrong," but he complained that the inquiry "just drags on."
One thing we do learn is that, according to Richardson, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his rival from the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, talks to him regularly about foreign policy. Bill Clinton, however, is still angry with him for endorsing Obama instead of Hillary last year, Richardson says.

Richardson must like the article. He noted it on his new Twitter feed.


I did a few things for the morning paper.

Here's my article about U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan's campaign organization's payroll tax snafu.

Here's my story about the National Hispanic Cultural Center board voting to take Manny Aragon's name off the Manny Aragon Torreon. (The final decision rests with state Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman -- and he said yesterday he hasn't made up his mind.)

And I did a brief about the Wall Street Journal story that Val Kilmer is trying to sell his ranch near Santa Fe. (Thanks for the heads-up on Twitter, NM FBIHop)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Santa Fe Tea Party

Former Gov. Gary Johnson
It's too bad that the word "maverick" became overused and virtually meaningless during the last presidential campaign. The word could apply to a couple of very different New Mexico politicians who appeared at the Santa Fe Tea Party Wednesday -- former Gov. Gary Johnson and former state Sen. Jon Grubesic.

Former State Sen. John Grubesic
Whatever you think about the politics of these two -- and the conservative crowd on the Plaza seemed to love Johnson and hate Grubesic (see the advance text for his speech HERE ) -- one thing you can't call either is "run-of-the-mill."

My story on the anti-tax rally is HERE.

Roundhouse Roundup: Twittering From Rome

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 16, 2009

First Gov. Bill Richardson became a convert to repealing the death penalty.

Now, traveling to Italy to take part in the lighting of the Roman Colosseum in honor of New Mexico abolishing capital punishment, Richardson has become a convert to a popular Internet toy that’s received lots of press in recent weeks — the Web phenomenon known as Twitter.

Call him @GovRichardson.

For the untwittified, Twitter is a free mini-blogging and social-networking program that allows people to post short (140-character or less) reports about what they’re up to. Users can follow news organizations, entertainment services, friends, family … and governors.

He’s not the only New Mexico politician on Twitter. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján is there. State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe was tweeting during the recent legislative session. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez also are on Twitter.

The idea for putting Richardson on Twitter first arose during the Legislature. “We originally thought about utilizing Twitter to provide a new and different way to alert the public about the governor’s action on bills,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Wednesday.

“We typically get inundated with phone calls and e-mails from the general public about whether and when the governor will take action on a bill," Gallegos said. "In the past, we simply sent out news releases and posted information on the Web site as quickly as possible. So, Twitter seemed like a good option.”

Richardson didn’t get it set up in time for the session. So they thought they’d give it a try with the Rome trip.

Actually, Richardson himself isn’t doing it. His deputy chief of staff, Eric Witt, who traveled with the governor to Rome, is the official ghost-tweeter.

The first tweets from Witt came about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, though they appear to have been written the day before, as they refer to events that were on Richardson’s Tuesday schedule. The Governor’s Office issued a news release about 30 minutes later and word began to spread across Twitterdom. By Wednesday evening, Richardson had 93 followers and had posted some 31 tweets, including four links to photographs of Richardson and Pope Benedict XVI.

“As for the future, we’ll have to assess whether it is worth the time to pursue this technology,” Gallegos said.

Some tweets from Rome: For the benefit of those not on Twitter, here are some of the highlights of the Witt/Richardson tweets:

“After 20 hours of sleepless travel, including a 5 hour layover in Chicago, we arrive at Rome hotel.”

“No time to rest — shower, change, then off to lunch with members of Sant’Egidio community, who are hosting our visit”

“Motor to travel reception. More than 25 writers and national press. Gov wows them with speech when he says NM abolished the death penalty”

“One writer asks me who I root for, Cowboys or Indians. I put on best Eastwood impersonations and say — ‘Depends on who’s feeding me.’ ”

“Monsignor lavishly praises New Mexico … not a dry eye in the house”

“After service we go to private dinner in restored cloister, hosted by Sant’Egidio.”

“In case no one told you, Italians like to eat a lot. Fortunately they are good cooks!”

“Midnight in Rome and we are back at the hotel. 35 hours after I first awoke for trip, my head hits the pillow. Early day tomorrow.”

Those are some of the ones that appear to have been written Tuesday. Here’s some from Wednesday:

“BTW, just an observation: in Rome, traffic lane markings and signals are not commands, they are suggestions & very few (people) are listening!”

“At Coliseum, large crowd is gathering. People from Senegal, Greece, Mali, England and of course L’Italia”

“Mayor of Rome arrives and warmly shakes Gov’s hand”

“Coliseum itself is magnificent — much larger and more impressive than expected.”

“Report comes in that there has been major coverage in Italian TV and Radio from our 1 pm (Italian time) news conference.”

“The sky is darkening over the coliseum, the crowd and the media have gathered.”

“Dozens of media trying to get to the governor — yelling questions and snapping photos. Flashes going off like popcorn. The band strikes up …”

That was the last tweet, for a few hours at least, out of @GovRichardson.
A Blue Demon fotonovela
Another form of communication: It’s not high-tech, but Attorney General Gary King is experimenting with an alternative means of communication: the fotonovela.

Fotonovelas basically are comic books that use photos instead of drawings. They especially are popular in Spanish-speaking countries.

The AG wants to warn people about door-to-door salesmen, so they’re publishing My Right to Cancel, or, in Spanish, Mi Derecho de Cancelar, which tells a tale of “how one family is misled by a door-to-door salesman in their purchase of educational materials for their children.”

“We have found that our Spanish speaking immigrant communities are frequently victimized by dishonest business operators who contact people through door-to-door sales pitches,” King said in a news release.

“The Immigrant Services Unit within my Consumer Protection Division came up with the idea of educating these consumers by using the popular fotonovela concept.”

If that fails, there’s always Twitter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pope & Gov

Here's a photo sent by the Governor's Office of Pope Benedict XVI and Gov. Bill Richardson I.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grubesic to Dump Some Tea

On Wednesday across the nation there will be a number of "tea parties" -- actually demonstrations organized by critics of the Obama administration.

A news release from the New Mexico Republican Party describes the events: "Americans are banding together across party aisles to voice their opposition to out-of-control government spending in Washington, D.C. These organic uprisings—dubbed `tea parties' after Boston’s famous 1773 American colonist revolt—are springing up across the country."
John Grubesic
The event in Santa Fe, scheduled for 5 pm on The Plaza, features a Republican, former Gov. Gary Johnson, and a Democrat, former state Sen. John Grubesic.

I was surprised when I learned that Grubesic was speaking at the event. Then again, as a senator, he rarely failed to surprise.

He sent me a copy of his speech he's planning to give. And sure enough, this is not the typical anti-tax speech that will be heard at most these events.

He says taxes are necessary and looks forward to the end of the Bush tax cuts. (Now there's an applause line for the tea-party crowd!) He points out that U.S. taxes are low compared to other countries.

"I don’t think the anger of the average American taxpayer is over the fact that we have to pay taxes," the speech says. "I think the anger is based on the fact that Americans get very little bang for their tax buck and what bang we do get is jeopardized by the complete lunacy of those we have elected to act in a fiscally responsible manner. "

And Grubesic takes part of the blame himself for voting last year for the $25-$50 tax rebate checks knowing full well a budget crisis was looming.

Here's a copy of the entire speech. (I split up a few paragraphs to make it a little easier on the eyes.)


I appreciate this opportunity to talk with you. I believe when people come together to talk, regardless of their viewpoint, something valuable occurs. Unfortunately, discussion rarely happens in politics today. Political cowardice, partisan boundaries and our inability to work together is destroying our country.

I am a Democrat. I am a Democrat that recognizes that we have a two party system in the United States. A system that is completely dysfunctional. I believe that 90% of the issues we face in government can be resolved. I also recognize that on the remaining 10% we will never agree.

We are mired in a bi-partisan mess and both parties are responsible for creating the crisis we face. The only way out of this hole is to completely dismantle old time politics, stop electing politicians with the best sound bites and elect leaders willing to stand for something. Finally, we need to stop wasting time on the 10% of politics we will never agree upon.

From what I was told, the tea party movement is fashioned after the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Members of the original tea party were angry because King George III was imposing a tax on tea which they felt was unfair and unjust. The modern day tea party group is angry because they feel our modern day tax system is just as unfair and unjust. I think this anger is misdirected.

I do not enjoy paying tax, but I recognize that tax dollars are necessary for the functioning of a civilized society. When you compare the level of taxes in the United States with other advanced countries, we are getting off pretty easy. Economists do this by looking at the ratio of taxes to gross domestic product, the total output produced in the country.

In the US, all taxes, federal, state and local reached a peak of 29.6% in the year 2000. This number was swollen by taxes on capital gains during the stock market bubble and I think we are closer to 26% today. In Canada the percentage was 38.2%, France was 45.8% and Sweden, 52.2%.

I don’t think the anger of the average American taxpayer is over the fact that we have to pay taxes. I think the anger is based on the fact that Americans get very little bang for their tax buck and what bang we do get is jeopardized by the complete lunacy of those we have elected to act in a fiscally responsible manner.

A politician screaming for tax cuts is more likely to get elected or re-elected and as a legislator I participated in throwing a $50.00 tax cut bone to New Mexicans during the special session this past year. We knew that a budget shortfall was looming, but we did it anyway. We did it because it was an election year and in the political mind a tax-cut, no matter how small, helps to get people re-elected.

Taxpayer anger is rooted in the fact that we can’t get our kids decent public educations, that we can’t get or keep enough cops on the streets, that we are rewarding greed, dishonesty and self interest with bailouts while we fail to give our citizens the basic benefits of a civilized society.

Tax cuts are not the answer and I look forward to the expiration of the tax cuts imposed by President Bush. Tax cuts are partly responsible for our fiscal disaster. You cannot fund government and provide necessary programs without adequate revenue. Tax cuts are tools used to elect politicians in our country and to pay off wealthy campaign donors.

Taxes are the dues we pay for membership in civilized society and that is where the argument is... we need to ask what services are important, what we are willing to pay for them and how government can effectively provide the services we as a society deem necessary. This cannot happen without a painful, honest and critical assessment of how our government has failed and a dynamic response to this failure.

Looking at our federal budget, the big ticket items are Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, defense, homeland security and payment of interest on our public debt. Throw in the remaining cost associated with the nuts and bolts of government and you realize that the question of where to cut becomes difficult if not impossible.

We would undoubtedly be asking Americans to retire later, pay more Medicaid expenses out of pocket and cut back on Social Security benefits. Not a formula for launching a successful political career, but issues that must be addressed by the people we elect.

The economic success of the United States was built upon the backs of a broad and solid middle class. We have forgotten this. In the movie Wall Street Michael Douglas played a character named Gordon Gekko. Gekko says that “greed is good.” Greed is a disaster, greed is stealing our homes, greed is robbing our children of their dreams. In order to survive we have to come together and face this challenge as a united people.

The gulf between rich and poor has never been wider in our country and if it continues to grow it will lead to our destruction. We have examples in our own hemisphere of countries that have embraced the ideas of the haves and the have mores over the needs of the middle class and the poor with disastrous results.

Our country was founded upon a handful of strongly held beliefs by ordinary people who wanted a new form of government. These simple beliefs have been distorted and have grown into a complicated mass of inefficient, unresponsive bureaucracy. We need to simplify government.

We need to figure out what we value and how we will pay for it and remember that we are a country of equals. Government can be more efficient, but we must focus on the core of government function. We need to feed our families, care for the elderly and sick, educate our kids and keep them safe.

We need to put aside the distractions of partisan politics, focus on real issues and elect officials willing to make tough decisions based upon what is right, not on what the polls, the media or their party tells them to do.

Updated with link to The Santa Fe Tea Party.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ben Ray's Earmarks

Ben Ray Lujan at the AFSCME candidate forum last year
My story in today's New Mexican about Rep. Ben Ray Lujan's $66.9 million in earmark approprations can be found HERE.

Lujan's entire list can be found on his own Web site HERE.

As for New Mexico's other Congressmen, Rep. Martin Heinrich's earmark list is HERE and Rep. Harry Teague's is HERE.

The Sunlight Foundation's list of all -- well most -- Congress members' earmark requests is HERE.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lighting the Coliseum

No, they aren't throwing a Christian to the lions. They're honoring New Mexico for repealing the death penalty.

Here's the press release:

Roman Coliseum to be Lit in Honor of New Mexico

SANTA FE, New Mexico – Governor Bill Richardson and Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe, are part of a New Mexico delegation that will be honored on Wednesday, April 15, at a special ceremony at the Roman Coliseum in Rome, Italy.

Sant’Egidio, a prominent international lay organization of the Catholic Church that promotes dialogue, peace and social justice, is hosting the ceremony to honor the New Mexico advocates, legislators and the Governor who successfully joined efforts to repeal the state’s death penalty. The Coliseum, a prominent landmark of execution will be transformed into a beacon of hope to promote the worldwide repeal of the death penalty.

The New Mexico delegation will also be present for the Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The legislation to repeal the death penalty was sponsored New Mexico Rep.Gail Chasey. Many organizations joined the efforts of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty. Representing the State of New Mexico in Rome will be Governor Bill Richardson; Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe; Rep. Gail Chasey and husband, David Norvell; Allen Sánchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops/ CEO St. Joseph Community Health and wife, Carolina Sanchez; Viki Elky, Director of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty and husband, Thomas Elky; and Eric Witt, the Governor’s deputy chief of staff.

The practice of lighting the Coliseum was begun by Sant’Egidio in 2002 when the International Day Cities for Life-Cities against the Death Penalty was launched every year on the anniversary of the first abolition of the death penalty in the world by a state, the Granduchy of Tuscany on Nov. 30, 1786. A special lighting of the Coliseum decided by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the City of Rome, took place in December 2007 when the General Assembly of the United Nations called for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty as a first step toward abolition.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Grand Slam Dems & Other Fun With Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 9, 2009

Every time Santa Fe County Democrats get together to conduct business, they seem intent on affirming that famous Will Rogers quote: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."
Will Rogers
The local Dems got together Tuesday night at Santa Fe Community College to elect a new county chairman, vice chairwoman and 42 members of the state party Central Committee.

It was chaotic, long and frustrating — nearly causing me to blow my deadline — but, as always, it was fun to see who showed up and who didn't.

For instance, Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a resident of Bernalillo County, was there for a while. But Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, who says she's considering running against Herrera in the next primary, didn't show. Espinoza said Wednesday that she attended her Democratic ward meeting the week before but got too busy at work Tuesday to make the meeting that night.

The only declared candidate for lieutenant governor, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, showed up and spoke to the crowd. Later, he was elected to the state party's Central Committee.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish was there. She got a laugh when she said party members must elect a strong Democrat as governor next year, "no matter who she is."

She was the only gubernatorial contender there. Actor Val Kilmer was nowhere to be seen.

Among the other past and present officials who showed up Tuesday were Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. and his father, former PRC member Jerome Block Sr. Only hours later, both were indicted by a grand jury on multiple felony counts related to the younger Block's campaign finance reports from the last election.

Dems at Denny's: I had to leave to go write my news story after the results of the chairman's race was announced. Retired lawyer Richard Ellenberg defeated longtime Dem activist José Morfín in a bitterly-fought contest.

But apparently the Dems also were forced to leave shortly after I took off.

In his blog, Solano wrote, "The voting for State Central Committee lasted until 10 p.m. and the college then threw the Democrats out for the night. The elections committee took the ballots for State Central to Denny's to have breakfast and count the votes."

Should we call them the Grand Slam Democrats?

"I checked in on the vote counting at midnight and it was still ongoing," Solano wrote. The sheriff later told me he didn't find out until Wednesday that he won a position on the committee.

The reason it took so long to count the Central Committee ballots is because of the complex formula by which those members are chosen. The rules call for equal numbers of men and women, while one seat goes to someone from the small portion of the 1st Congressional District in Santa Fe County. (The vast majority of the county is in the 3rd Congressional District.)

Good words for Val: Speaking of Kilmer, I got a lot of response to a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a mysterious telephone poll from those who say he'd be a great asset to the state and some who just use half of that word.

Two positive letters stood out. One was from former American Indian Movement leader Russell Means, who quoted his old lawyer William Kunstler, who represented Means during the Wounded Knee trials in 1973: "When you are in a struggle, any news is good news."

Wrote Means: "This is good for the Kilmer Gubernatorial camp if there is one. Because if you are a threat, they come after you. I know I have been there. I for one am mis-quoted often. Remember the media doesn't tell the news they 'sell' the news!"

Means in 2002 unsuccessfully sought to get on the gubernatorial ballot in New Mexico representing a third party called the Independent Coalition Party.

Then there was an e-mail from Boulder clinical psychologist Mark E. Kilmer, the actor's brother, declaring Val Kilmer to be the man to fill "the enormous shoes" of Gov. Bill Richardson.

"Mr. Kilmer is morally and ethically righteous, creative, erudite, and passionate; both in his own private life, and in his ambitions and dreams for the great state of New Mexico," the e-mail said.

That would sound as if Val is running. But in fairness, I don't always know what my brother is up to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Even Newer Development in Block Case

Both Jerome Block Jr. and Sr. have been indicted -- Junior on eight felony counts, Senior on four.

The story is HERE

New Development in Block Case

According to Kate, via Las Vegas Optic, the grand jury investigating Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. also has targeted his father, former Pub lic Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Sr.

Optic reporter David Giuliani, who has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, reported that his subpoena lists the elder Block as a target.

The grand jury apparently is meeting today. Whether they will decide whether or not to indict today isn't known.

Both Blocks attended the Santa Fe County Democratic Party meeting at Santa Fe Community College last night.

Now This Sounds Like a Party

Imagine my disappoint when I realized it wasn't Merle Haggard.

No, this is the Colorado Springs preacher caught with a male prostitute a couple of years ago.

From a news release sent to The New Mexican and others Tuesday night:


ALBUQUERQUE- Former pastor, and head of the National Association of Evangelicals, and author of numerous books, Ted Haggard and his wife, Gayle, will be speaking at New Life City, 4830 Pan American Freeway NE, April 17-19. The meetings will be Friday at 6:30 pm, Saturday at 10 am, 2 pm, and 6 pm, and Sunday at 10 am and 6 pm. Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, will also be speaking. The meetings are free and open for all to attend.

“Ted’s ministry profoundly influenced New Life City in our earliest days, and we believe Ted’s story can be an encouragement to all of us. Holding his family together in the worst circumstances is a witness to God’s love and to the power of forgiveness,” commented Alan Hawkins, Senior Pastor of New Life City.

Kris Vallotton, author of several books, noted international speaker, and founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which is currently training a thousand students per year, will also lead several sessions. A love offering for the speakers will be taken at the event.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ellenberg Wins SF Dem Chair Contest

After a campaign in which both sides said contained behind-the-scenes racial undertones, Santa Fe County Democrats on Tuesday elected retired lawyer Richard Ellenberg as its county chairman.

Ellenberg, who practiced law in Georgia before moving to Santa Fe, defeated native Santa Fe resident Jose Morfin by a vote of 240 to 214. Morfin has been active in local politics since the early 1980s when he ran for a seat on the County Commission.

Ellenberg replaces Minnie Gallegos, who has held the post since 2001.

Both Ellenberg and Morfin — as well as a string of state and local Democratic leaders who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting — stressed the importance of Democrats uniting and working as a team no matter who won the chairmanship.

By their comments after the vote was announced, Ellenberg supporters indicated they believe the election marked a shift in the local party.

“It’s a revolution!” one woman said.

“You kick ass and straighten the Democrats out,” one woman told Ellenberg.

The contest, according to supporters of both candidates, was marked by racial innuendoes and whisper campaigns on both sides.

More in Wednesday's New Mexican. (CLICK HERE)

SF Dems Meet Tonight

I'm back to work, just in time for a Gov. Bill Richardson press conference (he signed the budget bill) and for the Santa Fe County Democrats to meet an choose a new county chairman to succeed Chairwoman Minnie Gallegos.

Last month Doug Mattson wrote a story in The New Mexican about the fact that two men -- Jose Morfin and Richard Ellenberg -- were running for that position. I'm not sure whether anyone else has entered the fray.

I'll let you know.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gov. Signs Conference Committees Bill

This press release just came in:

SANTA FE – Governor Bill Richardson today signed House Bill 393, which opens legislative conference committees to the public. Conference committees are formed by legislative leaders to reconcile differences in bills passed by the House and Senate.

“I have always maintained that this is a decision that should be made by the Legislature, without involvement by the Executive Branch,” Governor Richardson said. “Nevertheless, the Legislature chose this path and I have signed the bill out of respect for its desire to further open the committee process to the public.

“Despite the flaws in the bill, the public wins with an open process,” Governor Richardson said.

Don't say I didn't tell you so

And let me say again:


Friday, April 3, 2009

A Disturbing Little Story Out of Arizona

I hope public officials here don't get any ideas from this shocking little story from our neighbor to the west.

Police in Phoenix Arizona raided the home of a gadfly blogger who runs a Web site highly critical of Phoenix's finest.

The blog is called Bad Phoenix Cops, and is the work of a former software sales and marketing executive named Jeff Pataky.

A March 19 article in The Arizona Republic said:

Investigators confiscated computer material and other items from Pataky's north Phoenix home, which he considered a threat to quit writing.

"We have heard internally from our police sources that they purposefully did this to stop me,"
Pataky said. "They took my cable modem and wireless router. Anyone worth their salt knows nothing is stored in the cable modem."

A post today in a blog called Photography is Not a Crime had more details:

Maricopa County Judge Gary Donahoe signed the search warrant that allowed at least ten cops to raid his home in North Phoenix on March 12 while handcuffing his female roommate for three hours as they tore the place apart.
The assistant police chief told The Republic that the search had to do with a harassment complaint by a police detective, and, "This isn't about the blog. That's just where the investigation led."

The paper noted that police also served a separate search warrant at the home of former homicide detective who was one of the investigators on a local rape case.

That detective was demoted after he went public a year ago "with claims of mismanaged evidence at the city's crime lab."

A legit investigation or a threat to the First Amendment? This one's going to be worth watching.

(Thanks for the Twitter tip, Avelino.)