Friday, October 30, 2009

Campaign Tidbits


I just got official work that Santa Fe Rep. Lucky Varela will be seeking re-election to his District 48 seat.

Varela, a Democrat, has served in the Legislature for 23 years and is chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee. He's earned the reputation of having more knowledge of the budget process than anyone in state government.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh says he's collected enough signatures to get his name on the ballot.

"Republican gubernatorial candidates need 1,062 signatures to qualify for the pre-Primary convention and 2,124 signatures to secure a place on the ballot for the June Primary," a Weh press release said, noting he's reached that latter mark. "Reaching this goal will place Weh’s name on the ballot regardless of the results of the Pre-Primary convention slated for early March."

There is the little formality of verifying the signatures if another candidate decides to challenge. This has kept some candidates off the ballot in the past. But I haven't talked to anyone who thinks Weh will have this problem.

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State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, has been campaigning for lieutenant governor for a few months now. In fact, I'd forgotten, until I got his press release today, that he hadn't officially declared his candidacy.

Here's the news: Now he has. Or at least he will in a couple of hours (5:30 p.m. to be exact) at his office in Winrock Mall.


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Finally, the state Democratic Party is having a little fun with this video of GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Turner making a campaign video with his family, apparently at some rally this week.

"After Turner forgot to actually announce his candidacy, his personal public relations team reminded him why he was there. And even then, it took Turner four tries to get it right and tell his audience that he was actually running for Governor," says the party blog

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed. I was hoping for a "Macacca moment" or something like John Edwards primping his hair. But here Turner doesn't come across as stupid or vain. And even though he's obvious taking direction from some guy with a video camera, he doesn't come across as "flashy prepackaged" like the blog says. To me, this video makes him look human -- a guy with a nice young family (including a toddler who messes up Doug's mike.)

You be the judge. Here's the video.

Gifts From CDR

State Republican Chairman Harvey Yates, responding last night to the CDR indictments, is calling for Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish to "relieve themselves of all campaign contributions collected from (CDR owner David) Rubin." That's not such an unusual demand. What's unique is that Yates says the money shouldn't be given to charity, which is the usual route for tainted campaign cash. (In the past I've sardonically referred to this as the "Kickbacks for the Kiddies" campaign.)

Instead, Yates says, these funds should be given to the state attorney general "for an account maintained specifically to investigate political corruption in New Mexico.” That might not be a bad idea to have such an account for toxic campaign funds. Of course our charities that have come to depend upon windfalls from corruption would be hurt.

While thinking about those CDR contributions, I came upon this January 2009 report from the Institute of Money in State Politics. It's a look at contributions from Rubin and CDR to politicians from around the country.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell tops the list with $35,000 in contributions. 2003 California gubernatorial candidate Cruz Bustamante is second with $21,200 and Richardson third with $20,000.

Of course, these numbers aren't complete, at least as far as Richardson goes. Most of CDR's contributions to him went to Richardson PACs Moving America Forward and Si Su Puede, which paid for hotels, limousines etc. at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston for Richardson and his staff.

In fairness, I don't know whether there are simialr PACs for Rendell or Bustamante to which CDR might have contributed. In fact a Pittsburgh paper reported earlier this year that Rendell received $40,000 from Rubin.

The report lists $10,000 in CDR contributions to Denish. As her campaign for governor continues, expect to hear more about this cash from the state GOP and the Republican gubernatorial candidates.

UPDATE 2:10 p.m.:

According to Denish campaign spokesman Oren Shur, the campaign donated its old CDR contributions to two Albuquerque charities this morning.

"Earlier today, the campaign delivered a $5,000 check to the Storehouse, which provides food to families in need, and a $5,000 check to the Barrett Foundation, a shelter for women and children," Shur said in an e-mail.

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Courtesy of Heath Haussamen, here's a copy of Thursday's CDR indictment in New York federal court.

Rubin Indictment

Who Benefits from Heather's Decision?

HEATHER WILSON
I asked several political observers about how Heather Wilson's decision not to run for governor affects the 2010 race.

You can find my story in The New Mexican HERE

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CDR Indicted

Gov. Bill Richardson and his administration escaped indictments over a pay-to-play investigation involving CDR Financial Products, but CDR founder David Rubin and two of his underlings were indicted today.

Bloomberg reports that the indictments were out of federal court in New York.

The indictment in U.S. District Court in New York alleges that CDR and its employees conspired to fix prices on investment contracts that local governments buy with the proceeds of municipal bonds. CDR managed the bidding process for the investments on behalf of local governments.

UPDATE
The Associated Press version notes Richardson's brush with CDR, which cost him his seat in the Obama cabinet.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico had also investigated CDR for its links to Richardson, the Democratic governor. The investigation forced Richardson to bow out of a possible Cabinet position in the Obama White House.
Rubin and his firm contributed $110,000 to Richardson political committees from 2003 to 2005. The largest of those contributions, $75,000, was made less than a week before CDR was selected in June 2004 by the New Mexico Finance Authority to handle the reinvestment of idle bond proceeds.
CDR was hired as a financial adviser on state transportation bond deals, which generated almost $1.5 million in fees for CDR in 2004-2005.


Another Update:

The Associated Press further reports:

Thursday’s indictment does not mention Richardson, but it does refer to a May 20, 2004, call allegedly placed between people in New Mexico and New York in which a bid was rigged. Two months later, a state housing agency began receiving interest payments at what investigators say was an artificially reduced rate.

I Don't Want To Spoil The Party


But I guess I did.

I just got a call from a spokesman at the state Economic Development Department telling me that this afternoon's Halloween/birthday potluck party I wrote about in today's Roundhouse Roundup has been canceled -- as have all future monthly birthday potlucks for EDD employees.

I don't think I'll be invited to very many birthday parties for EDD employees in the near future.

Reactions to Wilson's Announcement

The Dems chime in.

From state Democratic Party executive director Josh Geise:

"Heather Wilson, sensing the strength of Lt. Governor Diane Denish, today decided she would not seek the Governor’s office. The Republican Party, decimated after the 2008 election, is left with a nothing more than a handful of second-tier candidates for the state’s top office.

"Regardless of who emerges from the Republican primary, the lack of experience in their entire slate of Republican candidates should deeply concern New Mexicans. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We need a proven leader to help New Mexico families’ weather these tough times, and none of the Republicans running come close to meeting that challenge."


GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez also issued a statement:

"Heather Wilson is an accomplished leader who is admired and respected by New Mexicans regardless of their political persuasion. I would first and foremost like to thank her for the years of service to New Mexico and the hard work and dedication she continues to exhibit on behalf of her fellow citizens. I am certain Heather will continue to have a profound and positive impact on the state she so deeply cares about. With Heather's announcement that she will not seek the governorship in 2010, it has become more clear than ever that I am the one candidate seeking the Republican Party's nomination who can build the necessary coalition to compete and win next fall. I have a proven track record of bringing people together and winning tough elections in a county where Republicans are outnumbered nearly three to one. In the weeks and months to come, I will continue to travel the state communicating my vision for New Mexico based on my conservative principles and values."


The other Republican candidates might weigh in also. I'll update if that happens.

UPDATE:

The State GOP just released this response to the state Democrats' response:

“Over the course of the last seventy years, this state has been dominated by the Democrat Party. In return for their investment, New Mexicans have received a state economy in ruins, a reputation badly tarnished by an unending string of public corruption scandals, and an education system which continues to fail our children.

“For the last six-and-a-half years, Diane Denish has occupied a platform from which she has been well positioned to champion meaningful reform. And yet the state’s current financial health and reputation reflect that she has not done this. Therefore, it becomes increasingly ridiculous that the Democrat Party continues to portray Denish as a seasoned leader while at the same time arguing that she bears no responsibility for the current administration’s failures.

“As the primary date nears, Republicans statewide will select a gubernatorial candidate with the integrity, experience, and vision necessary to get this state back on track. We are confident that come November 2010, this nominee will be elected to serve the people of New Mexico.”



ANOTHER UPDATE:

Republican candidate Janice Arnold-Jones just released this statement:

"Heather Wilson’s statement of her intentions provides clarity and opportunity for the Republican Party. Heather Wilson sacrificed her time and irreplaceable moments with her family to represent the State of New Mexico and she has more than earned a brief rest from public service. Heather Wilson served with courage, tenacity, grace and unmatched intellect in Congress. Her understanding of National Security issues is without equal. I hope she will find time to help define the path forward for the Republican Party of New Mexico and for the State in the days just ahead."

Heather Not Running

I just received this e-mail from former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson:
Manuel Lujan, Jr. & Heather Wilson
Over the last ten months a lot of New Mexicans have encouraged me to run for Governor in 2010. I understand why New Mexicans want a strong leader to restore fiscal responsibility and integrity in Santa Fe and I deeply appreciate the confidence so many New Mexicans have expressed in me.

At the same time, I am well aware of the demands and limitations of elected office. My work in the private sector is satisfying, I do volunteer work that matters, and I am enjoying having more personal time to spend with family and friends. The Governor of New Mexico has no significant national security role -- an issue area that continues to be an important part of my life. Running for office and being Governor means setting these things aside.

To every thing there is a season. I will probably return to public life at some point, but I have decided that I will not run for Governor or any other office in 2010.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: The Party Museum

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 29, 2009

Party on down!
The state Film Museum at the Santa Fe Railyard finally is being put to some good use.

The state Economic Development Department is having a party for employees there this afternoon. The museum, housed in the old Jean Cocteau Theater on Montezuma Avenue, seems pretty excited about that. It's up on the marquee: "Welcome EDD Halloween Party."

This raised a few eyebrows. At a time when the state is talking about laying off workers or forcing unpaid furloughs, cutting back services for behavioral health patients and even closing prisons, one department is partying?

It's really not that big of a deal, said a deputy director of Economic Development. "It's not really a Halloween party, it's a birthday potluck," said Toni Balzano, explaining the department does this every month for employees who were born that month.

Sometimes the potluck is held at the main EDD offices and sometimes at the Film Museum, where the state Film Office is located, Balzano said. In one of those weird twists of state bureaucracy, the Film Office is part of EDD, while the Film Museum is part of the Cultural Affairs Department.

The party is scheduled from 3 until 5 p.m. Most employees show up for about 45 minutes, Balzano said. They are expected to count that time as their lunch break, she said. A locally made movie will be shown in the background, Balzano said.

Usually when there's a party at a museum, guests have to be reminded to be careful around the exhibits. But that won't be necessary at this shindig — because there aren't any exhibits. You won't find Billy Jack's hat, or robot parts from Transformers, or even a wax figure of my friend actor/musician/lawyer George Adelo getting killed in a motel bathroom in that scene from No Country for Old Men.

As my newspaper colleague Robert Nott has noted in his Pasatiempo column, the museum has no budget for exhibits. Its biggest expense is the $88,000 a year salary for Director Sharon Maloof.

Longtime Santa Fe residents remember that before it was the Jean Cocteau, the theater where the museum is located was called The Collective Fantasy. As a name, that might be more appropriate now than "the New Mexico Film Museum."

Return to sender: Just a day after Gov. Bill Richardson spent most of his afternoon hearing from agencies and organizations likely to be affected by budget cuts, some state employees who sent budget-saving suggestions to the Governor's Office (at an e-mail address listed in a news release) got an automatic response saying their e-mails were "deleted without being read."

Does this represent a cruel and insensitive attitude toward state workers? Or is it the dawn of a new era of honesty in state government?

Neither, says a spokeswoman for Richardson. It was just a computer glitch — a "junk mail filter and read receipt setting error" to be exact.

Shortly after being alerted to the problem, spokeswoman Caitlin Kelleher said the problem was corrected.

"The governor wants to hear from New Mexicans. We will be holding additional office hours next week," she said in an e-mail. The e-mail for budget suggestions: Special.session@state.nm.us.

Turner's In

Doug Turner, owner of an Albuquerque public relations company and campaign manager for former Gov. Gary Johnson, made it official today, declaring he's running for governor in the Republican primary.
Turner joins for GOP state chairman Allen Weh, state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez in that race. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the only declared candidate.

In a news release, Turner, a self-described moderate, stressed working across party lines for "common sense solutions."

The release said:

"Turner has been part of non-profit organizations and is devoted to community service. He served three terms as Chairman of the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission and on the Albuquerque Development Commission. He is currently a board member of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools Association. Turner is also a life member of the National Rifle Association, the American Council of Young Political Leaders and the Republican Party.

So far none of his primary opponents have reacted to Turner's entry.

However, the state Democratic Party executive director Josh Geise had a warm welcome for Turner, reaching across party lines to poke him in the eye.

"We wish Doug Turner luck as he begins his transformation from a political operative and special interest lobbyist to a candidate for public office.

However, while Turner may have an impressive track record helping politicians and special interests get ahead, New Mexicans deserve a Governor with an impressive record of helping families get ahead.

New Mexico families need a Governor who is prepared to make our state a leader in the 21st century economy and, needless to say, that’s not Doug Turner."


Secret Messages

Everybody suspects that there's going to be some line-item vetoes when Gov. Bill Richardson takes action on the budget bill and other bills the Legislature sent to him last week.

But after a recent veto message from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New Mexico lawmakers might want to read any message from Richardson very carefully. To find the hidden message in the Arnold veto, look at the first letter of each line starting with the paragraph that begins "For some time ..."





(Here's an Associated Press version of the same story.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doug Brown to Head SIO Search

Gov. Bill Richardson just announced he's appointing Doug Brown to head the search for a new State Investment Officer to replace recently resigned Gary Bland. This is the same Doug Brown who in 2005 was appointed by Richardson in 2005 to be interim state treasurer when then-treasurer Robert Vigil, indicted (and later convicted) in a federal corruption investigation, had resigned under threat of impeachment.

Bland resigned in the face of a growing state investment investigation and a threatened vote of no confidence by the State Investment Council. Richardson's press release doesn't mention Bland's name.

Brown currently is dean of the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.

On the search committee are three SIC members Andrew Davis, Stephen Feinberg and Peter Frank -- all Richardson appointees -- who signed a resolution seeking a no-confidence vote for Bland.

“Doug Brown has a history of unselfish service to the state and I appreciate the fact that he is willing to head the search for one of the most important positions in state government,” said Gov. Richardson, who is the chairman of the State Investment Council.

Also on the search committee is Katherine Miller, secretary of the state Department of Finance.

Richardson also named Bob Jacksha, currently chief investment officer for the Education Retirement Board, to serve as interim SIO during the search. Jacksha has worked before as deputy SIO for the SIC.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Johnson For President?

Former Gov. Gary Johnson at the SF TEA Party.
There's a grassroots group with a Web site and Facebook page promoting the idea of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson running for the Republican nomination in 2012. And yes, they're even selling "Johnson for President" T-shirts, ball caps, etc.

What's even more interesting to me is that Johnson himself is about to start a 527 group which will have a Web site for Johnson to promote his ideas on issues. Don't forget that the main purpose of a 527 is to raise tax-exempt money.

Read my story about Johnson, his grassroots supporters and his 527 HERE.

Open Hours with The Guv

Gov. Bill Richardson will hold office hours on, Tuesday in hopes of hearing from New Mexico residents about the budget bills that were passed last week by the Legislature.

Richardson will grant five minute meetings to New Mexicans who would like to discuss budget cuts.

Meetings will be held on a first-come, first-served basis from 2:00pm to 5:00pm in the Governor’s Office on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

Those seeking time with Richardson must present a valid New Mexico driver’s license. If an organization wants time. Richardson will meet with a representative or a group of representatives at one time.

Those who can’t make the scheduled office hours on Tuesday may also contact the governor with their thoughts about the budget bills by email: Special.session@state.nm.us or by phone: 505-476-2210.

A Farewell to Pork?


Gov. Bill Richardson just announced that he's ordering a "freeze on capital outlay projects" in an effort to save as much as $150 million.

The news release issued a few minutes ago doesn't identify the projects. It just says "The freeze will apply to projects initiated by the Legislature and the Governor."

"Only those projects that already have third-party agreements will be honored as of Oct. 23," the statement says. That means only those in which there are contracts in place won't be cut.

The news release criticizes the Legislature for not scrapping stalled capital outlay projects as part of the budget bill.

“These pork projects should be the first to be cut before we take any action that affects people,” Richardson said in the release.

"The Legislature, during last week’s special session, simply suggested that they consider looking at projects to be cut in January. However, no action was taken to actually cut the projects," the release said.

As a result, Governor Richardson is directing state agencies to cancel all grant agreements for capital outlay.

The freeze will remain in place through the next legislative session in January when the issue can be revisited, the news release said.

Update:

From a story I did last week, here's some Santa Fe-area projects that could be turned into frozen pork:

* $1.4 million for Santa Cruz Dam/Reservoir improvements
* $1.2 million for an open-air rehearsal hall at the Santa Fe Opera
* $1 million for a Pojoaque Valley area water/wastewater system.
* $665,999 for a Pojoaque Valley Community Center Project.
* $534,909 County Road 501 improvements in Los Alamos County.
* $520,000 for the Santa Fe Rape Crisis & Trauma Center.
* $500,000 for Santa Fe water/wastewater treatment.
* $400,000 for the Eldorado Water District
* $364,280 for the Agua Fría Children's Zone
* $350,000 for a Sombrillo sewer system
* $250,000 for Santa Fe County wells.
* $250,000 for a pedestrian and bike crossing over the Santa Fe River at Camino Rael.
* $250,000 for a water system and equipment for the Stanley Fire Dept.
* $247,500 to build the Santa Fe Desert Sage Affordable Housing project.

Friday, October 23, 2009

SINE DIE!

Some said it was a band-aid. Some said it was too harsh on state agencies giving services to children and the poor. Some said it didn't do nearly enough to solve the ongoing deficits.

Whatever the case, the Legislature just passed HB17, the budget bill.

The House agreed to all Senate amendments but one -- which was sponsored by Sen. Tim Keller, which was meant to protect certain schools.

Keller agreed to take off the amendment. So now both chambers have agreed.

The Senate just agreed to Sine Die. They called it quits.

I'll explain more in tomorrow's paper.

Government Efficiency Hotline

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish just announced the creation of a "government efficiency hotline," designed so taxpayers , "can offer their recommendations on how the state can do things more efficiently. ... If any callers report abuse, that information will be forwarded to the appropriate enforcement agencies.”

That number is 505- 750.GOV4U (750.4684)

I gave it a quick call and a recorded voice says, "Hello, you've reached Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's government efficiency hotline."

Now that wouldn't be a ploy to get some name recognition in an election year would it?

I just hope it has better luck than another state government hotline I've written about.

SENATE PASSES BUDGET BILL

After about six hours of debate and after adding six amendments, the state Senate passed HB17, the budget bill by a vote of 31-9.

The bill now goes to the House, which will consider the amendments. What I'm hearing is that the House might reject some of the amendments. If that happens, and the Senate doesn't agree to drop those amendments, there will be a conference committee on the budget bill.

Pork Chops

Further update:
After a contentious debate, the Senate voted again on Sen. Eric Griego's amendment. It passed the second time on a 21-19 vote. Several senators on both sides switched their votes.

Update:
The Senate just voted to reconsider Griego's amendment. Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, who had voted for the amendment, made teh motion to reconsider. Not sure why. They're debating now. Stay tuned for an update when the vote is final.

The Senate is debating HB17, the budget bill.

After voting down several amendments by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, the body adopted an amendment by Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque. Griego's amendment asks the Legislature to commit to cutting out $150 million in inactive capital outlay projects.

Griego purposely didn't identify the projects that would be cut. He want each lawmaker to identify a little over $1 million each in projects that haven't gotten off the ground.

The largest such projects in the Santa Fe area are listed in my story earlier this week.

Assumedly the decison on which projects to cut would be in January.

The vote on the amendment came out to be a tie with most Dems voting for and most GOP voting against. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish broke the tie, voting yes.

Battlin' Bill the Blogger

Some legislators have said that Gov. Bill Richardson hasn't seemed all that personally involved in the current special session.

They're obviously not reading his blog

Most politicians' blogs are pretty worthless. Basically just cut-and-paste press releases. (The same goes for most politicians' Twitter feeds -- though at least with Twitter the 140-character limit per Tweet keeps it short.)

But in recent days, Richardson, who has been something of a punching bag in floor debates since the session began, is using his blog not just to brag about his "bold initiatives" and accomplishments for the working families, but to push back at some of his critics' rhetoric.

(Actually it's not Richardson himself doing the blogging, as the governor is referred to in third person.)

Take the latest entry on Thursday in which the blog responds to oft-repeated criticism over the administration's hiring freeze .
the mere suggestion that the Governor’s hiring freeze has been ineffective was good enough for those legislators to rush to the media to say: “We told you so.” Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to verify their facts.

That's pretty much the tone of the previous two entries this week as well. If it keeps going like this, I wouldn't be surprised too see the Richardson blog calling out "the media" as well, maybe even naming names.

Some reporters have complained about having trouble getting comment from the governor's office. (I'm talking about New Mexico reporters, of course. Richardson usually finds time when the national media calls.)

Perhaps from now on when we call with questions we'll be told, "just check the blog."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

House Passes Budget Bill

In a debate that lasted past 11:30 p.m. the state House of Representatives on Thursday voted 37 to 31, to pass a budget bill would slice $257 million from state agencies and public schools and colleges, all in an effort to eliminate the $650 million-and-growing deficit in this year’s budget.

I don't have the roll call yet for House Bill 17 but the bill passed with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans voting against. The bill goes on the Senate, which though controlled by Democrats is more conservative than the House.

The cuts in the bill range from 2 percent to 7.6 percent. However, the measure would soften the blow to public schools by using other revenue, including federal stimulus funds, to replace state money.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said the budget bill contains a provision that would allow school districts to get reimbursed for their property insurance premiums from a school building fund. Egolf said the premium for Santa Fe Public Schools is about $2.4 million. This, he said, would more than offset the $2 million budget cut in the bill. This provision is similar to SB24, which passed the Senate on Thursday.

Egolf said the provision is designed to keep the schools afloat during the current school year. He said it will be necessary for the Legislature to come up with new revenue sources — such as tax increases — in the regular session that begins in January.

The budget bill contained a slap to Gov. Bill Richardson. It would require the governor to cut salaries and benefits of 80 so-called exempt employees. The bill calls for reductions of 7.6 percent for agencies under Richardson’s control.

Hopefully this circus will close its tent tomorrow (Friday.)

I bid you goodnight.

Find the Correras

Frank Foy, a former investment officer for the Educational Retirement Board who is suing the state, claims in a court filing that Marc Correra -- a third party marketer who made millions in finders fees from state investments -- and his father Anthony Correra -- a political advisor to Gov. Bill Richardson and friend of recently resigned state Investment Officer Gary Bland -- are ducking summons servers in the state.
Have you seen this man? (the one in the center)

That's according to an Associated Press report.
Foy’s lawyer, Victor Marshall, said Thursday the Correras have not been served with a summons about the lawsuit despite efforts to locate them since May.
In a court filing, Marshall said “Marc Correra has disappeared” and apparently has left the country. It also said Anthony Correra’s house in Albuquerque “appears to be deserted” and that “it is not known whether Anthony Correra has left the United States.”
Sam Bregman, a lawyer for Marc Correra, declined to comment on the latest allegations in the lawsuit.
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Anthony Correra, said his client “is not trying to hide from anything.”
“He is in the country. He has just not been served,” said Bowles.



(The above photo of Marc Correra (center) was taken on May 19 in Albuquerque. I haven't seen him since, but that's not unusual)

The Correras are among 75 or so defendants in Foy's suit, which claims the Ricahrdson administration pressured the ERB and the State Investment Council to reward the governor's political supporters. Richardson's staff has vehemetnly denied wrongdoing.

Day 6 Special Session: Where We Are Now

Things seemed to be humming when I left this building last night. The Senate past a $100 million plus revenue bill. The House Appropriations & Finance Committee recommended a budget bill.

But now -- about 2:30 p.m., the House has yet to act on its budget bill and the Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has said the Senate will do its own budget bill.

House just recessed a few minutes ago for committee meetings. The Tax & Revenue Committee will begin working on a capital outlay bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been out for more than an hour. They're waiting, supposedly for a fiscal impact report on its own capital outlay bill, one that would use short-term "sponge" bonds to fee up $140 million in capital outlay money (which then would could that much of the general fund deficit).

House Speaker Ben Lujan said the next House floor session probably will start between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The House Dems are about to go into caucus. House Republicans too.

It's gonna be another long one.

Guv Candidates Respond to Bland Resignation

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, seeking the Democratic nomination for governor made the following statement about the state investment officer's resignation.

“I’ve been deeply disturbed by the recent reports about misuse of investment dollars, and clearly some changes were needed at the New Mexico Investment Council. This resignation makes that fresh start possible. Just like New Mexico families must invest their own money wisely, the state must do the same. The next State Investment Officer must be a smart investor of taxpayer dollars and a tireless champion for increased oversight and accountability. The people of New Mexico deserve no less.”

Here's something to ponder: When Denish was poised to assume the governor's office when Gov. Bill Richardson had been nominated for Commerce secretary (a nomination scuttled by another investment scandal), did her transition team have a pick for investment officer?

Meanwhile, Susana Martinez, one 0f four Republican candidates for governor, released this statement. To nobody's surprise she takes a shot at Denish -- and she doesn't even mention Richardson, who hired Bland.

“There is absolutely no way to deny the obvious that this administration has been infiltrated to its core with corrupt officials abusing the public trust. With New Mexico experiencing a massive budget deficit that has left our state unable to comply with obligations to its citizens, including our students, those running state government have been involved in schemes to steal and misuse taxpayer dollars. It is unfathomable to me how Diane Denish conveniently claims credit for perceived administration successes, but shirks responsibility of its obvious failures. The notion that Denish can change the way business is done in Santa Fe is simply not credible. I have taken on corrupt officials and brought them to justice, and as governor, I will do the same in the Roundhouse.”

Roundhouse Roundup:Blue Ribbon Deja Vu

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October22, 2009


When Gov. Richardson announced this week that he wants to start a “working group” to look at tax changes before the next regular legislative session, it brought back some blue-ribbon memories to some longtime Capitol observers, myself included.

I’m talking about the 2003 Blue Ribbon Tax Commission, a 23-member panel appointed by Richardson, set up to propose sweeping reforms of the state tax system. The Blue Ribbon gang, headed by former state Rep. Jerry Sandel, labored for months to make a lengthy set of recommendations.

People in government often talk about reaching consensus. That definitely was reached in this case. Practically everyone agreed they didn’t like the commission’s final product.

The ink on the commission’s report, which was finalized only days before a planned special “tax-reform” session of the Legislature, had barely dried before it was promptly disowned by the governor.

Richardson said the panel had come up short of his goals of simplifying the tax code and providing some tax relief for working families. But he wasn’t the only one unhappy with the recommendations. Liberals didn’t like it because it didn’t include elimination of the gross-receipts tax on food (an idea eventually approved the following year) or an increase in liquor taxes. Conservatives were upset because the recommendations included a gas-tax increase, motor vehicle excise tax and registration increases, and a higher gross-receipts tax.

Richardson proposed his own tax-reform bill in the late October special session. Oh, but it was no longer a “tax-reform” bill. It was an “economic-growth package” — all 188 pages of it. Whatever its handle, that bill died a lonesome death with virtually no support from any quarter.

In his announcement this week, Richardson said between now and January, “I will convene a working group consisting of legislators, executive staff, members of the business and education communities, and other interested parties to analyze such a package.

“Already in this session there have been some intriguing proposals introduced. However, I believe these must not be injected piecemeal without serious analysis into the present budget calculation but rather should be part of a well-crafted and mapped out package in January.”

The recession-ravaged, busted-budget situation our state government is in now, of course, is far more serious than the situation back in 2003, when the economy was in better shape.
But you have to wonder — will the “working group” fare any better than the blue-ribbon commission?

Best tirade of special session: In the absence of Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque, who was defeated for re-election last year, the intensity and number of good, fun, fiery floor speeches in the Legislature has dwindled to nearly nothing. But on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, engaged in a tirade that would even give Robinson a run for his money.

During a debate about a measure that would create a mechanism to allow legislators to return 10 percent of their per diem payments from the state, Martinez became passionate.

“Before we nickel and dime everyone for $15 a day, we should look at the abuse of per diems,” Martinez said.

Referring to interim committee meetings, for which lawmakers are paid per diem (currently $159 a day) to attend, Martinez said, “There are some who come in right before lunch, sign the voucher, get their free lunch,” then leave.

This goes on among both Democrats and Republicans, Martinez said. And even freshman legislators “have gotten real good at it,” he said.

Martinez even made a not-so-veiled threat: “I’ve been here nine years,” he said. “I’ve collected a list (of legislators who have abused per diems). It would be very embarrassing if I released this list to the media.”

Martinez declined my request for a copy of that list.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update on Gary Bland


Gary Bland, who resigned as state investment officer today, was facing a vote of no confidence today due to evidence he was pressuring investment firms to do business with certain third-party marketers, the Associated Press is reporting.

Strangely, the only public place online where I could find the latest AP version of the story was on a Delaware site! CLICK HERE

AP reporter Barry Massey reported :

State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons said a private law firm hired by the council had gathered information that Bland pressured investment firms doing business with the state to hire certain third-party marketing or placement agents. He declined to identify the marketers, saying he didn't want to jeopardize investigations by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Bland, investmentment officer since early 2003, is the first appointee of Gov. Bill Richardson who has resigned due to issues involving investment scandals.

But When We Get Behind Closed Doors ...


One of the most frustrating things about this special session, especially today, (Day 5) is that virtually any action has been behind closed doors -- party caucuses, meetings between small groups of legislative leaders and the governor.

Is it my paranoid imagination that this session has seen more this way than others? Some of us thought that opening conference committees would put an end to much of the secrecy here. Hah!

Sure there's been some interesting little floor fights and public steam blowing here and there. But those are the sideshows. It looks like a major portion of the real decisions are still going to be made behind the scenes and out of the public eye.

Bland Resigns

The Associated Press is reporting the State Investment Officer Gary Bland has resigned.

According to the wire service, Bland, who Gov. Bill Richardson appointed in 2003, didn't say why he's quitiing. "However, he leaves amid a federal investigation of investments in New Mexico and fees paid to placement agents," the report notes.

This comes after Saul Meyer of Aldus Equity, who pled guilty in a New York investment fraud case, said that he'd recommended investments in this state that were "pushed on me by politically connected individuals in New Mexico."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

48 Money-Saving Ideas from House Republicans

House Republicans earlier this afternoon held a news conference to announce 48 ways the executive branch could save money -- without relying on legislation.

Some are pretty sweeping ("Ask all agencies to cut operations by 20% but improve productivity by 10%") while some speak to waste I never realized was a problem ("No more mailing of single 8.5 x 11 sheets in a 10 x 13 envelope. Fold! Fold! Fold!")

Several are clearly tweaking Gov. Bill Richardson. (reduce exempt employees , sell the state debt, and "Suspend executive agency trade missions, out of state conferences, or trips to chat with CEOs. Use phone conferencing and webinar as a replacement," etc.)

And there's one that truly surprised me: Early release for non-violent prisoners within three months of their release. That idea was floated during Richardson's first year in office to ease prison crowding, but nobody in power seemed to like it and Richardson eventually decided against it.

I tried to unscramble a few examples of alphabet soup here. But I've got to plead ignorance to some acronyms used here. (Guess I didn't do very well on my NMSBA and NMHSCE tests.)

Here's the list of ideas

1. Pull back appropriations for all unfilled (full-time employee positions.)

2. Suspend compliance requirements in all agencies unable to respond fully to filling within 14 days.

3. For students who are a discipline problem in school, or who choose to leave school, provide mandatory supervised community service work in city, county and state maintenance programs (especially parks) where facilities will be neglected as a result of cuts. Provide exemption for academic credit and access to GED materials.

4. Repeal the pit rule. Implement a moratorium on all new rules by all agencies.

5. Order (Public Education Department to limit testing requirements to federal standards. Examples of current tests include: NMSBA (5), NMELPA (5) Short Cycle (3), DIBELS (3), and NMHSCE (2); estimated days in parentheses.

6. Require all paper reports by state agencies to be sent by e-mail, unless specifically requested in paper by legislators.

7. Stop the contract on Rose Bowl Parade Float.

8. Eliminate Intensive Support Coaches for (Developmental Disabilitywaiver programs and fund DD waivers so that services reach the individuals in need.

9. Authorize school districts to create and maintain sufficient cash balances to meet emergencies without having to apply for supplemental funding.

10. Audit all attorney invoices of plaintiffs suing the state.

11. Require carpooling by all state employees traveling to the same destination.

12. Cease all Game and Fish Department expenditures in support of the wolf reintroduction program.

13. Release 2008 Special Session funding for (Developmental Disabilty) Waivers.

14. Within 30 days, layoff all employees (usually exempt) who are not fully contributing to the agency mission.

15. Ask the Obama Administration to improve processing of federal education reimbursements. The reimbursement process is very slow resulting in school districts carrying excessive money in accounts waiting for reimbursements.

16. Of the 423 exempt employees: lay off half or cut the salaries by half.

17. If the Secretary of Human Services receives an appointment in the Obama administration, name a deputy secretary as interim secretary with no pay increase.

18. Ask employees to volunteer for up to 30 days unpaid leave.

19. Ask all agencies to cut operations by 20% but improve productivity by 10%. Provide incentive bonus pools for employees of agencies meeting this goal.

20. Suspend all contracts that only augment agency expertise.

21. Implement a true hiring freeze.

22. In grades 5 through 12, review class size standards. Ask schools to determine which classes could function well or better with more students.

23. Reduce school bus transportation costs by cutting back on very long routes and making city bus routes start farther from schools.

24. Review energy use policies. Unplug or turnoff anything not required over night such as chargers, printers, etc.

25. Cut back on high cost printing projects such as the NMFA annual report, the $40,000 New Mexico Wildlife newsletter.

26. Suspend executive agency trade missions, out of state conferences, or trips to chat with CEOs. Use phone conferencing and webinar as a replacement.

27. Review and reduce Public Safety Weed and Seed programs, that increase load on legal and corrections system for which there is not funding.

28. Review all unfunded federal mandates and cease compliance.

29. Review professional mediation services to reduce costs.

30. Ask psychologist and mental health professionals which programs produce consistent, positive results, then phase out and eliminate less successful programs.

31. Provide early release to non-violent prisoners within three months of release.

32. Ask employees to identify programs, processes and tasks that they perform that contribute little or nothing to the mission of the agency. Cut those activities..

33. Review, combine and reduce travel in state vehicles. Schedule trips to take place during non-peak driving hours.

34. Require all agencies to follow uniform procedures act and subject all proposed new to an economic impact review.

35. Ease work rules for teachers to concentrate on teaching.

36. Check out other cost savings ideas implement by other States that can work in New Mexico

37. Terminate employment of all employees on administrative leave longer than 90 days.

38. Use the correct sized envelope for correspondence. No more mailing of single 8.5 x 11 sheets in a 10 x 13 envelope. Fold! Fold! Fold! Better yet, use e-mail!

39. Turn off air conditioning or heat in buildings during mild fall days. Open windows, or use fan only settings.

40. Turn off lights when not in use.

41. Eliminate instructional teaching coaches and mentors.

42. Delay High School Redesign strategies such as a) Increased Math Requirements; b) Upcoming requirements of ACT or WorkKeys/Career testing (about 40 to 50 dollars per Junior – unbudgeted)

43. Delay or suspend selected education reporting requirements including suspending contracts for reporting software (at state level) such as: OBMS, STARS, Web-EPSS, and Certiclear (Federal Stimulus Reporting). This step would reduce or eliminate the staff hours (and FTEs) districts need to comply with reporting.

44. Ask CPA professional groups and accounting and MBA students to volunteer to perform audits on school districts unable to comply with audit requirements.

45. Sell the state jet.

46. Suspend all contracts and new expenditures on the spaceport.

47. Suspend all non-essential advertising by state agencies.

48. Reduce executive staff at Governor’s mansion.

"That money's safe."

My story in Tuesday's New Mexican is an example of how a news story can change with every person you interview.

The story is about Santa Fe area capital outlay projects that might be in danger of losing funding due to the budget crunch.

Early in the afternoon I got the "Capital Changes for Solvency" list of all such projects in the state from Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who recently became the chairman of the House Capital Outlay Committee. I went back to my office and went about the tedious task of separating the Santa Fe projects and typing them up.

As I wrote in my story most of the projects are those that somehow never got off the ground as well as a smattering of long-completed projects that have cash balances remaining.

I got down about the same time the Senate adjourned in the late afternoon. I went downstairs to see if I could find any of the local delegation to fill me in on some of the projects on the list. I spotted Peter Wirth, who told me he was concerned about the Santa Fe Youth Shelter and Family Services on Airport Road. Wirth said he was going to try to get that project's $450,000 appropriation off the list.

I called Karen Rowell, the executive director of the shelter to ask her what was going on with the project. She was shocked. This was the first she'd heard of the project in jeopardy. The shelter's new building, she told me, was about a third of the way done.

Wow, I thought. This could be a story. I was fairly confident that the Legislature wouldn't really de-fund a project already under construction. And Rowell said besides Wirth, Trujillo has been a big supporter of the shelter -- as have Governor Bill Richardson and First Lady Barbara Richardson.

But weirder things have happened.

So after I started writing the story with a "Shelter-in-trouble" type of lead, Trujillo returned an earlier call. I initially had called him about a minor detail about a different project on the list. But now I had something important to ask.

Trujillo was already familiar with the youth shelter situation. "That money's safe," he said. "It was just a mistake."

So I had to rewrite a few paragraphs of the story, which now wasn't as big as I'd thought. But I'm happy the shelter and the homeless kids it serves won't have to worry about this headache.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Break from the Budget

Here's some medical marijuana news from the Drug Policy Alliance that affects New Mexico

The Obama Administration is releasing new guidelines today directing federal drug agents not to arrest or harass medical marijuana patients and their sanctioned suppliers in states that have approved the medicine, as long as they are following their state’s medical marijuana law. The new guidelines will impact thirteen states that currently allow marijuana for medical purposes. The states that allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The guidelines are consistent with previous comments made by Attorney General Eric Holder back in March, and campaign pledges made by President Obama in 2008.

“This is a great day for patients in New Mexico who until now have been forced to choose between their health and the chance of federal prosecution. President Obama is doing the right thing by allowing New Mexico to implement the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act carefully and responsibly without unreasonable federal interference,” said Reena Szczepanski, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, “The New Mexico Department of Health should continue expanding access to a safe, regulated supply of medical marijuana for registered patients.”

“It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, “Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law.”



Update: The governor's office reacted:

“Our medical cannabis program in New Mexico is helping a select group of patients who cannot get relief from their pain and suffering from any other kind of treatment,” Gov. Richardson said. “I am pleased that President Obama has taken these steps to ensure patients will be protected while getting the medical relief they desperately need.”

My Brilliant Observations: On the Radio

I was interviewed this morning by Harvey Twite on KEDU in Ruidoso. (Yes, I play the Devil's music until midnight on KSFR, then I'm up talking on Christian radio in the morning,)

There's an MP3 of the interview HERE. (Right click to download, click to stream)

Richardson Wants to Study Revenue Proposals

The special session isnt over yet, but Gov. Bill Richardson is looking ahead to the regular session in January. He's calling for a "working group" of legislators, staffers and others to study possible revenue bills for next year's 30-day session.

Will this be different from the "Blue Ribbon Tax Committee" that crashed and burned in the fall of 2003? Hopefully. The economic situation is a lot more dire.

He mentions some "intriguing proposals" from the special session, but doesn't say which ones.

Here's his statement the governor's office e-mailed a few minutes ago:

Given the fiscal realities facing the state I am prepared to consider a comprehensive, well-reasoned revenue package for the regular legislative session in January 2010. Between now and then I will convene a working group consisting of legislators, executive staff, members of the business and education communities, and other interested parties to analyze such a package.

“Already in this session there have been some intriguing proposals introduced. However, I believe these must not be injected piecemeal without serious analysis into the present budget calculation but rather should be part of a well-crafted and mapped out package in January. Accordingly, I agree with action taken by committees in both the House and Senate that supports this view.

“In the meantime I urge the legislature to quickly address the immediate budget needs at hand in a way that preserves jobs, does not harm the economy, and protects students and teachers.”

House Committee Killing Tax Bills Too

The House Rules Committee just effectively killed three bills by Rep. Brian Egolf, D- Santa Fe. One would have raises tobacco taxes, one would have raised alcohol taxes, one would have raised motor vehicle taxes.

It looks like a re-run of yesterday's Senate Committees Committee meeting. House Speaker Ben Lujan is leading the resistance to the bills, which are being supported by progressive Democrats.

You can watch the fun HERE on the New Mexico Independent Webcast.

Read Bill's Lips, No Tax Increases

And in a rare show of agreement from conservative senators -- many of whom spend a lot of time butting heads with Gov. Bill Richardson -- several "revenue enhancement" bills met their gruesome fate Sunday in that strangely named panel The Committees Committee. All 11 bills that would raise taxes or repeal cuts were voted down, most of them by 7-4 votes.

See my story HERE.

The progressives in the Senate insist that Richardson went too far in his proclamation, specifically prohibiting tax increase or tax-cut repeals. I suspect some of the conservatives might agree that the proclamation infringes on legislative powers. But perhaps they don't want to go to mat for tax-cut repeals, which they don't want anyway.

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, read a memo in which from Legislative Council Service saying, "an argument can be made that the level of specificity in the proclamation violates the separation of powers by detailing certain subjects that cannot be considered in the special session."

My favorite part of this memo was a 1894 Colorado court decision in a similar battle between lawmakers and a governor.

"Too great a level of detail in the governor's proclamation may act to destroy legislative independence and convert members of the two houses into mere instruments to register and ratify the executive will; that is to do the bidding of the governor, or not act at all."


Some senators are starting to feel like mere instruments.

The special session continues today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One Down

I Just ran into Sen. Tim Eichenberg, D-Albuquerque, who says he's NOT running for lieutenant governor. He says he "doesn't compliment the ticket. "

I suspect he's talking about ethnicity Eichenberg would have been the only Anglo among six Hispanic candidates. Likely gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish is Anglo.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Special Session Pushed Back Until 2 pm

Gov. Bill Richardson just announced he's not calling the special session of the Legislature until 2 pm Saturday.

SANTA FE – Governor Bill Richardson, after meeting this evening with legislative leaders, announced he will issue a proclamation on Saturday at 2 p.m. – marking the start of the special session to deal with the budget shortfall.

“Gov. Richardson had a productive meeting with legislative leaders and discussed their latest budget proposal,” said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Governor. “Gov. Richardson will present a counter-proposal to legislators on Saturday before the start of the special session.”

Gov. Richardson will meet on Saturday with Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate before the start of the session.

Uh oh. We know what he means by "productive meetings"

Trip Jennings of The New Mexico Independent wrote about the latest proposal from legislative leaders:

A handout distributed to legislators detailed a plan that would net roughly $630 million in savings, coming close to addressing an estimated $660 million shortfall in the budget year that ends July 1. It would cut $74.3 million from state agencies, $90 million from K-12 public education and $32 million from higher education.

It does not appear to cut state workers’ salaries by a 2.5 percent, or raise taxes, as other scenarios have suggested.

Pushing the session back to 2 means the legislators won't be meeting until the tea party protesters and gay-marriage demonstrators have gone home.

Ex SF Police Chief Put on Paid Leave at Campus PD Job

Former Santa Fe Police Chief Don Grady has been put on leave from his job as campus police chief at Northern Illinois University.

Grady made national news last year for his handling of a campus shooting. Immediately after getting word of the shooting, Grady and several of his officers rushed into a classroom where a gunman had killed five students and himself. Grady and his men didn't know at the time the shooter was dead. According to an Associated Press report, " survivors praised Grady for displaying bravery when he couldn't have known that, and for quickly administering aid and comforting injured students."

But now, according to the wire service, Grady is being accused by several of being "combative and uncooperative." A recent recipient of Grady's wrath is the editor of the campus newspaper.


Criticism of NIU's 6-foot-5 top cop came to a head recently after an editor of the campus newspaper accused Grady of threatening and shouting at him during an interview that became a three-hour tirade.


Hey kid, I feel your pain. I had several intense interviews and conversations with Grady during his time here in the mid '90s, though I can't honestly say he ever threatened or shouted at me. I could tell he felt like it a couple of time though.

His tenure at the SFPD was rocky to say the least. He accused officers of being corrupt. They accused him of being autocratic, culturally insensitive and, well, combative and uncooperative. Grady and his supporters accused opponents of racism. (Grady is Black, the first and only so far African-American police chief in Santa Fe.)

And I broke that story the AP mentions about Grady banning bolo ties for non-uniformed officers. That goofy little article went national.

After less than two years he resigned, saying he couldn't make the reforms he envisioned because his relationship with officers had deteriorated so badly.

School officials, the AP said, put Grady on a 30-day paid leave while they investigate the editor's allegations.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Martinez Has New Web Site

Republican gubernatorial candidate has a new revamped Web site. I'm not familiar enough with the old Web site to say what's new about this one, but this seems as good a time as any to provide Web links to candidate sites, so check Martinez's out HERE.

Other candidates for governor also have sites, though Republican Doug Turner's just says it's "Coming Soon."

Here's the others:

Republicans

Democrat

Kokesh Has Competition


And I'm not just talking about Ben Ray Lujan.

Tom Mullins, a Farmington engineer and political newcomer just announced he'll be announcing for the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party primary race. Here's the announcement from the state Republican party:


Tom Mullins, will make a formal announcement on Saturday, October 17th, at 9:15 am in the Rotunda at the State Capitol, followed by a kickoff petition signing announcement event at the Farmington Civic Center at 3:30 pm, for U.S. House of Representatives District 3.

Mullins, a political newcomer, a professional engineer, small business owner, resident of Farmington for over 18 years, and father of two, has announced he will join the race as a Republican.

Mullins believes that we are all called to serve our country in different ways and at different times in our lives and is prepared to serve the citizens of New Mexico in the 3rd Congressional District. He looks forward to people sharing their ideas and concerns on how to improve our great nation, to find out more about Tom Mullins, you can visit his website, www.mullinsforcongress.com


It looks like Mullins, especially in foreign policy, may be a more traditional Republican than Kokesh, who is a longtime war protester. (However, Mullins also points out that he's a union member, which isn;t so typical GOP). But Kokesh, who is part of the Ron Paul "Liberty" movement, has already raised a ton of cash from all around the country. Unseating Lujan will be hard in an overwehlming Democratic district, but the Republican primary could turn out to be interesting.

Roundhouse Roundup: Richardson Campaign Still Alive

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 15, 2009


Even though he can't run for re-election and he's not running for anything else we know of, Gov. Bill Richardson's gubernatorial campaign is still raising and spending a little money.
RICHARDSON'S VICTORY SPEECH IN IOWA
Technically, Richardson's last state campaign was in 2006, when he won his second term. But according to his latest campaign finance report, filed Tuesday with the Secretary of State's Office — just like the reports of those candidates who actually are running for office — Richardson's campaign raised more than $12,000 between May 5 and Oct. 5 and spent more than $58,000. He had $115,758.78.

There's nothing illegal or even unusual about politicians using their campaign funds for things other than campaigns. New Mexico's laws are relatively lax on this, and thus you have legislators using campaign money for expenses incurred during legislative sessions, travel to out-of-state conferences, etc.

By far, Richardson's largest contributor in his latest report was Nexus Direct, a direct-marketing company based in Virginia Beach, Va. The company gave him $11,565. There is a connection between the governor and the company. Its founder and CEO, Suzanne Cole Nowers, was in charge of direct marketing for the Richardson presidential campaign.

So how did Richardson spend its money in the past five months?

He donated $1,000 to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, a Concord, N.H.-based charity formed to further the legacy of the late Rep. Tom Lanton, D-California, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress.

He contributed $2,000 to Santa Fe Mayor David Coss' re-election campaign.

He paid $1,611 to the Sandler, Reiff & Young law firm in Washington, D.C. I'm not sure what legal services were performed there, but I bet it's something mundane. $1,600 doesn't buy much in the way of lawyering.

But most interesting was $38,353 paid for "research/polling" to a company called Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates in Santa Monica, Calif. Nearly all the money was paid in June, a much smaller chunk paid in September.

What was the poll about? Was there a particular issue the governor was looking at? Was it just a "Mirror, mirror on the wall" poll to see how his approval numbers were looking? (The most recent Survey USA/KOB-TV poll in late September showed 48 percent approved of the job Richardson is doing while 47 percent disapproved. The margin of error was 4.1 percent.)

We don't know what kind of polling was done by the Santa Monica company. Nobody on the governor's public information staff responded to e-mails asking about that.

Richardson's campaign committee has slowed down in the areas of spending and fundraising. In its previous report in May, the committee reported raising $105,000 and spending more than $490,000.

But it's still alive. The campaign is spending hundreds of dollars a month on telephone service from three companies — $1,477 in September alone.

And it's paying an Albuquerque storage company $298 a month. What are they keeping in there? Is that where they're storing Richardson's fabled political machine?

A decent time slot for Lorene: It's good to have a "neighbor" like Lorene Mills. She uses the television studio next door to my office in the Roundhouse each week to tape her show Report from Santa Fe. Because of that, I've met many national figures — among them Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, Noam Chomsky, Arianna Huffington and retired Brig Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Also, her show has come in handy when I need to talk with legislators or other politicians who come in to do her show.

But for years, poor Mills has had to contend with what I consider an inhumane time slot — 6 a.m. on Sunday. No more. Starting Friday, Report moves to 10:30 p.m. Friday nights on KNME, Channel 5. It's not exactly prime time, but it's a lot better than 6 a.m. Gov. Bill Richardson is her first guest on the new time slot.

And on Sunday morning, the show will be rebroadcast at 7:30 a.m. — which also is better than 6 a.m.

And in case you want to check out some of those shows you missed on early Sunday mornings, check out the archives at Report from Santa Fe Web site at www.reportfromsantafe.com.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lopez Raises Almost $17,000

DEM LT. GOV. FORUMThe campaign finance report of Linda Lopez, a Democratic contender for lieutenant governor, finally appeared on the Secretary of State's Web site. She's the last of the light gov candidates to have her report posted.

Lopez raised $16,830 and spent $3,168. Her largest contribution by far was $7,000 from the Westland corporation, the California development company that wants to built a 55,000-acre residential/commercial/industrial project on Albuquerque's west side.

Lopez sponsored the bill this year that would have created tax increment development districts (TIDDs) for the proposal. That bill passed the Senate but unexpectedly died in the House on the last night of the session.

For other lieutenant governor campaign finance reports see Kate's story.

Dems Attack Susana


The state Democratic Party has singled out Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez in a news release about Martinez's campaign finance report filed yesterday.

No, it's not about contributions from questionable people. It's about the fact that the overwhelming number of contributors to Martinez were from folks close to home:

Although Dona Ana District Attorney Susanna Martinez calls herself a candidate for statewide office, its clear that she’s a long way from having a statewide base of support. An analysis of the finance report that Martinez submitted yesterday to the Secretary of State reveals that only nine New Mexicans who live outside of the 2nd Congressional District made contributions to her campaign.

“Susanna Martinez has been a candidate for Governor for several months, but she has yet to show a grasp of statewide issues or anything that remotely resembles a statewide base of support,” said Josh Geise, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. “With only nine New Mexican contributors outside of Susanna Martinez’s home region, it’s simply hard to take her seriously as a statewide candidate.”



It's a valid point that Martinez will have to expand her support if she expects to win. But you have to wonder: If she's such a weak candidate, wouldn't the Democrats want her to win?

UPDATE (2 p.m.): The Martinez camp responds:

“Democrats are attacking Susana Martinez because they know she can win and her record is one that closely aligns with the concerns of voters. This race will be about important issues and the very real challenges confronting the electorate like the corruption running rampant in the Richardson/Denish Administration and the huge budget deficit they have created, not politically expedient attacks.”


Links to Campaign Finance Reports: Gubernatorial Candidates

My story about the campaign finacne reports of the gubernatorial candidates is HERE. Kate did the lieutenant governor candidates' reports HERE. (Looks like Linda Lopez's report is MIA.)

One wise commentator on The New Mexican Web site is on to my nefarious plot to only list the names of a few major campaign contributors (and not ALL the names) as " part of a strategy to satiate public interest so grass-roots civic participants will lose interest in finding out the whole story."

God must have loved the Web trolls. He made so many of 'em.

So by all means don't go to the Secretary of State's Web site and look at all the donors. (All the governor contenders are there, but several of the lieutenant gov candidates have not been posted yet.).

And don't follow these direct links:



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yet More Reports

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Turner is reporting raising nearly $256,00, which includes a personalloan of $243,552.

Another GOP candidate for chief executive, Janice Arnold-Jones, has raised almost $21,000 in cash plus another $2,000 in in-kind donations.

This means that among Republican candidates, Allen Weh is leading in fund-raising with nearly $550,000, (About half of which are from loans and in-kind donations) Susana Martinez,reported more than $141,000.

But none of the Republicans can match Democratic candidate Diane Denish, who raised more than $931,000 in cash since May plus nearly $110,00 in in-kind donations. Denish, who has been running for more than two years, has nearly $2.2 million in the bank.

For an update on the lieutenant governor candidates. see Kate Nash's blog.

Reports Dribbling In

Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez is reporting raising more than $141,00, which includes $2,400 in in-kind donations. She's spent more than $10,00 and has $130,658 in the bank.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State's Web site has shown a spark of life. Allen Weh's report is actually online!

Here's where to watch for the reports: CLICK HERE

Campaign Finance Updates

Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh has raised $559,818, according to his campaign. That includes nearly $245,000 in money contributions, nearly $65,000 in inkind contributions and a quarter million loan from his wife and himself.

Meanwhile, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lawrence Rael has raised $147,000 for his campaign. That's nearly $113,000 in monetary contributions, $19,500 in inkind contributions and a $15,000 loan from himself.

There's still nothing on the Secretary of State's Web site. I jokingly posted on Twitter a few hours ago that maybe there should be a new law that candidates must e-mail reports to all political reporters and that we should stop pouring money into worthless SOS Web site. Only trouble with that idea is there should be a central place where anyone can check contributions any time of day. But the way it is now sure is frustrating.

Send Me Your Campaign Finance Reports

Today is the deadline for state candidates to file their campaign finance reports.

Biggest news so far is that Democratic governor candidate has raised another million bucks since May and has $2.2 million in the bank. If anyone beats that total, that'll really be big news.

My colleague, Ms. Nash already has expressed her frustration with the Secretary of State's ever-troubled Web Site. (I agree, except I don't think I would have used the word "heck.")

Just to be sure, we're asking all state candidates to directly e-mail us their reports (sterrell (at) sfnewmexican (dot) com.) I put the word out on Twitter.
Greg Solano at recent DEM LT. GOV. FORUM
So far the only candidate to do that is Dem lieutenant governor Greg Solano (who has raised nearly $12,000 and spent just over $7,000.)

I do have word that Denish's full report is on its way. All you other candidates pleas eemail me too. Thanks

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rep. Berry Resigns


Five days before a scheduled special session of the state Legislature, state Rep. R.J. Berry, R-Albuquerque, who won last week's mayoral election in Albuquerque, has resigned to concentrate on the City Hall transition, Peter St. Cyr reports.

As Peter points out, the Bernalillo County Commission is responsible for choosing some to fill out Berry's term, but it's questionable whether they can get a replacement by Saturday when the session starts.

How We Do Business in New Mexico

If you missed my story on Think New Mexico's proposal for serious restrictions on campaign contributions, you can find it HERE.

The arguments for and against campaign contribution limits. of course, are familiar.

But one thing in the new Think New Mexico study that appealed to my inner history buff was the section titled "New Mexico's Long Struggle Against Political Corruption," which deals with The Lincoln County War, The Santa Fe Ring, etc.

from my story Sunday:

Though it's been in the news frequently in recent months, political corruption in this state hardly is new.

According to Think New Mexico's report, it goes back at least to the state's territorial days.

"The Lincoln Country War (1878-1881), which is usually recalled as a backdrop for the exploits of Billy the Kid, began as a political fight over government contracts for beef and other provisions," the report says. "Those government contracts were heavily influenced by the patronage of the powerful 'Santa Fe Ring,' a group of lawyers, judges, businessmen and politicians from both parties who gained control of the territorial legislature and dominated the economic life of New Mexico by manipulating public offices for private gain."

The report quotes historian David Holtby in a recent essay titled "Statehood Era and the Federal Presence in New Mexico," who argues the Santa Fe Ring damaged the reputation of the state.

"In the minds of many influential people in Washington D.C. in the 1880s and 1890s, New Mexico Territorial politics indelibly soiled its reputation."

President Theodore Roosevelt endured headaches from New Mexico corruption. "Roosevelt fired two territorial governors, including one of his own appointees who had approved a fraudulent land transaction at the behest of the Santa Fe Ring within a few months of moving to New Mexico."

The Think New Mexico report says, "Unfortunately this culture of corruption has continued into modern times. It can be seen in the troubling attitude that this is simply how we do business in New Mexico."


The Think New Mexico report does not appear to be available online yet. You can read a summary of it HERE