Monday, November 30, 2009

R.I.P. Eli Senna


Some very sad news today. Eli Senna, a Santa Fe political consultant who has been involved in several local campaigns, died early this morning. He was in his 30s.

I don't know yet the exact cause of death.

Eli was very active in the Santa Fe County Democratic Party as well as the Young Democrats, both the state and national organization.

I've talked with a few of his friends. Both County Commissioner Harry Montoya and City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger credit Eli's help for winning campaigns.

His friend and fellow Young Dem Sisto Abeyta wrote in a Facebook tribute this morning:
Eli was the best of all of us. Some people might say that Eli didn't have a vindictive bone in his entire body, for someone so entrenched in the political process Eli was always the first to say , "Screw it Brother lets go have a beer with them and talk it out."

I always enjoyed talking politics with Eli and seeing him at political events. He was loved around here.

I'll have more information in tomorrow's New Mexican.

A Couple of Stories

Not much political blogging on my part during Thanksgiving week. Maybe some were thankful for that.

But here's a couple of stories I did late last week.

First there's the progress on the latest bill that would establish a state ethics commission. It cleared a legislative interim committee on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote. Now the big question is whether the Legislature will want to fund a new agency, albeit a small agency, in this time of budget shortfalls.

I posted the draft bill on this blog last week. Scroll down or CLICK HERE.

And I did a little analysis of the "political balancing act" that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has to do in her run for governor -- showing her independence from the current administration without appearing disloyal as well as stressing her experience in state government leadership at the same time having to explain that she was out of the loop whenever stories about scandals in state government arise.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Checked the White House Partycrashers Facebook Photos



And there's none with Bill Richardson.

Damn!

Check it yourself HERE

(To quote The Grateful Dead, "Trouble ahead, lady in red!")

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Richardson Makes it to the White House

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving came early this year for Gov. Bill Richardson. After more than 10 months of virtual political exile — at least on the national level, which is the level he likes best — Richardson and First Lady Barbara Richardson were happy recipients of what has been described as the most coveted invitation in the political world: President Obama's first state dinner.

The dinner was in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I'm not sure whether Richardson knows the guy, because he's never held any American hostages.

Just about a year ago, everyone assumed Richardson would be going to these type of events all the time. After all, Obama had nominated him for a cabinet position and he was making plans to move back to Washington, D.C. But then in January, Richardson abruptly withdrew the nomination due to a federal grand jury investigation of an alleged pay-to-play scheme involving key members of his administration. Months later, the Justice Department dropped the case.

Some pundits in national online publications speculated about the significance of Richardson's presence at the exclusive White House soiree.

"Whether the fact that Richardson was invited to a party for Singh has any further significance is anyone's guess," wrote Santa Fe-based writer Sally Denton in Politics Daily. Talking about rumors of a job in the national administration, Denton added, "But Richardson insiders say the deal has been clinched — he's eager to leave New Mexico and its pesky $650-million budget deficit — and Tuesday's state dinner will be his coming-out party."

The governor, of course, has denied such speculation. "This is not about a job, it's about having dinner," he told KOAT-TV this week. "I'm going to finish my term as governor."
BILL MEETS HIS FOLKS
Steve Clemons, author of The Washington Note blog, wrote in The Huffington Post that Richardson might have had something specific he wanted to discuss with Obama.

"... House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman will be there tonight — and so too will be New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. The connection? Cuba," Clemons wrote. "Both strongly support moving the US-Cuba relationship into new territory and ending the restrictions on travel to Cuba for American citizens. ... This is a self-damaging restriction on American rights that should be ended — and Berman and Bill Richardson are on the case. Look for them whispering in the President's ear."

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin offered her typical thoughtful and constructive perspective about Richardson being at the White House. "Like Tom Daschle, this Beltway fixture is a human toe fungus," she said. He won't go away." (Yes, Malkin makes Anne Coulter look like Little Mary Sunshine.)

Now nobody likes to be called fungus of any sort. But I bet Richardson looked on the bright side.

At least the talking heads were talking about him again.

Reunited and it feels so good: The late Gov. Bruce King used to pride himself on his ability to bring opposing political forces together. Perhaps he was smiling from beyond Saturday, looking down on his own funeral as two politicians — whose relationship for more than a year could only be described as frosty — shaking hands and speaking civilly.

I'm speaking of course of former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Bill Richardson. Their brief encounter was the first time the two had interacted, at least in public, since the 2008 Super Bowl, when Clinton came to New Mexico. The former prez was just here to watch the game with his old Department of Energy secretary at the governor's mansion. But everyone knew Clinton's real purpose was to convince Richardson to endorse his wife Hillary Clinton, who was running for president.

But Richardson ended up endorsing Obama, which angered the Clinton camp. As recently as May, The New York Times reported that Clinton hadn't forgiven Richardson.

Immediately after giving a eulogy to King on Saturday at the services at Moriarty High School, Clinton went down the line of dignitaries on the first row stopping to greet former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, who was standing by Richardson. Clinton then stopped in front of the governor and smiled. The two shook hands and chatted briefly.

Right before Clinton began walking away, Richardson gave him a quick pat on the shoulder.

Interim Committee Agrees on Ethics Commission Bill

The Legislature's interim committee on Courts, Corrections & Justice on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a bill that would create an 11-member ethics commission appointed by the Legislature and the governor.

On first glance it appears the Ethics Commission would be set up similar to the Judicial Standards Commission. The body would have the power to subpoena witnesses in ethics complaints regarding state officials or employees and determine whether complaints are valid.

If the complaint involved allegations of criminal violations, the information would be turned over to the state attorney general or a district attorney. Other complaints deemed valid would go to the Legislature if the complaint pertains to a lawmaker or elected state official.

Like Judicial Standards, all meetings pertaining to specific investigations are held behind closed doors and there's even criminal penalties for those who leak documents.

In past legislative sessions, bills to create ethics commissions have stalled. We'll see how far this one gets.


ETHICSCOMMBILL 2009

Honk If You've Been a Flack for Diane Denish

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish goes through public information officers faster than my '63 Falcon went though $20 tires.

She's just lost her seventh PIO in seven years. Sam Thompson, who flacked for the Attorney General's Office for nearly eight years under Patricia Madrid, has called it quits after five months.

When she leaves in December, she'll join Danielle Montoya, Kate Nelson, Michael Henningsen, Allan Oliver Lauren Cowdrey and Tim Blotz in the Ex-Denish PIO Club. (Cowdrey and Blotz worked on a contract basis, as I wrote about recently. The others were on salary.)

My story in today's paper is HERE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shopping Tips from the AG

The Attorney General's Office just sent out this handy little shopping guide for the looming holiday season:

1. Do your homework. Be clear on what you are purchasing.
2. Check the return policy at store's you shop.
3. Get a gift receipt.
4. Take ads with you and read the small print in the advertisements.
5. Compare prices in advance.
6. Check online for coupons.
7. When using your credit card on the Internet, use a business you know and trust.

Had there been any Tom Waits fans in that office they would have added this important reminder:

THE LARGE PRINT GIVETH
and the small print taketh away




Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Bruce King Funeral

A version of this will be published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 22, 2009


MORIARTY — There were old political allies as well as some old political opponents. There were officeholders, judges, state officials and candidates past and present, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives and those in between. Governors, congressmen, even a former president. They filled a high-school gym to pay their last respects to former Gov. Bruce King.

About 2,000 showed up for prayers, hymns and bagpipes — and lots of memories shared by Kings friends and admirers, which included Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and all three current members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state.

On the wall behind the makeshift stage was a mural depicting wild horses in a field — appropriate for the man known as New Mexico’s “cowboy governor.”

King, who was a lifelong resident of nearby Stanley, died Nov. 13 at the age of 85. He was the longest serving governor, winning three 4-year terms between 1970 and 1990.
Former President Bill Clinton said that King was one of the first people he consulted when he began planning his first run for president. “I knew I’d get a laugh and I’d get a lesson. A lesson in politics and a lesson in life.”

Besides the Rev. Russell Lee, who presided at the services, Clinton was the only speaker. He said he first met King in 1978 at a seminar in Georgia for new governors. King was not really a new governor, Clinton pointed out, because he’d already served one term. But one reason King attended the meeting, the ex president quipped was “...wherever two or more were gathered, he wanted to be.

“When I met Bruce King, I thought I was a personable, likable, warm, outgoing person,” Clinton said. “He made me look like a psychopathic shut-in.”

Clinton said the King, known for his down-home western charm, immediately struck him as one of the warmest, friendliest people he’d ever met, but joked that the first time King hugged him “I wanted to check in my back pocket to make sure my billfold was still there. But then I realized, it was real. Every bit of it was real, and that he was the same way to everybody.”

Clinton recalled that he and King used to attend governors’ conferences at which then California Gov. Jerry Brown received virtually all the publicity. Clinton said he and King were the only governors there not jealous of Brown. He asked King why that was, to which King replied, “It’s a genetic defect ... I missed that resentment gene.”

One bit of advice that King gave him was that “politicians get into trouble when they forget it’s a job.”

After Clinton was elected president, King and his wife Alice were spending the night in the White House when they received news that their son Gary King, now the state attorney general, had been in a car accident. “They had to race out of there, worried sick about you ” he said directing the remark to Gary King.

A happier memory Clinton recalled was a campaign trip to New Mexico where “Bruce King personally served me huevos rancheros at 4 o’clock in the morning.”
That memory might have sparked the former president’s appetite. After the service he was spotted by KKOB radio reporter Peter St. Cyr at the nearby El Comedor restaurant eating huevos rancheros with Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. They were joined later by former Gov. Toney Anaya.

One of those who came to honor King was Roberto Mondragon, his running mate and lieutenant governor for his first two terms — and who ran against him as a Green Party candidate in 1994, when King lost to Republican Gary Johnson.

“We worked together, we had some differences, we worked things out and we would work together for the good of the state,” Mondragon said after the service. He said King was “a man with a lot of love” and recalled “his really warm-hearted slap-on-the-back and ‘howdy, how ya’ll doin’ ’ It was beautiful. It worked for the cowboy governor and the singing lieutenant governor,” he said, referring to his own second career as a musician.

At a reception at Moriarty Civic Center after the funeral, former Gov. David Cargo, whose tenure preceded King’s first term, recalled a fight he had with King when both were in the Legislature in the 1960s. “I called him a ‘bucolic Rasputin,’” Cargo said. “He said, “Well, Dave, thanks for those nice words.”

Cargo said he and King kept in touch through the years and sometimes had dinner or lunch together.

State Veterans Services Secretary John Garcia, who was a deputy chief of staff in King’s final term, recalled a trip to Mexico City with King. At a restaurant there King worked the room, shaking hands with everyone including the kitchen help. Garcia said King told him, “Some of these people might move to New Mexico one day. They might vote for me.”

King had a very agile mind, said State Treasurer James Lewis, who was King’s chief of staff in the third term. At meetings, King never took notes, Lewis said. “He would give you 50 things to do. Two days later, he would ask you, ‘bang, bang, bang,’ where all these things were. He just had an amazing memory.”


Here's the Bill Clinton eulogy to Bruce King, courtesy KOB:


Friday, November 20, 2009

First Time I Saw Bruce in the Rotunda

I just went to pay my respects to Gov. King, who is lying in state in the Rotunda. The crowd is much smaller now than it was earlier this afternoon. Family, friends and admirers are still there now.

Seeing the former governor's casket there reminded me of the first time I saw Bruce King there. It was New Year's Day 1971. I was driving my '63 Falcon around downtown when I drove by the Roundhouse by way of Don Gaspar Avenue. I saw several people going in and I remembered. It was inauguration day for the new governor.

I found a place to park and went in, just in time to see him take the oath. The place was full, but the ceremony was nice and simple.

The former governor's funeral is 10 am tomorrow at the Moriarty High School gym.

Fun With School District Audits

A $110 lunch at the Rio Chama paid for out of federal funds earmarked for low-income kids?

$11,000 for iPods?

Hotel rooms at the Eldorado?

$91,000 for a tow truck?

SUVs purchased from an out-of-state dealer?

Electronic "Smartboards" for pre-schoolers?

These are just a few of the bombshells in audit reports for five medium-sized school districts in the state discussed by the Legislative Finance Committee Thursday.

The LFC didn't exactly choose the cream of the crop of school districts. Of the five, one has already had its finances taken over by the state, one had a superintendent who was suspended while the audut was going on (and later resigned) and one had a transportation director who was indicted a few months ago on charges including embezzlement, paying or receiving public money for services not rendered, and making or permitting false public vouchers.

One thing for certain, you'll be hearing a lot more about this during the session in January.

Read my story HERE and check out Gadi Schwartz's report on Channel 4 below.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Capitol Press Corps Loses a Good One

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 19, 2009


The Associated Press is worth a lot less to New Mexico news organizations than it was just a couple of days ago — especially when it comes to state government coverage. That's because the wire service just laid off one of its two Capitol reporters, veteran Deborah Baker.

The AP isn't just losing a body with a pen and reporter's notebook. Baker's frankly one of the finest reporters I know. She's persistent, tough and fair. And knowledgeable. She's worked the Roundhouse just shy of 20 years.

Not to mention the fact that Baker, with her wicked humor and infectious laugh, is a joy to work with. It's hard to imagine covering a session without her.

Baker was one of 57 AP employees laid off nationwide, according to a report Wednesday in Editor & Publisher, a national journalism trade publication. "The layoffs follow last year's AP announcement that it planned to cut payroll by 10 percent by the end of 2009," E&P said. "The news cooperative has already reduced staff by 100 through buyouts this year, which ended in July."

The loss of Baker illustrates another ugly trend in the news biz — withering coverage of state governments around the country. Earlier this year, the American Journalism Review in a survey of statehouse reporters found that 355 newspaper reporters cover the state capitols full time. This is a decrease of more than 30 percent from the 524 capitol reporters counted in 2003.

And here's another sobering thought from New Mexico Internet-based reporter Heath Haussamen. Reacting to Baker's departure, Haussamen posted on his Twitter account, "The number of journalists covering the Roundhouse continues to shrink ... and the number of (public relations) flacks continues to rise. Sad."

Now why's that so sad? This way the state government can tell its story about all its bold initiatives without so many reporters nosing around, straying off topic and asking questions. What could possibly go wrong?

At least Barry Massey of the AP will still be around.

Not-so-rapid response: On Tuesday I asked the campaigns of all four Republican candidates whether they intended to go see former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when she does her book-signing in Roswell on Dec. 1 and whether their respective candidates would be seeking the support of Palin, who even within the GOP is a controversial figure.

As I previously reported, two of the campaigns — those of Doug Turner and Susana Martinez — responded well before my deadline. Neither of them will be at the Roswell event because of prior commitments — and no, it's not true that either of them said anything about having to wash their hair that day — and neither will actively seek Palin's support for the primary race.

But the other two camps — those of Allen Weh and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones didn't call.

Arnold-Jones herself called me Wednesday. She was campaigning in Grant County and didn't get my message until late. Like Turner and Martinez, the Albuquerque legislator said her schedule is full, so she won't be attending the book-signing. "There's no reason not to go, except my schedule," she said. "I think it would be interesting." Ask whether she'd seek Palin's support, Arnold-Jones said, "Well, I wouldn't turn it away, but I'm not going to hunt her down to get her support." Arnold-Jones said she doesn't think it's appropriate for elected officials "or even ex-officials" to endorse in primaries.

About 24 hours after last talking with a spokesman, I've yet to hear back from the Weh campaign.

Iglesias back in the spotlight: Ever since he was fired as U.S. attorney by the Bush administration, former Santa Fe resident David Iglesias has been no stranger to national news coverage. Now comes Esquire magazine, which just named Iglesias as one of the "Best and the Brightest" of 2009. And it's not just for standing up for himself during the whole Justice scandal. It's for his current work as an attorney in the military commissions at Guantánamo.

"Part of my job is to bring due process to the military commissions — and to make sure that true justice is obtained by the Gitmo detainees," Iglesias said in Esquire.

Which prompted the magazine to gush, "it's a statement of the essential American faith that lives in David Iglesias unbroken and unbowed: the faith that good men can redeem a bad system. And that he, David Iglesias, is a good man."

Sen. Cravens Joins GOP Lt. Gov. Race


State Sen. Kent Cravens of Albuquerque just announced he'll be joining the race for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary.

He joins former state Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton and Santa Fe doctor J.R. Damrom in that race.

Cravens has been in the Senate since 2001. He's known as a social conservative as well as a champion of tougher laws for DWI offenders. (He's the brother of Paul Cravens whose wife and three stepdaughters were killed by a drunk driver in a Christmas Eve accident in 1992.)

Sen. Cravens and his wife own an Alphagraphics franchise in Albuquerque.

Democrats running for lieutenant governor include former state Dem Chairman Brian Colon, Sheriff Greg Solano, Mid-Region Council of Governments director Lawrence Rael, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Rep. Joe Campos and Sen. Linda Lopez.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention another Republican lieutenant governor candidate -- Albuquerque nurse Bea Sheridan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Palin Coming to Roswell


Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is scheduled for a stop in Roswell, N.M., giving opening for untold numbers of alien jokes to Democrats.

It's part of her Going Rogue book tour. She'll be signing books at the Roswell Hastings 7 pm Dec. 1.

My story in the paper is HERE.

As recent polls have shown, Palin has a devoted following among socially conservative Republicans, she's controversial even within the GOP.

Republican gubernatorial hopefuls don't seem to be clawing each other for the chance of a photo op with Palin in Roswell.

Spokesmen for two Republican gubernatorial contneders -- Doug Turner and Susana Martinez --told me that their candidate would not be at the book-signing in Roswell. Both spokesmen said their candidate wouldn't be seeking Palin's endorsement in the primary.

Janice Arnold-Jones' spokesman said she was campaigning in Grant County and couldn't be reached. Allen Weh's spokesman said several hours ago he'd get back to me but as of 10:27 p.m., he hasn't.

Maybe that says something too.

Workers to PRC: Can the Flunkies


I spent a good part of the afternoon over at the Public Regulation Commission going through the recent employee surveys on ethics, which were released today though a few of them were redacted.

The PRC got an earful. The most frequent complaint was about hiring practice -- that, in the words of one employee, "political flunkies" are hired for jobs for which they aren't qualified.

Some said fear of retribution kept most employees from reporting ethical violations. “This place is never confidential,” wrote one employee. “Too many management ‘Big Mouths’ in a political cesspool.”

Another worker turned to the bard. “Just what Shakespeare said. ‘Reputation, reputation, reputation. O, I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is degrading.’ ”

Actually in Othello, the final word in that quote was “bestial,” not "degrading." But I think the meaning is clear.

Here's our story in Wednesday's paper. CLICK HERE


UPDATE: Hey, you can see my pretty face, hard at work looking at the PRC ethics surveys, about halfway through through this clip from Channel 4. (Gee, thanks, Gaddi ....)

Iowa Flashback: There Really Was a Richardson/Obama Deal

Back in January 2008 on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, there was widely reported about a deal between the Barack Obama and Bill Richardson campaigns. According to such reports Richardson supporters would go to Obama in precincts in which Richardson didn't reach Iowa's 15 percent threshold for viability. In exchange, Obama supporters would go to Richardson at caucuses in which Obama had more backers than needed to win any additional delegates.
RICHARDSON BACKERS AT PRECINCT 83
I was in Iowa, so of course I checked it out. Richardson's campaign spokesman Pahl Shipley vehemently denied the reports.

"We have not made any deals with any other campaigns," he told me. "We expect to be viable in most, if not all, precincts, and we are looking for a strong showing. You cannot tell Iowans who to support — they are very independent."


Obama's camp denied it too. But according to Ben Smith in The Politico this morning, Obama strategist David Plouffe in his new book has a different story.

"[State Director Paul] Tewes was also working with the Richardson camp to come up with a tacit agreement that in places where neither of us was viable we would make it clear to our supporters that each candiate preferred the other on the second run-through." (Disclosure. I cleaned up a whole mess of apparent typos in that quote. And thanks to my friend Mona who pointed out a stupid typo of my own in the first draft of this post.)


I'm shocked to learn that a campaign flack would not tell me the truth.

Of course, the participants in the caucus Don't always go along with such deals. In the Des Moines precinct that I observed, Richardson didn't make the 15 percent cut. Most of his delegates went to Obama, but some drifted to the Hillary Clinton and John Edwards fold. In fact, Richardson's precinct captain, who initially told me she'd vote for Obama if Richardson didn't make the cut, ended up voting for Edwards.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Fight!

I spent the afternoon Monday at the first meeting of the recently appointed Balanced Budget Task Force at Santa Fe Community College. When I saw how full the parking lot was at the college, I realized that a high percentage of the 42-member board had showed up.

All sorts of tax increases and restructures are on the table. But, as I point out in my story in Tuesday's paper, the one topic that raised a some debate Monday was the possibility of reinstating the gross receipts tax on groceries. My story on that is HERE.

The food tax was repealed in 2004. I re-read some of the coverage of that bill in the Legislature, which reminded me of the fact that the final vote happened around 5 a.m. the last day of the session.

I even stumbled upon an old Roundhouse Roundup column I'd written a couple of days before that final vote, documenting some of the tactics and late-night, back-room arm-twisting at a time when it looked like the food-tax bill was dead. You can read that column HERE.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bruce Talks With Kate, 2007

Here's an interview with former Gov. Bruce King by Kate Nash in 2007

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Richardson Names Revenue Task Force

As promised, Gov. Bill Richardson named his task force to study possible tax increases before the next legislative session.

And, like most task forces appointed by the administration, it's a monster. More than 40 members. Maybe they can meet in the Senate Chambers.

The group includes representatives of banking, environmentalism, business, labor, ranching, the alcohol and tobacco lobbys, the Catholic Church, government, educators, liberal advocacy groups ...

Let's hope they have better luck than the 2003 Blue Ribbon tax task force.


Here's the list of members.
Chair
* Rick Homans, Secretary, Taxation and Revenue Department

Task Force Members
* Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish or Designee
* Mark Thompson, Lieutenant Governor, Acoma Pueblo
* Jim Berry, Executive Director, Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce
* Terri L. Cole, President and Chief Executive Officer, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
* Raymond Mondragon, Chair, New Mexico Economic Development Partnership
* Alex Romero, President and Chief Executive Officer, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
* Chuck Wellborn, Wellborn Strategies, LLC
* Sharon Lombardi, Executive Director, Dairy Producers of New Mexico
* David S. Smoak, President, RSF Land and Cattle Co.
* Don Chalmers, Principal Dealer, Don Chalmers Auto
* Jerry Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico
* Jim Horton, Director, Public Policy and Government, Associated General Contractors
* Odes Armijo-Caster, President, Renewable Energy Industries Association
* Leland Gould, Chair, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association
* Jim Hinton, President, Presbyterian Health Services
* Michelle Welby, Director, Medical Operations, Molina Healthcare of New Mexico
* Jami Grindatto, Corporate Affairs Director, Intel
* Tony Trujillo, Government Relations Director, Phelps Dodge
* Kathi Bearden, Editor, Hobbs Sun News
* Steve Anaya, Executive Vice President, Realtors Association of New Mexico
* Carol Wight, Chief Executive Officer, New Mexico Restaurant Association
* Bob Barberousse, Cigar Association of America
* Fred O'Cheskey, New Mexico Beverage Wholesalers and Southern Wine & Spirits
* Thom Turbett, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico
* Bob Murphy, Executive Director, Economic Forum of Albuquerque
* Rick Clemente, Production Central ABQ
* Leanne Leith, Political and Programs Director, Conservation Voters New Mexico
* Ruth Hoffman, Director, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico
* Allen Sanchez, Director, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops President, St. Joseph Community Health
* Gayla Brumfield, Mayor, City of Clovis
* Bill Fulginiti, Executive Director, New Mexico Municipal League
* Paul Gutierrez, Executive Director, New Mexico Association of Counties
* Charles Bowyer, Executive Director, National Education Association-New Mexico
* Carolyn Abeita, Esq., Member, University of New Mexico Board of Regents
* Carter Bundy, Legislative Director, AFSME
* Pat D'Arco, Chairman, Rio Rancho Planning & Zoning Board
* Jackson Gibson, Member, District 6, Transportation Commission
* Bill Jordan, Policy Director, New Mexico Voices for Children
* Leo Garza, Legislative Committee Chair, AARP New Mexico
* Richard Anklam, President and Executive Director, New Mexico Tax Research Institute
* Fred Nathan, Executive Director, Think New Mexico

R.I.P. Bruce King


He was the Cowboy Governor.

He could work a room better than any politician New Mexico's ever known.

In some ways he was New Mexico's Yogi Berra, famous for malapropisms -- the most famous being his warning about opening "a box of Pandoras." When I was in college I heard him say at a political rally we shoudl all "knock on doorbells" for George McGovern. And we loved him for it.

He was the state's only 3-term governor.

Former Gov. Bruce King died overnight at the age of 85.

Kate Nash has a nice tribute for him HERE.

Rest in peace, Bruce King.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gov Signs Budget Bill with Several Line-Item Vetos

Some 19,000 classified state employees will have to take five unpaid "furlough" days, as a result of action Gov. Bill Richardson took today.

In addition, Richardson said he's cutting at least 84 exempt positions -- though it's not clear how many of those already are vacant.

“A lot of individuals will lose their jobs," Richardson said when asked about the exempt positions at a news conference. "But again we have not notified anyone. We are working on that. I want to do this in a humane way. And I will say this: a lot of these exempt workers do valuable work. They run state government. And I feel tehy’ve been unfairly targeted. But because of the budget situation we are going to take action on those who perhaps are not in critical areas and we’re going to trim it down. 84 will not be the end of it.”

Richardson signed HB 17, but as expected there were significant sections that he vetoed.

He vetoed the section mandating 7.6 percent cuts in agencies under his control as well as the section calling for 102 exempt positions to be axed. By executive order he's reducing state agency budgets by $79 million, which is about 3.3 percent.

The furloughs apply to both classified and exempt employees -- at least the ones who don't lsoe their jobs. Richardson said he'll voluntarily return five days of his salary to the state, "But I won't take the days off."

Here's a copy of his executive message on HB 17.

HB 17

Heather Appointed to Science Panel

This news came in late last night:

Weeks after she announced she wouldn't be seeking the Republican nomination for governor next year, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson of Albuquerque says she's has been appointed to a National Research Council committee to conduct "a 12 month study of Global Science and Technology Strategies and Their Effect on U.S. National Security."

This study is being sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and, Wilson says, will "examine science and technology strategies of countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China, Japan and Singapore and compare them to U.S. strategies."

Here's the rest of the news release:

Dr. Dan Mote, President of the University of Maryland, will chair the sixteen member committee that will meet several times over the next six months before writing a report with recommendations.

The
National Research Council (NRC) functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The four organizations are collectively referred to as the National Academies. The National Academies is one of the most respected scientific and technical institutions in the country.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Academies is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln that was originally granted in 1863. Publishing more than 200 reports and related publications each year, the institution is one of the largest providers of free scientific and technical information in the world.

The mission of the NRC is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health.

Wilson earned a BS from the US Air Force Academy and Masters and Doctoral Degrees from Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar. While in Congress, she chaired the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence and was awarded Distinguished Service Awards from both the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence when she left the Congress. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Although Wilson decided against the governor run, in the past week she's been vocal in her criticism of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and the controversy over Denish's use of federal funds to pay public relations contracters, etc.

Wilson was in Congress from 1998 until last year. She lost to Steve Pearce in last year's GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Richardson, Barreras & Wen Ho Lee

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 12, 2009


Former Santa Fe County jail warden Lawrence Barreras, more recently a state Transportation Department supervisor, was the subject of a hard-hitting news profile this week. The department put him on paid administrative leave Monday following the publication of the two-part series. (Click HERE for Part 1, HERE for Part 2)

Investigative reporter Colleen Heild of the Albuquerque Journal documented how Barreras got hired at the dawn of the Richardson administration in 2002 at the Department of Children, Youth and Families despite the fact that he had been fired in 1997 from the state Corrections Department for alleged financial wrongdoing; how he later was hired at the Transportation Department — at the same time he was a consultant for an Albuquerque architectural firm that was part of a controversial DOT redevelopment project; and how Barreras got a 15 percent pay raise during a time of a so-called salary freeze.

Barreras always claimed he was fired by Corrections in 1997 because he opposed then Gov. Gary Johnson’s moves to privatize prisons. The department said the firing was over allegations Barreras had padded his time cards and travel expenses.

Barreras sued the state, but the case was thrown out — first by a state District Court and then by the Court of Appeals. Barreras, then working for the private company operating the county jail, had appealed his civil case to the state Supreme Court when Richardson, then governor-elect, tapped him for his transition team.

He served on the committee advising Richardson on prisons. Barreras appealed to the Supreme Court, Heild reported, but three weeks later the case between Barreras and the Corrections Department, now under Richardson’s control, was settled. And soon Barreras was working for CYFD. And, according to Heild, there’s no mention in Barreras’ personnel file of his firing — just a 2004 letter from a Corrections official saying Barreras left under good terms.

Different roles in a common controversy: After reading the new pieces on Barreras, one major question nagged me: Where did Richardson first get to know Barreras? The governor was working in Washington, D.C., in the Clinton administration during most of Barreras’ time with Corrections. What did these two have in common?

One possible answer: Wen Ho Lee.

Richardson was secretary of Energy in late 1999 when Lee, a Taiwan-born scientist who was working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was arrested and charged with 59 felony counts, including espionage. He spent nine months in solitary confinement until the case began to unravel and he was allowed to plea to one felony of improperly downloading restricted data. The other charges were dropped and Lee was released. Barreras was warden of the jail during Lee’s time there.

Lee’s supporters complained the conditions imposed on Lee were harsh. He wasn’t permitted personal phone calls. He was not allowed contact visits with his family. He could only place (collect) calls to his lawyers. He was allowed one hour a day in the recreation yard.

These conditions were not imposed by Barreras, but by federal authorities. In fact, according to a March 2000 memo from former Santa Fe Sheriff Ray Sisneros, who was jail monitor at the time, Lee praised Barreras.

“Other than being incarcerated, he had no complaints,” Sisneros wrote in the memo to the county manager — which became part of the record of a U.S. Senate Subcommittee report on the Lee case. “The staff was treating him very well. He singled out Warden Barreras and Deputy Warden Romero as treating him great. ... His only request was for additional fruit at the evening meal, which I relayed to Warden Barreras.”

Sisneros wrote that he’d received phone calls alleging abuse of Lee. “Mr. Lee was very surprised about the calls and stated,‘ “I haven’t complained to anyone about the jail because I am being treated very well.’ ”

A few weeks later, Richardson wrote U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, saying he’d checked into Lee’s treatment at the jail. “I am satisfied that his civil rights are being adequately protected,” Richardson wrote.

(For copies of both the Sisneros memo and the Richardson mentioned above -- and lots more documents pertaining to Wen Ho Lee -- CLICK HERE. Search the page for "Sisneros." Richardson's letter is right below that memo.)

Was it during the Wen Ho Lee confinement that Richardson was won over? I asked Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos about that possibility in an e-mail Tuesday, but all I got was a sarcastic response: “Seriously, Steve?”

No reply to my follow-up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Denish to Reimburse for Political P.R.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s campaign fund will reimburse the state for money paid to a public relations officer who wrote press releases in 2004 related to election-year politics.

The total amount of the reimbursement is less than $800 but a spokesman for Denish said Tuesday it’s important that there be no perception questionable political activities. The money spent was from federal funds allocated to the state as part of a 2003 economic stimulus package.
Denish was state chairman of the John Kerry 2004 presidential campaign.

“Lt. Governor Denish firmly believes that a strict wall must exist between politics and official state work, and that’s why she has instructed her campaign to reimburse the state for this former contractor’s work for the days in question,” Denish’s chief of staff Josh Rosen wrote in a statement to reporters. “If a mistake was made, or even the perception is questionable, Lt. Governor Denish believes reimbursing the state is the responsible thing to do. That’s the high bar she has set and it’s the way she does business.”

Denish's office received a total of $225,000, though only a fraction of that was spent on the activities being questioned.

State Republicans in recent days have blasted Denish for spending some of her federal funds on hiring public-relations officers, one of whom billed the state for working on Christmas cards, decorating for a party and running errands for Denish.

The most vocal critics have been GOP gubernatorial candidates Allen Weh and Susanah Martinez. Denish is the likely Democratic nominee for governor next year.

Denish’s office released copies of three 2004 press releases. One was for an event with actor Leonardo DiCaprio in Albuquerque. Another was about Denish leading a “group of foot soldiers” in Albuquerque going door-to-door for Kerry. The third, on official state letterhead, was Denish praising Kerry’s selection of Sen. John Edwards as his running mate.

Invoices from contractor Lauren Cowdrey showed she billed the state for some political work. On a July 2004 invoice Cowdrey charged the state for eight hours of work, partly for a DNC media binder. This apparently was for the Democratic National Convention, which Denish attended in Boston at that time. A few days later, Cowdrey billed nine hours for duties including “work on Kerry for Saturday." This was three days before Kerry and Edwards came to New Mexico on a "whistle stop" train trip, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M. and Albuquerque. The money spent for this work is included in the $790 reimbursement.

(Denish isn’t the only state official who used state funds to pay for a news release praising Kerry’s choice of Edwards. On July 7 one of Gov. Bill Richardson’s spokesmen released a similar statement — also on state letterhead.)

Cowdrey was paid $23.50 an hour under her contract with Denish’s office.

In his statement, Rosen said, “The work done by this contract Public Information Officer relating to an event for Sen. Kerry or the 2004 election consisted of fielding media calls, providing logistical information about Lt. Governor Denish’s role and clarifying a remark on behalf of the Lt. Governor. But quite simply, the state should not have been invoiced for these press statements relating to the election. The Lt. Governor expressly forbids campaign work from being done from the state office and she was unaware that these charges were misapplied.”

Tuesday’s release of the press statement and the announcement the state would be reimbursed could be seen as Denish trying to get ahead of the controversy. News about the questionable expenditures first broke on the New Mexico Watchdog Web site, which is associated with the conservative Rio Grande Foundation, which Rosen earlier this week described as “a right-wing organization that exists solely to distort information and make partisan political attacks ...”

Cowdrey was one of two public-relations contractors who worked for Denish in 2003 and 2004 — which was before she had a budget for permanent public information officers. The office spent more than $32,000 for public relations officers. Other federal stimulus money spent by Denish included about $20,000 for a poll done for the state Children’s Cabinet, a group of Cabinet officers headed by Denish, about $16,000 for public service announcements for the Children’s Cabinet and $6,000 to re-design Denish’s Web site.

Denish’s office has stressed that all expenditures and invoices went through the standard Department of Finance and Administration process for approval of payment and that the state Auditor had no findings for the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in their annual audit.


Update: Here's a copy of the Kerry-Edwards news release

Edwards Release

AMA Takes 2nd Look at Medical Marijuana

Back when the Legislature was debating whether to adopt a legal medical marijuana program, a frequent argument was that the medical establishment didn't consider marijuana to have medical value -- and in fact the American Medical Association's official position on the issue was that the drug should remain on the list of Schedule I drugs -- those considered to have no medical benefit and to be harmful when used under any circumstances.

However, today the AMA's House of Delegates passed a resolution calling for "marijuana's status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods."

Here's what an executive summary of the AMA's Council of Science and Public Health concluded:

Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the patchwork of state-based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.

The executive summary is HERE. The complete report is being submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

This news comes one day after the New Mexico Health Department announced four new licensed marijuana providers for the 755 certified patients in the state program. You can read my story about it, including comments from Santa Fe's latest licensed provider, HERE

Monday, November 9, 2009

Political Work for Denish Billed to State?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Health Dept. Approves More Med Marijuana Providers

This from a new Department of Health press release:

The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that four additional non-profit medical cannabis producers have been licensed and can begin producing medical cannabis immediately. There are now five non-profit producers in New Mexico licensed to produce medical cannabis.

Dr. Alfredo Vigil, secretary of the Department of Health, said the additional non-profit producers were approved based on the needs of patients. Twenty-one non-profit producer applications are currently pending with the Department of Health. Dr. Vigil said no non-profit producer applications have been rejected and the department will continue to evaluate the need for additional producers based on patient need and public safety.

“We are the first state to develop this kind of distribution system for medical cannabis and we will continue to proceed carefully with the development of the program so we can meet the needs of our patients while not creating an excess supply,” Dr. Vigil said. “Our main goals are to ensure our patients have access to the medicine they need while building a sustainable program for New Mexico. The medical cannabis program is for people who cannot get relief from their suffering from any other means. We are very proud of the program’s success so far.”

Gov. Bill Richardson signed the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007 that allows patients with qualifying conditions to use medical cannabis. The law also allowed New Mexico to develop a production and distribution system for medical cannabis patients.

The State’s first non-profit producer was approved in March 2009. Based on the amount of medical cannabis each producer can supply to patients, the Department of Health estimates that each non-profit producer will be able to supply medical cannabis to approximately 100 patients. Patients are allowed to possess six ounces of medical cannabis. Non-profit producers are allowed to have 95 mature plants and seedlings and have an inventory of usable medical cannabis for patients.

The Department of Health will notify patients about how to contact each non-profit producer to obtain a supply of medical cannabis. The current regulations that govern the Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program require that the names and locations of the non-profit producers be kept confidential to ensure the safety of patients, producers and the public.

Patients can also apply to produce their own supply of medical cannabis and are allowed to have four mature plants and 12 seedlings. There are 755 active medical cannabis patients and 204 are licensed to produce their own supply of medical cannabis. The Department of Health has approved 809 patients to use medical cannabis since the program began in 2007. Patients must reapply to the program each year. Eight patients have died and 46 chose not to renew their license.

To be approved for the medical cannabis program, patients must have a physician certify that they have one of the 15 qualifying conditions that is debilitating and can not be helped by standard treatments.

The qualifying conditions are severe chronic pain, painful peripheral neuropathy, intractable nausea/vomiting, severe anorexia/cachexia, hepatitis C infection currently receiving antiviral treatment, Crohn’s disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with intractable spasticity, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and hospice patients.

Patients interested in more information about the Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program can go online to
www.health.state.nm.us/idb/medical_cannabis.shtml or call 505-827-2321



UPDATE: Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, who lobbied for years for the medical marijuana act, responded, "Today is a great day for the patients of New Mexico who are enrolled in the Medical Cannabis Program," said "The state is continuing to address the need for a safe, secure supply of medicine."

Johnson to Speak at UNM

Boy, former Gov. Gary Johnson has been in the news more this last couple of weeks than he has in the past, say, seven years.

The former gov will be speaking Tuesday night at UNM with a former federal drug task force leader about "their joint campaign to legalize and regulate all drugs."

The former task force leader is Matthew Fogg, a former U.S. Marshal.

The event is sponsored by a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP. They describe themselves as a "15,000-member organization representing cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others who now want to legalize and regulate all drugs after witnessing horrors and injustices fighting on the front lines of the `war on drugs.' "

The event, scheduled at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Lobo Rooms A & B, in the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico, is on the eve of an International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque.

Johnson told me recently he's about to launch a 527 group which will have a Web site for Johnson to promote his ideas on issues. The main purpose of a 527 is to raise tax-exempt money. There's also a "grassroots" group not affiliated with Johnson, promoting a presidential campaign for the libertarian-leaning Republican.

Some have suggested in recent days that Johnson is "downplaying" his views on drug policy these days, perhaps in anticipation of a presidential bid. This speech would suggest otherwise.

UPDATE: The Gary Johnson 2012 Facebook page is touting a cocktail party fundraiser "to kick off the launch of Gary Johnson's Our America Initiative." That's the PAC I mentioned above.

The party is noon, Thursday Nov. 19 in Albuquerque. The cost is a $500 a person, which means they must be pretty serious about wanting to raise funds. An e-mail from Josiah Schmidt, one of the folks behind the Facebook page, says Johnson himself will be hosting this party.

Egolf Seeking a Second Term


State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, just told me -- to nobody's surprise -- that he'll seek re-election to his District 47 seat. Egolf, 33, is a lawyer who won last year with no primary or general election competition.

He sits on the House Appropriations and Finance Committee as well as the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Egolf already is planning to sponsor at least three bills aimed at easing the budget gap: Increases in cigarette and alcoholic beverage taxes, as well as the way vehicle registration fees are structured. Currently the fee is based on weight. Egolf said he'll introduce a bill to change that so the fee is based on value of the vehicle.

Santa Fe representatives Lucky Varela and Jim Trujillo also have announced re-election plans in recent days.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Johnson Trailing in Ron Paul VP Poll

Over at RonPaul.com there's a poll to suggest running mates if Dr. Paul runs for president 2012. (Disclaimer: The site "is maintained by independent grassroots supporters of Ron Paul. Neither this website nor the articles, posts, videos or photos appearing on it are paid for, approved, endorsed or reviewed by Ron Paul.")
DR. PAUL ON THE RADIO
But New Mexico's Gary Johnson, at least at this writing Friday morning, is coming in at a modest 8th place -- behind such names as Sarah Palin, Jesse Ventura, Dennis Kucinich and Paul's son Rand. The current leader is Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News personality.

Johnson though is ahead of Michelle Bachman, Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck.

But Johnson isn't the only New Mexican showing up in the poll. Congressional candidate Adam Kokesh is on the list and he's ahead of Beck, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney among others.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trujillo Seeks Re-election

I meant to post this yesterday, but then I became the victim of a little document dump ....

State Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe is running for re-election.

Trujillo, 70, represents House District 45, which includes southwestern Santa Fe. He’s a vice chairman of the House Tax & Revenue Committee and chairs the House committee that oversees capital outlay projects. Trujillo also is a member of the House Business & Industry Committee.

Trujillo initially was appointed by the County Commission to fill the remainder of the term of former Rep. Patsy Trujillo, no relation, who resigned to take a position in the Bill Richardson administration. He was elected to the seat in 2004 and re-elected in 2006 and 2008.

At the time of his appointement, Trujillo worked for the state Human Services Department. He’s also owned and managed small businesses in the Santa Fe area.


Rich Man, Poor Man



Sen. Jeff Bingaman is the only bona fide millionaire among New Mexico's Congressional delegation, although Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Harry Teague might be.

This is according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center, using annual financial disclosure statements required of each member of Congress ranks the members according to personal wealth.

However, it's impossible to be precise due to the disclosure forms. As a disclaimer on the group's OpenSecrets.org says:
It is difficult to gauge what a lawmaker is worth based on what they file because the disclosure forms do not require exact values. Instead, the lawmaker reports the range of value into which an asset, for example, falls. As the values increase, the ranges get broader. To calculate net worth, shown here, CRP added together the lawmaker's range of assets and then subtracted their range of liabilities. We then calculate the midpoint of the resulting range and use this figure to rank the filers.

Nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, the Center says.

Here's how our team in Washington is doing.

Bingaman ranks 22nd in terms of net worth in the Senate with a range of $4,434,112 to $10,178,001.

Sen. Tom Udall ranks 60th in the Senate. His net worth is estimated at $817,028 to $2,056,000.

In the House, all three of New Mexico's Congressmen are in the bottom rung of wealth.

CD 3's Rep. Ben Ray Lujan ranks 379th in the House with a net worth ranging between $31,003 and $115,000

Rep. Martin Heinrich from the 1st CD ranks 400th. His net worth ranges between $10,818 to $43,816.

Oilman Teague of CD 2 ranks 438th -- that's next to the "poorest"-- in the House with a net worth ranging from (negative) $4,270,958 to $1,211,999. What brings down Teague's total net worth is a liability in the form of a personal loan -- reported at being between $1 million and $5 million -- from his company Teaco Energy.

Like many members of Congress -- not to mention the rest of us -- Teague took a financial bath last year. In his report filed last year, before he was elected, his net worth was between $2.2 million and $29.2 million.

Denish, Christmas cards and the Stimulus Funds

I took a look this evening at the same documents that Jim Scarantino did the ones that prompted his report in New Mexico Watchdog, a Website associated with the conservative Rio Grande Foundation. Basically it's a basically a pretty thick pile of invoices from 2003 and 2004 representing money Denish's office spent out $225,000 in federal stimulus funds.

Word of warning: Some of Denish's opponents are saying she spent $225,000 on Christmas cards, personal drivers etc. Actually the amount spent on controversial items was far far less. (As for the Christmas cards, one of her contract public information officers did bill the state for working on Christmas cards in 2004. But the Denish campaign actually paid the $3,000 printing bill for the cards.)

There's more detail about this and other expenditures in my story is HERE

Roundhouse Roundup: Spinning the 09 Elections


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 5, 2009


It was predictable that the smattering of elections in distant states this week would bring out New Mexico politicians who would spin the results as favorable to themselves.

The Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races gave New Mexico Republicans a chance to crow. State GOP chairman Harvey Yates released a statement headlined "Republican Victories in VA and NJ Sign of Future Wins in 2010." Gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh released a statement Tuesday night saying, "What is happening nationally is being felt right here at home."

In her own news release, one of Weh's rivals, Susana Martinez, made a subtle effort to identify with the winner in New Jersey. "Chris Christie, a prosecutor with a record of holding corrupt public officials to account, carried a Democratic state that has been plagued by corruption scandals." Martinez, who is district attorney in Las Cruces, has described herself in similar terms.

Of course, none of the Republican statements mentioned the fact that while the GOP did sweep the two governor's races, Democrats made a new gain of two congressional seats in Tuesday's elections — one in that crazy upstate New York race, the other in California.

But those races weren't what the New Mexico's Democratic Party was spinning.

"While Republican leaders are focused on election results in other states, here in New Mexico, Democratic candidates built on the energy and enthusiasm created during the 2008 elections to claim victories in yesterday's city election in Las Cruces," State Democratic chairman Javier Gonzales said in a news release Wednesday.

"I'd like to congratulate Olga Pedroza, Gill Sorg and Sharon Thomas on their impressive victories," Gonzales said. "Democrats are organizing in all regions of New Mexico, continuing the movement Obama built in 2008, and we are well-positioned to win big again in 2010."

It's true. Pedroza, Sorg and Thomas all won their city council races. And indeed, all three are Democrats.

One little detail Gonzales left out, though. According to Walt Rubel, a former member of the state Capitol press corps who now is editor of the Las Cruces Sun News, in two of those races, the losing candidates also were Democrats. Like Santa Fe and other cities in the state, municipal elections are, officially at least, nonpartisan.

Rubel said the real split in the Cruces council races was progressive Democrats vs. more conservative "pro-business" Democrats. In all three races, the progressives won.

But had Dolores Archuleta defeated Pedroza and/or Gil Jones beat Sorg, Gonzales could have written the same news release — and just changed the names.

Come to your census: The envelope had a serious message in bold black letters: "Do Not Destroy. Official Document." Inside was a document that kind of resembled tax forms or the statements from the Social Security Administration. "2009 Congressional District Census" it said. It even had a "Census Tracking Code" — No. N09P1053 to be exact.

But it wasn't from the U.S. Census. The "Special Notice" at the top of the page said, "You have been selected to represent Republican voters in New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District. Enclosed please find documents registered in your name."

The funny thing is, the person it was registered to was Earl Potter, a Santa Fe lawyer who happens to be a former state Democratic Party chairman.

Along with the "census" document — which turns out to be a written poll on several national issues — was a letter from National Republican Committee chairman Michael Steele, who told Potter, "Because of your high level of political involvement and steadfast commitment to the Republican Party, your personal input on the questions presented in your Census Document is critical to our party's future."

Potter assured me he's still a Democrat. He also didn't fill out the "census" questions, which I guess jeopardizes the future of the GOP.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Shots in the Booze Battle

In today's paper I previewed what's bound to be a big battle in next year's Legislature -- a move to increase the state excise tax on alcoholic beverages.

According to lobbyist Ed Mahr, to whom I spoke yesterday, the state hasn't raised this tax since 1994. But between the increases that year and the year before, the tax went up by 100 percent he said. As the story points out, New Mexico is in the top 10 states for taxes on beer and wine and in the top 20 for distilled spirits. (There's also a tax on "fortified" wine, which is higher, but hardly anyone ever talks about this, I supposed because winos don't vote.)

"In a recession, it's a bad idea to raise any tax. Things are tough out there for businesses. The excise taxes here are too big already," Mahr said.

But Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, argues that his "dime-a-drink" proposal won't have that big of an effect. "If you are going out with your friends to have three or four beers — with a designated driver, of course — you're not going to stay home just because it's going to cost you an extra 40 cents," he said.

Whoever's right, it should be an interesting showdown. The real winners might be the broadcast industry. The last time the state gave serious consideration to raising alcohol taxes (2003) a national liquor industry group waged a radio campaign against the idea.