Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Everyone's a Front-runner

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 1, 2010


So who’s the front-runner in the Republican gubernatorial primary?

If you look at a recent poll by Dialing Services LLC, it’s Pete Domenici Jr. That automated telephone survey (robo-poll, as they’re called) of 2,250 likely Republican voters on March 22 showed lawyer Domenici with 30 percent of the vote.

Runner-up was Allen Weh, former state GOP chairman, with 21 percent. Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez came in with 17 percent, Albuquerque public relations man Doug Turner had 8.5 percent and State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones had 4.5 percent.

All the calls for this poll were made between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m. I bet those robots were tired after that! The poll claims a 2 percent margin of error.

One caveat though. And it’s a big one. This poll was commissioned by the Domenici campaign. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but you’ve always got to take polls commissioned by campaigns with more than a few grains of salt.

Domenici’s poll came on the heels of another poll — this one independently done by Rasmussen Reports.

This one wasn’t measuring the horse race in the primary. Instead, it looked at matchups between each of the five GOP candidates against Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is unchallenged in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In these results was a surprise: Dark Horse Turner did better against Denish than the other Republicans. Denish beat him 43 percent to 34 percent — 9 percentage points. Rasmussen said Denish beat Weh 45 to 35 percent, a 10-point margin.

In the other matchups, Denish led Domenici by 17 percentage points (52 percent to 35 percent); Martinez by 19 points (51 to 32); and Arnold Jones by 22 percentage points (52 to 30).
In a news release, Rasmussen noted, “None of the GOP primary contenders draws more than 35 percent support against the two-term lieutenant governor.” Of course, it’s a long way to November.

Rasmussen’s poll is based on interviews with 500 likely voters in the state on March 24. The margin of error for this poll is 4.5 percent.

But just a month before these polls, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling (a Democratic pollster) robo-called 990 New Mexico voters Feb. 18-20. Results showed Domenici running best against Denish. He was only 5 points behind her. Denish beat the rest of the GOP by 14 to 18 percentage points.

The state Republican Party last month blasted the “liberal data” from a “Democratic firm.” But the Dem poll showed the race closer in some matchups than the independent Rasmussen reported.

Public Policy Polling attributed Domenici’s stronger showing to name identification. (His dad was a U.S. senator for 36 years and made a few headlines during that time.)

But maybe there’s another explanation: Perhaps the robots doing the robo calls prefer Domenici.

Speaking of political families: As I reported earlier this week, the state Public Regulation Commission hired Johnny Montoya as its chief of staff.

Montoya, who has worked for the agency for two years, is the husband of state Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley, and therefore related to PRC Commissioner David King (who is Rhonda King’s cousin), not to mention Attorney General Gary King, who is cousin to Rhonda and David and son of the late former Gov. Bruce King.

But that’s not the only former governor to whom Montoya is related.

“I’m from Las Cruces,” Montoya told me Tuesday. “Jerry Apodaca first brought me to Santa Fe. I’m also related to him.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Johnny Montoya New PRC Chief

Johnny Montoya, the husband of state Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley, has been hired as the interim chief of staff for the state Public Regulation Commission.

Montoya, 44 will replace Danny Mayfield, who is resigning to run for a Santa Fe County Commission. Mayfield's resignation is effective today.

Montoya told me Tuesday he's aware that his ties to one of the state's most prominent political families will raise some eyebrows. But he said he hopes people will consider his qualifications such as his years of experience in the corporate world as well as government.

"I'm not in this for the money," Montoya said. "I like public service."

He's also related to PRC Commissioner David King, who is Rhonda's cousin.

Read the whole story HERE

Monday, March 29, 2010

Herrera vs. Espinoza


In case you missed my story Saturday about the ethics investigation Secretary of State Mary Herrera's office is conducting concerning Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, it's HERE.

Basically Herrera's office is checking into a citizen complaint (the citizen happens to be a Herrera contributor, but that never means anything, according to politicians) that Espinoza didn't file any campaign finance report for her short-lived campaign to challenge Herrera.

Espinoza's official response is that she collected less than the $2,500 minimum that would require a report.

I didn't reach Espinoza on Friday (called her wrong cell phone number). But she called me over the weekend.

First she said she believes the investigation is vindictiveness on the part of Herrera. Espinoza has been harshly critical of the SOS. which is why she was considering a run for office.


She also says that while she did open a bank account, she only deposited one token dollar. She says she never received any campaign contributions from others.

By the way, I did a double take when I saw that among the documents submitted with the complaint was a print-out of a post from this blog.

The Rasmussen Poll

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the Democrats' nominee for governor, beats all five of her Republican opponents in a new poll by the Rasmussen Company.

Among the GOP field, Doug Turner scores best. Denish's lead over him is only 9 percentage points -- 43 percent to 34 percent. She beats Allen Weh 45 to 35 percent.

As both Turner and Weh have noted in news releases over the weekend, in these match-ups Denish scores less than 50 percent.

According to Rasmussen, Denish leads Pete Domenici, Jr. by 17 percentage points (52 percent - 35 percent); Susanna Martinez by 19 points (51-32); and Janice Arnold Jones by 22 percentage point (52-30 percent.)


Rasmussen interviewed 500 likely voters in the state on March 24. The margin of error for the survey is 4.5 percent.

Rasmussen notes, "None of the GOP primary contenders draws more than 35% support against the two-term lieutenant governor." Of course, it's a long way to November. The numbers indicate that relatively few have strong opinions of the Republican candidates, which indicates they aren't that well known. That'll change, especially after the primary.

In other poll questions, the bad news for Gov. Bill Richardson is only 39 percent approve of his job performance, while 58 percent disapprove. The good news is that these numbers are better than last month's PPP poll, which showed a 28 percent approval rating (with 63 percent disapproving.)

On national issues, 53 percent of the New Mexicans polled by Rasmussen favor the Health Care reforms passed by Congress, while 44 percent disapprove.

President Obama remains popular here, according to Rasmussen. 54 percent approve of the way he's handling the job while 46 percent disapprove.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Enjoy the Comedy Team of Tom Udall & Ben Ray Lujan

Udall's a Ninja?



And here's the video by Sen. Al Franken to which Udall and Lujan were alluding. (It's pretty obvious that Franken has a little more experience in the realm of comedy, but our guys' video is pretty funny too) :

Meanwhile, Back in New Hampshire

Former Gov. Gary Johnson Former Gov. Gary Johnson -- "honorary chairman" of Our America, the Gary Johnson Initiative -- is going back to the Granite State next week.

He'll be giving a bunch of speeches around the state, including the monthly Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford (I covered one of those a few years ago when another New Mexico governor was the featured guest .)

That particular speech is on April Fool's Day, so beware of rubber eggs.

He'll also be in Boston for a speech sponsored by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

In case you're in New England next week, here's Johnson's complete schedule:

Monday, March 29th

7:00pm – 9:00pm New Hampshire Institute of Politics Speech: Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH

Tuesday, March 30th

12:15pm – 1:15pm : American Constitution Society Speech: Franklin Pierce Law Center, Concord, NH

6:00pm – 8:30pm : University of New Hampshire Speech, sponsored by YAL (Young Americans for Liberty) and NORML: Durham, NH

Wednesday, March 31st

4:00pm – 5:30pm: Suffolk University Speech, sponsored by NORML: Boston, Mass.

Thursday, April 1st

8:00am – 10:00am: Politics and Eggs: Bedford, NH

5:30pm – 8:30pm: Grafton County Lincoln Day Dinner: Lincoln, NH.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Richardson's Final Legislative Action

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 25, 2010


The biggest news to come out of Gov. Bill Richardson's Wednesday news conference, of course, was the fact that he was vetoing the food tax. But to me, the most striking thing he said was, "Today I'm taking my final legislative action as governor."

His final legislative action as governor.

It's true. He can't seek a third term, so — barring any unexpected special session between now and Dec. 31 — the tax bill, Senate Bill 10, is the last bill that Richardson will ever act upon.

And as far as special sessions go, Richardson said he doesn't think any more special sessions will be necessary. He made a very astute observation, saying, "The public doesn't want another special session. The legislators don't want another special session. I don't want another special session."

So, this was Bill Richardson's final bill action.

The last of many memorable signings.
Bill Signs a Bill
The first major bill he ever signed as governor was a huge public event. It was Valentine's Day 2003. In a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, Richardson signed his first tax-cut bill, reducing personal income taxes for the highest income brackets. Attending the ceremony were leaders of both parties.

Just a couple of weeks later, Richardson returned to the Rotunda to sign a bill returning state employees the right to collective bargaining through unions. This signing was even more festive as state workers, many wearing the green T-shirts of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, filled the ground floor of the Roundhouse to cheer and praise the governor.

Most of the bill signings in the years that followed didn't take place in the Rotunda. But some such events up in the fourth-floor Cabinet room were so crowded it might have been a good idea to have it in a larger place.

Typically, the bill signings were packed with public officials, advocates and members of groups that had pushed certain legislation all gathered around the oversized marble table. Almost everyone there would be recognized to give a short statement that usually began, "I just want to thank the governor ..."

Some of them were kind of fun. When Richardson signed a couple of bills dealing with dogs in 2005, then-Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez brought his dog Dukes, then just a puppy. Sometimes they were somber, like last year when Richardson signed the bill repealing the death penalty. When the governor said he'd agonized over the bill, he was entirely credible.

One of his best Richardson "bill signings" was a fantasy I made up myself in this very column in 2005.

"... this time it's not anti-driving-while-intoxicated activists or election-reform advocates or animal-rights crusaders who crowd into the room.

"No, this is the official signing of Senate Bill 384, which would allow the state Gaming Control Board to grant gambling licenses to people and organizations that have had their gaming licenses revoked in other states. Dozens of disgraced casino operators, crooked racetrack owners, card sharks, con men and shady ladies from around the country have come to take turns saying, 'I'd just like to thank the governor.' "


No, that never really happened. Richardson vetoed that bill the very day that column was published. Though I'd like to believe my golden prose made a difference, I assume he'd made up his mind to veto the before he saw the column.

I'm sure we haven't seen the final news conference with Bill Richardson up on the fourth floor. He's still got nine months in office, and he's promised to be active for the rest of his term.

But Richardson's "final legislative action as governor" Wednesday is a poignant reminder that the Richardson era rapidly is coming to an end.

Not Everyone is Applauding the Veto

Don't tax my tortillasWhile Gov. Richardson's veto of the food tax won accolades from several -- including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and New Mexico Voices of Children, not everyone was happy.

State Senate Majority Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, released the following statement:

“I am surprised that the governor has decided to take this action. Had he indicated three weeks ago that he would not support the legislation we would have taken a different approach. He was involved every step of the way. At no time during the special session did he raise any objections. He was very clear about what he wouldn’t support which is why the legislative and executive compromise we crafted didn’t include an income tax increase or a requirement that all corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

“The governor’s veto today puts the state’s financial future at even greater peril. His approach to balancing the budget relies heavily on general fund reserves and federal stimulus money. While this may work in the short-term and carry him through the end of his term, these are one-time revenue sources. Unless the economy drastically improves, the next governor will have to take action to raise recurring revenue for our state’s budget or make cuts that will impair services to New Mexicans.

“This action is unprecedented in the state’s history. The legislature will look at all appropriate action if it determines the governor has overstepped his veto authority.”


UPDATE: Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos just sent the following response to Sanchez's statement:

“If Senator Sanchez wants to defend the tax on food, that’s his prerogative.”

Gov. Richardson's Food-Tax Veto Message

As you've probably heard, Gov. Bill Richardson has vetoed the food tax.

Here's a copy of his official message to the Legislature. (Sorry the copy is crooked.) The gov doesn't really get going on his reasons for the veto until the bottom of page 2.

As Richardson points out, this is his final action on any legislation -- at least barring any unforeseen special session. At his news conference this morning Richardson said he sees no need for a special session.

Veto Message Food Tax

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Petition Deadline Day: Damron, Anaya Drop Out

Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya decided not to file petition signatures to get on the ballot for state Land Commissioner. Likewise, Santa Fe doctor J.R. Damron, who was a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, decided to get out of his race.

"It just wasn't my time," Anaya told me. Anaya came in fourth place at the March 13 Democratic pre-primary convention. He got about 17 percent of the vote, missing the cut-off mark of 20 percent.

Anaya said he'd be backing former Land Commissioner Ray Powell in the primary. Powell, who won 44 percent of the delegates at the pre-primary, faces another Santa Fe County commissioner, Harry Montoya as well as Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones in the Democratic primary. Both Montoya and Jones missed the 20-percent threshold at the pre-primary, but both filed petitions today get on the ballot.

Damron said his single-digit showing at the GOP pre-primary convention was enough to convince him to drop his race.

In 2006 Damron was the only Republican candidate in the gubernatorial primary. But he dropped out and former state GOP Chairman John Dendahl took his place. Dendahl went on to lose against Democrat Bill Richardson in a landslide race.

Damron said he likes all three Republican candidates for lieutenant governor. Those are former state Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton, state Sen. Kent Cravens of Albuquerque and former Rep. John Sanchez, who was the 2002 GOP candidate for governor.

In other races there were few surprises. In the Republican race for governor, Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, public relations company owner Doug Turner and lawyer Pete Domenici, Jr. all filed petitions to get on the ballot. All three are from Albuquerque. They will join Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez and former party chairman Allen Weh, who got enough votes at their pre-primary convention to get on the ballot.

In the Democratic lieutenant governor primary, state Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez filed petitions. Already on the ballot are former state party chairman Brian Colon, longtime government administrator Lawrence Rael and state Rep. Joe Campos of Santa Rosa.

In the Republican land commissioner primary, Bob Cornelius of Tatum filed petitions Tuesday. He'll be on the ballot against Matthew Rush, the only candidate who got more than 20 percent of the GOP pre-primary delegates.

Meanwhile, Jim Jackson, even though he already have enough signatures to get on the ballot, told me he decided not to pursue the nomination. He blamed it on finances. The other GOP candidate Spiro Vassiloplos didn't submit petitions today.

UPDATE: I also should mention that Adam Kokesh of Santa Fe submitted petition signatures to get on the Republican primary ballot in the 3rd Congressional District race. He'll be running against Tom Mullins of Farmington, who got more than 80 percent of the pre-primary convention vote.

Richardson Leaning Toward Vetoing Food Tax

That's what the Associated Press' Barry Massey is reporting. Barry's quoting Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.

There's no details on how the state would make up for the $68 million in revenue the food tax would provide.

There has been a legal question as to whether or not the governor could use his line-item veto power on the tax bill.

Meanwhile, the governor has scheduled a news conference tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Tomorrow is the deadline for signing the budget and tax bills that came out of the special session of the Legislature.

At Least 27 Dem House Members Have GOP Challengers

While I'm waiting to see which candidates who didn't make the cut-off at the pre-primaries file petitions today, I'll pass along this press release from the state Republican Party.

Seems the GOP, which frequently fails to field a significant number of legislative candidates, is going to try to make a race of it this year. (Last week I wrote that in Santa Fe, Reps. Lucky Varela and Brian Egolf have primary opponents -- Bob Walsh and Brigette Ford Russell respectively.

But there's more:

Last Tuesday, Republicans filed as challengers in 27 seats currently occupied by Democrat incumbents in New Mexico’s House of Representatives. This is the largest number of seats the party has targeted in a decade. In contrast, Democrats filed as challengers in only 8 seats currently held by Republicans. Further, in one seat which was abandoned by a Republican who is running for governor, (Rep. Janice Arnold Jones of Albuquerque ) no Democrat filed as a candidate leaving the sole Republican who did file as the automatic winner without an election contest.

While the Democrats are challenging only 8 Republican House members, Democrats challengers have filed to run against 10 Democrat incumbents.
One of those, of course, is House Speaker Ben Lujan, who is facing Carl Trujillo in the primary.

Raw! Uncensored! The Shocking E-mails Mary Herrera Did Not Want You to See!

If only they were that sensational ...

I got pristine copies of some of the e-mails that were completely blacked out in the versions provided to to reporters in last Friday's 400-plus page document dump by the Secretary of State's Office.

Read my latest story HERE.

I'm still trying to figure out which exception under the Inspection of Public Records Act justified the redacting of these letters.

Even more so, I'm completely baffled as to why these letters would be blacked out at all.

The content of a Feb. 15 e-mail from Santa Fe County elections director Denise Lamb — sent Feb. 15 to Herrera, recently resigned Elections Bureau direcor A.J. Salazar, Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo and others — was completely redacted by Herrera's office.

A copy of the letter provided by Lamb shows that the e-mail simply said the Santa Fe County Clerk had "exhausted" its supply of registration forms in Spanish. Lamb was requesting 500 more copies from the secretary of state.

Granted, other e-mails between the two offices provided by Lamb show an increasing frustration on Lamb's part in trying to obtain various forms from the SOS. Under a new policy, all form requests for county clerks have to be approved by Trujillo.

But the e-mail from Lamb that was completely redacted is a simple request for 500 new Spanish-language voter forms.

Then there were Feb. 13 e-mails from Think New Mexico officials. They were trying to get Herrera's endorsement of a bill dealing with campaign contributions that the think tank was pushing.

In that e-mail to Salazar, Think New Mexico director Fred Nathan basically talks up the bill and notes that several other state officials were supporting it.

An e-mail that same day from Associate Director Kristina Gray Fisher is even more mundane. She merely tells Salazar she's attaching an electronic copy of the campaign finance bill.

And yet, the SOS decided to completely black it out.

While these cases of innocuous messages being blacked out do seem funny, they raise serious questions about how well the Secretary of State understands the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

R.I.P. Stewart Udall


Stewart Udall, the last surviving member of the original Kennedy cabinet, father of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and a resident of Santa Fe, is dead.

Here is the statement from the Udall Family:


Former Interior Secretary Stewart Lee Udall, 90, father of Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., passed away peacefully this morning at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, surrounded by family.

Following a fall last week, Udall, who had been in failing health, was confined to his bed and died of natural causes.

Stewart Udall was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Erma Lee Udall. He is survived by their six children; Tom, Scott, Lynn, Lori, Denis and Jay, and their families, including eight grandchildren.

A “Celebration of Life” memorial will be held later this year in Santa Fe. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the following organizations: Santa Fe Pro Musica, Santa Fe Conservation Trust, and Think New Mexico.


Stewart L. Udall was born in St. John’s, Arizona on January 31, 1920 to former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Levi S. Udall and Louise Lee Udall. He attended the University of Arizona where he earned undergraduate and law degrees.

During World War II, Stewart served four years in the United States Air Force as a gunner. He flew fifty missions over Western Europe for which he received the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

In 1954, Stewart was elected to serve Arizona’s second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to serve four terms in the Congress.

In 1960, he proved instrumental in helping persuade Arizona Democrats to support then-Senator John F. Kennedy during the Democratic Nomination Convention. Upon election in 1960, President Kennedy appointed Stewart Udall Secretary of Interior, where his accomplishments under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson made him an icon in the environmental and conservation communities.

Legislative achievements from Secretary Udall’s cabinet career include The Wilderness Act of 1964, The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the expansion of the National Park System and the creation of The Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Until his passing, Stewart Udall continued his devotion to public service as an author, historian, scholar, lecturer, environmental activist, lawyer and citizen of the outdoors. He was the last surviving member of President Kennedy’s original cabinet.

Redact-apalooza


Be careful what you ask for. You might receive it at 4 p.m. on a Friday.

That was the case with the classic document dump by the Secretary of State's office yesterday. Reporters had requested documents including e-mails from recently resigned Elections Bureau director A.J. Salazat in his final weeks in office.

The price tag for the batch of 400-plus pages was more than $100.

Sounds like a lot, but Magic Marker ain't cheap. And the copies made for reporters used a lot more toner than your normal document. A good majority of the e-mails were redacted -- in some cases even the subject line was marked out.

Read my story about it HERE

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BasketBill


Gov. Bill Richardson continued what might be called his “basketball tour” Thursday.
The governor traveled to San Jose, Calif. to root for the University of New Mexico Men’s basketball team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the University of Montana Grizzlies.

“I am so proud of this team and everything they’ve accomplished this season, and I want to be in the stands tonight cheering them on as they take their record breaking season to the next level,” Richardson said in a news release. “I wish the players, Coach Alford and the entire staff the best as they take to the national stage and show everyone what we mean when we say ‘We are New Mexico.’”

Last week Richardson and First Lady Barbara Richardson went to Las Vegas, Nev. to support the Lobos in the 2010 Mountain West Conference Tournament. In that game UNM lost to San Diego State in the tournament’s semifinals.

Richardson is scheduled to return to New Mexico today.

Roundhouse Round-Up: SF County GOP for Gay Rights?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 18, 2010


I normally don't pay a lot of attention to political party platforms. That's OK, neither do the parties.

But a news release this week from the Santa Fe County Republican Party made me do a double take.

It was about a series of proposed amendments to the state GOP platform.

"Presently, the state Republican platform supports vigorous enforcement of Civil Rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, handicap, religion, and national origin," the release said. "The Santa Fe County Party ... recommended adding sexual orientation to this list."

Say what?

"The county party also showed their support of 'civil unions,' " the news release continued. In fact, they also proposed taking out a sentence in the state platform that says, "We support a Constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman."

The county GOP's executive committee made a presentation of these proposals and others at the state pre-primary convention last weekend.

I called the new county chairman, Paul Morrison, on Wednesday to ask about this position. "Why are you surprised that Republicans would be in favor of equal rights?" he asked.

Well, in the Legislature there has been virtually no GOP support for domestic-partnership bills. (In 2008, two House Republicans — Reps. Justine Fox-Young of Albuquerque and Kathy McCoy of Cedar Crest — voted for such a bill, but no other Republicans did.) And don't forget that in the 2004 presidential race, national Republicans successfully used "gay marriage" as a wedge issue against the Democrats.

But Morrison said, "Our position is that we believe in freedom and liberty for everybody. We tried to make the case that people don't choose (to be homosexual), they're born that way. Why not give them the same rights as everyone else?"

Morrison, a retired insurance executive in his 70s, is no Santa Fe liberal. He scorns "progressives and socialists" who say the Constitution is a "living document." He says people in true need should receive assistance, but not those "too lazy to ... help themselves." Morrison says he's probably more libertarian-leaning than most Republicans. "We're trying to make people feel free to join the Republican Party," he said.

The county party also proposed striking a reference to "the pre-born" from a section of the state platform.

"We weren't making a stand on abortion," Morrison said. "None of us favor abortion." But he said that some in the party don't think men should be making decisions about a woman's body. "We want to make the sanctity of life more inclusive," he said. By changing the platform to say the party believes in protecting the sanctity of life until natural death — without mentioning the unborn — leaves room for those who feel life begins at conception as well as those who think life begins at birth.

Unsurprisingly, the GOP convention voted overwhelmingly against the Santa Fe County GOP's proposed changes — though Morrison said several delegates privately told him they were sympathetic but afraid to speak out.

The Dems have been far more aggressive in the gay-rights area. Their state Central Committee last year adopted a platform plank going well beyond domestic partnerships, calling on Democrats to actively push laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Of course nobody's introduced any same-sex-marriage bill. In fact, more than a third of state Senate Democrats joined Republicans to vote against a domestic-partnership bill last year.

R.I.P. David Salman: Flags in the state are at half-mast today and Friday for rancher, raspberry farmer and former House Majority Leader David Salman, who died Feb. 28 at the age of 74.

It's true that back in the '70s Salman once called reporters "illegitimate, ignorant progeny of warthogs." But when I interviewed him a few years ago about the medical marijuana bill he successfully passed in 1978, he was very kind, intelligent and funny.

There will be a memorial service for Salman in the Capitol Rotunda from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Joe Campos Now on Lt. Gov. Ballot

This just in from the state Democratic Party:

State Rep. Joe Campos, D-Santa Rosa, who everyone thought had fallen just a bit short of the magic 20 percent mark need to get on the ballot for lieutenant governor, will be on the ballot after all.

Here's the news release I just received:
DEM LT. GOV. FORUM
Albuquerque, NM- The Democratic Party of New Mexico today announced that after thorough review of the rules of the party and the State of New Mexico Election Handbook, Representative Campos received 20% of the votes cast in the Lt. Governor convention vote. The ruling of the Chair was further supported by a unanimous vote of the DPNM Judicial Committee, 10-0, in favor of recommending the ruling of the Chairman. Representatives from the Rael, Colon and Ortiz y Pino campaigns all stated after the decision that they respected the ruling and would seek no further challenge.

Please see the Major Fractions Rule:

1-1-20. Major fractions

In any place in the Election Code [1-1-1 NMSA 1978] requiring counting or computation of numbers, any fraction or decimal greater than one-half of a whole number shall be counted as a whole number. [p. 10, Election Handbook of the State of New Mexico]

Joe Campos received 19.69%, which in accordance to the rule is rounded to 20%.

"This is exactly why the Democratic Party of New Mexico waits three days before certifying, so everyone can thoroughly review the rules and make the right call," said former Chairman and DPNM pro-bono legal counsel John Wertheim. “In this case, the law is clear, and we’re pleased that the other candidates voiced their support and respect for Chairman Gonzales’ ruling.”

"I am very pleased with success and record participation at the pre-primary convention. We are the party of inclusion and look forward to supporting all of our Democratic candidates," said Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales.

DPNM action on the convention is complete. The vote will be certified and the three names submitted to the Secretary of State for inclusion on the primary ballot are as follows: Brian Colon, Lawrence Rael and Jose Campos.

The below, final vote tally will be certified today.

Lt. Governor

Ortiz y Pino: 323 votes 18.87%
Jose Campos: 337 votes 19.69%
Brian Colon: 591 votes 34.54%
Linda Lopez: 81 votes 4.73%
Lawrence Rael: 379 votes 22.15%


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dem Lt. Gov Recount Done ...

And no change.

From state Democratic Party spokesman James Hallinan, here's the final count:

Brian Colon- 591 delegate votes for 34.54%
Lawrence Rael- 379 for 22.15%
Joe Campos- 337 for 19.69%
Jerry Ortiz y Pino 323 for 18.87%
Linda Lopez 81 for 4.73%

A Look at Saturday's Democratic Pre-Primary Convention

Here's my story in The New Mexican on Saturday's Democratic Pre-primary Convention at Buffalo Thunder Resort in Pojoaque Pueblo: CLICK HERE.

In it I examine whether the recent controversies coming out of the Secretary of State's Office -- namely recently-resigned Elections Bureau director A.J. Salazar's accusations of ethics and election code violations -- could end up affecting Diane Denish's race for governor by providing fodder for Republicans beating the anti-corruption drum.

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino thinks so. "It puts a pallor on the party," he said. "People are going to say, 'There go the Democrats again.' "

But State Treasurer James Lewis thinks not. "She is hardworking and dedicated," Lewis told me said. "She'll do well."

Denish meanwhile said she believes the allegations should be thoroughly investigated. But she said, "We're all running independent races," she said. "This campaign is about jobs and the economy."

I don't think we've heard the last of this discussion.

XXXXXXX

Democrats stopped the hand count of ballots about 9 p.m. Saturday and will resume today. The main issue there are whether state Rep. Joe Campos will find the extra vote he needs to reach the magic 20 mpercent mark to get his name on the ballot.

Similarly, Santa Fe County Commissioner, who received more than 19 percent of the vote in the Land Commission race, is trying to find the few more votes in the recount he needs to get on the ballot.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Results of Democratic Pre-Primary

Lieutenant Governor

Brian Colon 34.3 percent
Lawrence Rael 21.9 percent
Joe Campos 19.9 percent
Jerry Ortiz y Pino 18.6 percent
Linda Lopez 5 percent

Land Commissioner

Ray Powell 44.4 percent
Harry Montoya 19.32
Sandy Jones 18.6
Mike Anaya 17.6

"Convention was a Great Success"

A Democrat e-mailed me this Pete Domenici, Jr. flyer allegedly found at the Republican pre-primary convention in Albuquerque.

Towards the bottom it says the 2010 convention was a "great success."

Domenici got less than 5 percent of the delegate vote at the convention.


Domenici Jr Convention Flyer

Friday, March 12, 2010

Herrera Fights Back

Secretary of State has hired veteran Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman to help her respond to the charges in A.J. Salazar's resignation letter.

Well, not actually to respond to the charges, but to make charges of her own.

Salazar wasn't concerned about ethics, Bregman said. He was just mad because he didn't get the days off he wanted. Bregman supplied an e-mail exchange between Herrera and Salazar, the day before Salazar resigned to bolster that argument.

Salazar denies it, saying Bregman's charges just show evidence of retaliation by Herrera, which Salazar alluded to in his resignation.

Looks like this is going to get even uglier by the time its over.

On Saturday Democrats will endorse Herrera at their pre-primary convention at Buffalo Thunder resort. She has no primary opposition and will face Republican Dianna Duran in the November general election.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Salazar's Resignation Letter

Here's a copy of A.J. Salazar's resignation letter (thanks Rio Grande Sun).

Besides the allegations that already have been reported, Salazar accuses Herrera of refusing to discipline an IT employee who allegedly hacked into the SOS computer system because he's married to a "political supporter."

He also says Herrera has failed to protect the chain of custody of voting machines and there is a lack of security in the machines' storage.

Salazar also says that during the recent legislative session Herrera's office asked that a bill the SOS had been supporting, to provide more transparency in the Confidential Address program, be tabled.

And he claims that Herrera has retaliated against him.

SOS spokesman James Flores said he doesn't know whether the office will be commenting on the letter.

Here's the letter. Watch Friday's New Mexican for more.

Salazar Resignation Letter

Massa Tickles, Richardson Headlocks


Somehow I never figured that our governor would end up in a national publication's discussion of the Rep. Eric Massa saga.

But this piece in The Atlantic by reporter Marc Armbinder tickled my interest.

Former Rep. Eric Massa's description of tickle fights in his office reminded me of my own brush with powerful men and their wandering hands.When I was a cub reporter for the Harvard Crimson, I attended a 1999 Democratic primary debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley. The then-Vice President had asked several cabinet secretaries to attend the event as his surrogates. After the debate ended, I approached the Secretary of Education, a genial man named Richard Riley, and asked for his impressions.

After I had identified myself, Riley reached out his right arm and proceeded to tickle me in the Pillsbury dough boy-style. Then, he answered my question. A few moments later, I walked up to the Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson. Same scenario. I identified myself as a reporter with the Crimson. Richardson proceeded to put me in a headlock. Then he answered my question.

I wasn't sure if there was an epidemic of personal space violation virus in the Cabinet -- I had to make the connection at the time to the president's imbroglio with an intern -- or whether my slightly pudgy body type and earnest college newspaper mannerisms invited these powerful, heterosexual men to grope and grab at me. I was, to say the least, amused. Richardson, I later learned, was touchy-feely by nature.


For the record, Richardson has never attempted to put me in a headlock.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Food Tax Rumblings

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 11, 2010


I've heard rumblings that some delegates for Saturday's Democratic Party pre-primary convention at Pojoaque Pueblo's Buffalo Thunder Resort aren't happy about how some lieutenant governor candidates voted in the Legislature last week on reinstating a state tax on groceries.

While tax-hating/tax-baiting is generally the purview of Republicans, lots of Democrats — especially progressives — oppose taxing food because the burden falls harder on lower-income people, who spend a bigger percentage of their income on food.

But all three of the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor who are legislators voted — directly or indirectly — to raise the food tax during last week's special session.

Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez, both Albuquerque Democrats, voted March 2 vote against an amendment to Senate Bill 10 that would have deleted the section on raising the food tax.

Over in the House, Rep. Joe Campos, D-Santa Rosa, voted March 3 in favor of tabling an amendment on SB 10 that would have deleted the section on raising the food tax. A "yes" vote on that tabling motion had the effect of killing the amendment, thus keeping the food-tax increase in the bill.

Not voting on the bill were lieutenant governor candidates Brian Colón and Lawrence Rael. They have a good excuse. They aren't in the Legislature.

On the Republican side, Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, an Albuquerque Republican running for governor, voted against tabling the anti-food-tax amendment, while in the Senate, fellow Albuquerque Republican Kent Cravens voted for the amendment that would have axed the food tax.

This shouldn't be a matter of contention at the GOP pre-primary convention in Albuquerque this Saturday. All five gubernatorial candidates have come out against the food tax. I'm pretty sure the GOP's other lieutenant governor candidates won't be criticizing Cravens for his vote.
NM Legislature 2010
Meanwhile, back at Buffalo Thunder: Lt. Gov. Diane Denish isn't worried about what her primary opponents are saying about her — because she doesn't have any.

On the matter of the food tax, she told reporters at a news conference last week that she was against reinstating the tax on food because, she said, it's regressive.

But, when asked by reporters, she wouldn't say whether she'd veto the food tax if she were governor.

In fairness, it's not an easy question. Gov. Bill Richardson, who also says he hates the food tax, is wrestling with the issue.

There's some legal question as to whether any governor has the right to line-item veto that portion of the tax bill. As Barry Massey of The Associated Press explained this week, "At issue is whether the tax bill appropriates money. Under the state Constitution, the governor can make line-item vetoes only in appropriations bills."

And even if SB 10 ultimately is deemed an appropriations bill, whether to veto still can't be an easy decision. If the food tax is vetoed from the bill, whoever is governor will have to find a way to make up for the estimated $68 million in revenue that the food tax would generate.

Even so, you've got to admire the spunk of a suggestion by GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez. In an e-mail to supporters and reporters Monday, she blasted Denish for not taking advantage of Richardson's trip to Window Rock, Ariz., for a few hours last week.

"Just last week, Denish was acting Governor," Martinez said in the letter. "As acting Governor, she even signed legislation.

"So, that raises this question: If Denish is so opposed to the food tax, and she was acting governor, why didn't she take the opportunity to show real leadership and VETO the food tax increase?"

Just think of the political uproar that move would have caused. Whether or not it would have been a wise move, it sure would have been a fun story to cover.

NM Legislature 2010
(Above: Acting Gov. Diane Denish signs a bill -- but doesn't veto food tax)

New SIC Members All Richardson Contributors

Gov. Bill Richardson today appointed his new members of the troubled State Investment Council. They are former interim state Treasurer Doug Brown — who Richardson appointed in 2005 to replace Robert Vigil who resigned in the face of a kickback scandal — and Santa Fe banker Catherine Allen will become the “public members” appointed by the governor.

Richardson re-appointed David Harris, currently a vice president at the University of New Mexico, to represent higher education on the council.

One thing all three appointments have in common: According to records kept by Followthemoney.org and OpenSecrets.org, all three have contributed thousand of dollars to Richardson’s campaigns, both gubernatorial and presidential.

Allen has contributed more than $17,000 to Richardson’s gubernatorial races, plus $4,600 to his 2008 presidential campaign. ($2,300 of that, which was earmarked for the general election, was refunded, as is the law for contributions to candidates who don’t make it past the primaries.)

Brown also gave the governor more than $17,000 for his two state races and $4,600 to Richardson ‘08 campaign, $2,300 of which was refunded.

Harris gave Richardson’s 2006 campaign $2,500 and his presidential campaign $2,300.

Allen and Brown also have contributed thousands to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s campaigns through the years. Allen has contributed more than $10,600 to Denish, who is running for governor this year. Brown has contributed $1,500 to Denish.

Asked about the contributions, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Wednesday, “They all have stellar reputations in the community and extensive financial experience that make them ideal for a seat on the State Investment Council. In addition, both Brown (who is a Republican) and Harris have served the state in various ways with distinction. Harris, of course, has served in Democratic and Republican administrations.”

More on the appointments in Thursday's New Mexican.

Final Bill Action

Gov. Bill Richardson today signed a bill to all people with concealed-carry licenses to take their weapons into restaurants with beer and wine licenses.

“My decision to sign this bill came after much contemplation and thought. I heard strong opinions from both those for and against the bill,” Richardson said in a news release. “As the governor of a western state, I know well the deep feelings that come with such a measure, but I also understand those feelings and beliefs must be tempered by the enactment of certain safeguards.”

Under current state statute and regulation, there's no clear and explicit prohibition on the consumption of alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon, the news release said. Richardson is directing the Department of Public Safety to revise its regulations to make it clear that consumption of alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon is prohibited. He's also encouraging the Legislature to consider measures to make such a prohibition unequivocal in state law.

He also signed SB182, which cancels more than 2,500 stalled capital outlay projects, saving the state an estimated $141 million.

The governor pocket vetoed the Senate's Whistleblower Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park. However, earlier he signed an identical measure by Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces.

Richardson still has a couple of weeks to take action on the bills dealing with the budget and taxes that came out of the special session.

Here's a list of the action he took on bills from the regular session.

Action Date – January 28

HB 1 Feed Bill (partial veto)

Action Date – February 8

HB 64 School Equalization Distribution Date Change


Action Date – February 23

SB 6 Create Additional Judgeships


Action Date - February 26

SB 12 HIV At-Risk Individual Partner Services

SB 32 DWI Chemical Test Fee Increase

SB 41 Notice to Land Grants of Nearby Surveys

SB 226 Magistrate Courts Operations Fund & Fees

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON
Action Date - February 27

HB 112 Las Cruces Tax Increment Project Bonds

HB 165 Whistleblower Protection Act

SB 9 Space Flight Informed Consent Act

SB 95 Las Cruces Tax Increment Project Bonds

SB 279 Colonias Infrastructure Act & Fund


Action Date – March 1

SB 18 Changes to State Investment Bodies

SB 138 Limit Appraisal Management Company Fees


Action Date – March 2

HB 16 Retirement Beneficiary De-selection Option

HB 80 Mining Emergency Notice Appeals

HB 264 Indian Law Institute for Legislators

SB 59 Extend gas Tax Sharing Agreement Terms

SB 120 NMFA Securities Requirements

SB 144 Affordable Housing Tax Credit Use & Vouchers

SB 207 Public Employees Returning to Work


Action Date – March 3

HB 53 Financial Literacy as School Math Requirement

HB 63 HIV Testing for Certain Crimes

HB 81 Petroleum Storage Tank Definition Changes

HB 198 Voting System Maintenance and Storage

HB 207 Interlock Fund Eligibility

HB 233 No Solar Panels as Property Tax Improvements

SB 94 Land Grant Tort Liability Coverage

SB 129 Continue Military & Vets’ Affairs Committee

SB 264 Interim Disabilities Concerns Subcommittee


Action Date – March 4

HB 203 Business Retention Gross Tax & Gaming Tax


Action Date – March 5

HB 90 Native American Schools Dual Credit Program

HB 162 Severance Bonds for Tribal Infrastructure

SB 55 Missing Person & Amber Alert Info & Training

SB 107 Indian Arts & Craft Crime Consistencies

SB 167 Add Domestic Abuse to Missing Persons Info

SB 195 Sunshine Portal Transparency Act


Action Date – March 6

HB 15 Create Eastern NM Water Utility Authority

HB 93 Certain Auto Dealer Acts as Unlawful

SB 58 Certain Auto Dealer Acts as Unlawful


Action Date – March 8

HB 8 Development Training Funds

HB 24 Educational Opportunity for Military Children

HB 25 Online & Phone Driver’s License Renewal

HB 26 Medical-Assistance Home Program Osteopathy

HB 30 Capital Outlay Gross Receipts Restrictions

HB 37 Military Discount for Hunting Licenses

HB 38 Public Project Revolving Loan Fund Projects

HB 56 NMFA Water Fund Projects

HB 74 Charter School Oversight for 1 Year

HB 79 Tobacco Settlement Fund Distribution

HB 101 Nuclear Worker’s Assistance Fund

HB 108 Drinking Water System Financing

HB 109 Human Services Department Contractor Procedures

HB 113 Aquatic Invasive Species Control

HB 114 Postpone Fire Protection Fund Distribution

HB 120 Tax Withholding Changes

HB 127 Qualified Minors on Precinct Boards

HB 131 Consumer Reporting Info Removal for ID Theft

HB 144 Unemployment Contribution Schedule

HB 145 Qualified School Construction Bonds

HB 171 Transport of Dairy Waste for Gas Tax Credit

HB 201 Add Diseases to Tests for Newborns

HB 204 Transportation Services Definitions

HB 205 Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Fraud

HB 216 Medical Insurance Pool High Risk Programs

HB 217 No Abuse In Resident or Care Provider Homes

HB 230 Dyslexic Student Intervention

HB 231 Disclosure of Educational Pension Amounts

HB 239 No Educational Retirement Benefit Adjustments

HB 261 Solar & Wind Energy Equipment Gross Receipts

HB 266 Unexpended Funds for NM Recovery Fund

SB 2 Domestic Violence Household Member Defined

SB 26 Create NM Domestic Violence Commission

SB 47 Economic Development Tax Incentive Changes

SB 60 Hazardous Duty Officers’ Employee Relations

SB 66 Economic Development Revolving Fund Projects

SB 70 Continuing Care Community Consumer Protection

SB 77 State Agency Credit Card Processing Fees

SB 85 School Leadership Institute

SB 87 Delay School Year & Day Length Changes

SB 91 Delay Educational Retirement Contributions

SB 97 School District Budget Flexibility

SB 100 Fire Protection Grants as Volunteer Stipends

SB 137 Alternative Driver’s License Renewal

SB 152 College Student Lists to Credit Companies

SB 162 County Gross Receipts Tax for County Projects

SB 186 Natural Heritage Conservation Act

SB 193 Fishing License For Certain Military Members

SB 200 Public Building Energy Efficiency Standards

SB 201 Electric Generating Facility Gross Receipts

SB 209 Disabled-Accessible Parking Changes

SB 234 County Hospital Gross Receipts Purposes

SB 254 Consideration of Crime Conviction for Jobs


Action Date – March 9

HB 12 Health Insurer Service Reimbursement

HB 208 Oil & Gas Tax to Reclamation Fund

HB 229 Establish Metro Court in Certain Counties

HB 237 Government Restructuring Task Force

HB 269 Utility Right-of-Way Access

SB 1 School Athlete Head Injury Safety Protocols

SB 148 No Use of Gender for Health Insurance Rating

SB 216 Repeal “Guilty But Mentally Ill” Plea


Action Date - March 10

HB 44 Health Education Required for Graduation

HB 68 Public School Capital Outlay Omnibus Bill

HB 69 Reporting of Cohort Graduation Data

HB 70 Educational Data System

HB 71 Mentorship Requirements for Level 1 Teachers

HB 150 Hispanic Education Act

HB 181 Public Utility Definitions & Cost Recovery

HB 227 School Board Finance & Audit Committees

HB 232 Standardized School Finance Reporting Dates

SB 40 Concealed Guns in Certain Restaurants

SB 111 Additional Teacher Evaluation Standards

SB 132 Hispanic Education Act

SB 134 Military Veteran Lottery Scholarship

SB 182 Capital Outlay Reversions for Solvency

SB 190 Public Utility Definitions & Cost Recovery


Vetoed Legislation (March 10)

SB 165 Delay School Athletics Equity Act

Pocket Vetoes

HB 21 School Priority for Certain Students

HB 116 Game & Fish Licenses for Military on Leave

HB 197 Severance Fund Investment in Renewable Energy

HB 247 LFC Oversight of Certain Federal Funds

SB 78 Alternative School Curricular Plans

SB 84 New School Sustainability Features

SB 96 Whistleblower Protection Act

SB 156 Human Services Department Contractor Compensation

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Latest in the Foy Suit

Gary Bland
Former Education Retirement Board investment officer Frank Foy filed an amended version of his whistle-blower lawsuit this week in state district court.

In it, he claims state Finance Secretary Katherine Miller pressured members of the State Investment Council to keep SIC director Gary Bland last October in the days before Bland resigned.

Miller on Tuesday denied the accusation. But backing her up was state Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, a member of the SIC who was actively pushing for a no-confidence vote for Bland. He said that nobody tried to pressure him or any other members he knows of, to keep Bland on the job.

Lyons, a Republican, usually isn't the first to defend the administration of Democrat Bill Richardson. In fact he and Richardson have been on opposite sides of several issues -- including the state investment scandals.

See my story in Wednesday's New Mexican HERE.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Republican Moore Discloses Contributions

Republican lieutenant governor contender Brian Moore has joined the list of state candidates who are disclosing their campaign contributions months ahead of the legal deadline.

You can find that on Moore's Web site HERE . According to those figures, Moore has raised more than $118,000. Of that, $100,000 is a contribution from himself.

His contributors include several Republican legislators including Sens. Clint Harden and Carroll Leavell and Reps. Don Bratton, Don Tripp and Dennis Roche. Former state Land Commissioner Bill Humphries is among Moore's contributors as is Lou Gallegos, former chief of staff for Gov. Gary Johnson.

I was so busy in the lead-up to the special session last week I forgot to mention that GOP gubernatorial hopeful Pete Domenici Jr. also released a list of contributors. He's raised more than $264,000, according to his Web site.

Domenici donated $50,000 of his own money to the campaign. He also got about $40,000 connected to Robert Fiser, an Albuquerque lawyer who has been convicted of tax evasion.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

King says Letter is a Public Document

Attorney General Gary King told me and other reporters Friday that his office believes a letter of resignation from the former state Elections Bureau director is public information — contrary to what the Secretary of State's Office claims.

I'm referring, of course to the "Take this job and shove it" letter from A.J. Salazar, in which Salazar reportedly accuses Secretary of State Mary Herrera of violating New Mexico's Governmental Conduct Act and election laws. The Secretary of State's Office so far has refused to hand it over to reporters (thought The Albuquerque Journal apparently got a copy from God knows hwere.)

My story about King's remarks is HERE.

My story that was published Friday is HERE.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

SINE DIE!

The Senate just called it quits.

Now they're waking up the House.

UPDATE: (from my Twitter account) Sine double die. House calls it quits.

Senate Passes Cigarette Tax

The Senate just voted 25-15 to pass a 75-cent tax increase on each pack of cigarettes.

Because the Finance Committee added an amendment -- to earmark part of revenue to early childhood programs -- it must go back to the House for concurrence.

It was almost a party-line vote with most Democrats voting yes and most Republicans voting no.

Democrats Phil Griego and Tim Eichenberg voted with Republicans against the bill, while Republican Sue Wilson Beffort voted with the Democrats for the bill.

A Memorable Memorial

I know that not long ago I complained about the Legislature wasting too much time on useless memorials.

Still, I'm disappointed that the Senate probably won't get around to discussing Senate Memorial 2, sponsored by Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings.

Apparently Jennings has joined the "Draft Richardson" movement in terms of his reported interest in becoming CEO of the Motion Pictures Association of America.

Here's that memorial:


Senate Memorial 2

Roundhouse Roundup: More on Richardson & the MPAA

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 4, 2010


David Cargo, one of the first New Mexico governors to try to lure movies to the state, actually got bit parts in some films that were made here in the late 1960s.

But according to a report in a blog of the Washington, D.C.-based National Journal, the movies might have more than a bit part for the current governor of New Mexico.

Quoting unidentified “K Street sources,” the lobbyist-news blog called “Under the Influence” reported last month that our Hollywood-friendly governor is under consideration for chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America. According to the report, Richardson is one of three possible replacements for current MPAA CEO Dan Glickman, a former congressman from Kansas. Glickman is retiring next month.

A spokesman for Richardson on Wednesday strongly denied that Richardson was seeking the film-industry job. “The governor is not interested in this job and he is not interested in becoming a lobbyist,” Gallegos said in an e-mail. “He plans to live in Santa Fe and drive around the country visiting Major League ballparks after (his) term ends.”

However, one local source deeply involved in the film industry — who asked not to be named — said Wednesday, “My phone’s been ringing off the hook all day” with calls from those in the film industry all over the country. “People love the idea. There’s a ‘draft Richardson’ movement out there.”

A spokesman for the MPAA in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that he knew nothing about who is in line to replace Glickman.

“Richardson makes sense because he has that global international experience, he knows state and federal staff and it keeps the job at an elevated level,” said one K Street source quoted in the story.
The MPAA is the film industry’s lobbying group in Washington, D.C.

Besides being former congressmen, Glickman and Richardson have another thing in common. Both were members of President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, Glickman as secretary of agriculture, Richardson as energy secretary and United Nations ambassador.

Indeed, it’s a job well-suited for political types. Before Glickman, the head of MPAA was Jack Valente, who had been an aide and confident of President Johnson.

It would be a well-paid job. Glickman’s salary and benefits amount to $1.3 million a year, the blog said.

And the film industry clearly has become one of Richardson’s passions since he became governor.

He’s pushed millions in tax incentives for movie productions and allowed the state to directly invest in film projects. He’s encouraged colleges and universities to establish training programs for building the state’s film industry. In recent months, with his pal Robert Redford, Richardson has promoted a new center for training Hispanic and Native American filmmakers, which will open next month at Los Luceros, north of Española.

And he created a film museum — though there’s no exhibits or programs — just space for the desk of its $88,000 director.

On second thought, if Richardson did submit his résumé to the MPAA, he probably didn’t include the film museum.

Richardson frequently has said that being governor of New Mexico is the best job in the world.

But with the current state budget crisis — not to mention sinking poll numbers — sacrificing “the best job in the world” for a $1.3 million job where you don’t have senators and pundits complaining about your every move might be a tempting proposition.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ken Gonzales is New U.S. Attorney


A Pojoaque High School graduate has been nominated to become New Mexico's next U.S. attorney, Senators Bingaman and Udall have announced.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kenneth J. Gonzales , who has worked in the U.S. Attorney's Las Cruces office in recent years, will replace U.S. Attorney Gregory Fouratt.

Fouratt has been interim U.S. Attorney since David Iglesias was forced out during the controversial 2006 U.S. Attorney firings by the Bush Administration.

Gonzales has worked for the U.S. Attorney's Office since 1999.

He received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of New Mexico.

Gonzales also served as a judicial law clerk to a chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, and was a legislative assistant to Sen. Bingaman on criminal justice, Indian affairs and other issues. He has also been a judge advocate in the U.S. Army.

“President Obama could not have selected a more qualified, capable candidate for this important position. Ken has the experience required of a U.S. attorney, having served for the past 11 years as a career prosecutor working on cases involving organized crime, narcotics, anti-terrorism, and other violent crimes,” Bingaman said in a news release.

“Ken worked as an aide to me more than a decade ago, so I have witnessed first-hand his keen legal judgment, fair-mindedness and strong work ethic," Bingaman said. "I applaud the president for choosing someone of Ken’s caliber and experience.”

“I applaud the President’s decision to nominate Kenneth Gonzales as the next U.S. Attorney for New Mexico,” Sen. Tom Udall said. “Ken Gonzales’ legal expertise and long record of statewide public service – including more than a decade as Assistant U.S. Attorney – make him extremely qualified for the job. He will make an excellent U.S. Attorney, and I look forward to working with President Obama and Senator Bingaman to ensure his swift confirmation by the Senate.”

The two New Mexico senators interviewed all candidates who expressed interest in the U.S. Attorney position and sent a short list to the White House for consideration.

Gonzales’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee before the full Senate votes on his confirmation.

Remembering a Previous Call of the House


What the heck ... Here's a reprint of a story I wrote in 2004 about then Rep. Benjie Regensberg, who was missing during a call of the House.

No criminal charges ever came out of the case. But Regnensberg was defeated in the 2004 Democratic primary.

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 17, 2004

Santa Fe police investigators can't substantiate a state legislator's claim that state police committed assault or battery on him in a violent confrontation late last week.

But it will be up to the district attorney's office to determine whether Rep. Benjie Regensberg, D-Cleveland, committed battery on the officers who were sent to fetch him for a vote Friday night, Santa Fe deputy police chief Eric Johnson said Monday.

As is normal police procedure, because accusations had been made against their own officers, state police asked another police agency -- in this case city police -- to investigate.

Johnson said his detectives finished their investigation Monday after interviewing Regensberg, the officers involved and other witnesses.

Regensberg apologized on the floor of the House on Monday for the incident. "I've never been so humiliated as much as I was humiliated ... that night when I was brought to the state Capitol half naked and handcuffed, " Regensberg said of the Friday night incident.

The second-term Mora County lawmaker also called upon the House to clarify a rule that calls for state police to use any means necessary to return representatives to the Capitol when there is a "call of the House."

"Some of these rules are ridiculous, " he said.

And, in an interview after his statement on the House floor, Regensberg stood by his charge that he acted only in self-defense after police began roughing him up.

Regensberg said he received two fractures in his right arm during the incident. He wasn't wearing the sling Monday that he wore Saturday, though his arm and thumb were bandaged.

State police went to Regensberg's room at Camel Rock Suites at the request of House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé. When they arrived, police said Regensberg "became combative" and "started a scuffle." Eventually the officers subdued the representative and took him in handcuffs to the Capitol, where Luján excused him from the vote on a nursing-home-bed surcharge.

"State police have always assisted in returning representatives to the floor of the House, " Public Safety Department spokesman Peter Olson said in a written statement. "Never has any representative refused or acted with violence until Feb. 13, 2004."

Regensberg -- wearing a necktie depicting a lone black sheep in the midst of a flock of white sheep -- also claimed Monday that his opposition to some of Gov. Bill Richardson's legislative proposals might have been behind his alleged mistreatment. "My beliefs are different from a lot of people here, " said the conservative Democrat.

A Richardson spokesman said that charge was "laughable and absolutely false."

Santa Fe-area District Attorney Henry Valdez said Monday that his staff will review the police report and decide whether to press charges. Johnson said the paperwork should be completed and in the DA's hands by the end of the week.

Under the state Constitution, legislators are immune from arrest during a session except in cases of "treason, felony and breach of the peace." Though handcuffed, Regensberg was not arrested or charged with any crime.

While state police said Regensberg appeared to be intoxicated, the lawmaker denied he'd been drinking and told The Associated Press he'd taken a breathalyzer test at St. Vincent Hospital.

Johnson verified Monday that Regensberg did take such a test. "He requested it himself, " Johnson said. The state representative apparently passed that test.

Several of Regensberg's House colleagues -- from both sides of the aisle -- signed a large card for him that read "Welcome Back Benjie."

But Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest, said: "I refused to sign it. I don't think bad behavior should be rewarded. I think elected officials should be held up to higher standards."

Andrew Barreras Where Are You?

The House of Representatives is going through a procedural votes before debating the Senate tax bill.

But Rep. Barreras is missing and there's a call of the House, which means everyone is supposed to be there before the vote can take place.

Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell just raised the possibility of sending state police looking for him.

Let's have a moment of silence for former Rep. Benjie Regensberg ....

UPDATE: They found Barreras. (And I can't find any online link to explain my Benjie Regensberg joke.)

You Oughtta Be in Movies?

UPDATE: Governor's spokesman denies the National Journal report. (See below)


Put this in the state Film Museum. Here's the most eye-popping report about Gov. Bill Richardson's possible future we've heard lately.

Quoting unidentified "K Street sources," Under the Influence, a blog by The National Journal, reported last month that our Hollywood friendly governor is under consideration for CEO the Motion Picture Association of America.
Gov. Bill Richardson and Robert Redford
"Richardson makes sense because he has that global international experience, he knows state and federal staff and it keeps the job at an elevated level," said one K Street source.

According to the report, Richardson is one of three possible replacements for current MPAA CEO Dan Glickman, a former congressman from Kansas.

It would be a well-paid job. Glickman was paid $1.3 million a year.

Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos responds: "The governor is not interested in this job and he is not interested in becoming a lobbyist. He plans to live in Santa Fe and drive around the country visiting Major League ballparks after term ends."

Corrected: The original version of this post had an incorrect time the National Journal item was published.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

Nothing much is happening now at the Roundhouse. At least not in public. The House Dems have been in caucus since the morning without coming up for air. Last night a veteran representative was joking with me about waterboarding dissident Dems -- specifically the ones who voted against the cigarette tax. Maybe they're doing that.

The Senate had a short floor session. The Senate Finance Committee met for awhile, without doing anything earth-shattering.

Earlier today, Think New Mexico delivered to the Governor's Office printouts of 511 e-mail letters from people protesting raising the tax on food. (That's a picture Jason Espinoza of Think New Mexico handing over the letters.

The governor's still signing bills from the regular session, (which seems like years ago ...)

Yesterday afternoon he signed SB 18, which restructures the State Investment Council.

“I have moved aggressively to restore confidence in our investment practices, and this new law will help ensure that our investments are not tainted in any way,” Gov. Richardson said in his news release.

The bill adds members to the State Investment Council -- including four appointed by the Legislature -- and will require appointed members to have 10 years of financial or investment experience. The bill also prohibits appointed members from having any contracts with state investment entities for two years prior to their appointment and for two years after their term ends.

However, the bill was amended during the legislative process. The fiscal impact report notes that contrary to the recommendations of Ennis Knupp, the Chicago consultants hired to examine the SIC, the governor and his appointees still will be the largest group on the council, accounting for five of the members.

Also, the governor will remain chairman of the council, also against the consultants' recommendations.

"Therefore if the amended legislation were enacted, the SIC would still be operating outside of national best practices and contradict numerous findings in the Ennis Knupp (report)," the fiscal impact report concludes. "This has the potential to create the risk that further turmoil and suspicion, from both a performance and reputational perspective, will continue to accompany these agencies at the potential cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer and retiree dollars."

Oh well ....