Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Will the Church Win on Tax-Cut Repeal?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 1, 2009

The Catholic Church — or more specifically, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops — has a great record recently in getting what it wants out of the state Legislature.

Early this year, the bishops opposed bills establishing domestic partnerships and funding embryonic stem-cell research. The Legislature voted both down. The bishops favored repealing the death penalty. The Legislature, after years of debate, passed a repeal bill and the governor signed it.

And don't forget cockfighting. A couple of years ago, the bishops opposed it. And now it's illegal.

The three bishops are Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces and Bishop James Wall of Gallup.

But will the bishops enjoy the same success with a proposal that the executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops says is now their top priority?Archbishop Sheehan

I'm talking about repealing the personal income tax cut that the state granted for top income brackets, which Gov. Bill Richardson pushed through as an economic-development measure during his first year in office.

In a recent letter to newspapers, NMCCB executive director and lobbyist Allen Sanchez explained the bishops' position:

"In 2003 the Legislature cut state income taxes. Since then, revenues are down even more and there will be a special session to cut spending even further. Now is not the time for deeper cuts to education, health care, and services vital to struggling families. The moral response in times such as these is to strengthen our support of families, not weaken it. Lawmakers should seriously consider ways to raise revenue rather than make even deeper cuts to the budget. The Legislature could now repeal the income tax cuts of 2003, enact corporate income tax reform, and close some of the tax loopholes that benefit only a few. If New Mexico could afford to cut taxes by $1 billion in the past few years, surely we can find a way to restore some of those funds now when we so desperately need it."

"We urge lawmakers and the governor not to balance our state budget at the expense of the many New Mexicans working even harder to support their families, but to increase state revenues as a just and necessary tool to meet the very real needs of all of our state's people."

There is some support among Democratic lawmakers for repealing the tax cuts. But I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty tough rooster to fight.

Richardson is not in favor of repealing the tax cut, which lowered the top personal income tax rate from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent over five years. The governor and other supporters argued at the time it would help attract businesses to the state and create jobs.

It also served as a great national attention-getter for a governor with big national ambitions.

Countless television commentators and national news articles labeled Richardson as a different kind of Democrat, "a tax-cutting Democrat." The governor frequently bragged about cutting taxes while running for re-election as well as during his run for president.

And even though he's not publicly campaigning for any office at the moment, I can't see Richardson signing such a bill — cutting taxes during his first year then repealing the cuts during the last.

And despite the horrible state revenue outlook and the bishops' support for boosting the tax rate, I think a tax-cut repeal is going to have a hard time getting through the Legislature. Though you wouldn't know it from the recent Democratic lieutenant governor forum — in which incumbent Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez came out strong for repealing the tax cut — the Senate still is a pretty conservative body.

A tax-cut repeal might have a better chance in the House. But Speaker Ben Luján still is very loyal to the governor, so if Richardson doesn't want it, chances are Luján won't be that enthusiastic about it.

But don't count out those bishops quite yet. A lot of people never thought the Legislature would repeal the death penalty.

King Wants Ethics Reform in 2010 Session

Attorney General Gary King will be pushing for ethics reform in the next regular session of the Legislature.

A news release from King's office says the AG will once again push for a bill to create a state Ethics Commission. He also wants a whistleblower protection bill, an "anti-Pay-to-Play" contractor disclosure bill; and legislation to expand of the definition of "lobbying" to include matters being considered by the Executive Branch of state government.

Any bill other than financial bills in a 30-day session must be put on the governor's call. Gov. Bill Richardson, who has endorsed ethics bills in the past, hasn't said whether these will be on the call.

King plans to present his proposed legislation Thursday to the the Courts, Corrections and Justice Commitee, which is meeting in Las Cruces.

Domestic Partnerships Will Be on Governor's Call

Looks like the budget and failing revenues aren't going to be the only issues debated at the regular 2010 session of the Legislature. Eric Witt confirmed today that Gov. Bill Richardson will put domestic partnerships on his call.

See my story HERE.

The big question is whether the Catholic Church will once again oppose the bill. Many blamed (or credited) the opposition of the church as the main reason the bill failed in the Senate earlier this year. Allen Sanchez, lobbyist for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops told me that the bishops were not in favor of the bill being on the call for the 30-day session. He said the bishops are more interested in legislation to prevent cuts to programs that help poor people and children (and are most interested in repealing the tax cuts to upper income brackets, which passed in 2003.)

But Sanchez said the bishops will keep an open mind about domestic partnership proposals and look at any bill that's introduced.

And just to reiterate, I'm talking about the 30-day session that begins in January --NOT the special session expected next month.

Monday, September 28, 2009

DD Waiver Funds Issue to be discussed by LFC

... during the hearing on the Health Department, scheduled for 3 p.m. in Room 307 of the Roundhouse.

The issue is the Health Department's decision not to spend $9.4 million — approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor — to bring more people into a program that allows Medicaid to pay for services related to developmental disabilities.

My story in today's New Mexican about several families of those who have been on the developmentally disabled waiver waiting list for several years is HERE.

The photo you see here is of Ryan Zamites, 9, of Las Cruces, who has been the list for more than three years. His mother Melissa Zamites is one of the people I interviewed for the story.

Montoya in Land Commission Race

It's probably about time to stop referring to Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya as a "possible" candidate for state Land Commission.

I just ran into him here at The Roundhouse. I asked him point blank if he's running and he said he indeed is. I'm not surprised. He was introduced at the recent lieutenant governor candidate forum as a candidate, and he didn't put up any argument.

Montoya, who is finishing his second term on the County Commission, and who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Democratic primary last year, said he'll be making an official announcement in the near future.

So far the only other Democrats in the race are former Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. and Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones. Bob Cornelius is the only land commission candidate on the Republican side. (Incumbent Pat Lyons can't seek a third consecutive term. He's running for PRC.)

Teague in Top Five

But it's not the kind of list that the Congressman from southern New Mexico would want to be on.

Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza puts Rep. Harry Teague's Second Congressional District as number 4 of "the five seats most likely to change hands after next year's elections."

Says Cillizza:

Not only did Rep. Harry Teague (D) inexplicably vote in favor of the Obama administration's cap-and-trade energy bill earlier this year (his southern New Mexico district is filled with oil and gas companies), but he has also drawn his toughest possible opponent -- former congressman Steve Pearce (R) -- as he prepares to seek a second term in 2010. Not good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Valerie Not Running for SOS

Just last week Valerie Espinoza told me she was actively campaigning for Secretary of State and tha “I want it so bad, I can taste it.”

But she also said she'd commissioned a poll that showed her trailing incumbent Mary Herrera in the Democratic primary.

Espinoza just issued this statement:

Valerie Espinoza, Santa Fe County Clerk, announced today that she will not seek election to the office of Secretary of State in 2010.

Ms. Espinoza said, “It will be my continued joy to work for the citizens of Santa Fe County as their County Clerk, and to advise and support other County Clerks in the State of New Mexico. I will continue with my practice of openness to the media and voters, because I believe, as do the citizens of New Mexico, that all public officials should be accountable and available to the public. To that end, I hope to collaborate with policy makers, legislators, and the Secretary of State to achieve both Ethics and Election Reform within New Mexico.”

In thanking her supporters, she said: “My profound thanks go to the myriad of individuals who, because of their faith and trust in me, have urged me to seek the Office of Secretary of State. I want to complete the tasks and goals that I have started at the Santa Fe County Clerks Office.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons

Earlier this week, a health-care reform group called Grassroots4PublicOption delivered about 850 petition signatures to Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Santa Fe office calling for a health-care bill that includes a government-run insurance option.

In addition to the signatures were 60 lemons, which, like the petitions, were signed by people.

Why lemons?

"...the Senate Finance Committee health-care bill authored by Sen. Max Baucus, which doesn't include the public option, is a lemon," a press release said. Some of them were in a pitcher with a note that said, "Please make lemonade."

So what did Bingaman's office do with all those lemons?

"Some people are using them in water, and one person even made lemon bars that I’m told were quite delicious," Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin said. "Meanwhile, Sen. Bingaman continues to work to improve the legislation. "

Update: Richardson Wiki Entry Fixed.

I was right. It didn't take long to fix Gov. Bill Richardson's Wikipedia entry. As I pointed out in my Roundhouse Roundup column today, the online encyclopedia said Richardson was finishing his third term.

But now it correctly says: "... there has been speculation in the media about Richardson's career after his second and final term as New Mexico governor concludes."

I just wish the people who look after Rahm Emanuel's Wikipedia entry had corrected that weird statement about Emanuel's alleged "one-man klezmer band" before I made a fool of myself last year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Funny "Facts" About the Gov.

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 24, 2009

Poor Bill Richardson. A couple of years ago there was a chance — a slim chance admittedly — that he would be elected president of the United States. And now writers can’t seem to even keep their basic facts straight about the guy.

Take Wikipedia, for instance. The last sentence in the very first paragraph in Richardson’s Wikipedia entry — as of late Wednesday night — reads:

“In August 2009, federal prosecutors dropped the pending investigation against the governor, and there has been speculation in the media about Richardson’s career after his third term as New Mexico governor concludes.”
True, it seems that Richardson has been around forever. But actually, he’s still serving out his second term. (Better click fast if you want to see that mistake yourself. Wikipedia is an ever-changing creature, and someone’s bound to correct it shortly after this column is published.)

But while Wikipedia is extending Richardson’s tenure in office, a column published Wednesday in The Milford Daily News in Milford, Mass., cut short his term, referring to him as “former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.”

This isn’t the only time this mistake has been made. On the CBS News Web site, in an Aug. 19 story about his meeting with North Korean diplomats, a caption on a photo calls him “Former Gov.”

Back in February, when PBS reported on Gary Locke being chosen for U.S. commerce secretary, the story noted “Locke is Mr. Obama’s third nominee for the post after former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew from consideration.”

And a month later, the Newnan, Ga.-based Times-Herald, in a column about corruption scandals, said, “Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was on his way to becoming commerce secretary, then pow!”

Baby talk: That Milford Daily News column also made a surprising statement about our “former” governor. It calls Richardson “an anchor baby.”

Following his recent mishap at Elephant Butte Lake, Richardson probably wouldn’t appreciate any nautical metaphors. But, according to columnist Marie J. Parente, an anchor baby is “an offspring of an illegal immigrant or other non-citizen, who under current legal interpretation of the 14th Constitutional Amendment becomes a United States citizen at birth.”

Says Parente, “His mother, a Mexican citizen, married his late father, a native Nicaraguan, who worked in Mexico as an American-Citi-Bank executive. When Richardson’s birth was imminent, his mother crossed the border to Pasadena, Calif., to give birth. She and her husband believed ‘more opportunities’ for their unborn child existed in the United States.”

Most of that’s true. Richardson’s mother is a Mexican citizen. However the governor disputes the claim his father was a “native Nicaraguan.” In his autobiography Between Worlds, Richardson wrote, “My father’s determination that I be born in the United States can largely be explained that he was born on a boat on its way to Nicaragua.”

The governor’s grandfather was a biologist who collected specimens for several American museums, Richardson wrote. His dad was born when his family was headed to Central America on a field trip. “The fact that he was born outside the country was something my father resented all his life,” Richardson wrote. “He had an American upbringing, growing up in Boston.”

Granted, I’ve heard a couple of theories from Richardson haters that the elder Richardson wasn’t a citizen, but I haven’t given much thought to such chatter.

But think of how this Nicaragua connection would have excited the “birthers” — those loonies who claim President Barack Obama actually was born in Kenya — had Richardson been elected president.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm Back ...

Lawrence Rael
After a nice 3-day break.

Here's a couple of links some recent stories in The New Mexican.

My story about lieutenant governor candidate Lawrence Rael's (public-paid) ad spots for Rail Runner Safety is HERE.

I also did a story about the state not spending allocated funds to enable more people with developmental disabilities to get on Medicaid. That can be found HERE.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lt. Gov Rumble


No, it wasn't really a rumble, but the forum featuring six of the seven candidates (State Sen. Tim Eichenberg was campaigning down in Las Cruces) turned out to be a pretty interesting discussion.

There were no severe blows that landed. The closest to any direct criticism of one another were references to "certain committees" holding up ethics bills. State Sen. Linda Lopez, chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee owned up to the fact that she's the one they were talking about, defending the stalling of bills to create an ethics commission during the past few sessions. She did say she's got an ethics commission bill of her own she'll be introducing, assumedly in 2010.

See my story about the forum at The New Mexican and see some more snapshots of the event HERE

Roundhouse Roundup: Candidate School

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 17, 2009

Attention candidates and potential candidates of any party: The Secretary of State’s Office is hosting “candidacy seminars” at the Roundhouse next week in an effort to teach budding politicians the basics of filing for public office and convey some general understanding of election laws and regulations.

The free three-hour workshops — scheduled for 9 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Wednesday — will cover such topics as opening a campaign account, campaign finance reporting laws, withdrawal dates, hardship exceptions for online reporting, financial disclosure requirements, in-kind contributions, etc.

Anyone covered under the Campaign Reporting Act is eligible to attend. That basically means candidates for state and county offices.

This is a good idea. The campaign laws constantly are changing. For instance, this year is the first nonelection year in which not one but two campaign finance reports are required. The next one is due Oct. 13. I wonder how many bozos are going to miss that deadline, pleading ignorance.

But there’s a few items not listed in the news release that really ought to be included in any candidacy seminars. Here’s a few of those:

* Stand on your record. If you’ve got a drunken-driving arrest or a domestic-violence charge in your past, either be willing to come forward about that right away, or drop out before those questions start being asked. Don’t count on bad record keeping by some local courts to protect you. These things have a way of surfacing.

* Don’t report expenditures not actually spent. Call this the “Jerome Block Jr. Rule.” No matter how his criminal case turns out, you can bet the public regulation commissioner wishes now that he hadn’t reported paying that band that never played at that campaign rally that never happened last year.

* Don’t make accusations or insinuations against your opponent that you can’t prove. You’ll only hurt yourself and make your opponent sympathetic. In last year’s 3rd Congressional District primary race, candidate Benny Shendo said front-runner Ben Ray Luján wasn’t being honest about his “lifestyle.” Luján’s now a congressman, and nobody’s talking about Shendo running for any office.

* Always return reporters’ phone calls. I know that seems self-serving. But it’s not, really. It’s actually much easier for us to just type “couldn’t be reached for comment” or “refused to return phone calls” after your name. But people do start to notice after awhile, and they’ll only think you’re hiding something.

To attend the candidacy seminar, call Tessa Jo Mascarenas or Tracy Littrell at the Secretary of State’s Office, 827-3600. Reservations must be made by Tuesday.

“Actively running” for now: One potential candidate who said she doesn’t know whether she’ll attend the candidacy seminar is Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, who every day is seeming more and more like a challenger to incumbent and fellow Democrat Secretary of State Mary Herrera.

“I’m actively running,” Espinoza said in an interview Wednesday, although she said she’s yet to make a final decision about taking the plunge. She’s opened a campaign account and is seeking contributions. And she’s agreed to appear at a Santa Fe County Democratic Party forum for secretary of state candidates next month.

Espinoza also has commissioned a poll, which, she said shows Herrera with an early lead — although Espinoza said her Washington, D.C., pollster says she has potential for “a strong finish.”

Not surprising, Espinoza said, Herrera, a former Bernalillo County clerk, leads in Albuquerque, while Espinoza leads in the North.

Herrera’s actively running herself. She’s got one of her old 2006 primary rivals, Letitia Montoya, managing her campaign in the north. And there was a fundraiser for Herrera planned in Santa Fe on Wednesday night.

Before she makes her final decision and officially declares, Espinoza said she has to take a hard look at those numbers and start raising real money.

“I want it so bad, I can taste it,” said Espinoza, who worked under former Secretaries of State Shirley Hooper and Clara Jones. “But I have to evaluate the cost.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Matthew, We Hardly Knew Ye

It's news these days when somebody isn't running for lieutenant governor of New Mexico, so here's some news.

Political newcomer Matthew Padilla, who publicly had been toying with the idea of running for the #2 post announced via email this morning that he's not running and that he'll "formally" (does that involve a tuxedo?) endorse Brian Colón for the job. He plans to read a statement to that effect tonight at a forum in Santa Fe for the remaining Democratic lieutenant governor candidates.

Padilla joins fellow Democratic non-lieutenant governor candidates Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas and Hector Balderas (who is seeking re-election as state auditor).

The forum, which is open to the public starts at 6:30 p.m. at the NEA Building, 2007 Botulph Road.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gov Holds Open Office Hours

Gov. Bill Richardson will hold open Office Hours next week for people who want to discuss ways to balance the state budget.

Still no word on exactly when the special session of the Legislature will be. Richardson's still saying October.

Richardson will grant five-minute meetings on a first-come, first-served basis. "People must provide their driver’s license for a background check by State Police," a news release said. "Anyone representing a group or organization should be prepared to meet with the Governor as a group."

Here's the schedule:

Wednesday, Sept. 16 (Santa Fe)

Meetings will be in the Governor’s Office in Santa Fe between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. People can start signing up as early as noon.

Friday, Sept. 18 (Albuquerque)

Meetings will be from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the CNM Workforce Training Center, 500 Eagle Rock Avenue N.E.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boat Crash Enters Gov Race

Republican Susana Martinez is the first gubernatorial candidate to make a statement about this weekend's boat crash at Elephant Butte Lake. :

In a news release, Martinez said,
"The law requires that ‘the operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident…shall give his name, address, and identification of his vessel, in writing, to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the collision.’

“From the current media reports, it is not clear that Governor Bill Richardson’s chief-of-staff complied with the law.

“This incident also raises the bigger issue of how boating crashes are handled under current law. The legislature should seriously consider strengthening the boating laws to close any loopholes that allow operators to leave the scene of a crash before law enforcement is contacted, arrives, and investigates. Investigations into boating crashes should not be handled any less seriously than those involving motor vehicles.

“This incident also demonstrates the need to ensure our boating laws are reviewed, strengthened and enforced for the protection of New Mexico’s citizens.”

In fairness, I don't know whether Condit gave his information in writing to the investigator, but I don't think there's evidence he tried to conceal his name, address, etc. That's all in the report.

But Martinez's second point -- the need to strengthen boating laws -- is valid. A lot of people were shocked to learn that you can leave the accident scene and wait two days to contact authorities.

Maestas Not Running

Here's some real news: A prominent Democrat is not running for lieutenant governor. That's Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, who had said he'd been considering:

(Española, NM). Today, Española Mayor Joseph Maestas (D, NM) announced that he will not be running for the office of Lieutenant Governor. This announcement ends months of speculation as to whether the fiscally conservative, social moderate would leave the mayoralship to seek a higher office in the state.
“After much thought and consultation with my wife, family, friends, and supporters, I have decided not to enter the Democratic primary race for Lieutenant Governor,” Mayor Maestas said, “As a native New Mexican and longtime public servant, I care deeply about our great State. The need for comprehensive ethics reform and fiscal responsibility in these unprecedented, uncertain, and turbulent times requires bold, experienced leadership at the highest levels of state government. Although I firmly feel that I possess that type of leadership, the time is simply not right for me to enter this race.”
Now he doesn't have to worry about who wins Heath's poll.

Wonkette on the Boat Crash

Wonkette does its take on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, I mean the Bloody Mary (or is it the Bloody "Merry" as one Web site has it.) Here's what the blog says of our governor:

His life has very little purpose right now. That’s a good thing! The man deserves a break from his prison of Ambition, a passion that has kept him busy in hundreds of semi-important government jobs over the years. Now he has time to dance! He also has time to flee boat crashes — you know, like when the boat he’s on demolishes another boat, and destroys a marina in general, and then he and his buddies just pop off and never tell anyone. This is something Bill Richardson has time to do now!

Completely unfair. Hilarious, but unfair

Word to the Wise About Facebook

In today's Roundhouse Roundup column I mentioned Facebook pages of several lieutenant governor candidates (using the service to try to get support for Heath's Web poll).

Indeed, lots of politicians around here are using Facebook more and more.

Hope they don't make the same mistake as this guy.

(Didn't the President of the United States just warn school kids "Be careful what you post on Facebook"?)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: NM's Straw Poll

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 10, 2009

You might think that the first balloting in the lengthy U.S. presidential selection process takes place in Iowa in January.

You’d be correct about Iowa. But, at least on the Republican side, the first balloting for president is the Ames Straw Poll, which takes place in the month of August the year before the election.

It’s not a binding ballot. Anyone who buys a ticket to the fundraising dinner for the Iowa GOP is eligible to vote. A very small number of people actually participate. But the candidates spend a lot of time, energy and big cash bucks to load people from all over the state onto buses to get to that dinner and cast their proverbial straws.

About the closest thing in New Mexico we have to the Ames Straw Poll is the weekly Web poll on Heath Haussamen’s N.M. Politics Web site. At least when the question deals with electoral matchups. Nobody spends any significant money, but the campaigns do their best to get out their supporters.

This week, the question is which of six announced Democrats should win the lieutenant governor primary next year.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, former Democratic Party state chairman Brian Colón had a commanding lead in the Haussamen poll. Colón had 412 votes, 50 percent of the online votes cast. His closest opponent, Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano, had 153 votes, or 18 percent.

This might not be an accident. On Wednesday morning, Colón, using his Twitter account, began promoting the poll. “Please support our campaign for Lt. Governor by voting in Heath Haussamen’s poll today,” he said in a message, which also appeared on his Facebook page. Naturally, there was a live link to Haussamen’s site.

Early in the afternoon, Colón zapped a similar message to those on his campaign e-mail list.
“Participating won’t add you to any future e-mail list,” the e-mail said. “Click your choice and let’s send an early message about our grassroots movement with the campaign.”

Colón wasn’t the only candidate to use Facebook to get the word out about the poll. Similar posts could be found on pages belonging to Joe Campos, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Lawrence Rael and Solano, who also used Twitter to plug the poll.

But, as Haussamen said in an e-mail conversation, “Colón has been by far the most active.”
Of course, this week isn’t the first time in recent months that candidates have rallied their troops to participate in the online poll.

In early June, Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh won Haussamen’s poll, narrowly beating former Congresswoman Heather Wilson — who has said she’s thinking about running. Weh issued a news release saying, “A recent online poll on one of the state’s most popular political blogs shows that Albuquerque businessman Allen Weh is the preferred GOP nominee for governor in 2010. … The results reveal that New Mexicans believe I’m the strongest candidate to take on Diane Denish in 2010.

Haussamen wrote at the time, “While I’m flattered that the Weh campaign takes my site so seriously, the reality is that I intend the non-scientific polls for fun only. It’s no secret that such polls can be manipulated.” He pointed out that his polls usually attract about 200 votes, but the week Weh won there were more than 400. “Which means someone, or more likely more than one someone, made an intentional effort to get people to this site to vote in the poll,” Haussamen wrote.
Adam Kokesh
A month later, Republican challenger Adam Kokesh got 79 percent of the poll vote against incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Luján. That week there were 951 votes. Haussamen noted that there were posts on at least two Web sites associated with supporters of Ron Paul. It can’t be determined how many of the votes cast came from the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District.

“Online polls can be manipulated in nefarious ways, but in general, I’ve found that the candidates who win the polls are the ones who tend to be well organized, so it does tend to be a test of organization,” Haussamen said Wednesday.

He also observed sardonically, “The candidates seems to take these polls way more seriously than I do.”

IsThis Is Why They're So Shy About Webcasting?

Could this news clip from a California TV station explain why some of our lawmakers are so adverse to Webcasting?

The piece is about California Assembyman Michael Duvall, a "family values" guy who loves his lady lobbyists.

I wonder whether any of this would be covered under the New Mexico law restricting gifts from lobbyists?

UPDATE: After his public spanking (sorry) over bragging about sex with lobbyists, Mike Duvall resigned his seat in the California legislature. To spend more time with his family, I suppose. The story is HERE

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Average Joe

CarraroFormer state Sen. Joe Carraro, who didn't seek re-election last year and lost a Congressional race in the GOP primary, is coming back to the public eye. He's going to have his own radio show, called "Average Joe."

After all those years as a State Senator and with my experiences both nationally and internationally in the fields of finance and energy, I have the background and voice to know what questions to ask, what problems to address and certainly what solutions are needed for our country to survive and prosper. Now is the time to have someone who's been there, done that, and has the T-shirt to prove it and make sense out of what is happening to our country.

I dunno. Joe's been called many things, but "average" isn't one of them.

The show airs 1 p.m. Saturday on KIVA, 1550 AM.


In other news, I usually don't cover politics from other states, but this email (which included the photo you see here) caught my eye this morning:

Kristin Davis, the Manhattan Madam who supplied escorts for Eliot Spitzer while he was both Attorney General and Governor says she will jump into the race herself if Spitzer decides on a come-back run for public office.

There's a link to Ms. Davis' blog. CLICK HERE

Monday, September 7, 2009

Damron to Announce For Lt. Gov.

Dr. J.R. Damron, who won the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary, will announce his canadidacy for lieutenant governor noon Tuesday at Santa Fe Imaging Center.

Damron ran unopposed in his primary for the governor nomination in 2006. But shortly after the primary, he withdrew as a candidate and the state GOP Central Committee nominated former state Republican Chairman John Dendahl to take his place. Dendahl went on to lose to incumbent Gov. Bill Richardson in a landslide. More about that HERE.

Damron will join former state Rep. Brian Moore in the GOP lieutenant governor primary.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Is It 2012 Yet?

Congressional Quarterly has an interesting little piece about GOP candidates gearing up for the 2012 race, focusing on three unsuccessful candidates from the distant past (2008).

If the 2008 presidential election taught potential 2012 candidates anything, it’s that peaking early may actually be your downfall. Still, that hasn’t stopped several 2008 contenders from getting a jump on the coming election cycle.

Looks like the trick is to start building name recognition, publish books (can't wait for Mike Huckabee's Christmas stories) and raise cash -- without assuming the dreaded mantle of frontrunner.

The story looks at the 2008 race and mentions several also-ran candidates, Republican and Democrat. The piece even namechecks Mike Gravel, whose longshot candidacy went out in a blaze of nothing.

But somehow CQ forgot about a certain governor of New Mexico who spent a big chunk of 2007 in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is It 2010 Yet?

It's that time of year. ...

Earlier this week former Democratic State Chariman Brian Colon had a kick-off even in Albuquerque for his lieutenant governor bid. Republican state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones announced her gubermatorial bid last weekend, while former state Rep. Brian Moore announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor yesterday.

Here's what's coming up:

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, who has been campaigning for lieutenant governor for several months, will officially make it official on Saturday at a "Kickoff Celebration" in Albuquerque, followed by a Railrunner Ride to Santa Fe, where she'll have another "Kickoff Celebration.

The first event is at Washington Middle School park at 9:30 a.m. The Santa Fe celebration is at 1:30 p.m. in front of The Market Place.


Former Republican state GOP Chairman Allen Weh, who has been in "exploratory committee" mode for a few months (but has made no secret of his intention to run for governor next year), also is making it official. He's announcing noon Tuesday at the Atrium at the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico.

Roundhouse Roundup: Pfizer Press Conference Pfizzles

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 3, 2009

It was a classic case of bad timing.

Last week there was a news release announcing that U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján would be at the state Capitol to help unveil a new publication called the New Mexico Health Guide: Resources for the Uninsured. This is a “comprehensive listing of health care resources that are available to help uninsured and underinsured residents of New Mexico meet their health care needs, providing contact information and health tips in an easy-to-use and easy-to-read format.”

Sounds innocuous enough. Might even help some people. The guide was paid for by Pfizer Helpful Answers, a nonprofit wing of the very profitable Pfizer pharmaceutical company, and the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

The news conference was scheduled for today. But by Wednesday night, Luján canceled his appearance due to “the recent events regarding the parent company of the foundation” that helped pay for the guide. Later, organizers announced the entire dog-and-pony show had been cancelled.

The “recent events” actually occurred earlier in the day when Pfizer subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony in a federal fraudulent marketing case and the two companies agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in American history.

In addition to the $1.2 billion criminal fine, Pfizer also agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture. The case against Pfizer involved four prescription drugs, including a painkiller Bextra. Prosecutors said the company promoted the drugs as treatments for conditions different from the ones for which they’d been approved.

“Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the company’s fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade,” an Associated Press report said. “As part of its illegal marketing, Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks, prosecutors said.” These perks, according to the wire service, included “free golf, massages, and resort junkets.”
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
Obviously, it’s not the kind of company that a young congressman trying to build a reputation as a health care reformer needs to be keeping. Spokesman Mark Nicastre said Wednesday that Luján finds the Pfizer fraud case “clearly disturbing” and that it “shows the need for greater oversight.” But, he said, the health guide is “a useful tool for the uninsured.”

Instead of the news conference, Luján will meet with constituents between 9 and 10 a.m. at his office, 811 St. Michael’s Drive. Suite 104. For an appointment, call 984-8950

Pfizer in New Mexico: There’s no record of any “free golf, massages, and resort junkets” from Pfizer to New Mexico politicians. But the company has given the state a lot more than a health guide.

According to the Institute of Money in State Government, the company, its executives and one of its lobbyists have contributed nearly $100,000 to state political campaigns since 2002. Gov. Bill Richardson got more than $18,000 of that for his two gubernatorial races. A New Mexico Common Cause study last year said Pfizer made more campaign contributions in the state than any other pharmaceutical company in the past 10 years.

Richardson wrote the “Welcome Page” for the health guide, available on the KSFR news site (HERE). In fairness, it’s a pretty generic message, saying the guide is handy and health care is one of his biggest priorities. He doesn’t mention Pfizer in the message.

As for Luján, he hasn’t received any direct contributions from Pfizer.

However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he’s received $5,600 from lobbyist Scott Scanland — a longtime New Mexico lobbyist who has more than 20 other clients besides the pharmaceutical giant.

Scanland also gave $6,900 to Richardson’s presidential bid in 2007 and 2008. However, Richardson refunded $2,300 of that after he dropped out of the race.

Blog Bonus:

Here's a copy of a Pfizer-sponsored health guide from Arizona, which, according to Lujan's office, is simialr to the one recently published for New Mexico.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brian Moore in GOP Lt. Gov Race

Former state Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton has become the first Republican to declare his intent to run for lieutenant governor next year.

Moore, who served in the state House for four terms ending in 2008, doesn't argue with the term "moderate Republican."

"I came to the Legislature as a businessman," he told me in a phone interview. "I found the only way to get anything done (in the Legislature) is to work with members from both sides."

He said besides his legislative experience, he'd bring a business perspective as well as a rural perspective to the office.

Moore's Web site is HERE.

Though Moore is the only GOP candidate to announce for that position, other Republicans rumored to be running are Dr. J.R. Damron of Santa Fe who ran for governor in 2006, and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who ran for Congress last year.

I'm too lazy to type out all the Dems who are running or thinking of running. Kate Nash profiled them all on Sunday. CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Enviro Group Blasts State Senate Leadership

In its newly released 2009 Legislative Scorecard, Conservation Voters New Mexico has some strong words for the leadership of the state Senate.

"It is abundantly clear that the composition of many critical Senate committees has dramatically shifted power to special interests — to those industries that advocate de-regulation and increased exploitation of natural resources.

"In the end, the House of Representatives was forced to defeat attacks on our environment launched by the Senate. Fortunately, for the most part, the House held the line and chose clean air and water over exploitation of our Land of Enchantment."

In particular CVNM singled out the Senate Conservation Committee, saying this last session that panel was filled with senators "openly hostile to environmental protection."

I spoke with Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings this afternoon. He denied trying to stack the deck at the Conservation or any other committee and called the charge. "silly."

Here's the members of the Conservation Committee and their CVNM scores from the regular session this year. (The scores are based on 13 votes on specific pieces of legislation dealing with environmental protection, wildlife, growth and health issues. The group considers 100 percent to be the best vote on conservation issues.)

* Sen. Steve Fischmann, D-Las Cruces, 100 percent
* Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, 46 percent
* Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, 41 percent
* Sen. David Ulibarri, D-Grants, 38 percent
* Sen. Bernadette M. Sanchez, D-Albuquerque (chairwoman), 36 percent
* Sen. Clinton Harden, R-Clovis, 27 percent
* Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, 20 percent
* Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, 15 percent

Download your own coppy of the CVNM 2009 Legislative Scorecard HERE and check out my story in The New Mexican HERE.

CVNM Publishes Environmental Scorecard

Conservation Voters New Mexico just published its 2009 Legislative Scorecard. You can download it ( a 24-page pdf document) HERE.

Two Santa Fe lawmakers -- Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Brian Egolf -- have "perfect" CVNM scores. But CVNM director Sandy Buffet tells me that the delegation from tree-hugging, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, NPR-listening Las Cruces actually has a higher average score than Santa Fe's delegation.

Check out your own legislators' scores.