Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hey! I'm a Wiki Photographer

A snapshot I took of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish earlier this year has ended up on her Wikipedia page.

NM Legislature 2010

I'm not sure how it got there, who put it there or why.

And I don't really mind. People have used my photos for worse purposes. In 2008 The Club For Growth used a shot I took of Tom Udall in an attack ad. It wasn't even an unflattering shot.

Check out all my shots of politicians and political events HERE

Write-In Candidate Legal, AG Says

Attorney General Gary King's office has opined that ballots allowing voters to  write-in gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Gomez are legal.

Some county clerks and Republican lawmakers have questioned the constitutionality of Secretary of State Mary Herrera certifying Gomez's for the ballot without a running mate. According to the state constitution, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as a team.

Gomez, a political novice, is a Farmington Republican who says he's a supporter of the Tea Party.

The issue came up at the Secretary of State debate yesterday. Republican SOS candidate Dianna Duran said certifying Gomez was a clear violation of the state constitution.

But in response to a request for an opinion from state Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City,  assistant Attorney General Tania Maestas wrote:

"Article V, Section l of the New Mexico Constitution states that "the governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected jointly by the casting by each voter of a single vote applicable to both offices." On its face, the current ballot is consistent with the constitutional requirements. The space for write-in candidates in the current ballot requires a single vote. It does not require voters to make two separate votes for governor and lieutenant governor, nor does it otherwise distinguish between the candidacies of the two offices. The ballot does not state the name of write-in candidates; it merely sets forth a blank line for purposes of writing in an individual’s name."
Write-In Candidate - Morales

SOS Debate Posted on KSFR

I can't figure out how to steal KSFR's media players, but you can hear the audio of the Secretary of State debate on their site.

Part 1 is HERE
Part 2 is HERE


Search Still On for Missing Baloonists


Here's a photo of former Gov. Gary Johnson with his old ballooning partner Richard Abruzzo somewhere above the Earth. Sue Winchester of Johnson's Our America Initiative, who provided the photo wasn't sure exactly where or when it was taken, but said it probably was from the 2001 America's Challenge competition.

Abruzzo and partner and Carol Rymer Davis are the subject of a search in the Adriatic Sea. Their balloon disappeared yesterday. Sandra Martinez's story is HERE. The BBC is reporting that lightning might have struck their balloon.

Johnson as copiloted with Abruzzo four times, including once in the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race. Johnson and Abruzzo are scheduled to participate for the fifth time together Oct. 5 in Albuquerque's America's Challenge.

The search for Abruzzo and Davis continues.

A First Class American Cow

Gov. Bill Richardson isn't the first New Mexico governor to hold an estate sale.

Richardson's spokesman and deputy chief of staff Gilbert Gallegos says he's been reading a book about territorial governors (New Mexico’s Troubled Years by Calvin Horn) and came across this tidbit regarding territorial Gov. William Pile's departure from office in 1871:
On June 3, 1871, as he was preparing to leave the territory, the governor placed some homely advertisements in the Santa Fe New Mexican: ANYONE WISHING TO BUY A FIRST CLASS AMERICAN COW WITH YOUNG CALF CAN BE ACCOMODATED BY CALLING ON THE GOVERNOR. A VERY FINE PIANO. INQUIRE AT THE RESIDENCE OF THE GOVERNOR. Governor Pile auctioned his household goods June 21, 1871, before the Palace. On June 26, he and his family left Santa Fe for the States, by way of Denver.
I'll have to ask, but I'm not sure our paper is still selling "homely" ads.

Herrera Vs. Duran Debate

You can read all about the Mary Hererra-Dianna Duran debate  HERE.

You can listen to it this afternoon at 4 p.m. on KSFR

You can watch it-- at least Comcast cable customers can -- on Channel 16 at 6 p.m.

Asked during the debate about the public records request Herrera made in August for emails among various of her staff and political enemies, Herrera said she had heard that someone was "attacking" her family. But asked whether she found any evidence among the documents she'd requested that her family was being attacked, Herrera said that she hadn't had time to pick up the records she'd requested.




I was one of the panelists, along with fellow Santa Fe journalists Julia Goldberg of the Santa Fe Reporter, Dan Boyd of The Journal North and Bill Dupuy of KSFR News.

Roundhouse Roundup: The Heaviness of Being Lite Guv

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
September 30, 2010

 Perhaps the major challenge that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish has faced this year is trying to convince everyone that she is truly independent from the man with whom she ran in the past two elections — Gov. Bill Richardson.

The lieutenant governor and her supporters have pointed to instances in which she clashed with the governor. She has insisted that she’s outside of Richardson’s social circle.

But will that be enough to offset the associations between the two Democrats and the repeated allusions to the Richardson/Denish administration by Republican candidate Susana Martinez and her supporters? A man who eight years ago was in a position similar to Denish’s doesn’t think so.

Walter Bradley served eight years, beginning in 1995, as lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Gary Johnson. Bradley ran for governor himself in 2002 but lost a bitter primary contest with political upstart John Sanchez, who now is Martinez’s ballot mate.

“You cannot divorce yourself from the administration you’re serving,” Bradley said in a recent interview. “Whatever is negative — small or large — is going to stick to you.”

History seems to back him up. Although many have tried, no sitting lieutenant governor since 1916 has succeeded in winning the New Mexico governorship.

Flashback — Manny’s way: Granted, Johnson himself wasn’t a big issue in the 2002 GOP primary. In fact, in the most notorious attack of that primary, Sanchez didn’t try to link Bradley to Johnson but to another powerful politician of that era — Democratic state Sen. Manny Aragon.

In a mailer denounced by many Republicans as well as Democrats, Sanchez claimed Bradley “does it Manny’s way.” Part of that charge was based on a procedural vote in the New Mexico Senate in which Bradley agreed with Aragon’s argument.

Of course, Bradley didn’t really do things “Manny’s way.” For instance, Bradley never was indicted or sent to prison on federal corruption charges. But despite the criticisms, the mailer didn’t hurt Sanchez in the primary. He smashed Bradley at the polls.

Differences with the administration: And, while Johnson’s performance wasn’t at the center of that campaign, one Johnson issue that most Republicans ran away from was his opposition to the war on drugs.

That was the major disagreement Bradley had with Johnson. Bradley, a Clovis resident, opposed Johnson’s call to legalize marijuana and liberalize other drug laws. “I broke with him on that and did it publicly,” Bradley said.

But that didn’t work, Bradley recalled. Many people just assumed he supported Johnson’s platform of drug-law reforms.

But Bradley, now a lobbyist for dairy farmers, says the problem facing any lieutenant governor goes deeper than any single issue. “I firmly believe it’s a mindset,” he said. “People want a change, particularly after eight years. I think that’s the driving force. People want something new and fresh. You’re part of (the administration). ... It’s a no-win.”

Darth Richardson: It’s too bad for Richardson that the Daily Kos didn’t ask New Mexicans their views of Manny Aragon. Had the national liberal blog done that, it might have identified a New Mexico political figure with lower approval numbers than Richardson’s.

If there’s any doubt why Martinez keeps showing pictures of Richardson in her attack ads against Denish, just look at the poll the blog commissioned for this state. It shows Martinez beating Denish 50 percent to 42 percent. Perhaps the more startling number, however, was the approval rating for Richardson.

“Denish seems to be being dragged down by the administration she’s served as lieutenant governor,” says poll analysis by Joan McCarter. “The most unpopular Democratic politician in the state is Gov. Bill Richardson, whose approval rating has cratered to 27 percent.”

Twenty-seven percent. We’re talking Dick Cheney levels. The poll of 1,307 likely voters by a Democratic firm called PPP was conducted Sept. 25-26 and has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

UPDATE: The earlier version of this post listed an incorrect poll figure figure for Diane Denish. It has been changed to reflect the correct number.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tired of Polls Yet?

I got too busy to blog the past couple of days, so this is kind of old news. But the Daily Kos commissioned  a poll of New Mexico by the PPP firm that shows Susana Martinez eight points ahead of Diane Denish. What's more, it shows Martinez at 50 percent, which many believe is a magic number in polling.

The Daily Kos is a liberal blog. PPP is a Democratic polling firm, so it's hard to dismiss this as right-wing propaganda. The poll was conducted Sept. 25 to 26 and has a 2.7 percent margin of error. 1307 "likely voters" were surveyed.

Says Joan McCarter of Kos:
Denish seems to be being dragged down by the administration she's served as lieutenant governor. The most unpopular Democratic politician in the state is Gov. Bill Richardson, whose approval rating has cratered to 27 percent. What really hurts her is the loss of 20 percent of Dems. She cedes three percent of women, and leads with Hispanics by just 4 points. The only demographic she has solid lead with are young voters, where she nets 53 percent, but unfortunately that's the group that will be least likely to vote.

The 27 percent approval for Richardson is the lowest I've seen for him. That's getting down to Dick Cheney levels.

Other politicians rated include U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (50 percent approval, 34 disapproval ) and Tom Udall (48-36), President Obama (43-52), Martinez (48-41) and Denish (42-45).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Dem Poll Shows Gains for Denish

Get out your salt shakers. There's another partisan poll for the governor's race. This one, conducted by a Democratic group called Third Eye Strategies for the Vote New Mexico PAC, shows the race at a tie with Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez each at 46 percent.

Last week you needed your grains of salt for a Republican poll showing Martinez winning by 10 percentage points and the Democratic poll showing Denish behind only by 5 points. The poll was conducted of New Mexicans who voted in 2008 or registered since then and who say they will likely vote in the general election in November. However it doesn't say how many were polled. The polling memo says the margin of error is 4.4 percent.

The poll was conducted early last week, Sept. 21-23.

According to the memo:

Among likely voters, each candidate receives 46% of the vote with the remaining 7% undecided. Denish receives 84% of registered Democrats and 61% of Hispanics. While Martinez captures nearly all of Republicans (91%), she garners support from just 11% of registered Democrats and 30% of Hispanics. DTS voters are split – 35% for Denish, 36% for Martinez – with 29% undecided.
UPDATE: The Denish campaign just told me the poll sample was 500.

Lujan Vs. Mullins

The two candidates for the 3rd Congressional district met yesterday to debate at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe.

About 100 people packed into a crowded room (or crowded into a packed room) for the two-hour event.

My story is HERE

The debate was sponsored by The League of Women Voters, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and The American Association of University Women. Those groups are sponsoring a similar event for local legislative candidates 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turner & Weh Co-Chairing Duran SOS Campaign

Allen Weh, who was defeated in the Republican gubernatorial primary by Susana Martinez, has yet to get behind Martinez candidacy.

However, he has united with a fellow GOP primary candidate Doug Turner in getting behind state Sen. Dianna Duran, who is running for Secretary of State against incumbent Democrat Mary Herrera.

According to a statement from Turner, who finished third in the gubernatorial primary, "As we look toward the next presidential cycle in 2012, it is also essential that we have a Secretary of State that will ensure that we have honest elections and one who will work to eradicate voter fraud in our great state."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Dog Gone

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 23, 2010


Jim Scarantino — lawyer, pundit, investigator, political gadfly and now an opera singer — announced Wednesday that he’s leaving his job as top dog at the New Mexico Watchdog website.

Scarantino informed his readers that he’s off for a year of travel — including visiting World War I battlefields in Europe, where his grandfather fought as a 16-year old Sicilian solider.

He’s also going to spend some time on the opera stage. “I am singing with Opera Southwest in its October performances of Rossini’s ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers’ and hopefully next March in ‘La Traviata,’ ” he wrote.

“I auditioned for the small men’s chorus,” Scarantino told me in a phone conversation Wednesday. “There’s 12 men who play sailors, pirates, eunuchs. ... I’ve never done anything like this before.”

He’ll also be visiting Cuba. Scarantino, of course, isn’t the only New Mexican to go there in recent months. “I’m going to check up on what Bill Richardson did while he was there,” he joked.

The Watchdog website is a creature of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative “free-market” think tank.

Under Scarantino, Watchdog was relentless in raking the muck in the offices of Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

He’s the one who first reported Denish had spent federal funds on hiring public relations staff and for Christmas cards. (Denish cried foul, saying the cards were paid for with campaign funds. A few days later, her campaign paid the expense — about $800 — of her public information officer writing news releases promoting activities related to 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry.)

Some days it seemed as if Watchdog was a one-man opposition-research team for the Republicans, who frequently trumpeted Scarantino’s work.

Scarantino, though, says he’s actually a registered Democrat. “Back in 2004, when I was backing John Kerry and saying that (Vice President Dick) Cheney should be impeached, liberals loved me,” Scarantino said. “I was ‘open-minded and fair.’ But when Obama was elected and I started criticizing him, they said I was a crazy right-winger.”

Taking the helm of the New Mexico Watchdog is Rob Nikolewski, who currently runs a news blog called Capitol Report New Mexico. It’s also owned and published by the Rio Grande Foundation. Nikolewski, who works out of the press room in the Roundhouse, is a three-time Emmy Award winner for his work as a television sports reporter.

FactCheck.org strikes again: They must love New Mexico over at FactCheck.org, the nonpartisan website, funded by the Annenburg Public Policy Center, that analyzes political ads from around the country.

FactCheck in recent months has scolded both Republican Susana Martinez and Democrat Diane Denish for various attack ads. In the latest exciting episode, an article by Joshua Goldman and Melissa Siegel published Wednesday, they come down on Martinez’s ad that says Denish helped the Mesa de Sol Development — which hired Denish’s husband as a lobbyist — get hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks.

“But Martinez, a district attorney, uses circumstantial evidence to make her case in an ad that falsely accuses Denish of ‘hiding a scandal,’ ” FactCheck says. “The evidence cited by the Martinez campaign fails to prove that Denish misused her office to help the developer get a tax break or that the tax break was connected to her husband’s lobbying job or her campaign contributions.”

Click HERE to see Factcheck's treasury of New Mexico political ads.

Attack Ads Continue

The Diane Denish campaign just released this one, responding to Martinez's ad that revealed she had prosecuted on violent felony charges the (ex) husband of a teacher who had criticized her in a campaign ad.



Yesterday the Martinez campaign unleashed this one, hitting Denish again for her husband's lobbying activities.

SOS Candidate Debate

Secretary of State candidates Mary Herrera, the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger Dianna Duran will face off in a debate on Santa Fe Public Radio, KSFR.

I've been asked to be one of the panel of journalists asking questions of the candidates.

The show will be aired -- and streamed live on the Internet -- at 4 p.m. on KSFR on Thursday, Sept. 30.

Denish Releases Her Own Poll Memo

I'm taking these candidate-commissioned polls with enough salt that it can't be good for my blood pressure ...

But the Diane Denish camp has released their own polling results, obviously in response to the latest Susana Martinez poll released this morning.

Martinez still is winning, according to the Denish poll, conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. But according to this poll, the spread is only 5 percentage points with Martinez at 49 percent and Denish at 44.

"Denish has begun to make up significant ground with Hispanics and
now leads Martinez by 17 percentage points with Hispanics, up from a 9 percentage point lead in August," the memo says. "While Denish is not quite where she needs be with Hispanics, this movement has put Denish on the right trajectory with this group."

The poll was conducted Sept. 12-14 of 850 likely voters. There was an "oversample" of Hispanics "who were then weighted down to reflect their share of the electorate."

This means the campaign wanted to get a detailed read of Hispanic voters.

Denish Poll Memo Sept 12-14

New GOP Poll Shows Martinez Up by 10

A new poll by a Republican firm called Public Opinion Strategies shows Republican Susana Martinez increasing her lead over Democrat Diane Denish in the governor's race.

According to the polling memo, 50 percent of those who responded would back Martinez while 40 percent would back Denish.

The poll was taken of 600 likely voters between Sept. 11 and 13. The memo says Martinez is making "critical gains" with Hispanics, but no data is included in what was publicly released.

The margin of error is 4 percent.

Standard warning: You've always got to take polls conducted by partisan firms with a grain of salt. This is the widest lead Martinez has enjoyed of all the polls released. And it's the first time she's cracked the 50 percent mark.

But it's not radically different from previous polls that have shown Martinez with support in the high-40 percent range and Denish in the low-40 percent range.

You can see the polling memo HERE (thanks Heath Haussamen)

When Payday Loans Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Payday Loans

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is running for governor, came out yesterday in favor of outlawing most payday loans and title loans.
Payday Loans
See my story HERE.

I didn't hear back from Susana Martinez's campaign until very late Tuesday night, so her comment on the issue didn't make the print edition. But here it is:

"We must ensure that we have strong consumer protections in place against predatory lending, such as caps on interest rates. Further, we must ensure that terms for each and every loan are fully disclosed to the consumer and I support strengthening penalties for companies that take advantage of consumers"

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's Wrong With SOS Picture?


Photographer/blogger/retired law-enforcement dude Mark Bralley takes a look at the recent troubles in the SOS in a lengthy blog post HERE.

Much of the ground already has been covered, but it's a good primer for those who haven't followed the blow-by-blow.

Plus, Bralley probably is the first to bring Charlie Guiteau into the discussion

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Kinky Time in Santa Fe

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 19, 2010


Kinky Friedman says a certain type of person is attracted to politics.

"Bad people are drawn to politics. Good people stay away," he said in a recent telephone interview. "I can't think of a single living politician who I respect or admire. I've advocated that we limit every elected official to two terms. One term in office and one term in prison."

Of course Friedman — who is coming to Santa Fe next week to sign books and push his new line of Honduran-made cigars at the grand opening of Monte's of Santa Fe, a new cigar shop — himself was drawn to politics.

He primarily was known as a singer of funny and aggressively politically incorrect country songs with a band called The Texas Jewboys, then later as a mystery writer whose main character was a wise-cracking amateur detective known as "Kinky Friedman."

In the mid-1980s, he campaigned for justice of the peace in Kerrville, Texas, as a Republican, but lost the election. A decade later, he gave establishment politicians a real scare when he ran as an independent for governor of Texas. He ended up in last place out of four candidates, but in an era in which celebrity candidates like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse "The Body" Ventura were winning governorships, Friedman's bid received much national attention.

"It's like I told people when I was running, 'Do you want a governor who can tell a joke or a governor who is a joke?' " he said — soon after telling a hilariously filthy joke he credited to his friend Willie Nelson.

Friedman made another stab at electoral politics this year, running for Texas agriculture commissioner — this time as a Democrat. But he lost in the primary.

"No, I think I'm pretty much done with politics," he said. "It feels really good to speak your mind and tell the truth. It's a giant step down from musician to politician."

Friedman said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 — but with misgivings that he said have since been proven correct. "I see the same symptoms in Obama that I do in (Texas Gov.) Rick Perry. They think first of themselves, secondly about their party and maybe thirdly or fourthly about the people. ... Obama's reaction (to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) showed how weak he is, how small a spirit he has. He doesn't really want to be president of all the people. He'll never be a man of the people. He doesn't want to be one."

So who does the Kinkster like on the current political scene?

"I think the tea party has the spirit that the Democrats used to have. Back when we used to have (former Texas Gov.) Ann Richards, (former U.S. Rep.) Barbara Jordan and (columnist) Molly Ivins," he said, naming three deceased liberal Texas women who normally aren't listed among tea party heroines. "That's when Democrats had some balls. Barbara Jordan, the Constitution was her Bible, just like the tea party. Now if you mention the Constitution to the Democrats, they'll tune you out."

Friedman, who opposes the death penalty and supports gay marriage, admits he's more liberal on some issues than the tea party. "But I like their spirit," he said. "I like where they're coming from and I can't believe the Democrats couldn't incorporate some of that instead of mocking them and calling them racists. That's the furthest thing from the truth. ... All the tea party really wants to do is get rid of these bastards, get 'em out of there and get the government out of our lives."

In the early 1970s, Friedman made a name for himself singing irreverent songs designed to outrage the prudes, the prissy and the politically correct.

Feminists blasted him for "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed." Those who don't think mass murders should be taken lightly cringed at "The Ballad of Charles Whitman," an upbeat ode to the gunman who in 1966 killed 10 people from the University of Texas Bell Tower. And his song "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" had enough racial slurs to offend just about everyone.

So given Friedman's deep-seated belief in freedom of speech and his well-known willingness to court controversy, many were surprised in 1999 when he re-recorded that song — which is about a big-mouth bigot getting his comeuppance — and conspicuously left out one of the major racial epithets.

"The producer did that," he said. "You know one of the things that Barbara Jordan warned against was political correctness. It's really strangling our country. That's really come to pass. Today people who use the 'N-word' aren't necessarily racists. And those who don't use it aren't necessarily not racists. In the current atmosphere today, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Mel Brookes' Blazing Saddles never would have made it."

Politically correct censorship goes hand in hand with another one of Kinky's pet peeves: smoking bans in bars and restaurants. Both, he said, can be partly blamed on "these hall monitors growing up to be politicians."

That goes for anti-gambling forces in Texas, too. "We don't even have legalized gambling in Texas," he said. "We invented Texas Hold 'Em and we can't even play it."

Friedman's not sure whether he'll be singing any songs at the Monte's cigar shop opening in Santa Fe. But he will be selling a couple of his recent books — What Would Kinky Do? How to Unscrew a Screwed Up World (2008) and Heroes of a Texas Childhood (2009).

"I'll sign books. I'll sign CDs. I'll sign anything but bad legislation," he said.


IF YOU GO

What: Kinky Friedman, singer/songwriter/author/politician/cigar mogul
What: Book signing, meet-and-greet
Where: Monte's of Santa Fe, 328 Sandoval St.
When: 2-4 p.m. Sept. 26
Admission: Free

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Mascheroni Indictment

I'm not working today, but there's a fascinating story breaking about alleged espionage at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 75, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 67, both former contract workers at LANL, are accused of conspiring to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela.

The Associated Press story can be found HERE. The indictment is below. (Use Fullscreen mode!)

Mascheroni Indictment.ef

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ifill Brings "Open Dialogue"

Gwen Ifill is the moderator of Washington Week and senior correspondent for the PBS Newshour is coming to Albuquerque to host an "open dialogue" with a live audience Nov. 6, shortly after the election in November.

Ifill will talk about fallout from the election, the state of journalism today, and highlights from her career.

The event will take place at The African American Performing Arts Center at the State Fairgrounds.

Tickets are $20, or $50 for the event plus a V.I.P. reception. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 505-277-2922 or visit knme.org

Clinton Comes to Española

Bill Clinton - yes, Timothy K Hamilton took this photoFormer President Bill Clinton is coming to Española to campaign for Diane Denish for governor, the Denish campaign just announced.

Clinton, a popular political figure in the state — especially in Northern New Mexico — will speak October 14 at a rally on the Española Plaza. The event is scheduled at 4 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, but space on the plaza is limited. To RSVP to attend the rally, call Denish for Governor headquarters at 505-255-1282 or e-mail to: Clintonvisit@dianedenish.com.

(Clinton Photo thanks to Timothy K Hamilton on FLICKR)

Thursday Morning Cartoons

I meant to post this yesterday. It's the "Justice League" ad depicting Diane denish as a super heroine and Susana Martinez and Sarah Palin as super villains.



And if you like this sort of thing, here's a classic:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Dueling IPRA Requests

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 16, 2010


The bad blood continues between Mary Herrera and some county clerks across the state. Last week some county clerks complained on KOB News about Herrera getting $10,000 from the state to hire temporary “liaisons” at various “problematic” areas statewide.

“Liaisons are a direct line of communication between the polling locations and the Secretary of State's Office, who by statute is the Chief Election Officer of the state responsible for efficient elections,” said a SOS news release last week.

But some county clerks bristled at being called “problematic” — a word that Deputy Secretary of State Don Francisco Trujillo said was used by some staffer at a legislative committee, not the Secretary of State’s office.

And some clerks complained that the liaisons didn’t seem to know what they were doing and, at least in one case, didn’t seem to be around until after the polls closed.

Whoever said, Deputy Santa Fe County Clerk Denise Lamb responded Monday with a public information request under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) to the SOS. Some of the items she asked for included the names of all “liaisons,” their resumes, the “dates, times and duration” of the training for all liaisons and temporary workers employed by the SOS in the primary and the “familial relationship” of any liaison or temporary worker to any SOS staff member.

Lamb also requested all correspondence related to the hiring of these folks and all of the communications from the liaisons on primary day.

Herrera herself answered within just a few hours. She said her office would comply with the request. But then she added, “This is a good idea for the office of the Secretary of State to obtain in the files of all the staff hired by your office as well, who we do I send the IPRA request to?”

Lamb quickly shot back: “Mary, We don't hire any ‘liaisons’ to monitor your conduct of the election.” She said any request for public information should go to the county attorney.

Herrera started the IPRA Wars last month when she made a public information request for correspondence involving some of her staff past and present and her critics.

The Out-of-Staters: Earlier this week Diane Denish’s gubernatorial campaign blasted Republican candidate Susana Martinez for getting 52 percent of her campaign contributions from out-of-state supporters, according to her latest campaign finance report.

Nearly a quarter of Martinez’s total in the most recent report came from the Republican Governor’s Association, based in Washington, D.C. She also received several five or six-figure contributions from out-of-state sources, including some big GOP moneymen.

Denish, who raised less than half of what Martinez did since late June, received a few big contributions from outside of New Mexico herself, mainly from unions. She’s saying that about two thirds of the cash in her latest report came from New Mexico.

The Institute of Money in State Government’s website Followthemoney.org, has not yet included this week’s reports in their totals. But as of the previous campaign finance reports submitted in early July, 63 percent of Martinez’s money had come from New Mexico and almost 37 percent had come from out-of-state. Denish’s figure was about 67 percent in-state, 32 percent from out of state.

But even if Martinez eventually does end up with about half her campaign funds coming from outside of New Mexico, she wouldn’t be the first.

According to Followthemoney.org, in 2006 less than 51 percent of Gov. Bill Richardson’s campaign funds definitely came from New Mexico. Nearly 48 percent was from out of state, while the place of origin of 1.7 percent of Richardson’s money couldn’t be determined.

The real question is why New Mexico gubernatorial get so much money from elsewhere. In Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma, all gubernatorial candidates, both Democratic and Republican, according to followthemoney.org, all are getting more than 90 percent of their campaign cash from inside their respective states.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who Is Foster Freiss?

He's Susana Martinez's biggest individual contributor in her last campaign finance report. (Not for the whole campaign. That honor still goes to Bob Perry, the Houston developer best known for funding the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.)

Freiss is well known in conservative and Christian Right circles. His web site, where he discusses his views on several issues, is HERE.

He made his fortune in a management firm called Freiss Associates, which he stared with his wife Lynn in 1974. Business Week profiled him in 2001.

Freiss was a featured speaker at last June's Western Conservative Summit, in Colorado, along with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. and right-wing pundits Michelle Malkin and Dick Morris.

Mother Jones did a short political profile of him back in 1997. Then, the magazine reported, he was vice president of the Council for National Policy, which MJ called "the secretive group headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese that includes Oliver North and Pat Robertson and influenced the fundamentalist planks in the GOP's 1996 platform."

Besides contributing to conservative causes, Freiss also is a philanthropist, donating and helping raise millions for disaster relief.

Susana's Campaign Finance Report

The Susana Martinez campaign was able to file its latest campaign finance report this morning. You can see it below.

As was previously reported, she raised more than $2 million since late June, compared with just under $796,000 for Democrat Diane Denish in the same period.

The $500,000 from the Republican Governors Association shows up here, in the form of two $250,000 contributions -- one in late July, one in early September. The RGA also is listed for more than $11,000 in "in-kind" donations. I suspect that means they're doing an ad for Martinez.

Other major contributors to Martinez this period include $200,000 from Foster Friess, an "investor" from Jackson, Wyoming and $100,000 from a B. Hughes, who is listed as an "executive" from Malibu.

Devon Energy, an Oklahoma City-based company gave her $50,000. Sigma Ventures Inc. of Houston gave her $40,000, Myco Industries, an Artesia oil company contributed $30,000 and LDL, BC, Ltd., a Las Cruces contractor donated $25,000.

Bode Aviation of Albuquerque and its executive John Bode are listed for “in-kind” donations totaling more than $31,000. Lincoln Strategies, a Republican consultant group that is working for Martinez gave in-kind services of $35,000, the report says.

Here's the report. Like I always say, probably needlessly, look at it in full-screen mode.



Susana Martinez Finance Report Sept. 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Martinez Cleans Up in $$ Race

In the last campaign finance reporting period, Republican Susana Martinez reported raising more than $2 million. That's well over twice what Democrat Diane Denish reported, just under $796,000.

My story about the reports is HERE

For months Denish had a huge lead in campaign funds. Now she has $1.3 million in the bank. Martinez has pulling close with about $1 million.

Martinez's report wasn't filed with the Secretary of State yet because of a technical glitch. I've been assured it will be up tomorrow. The figures I'm using for her are from a news release on her website.

About a quarter of Martinez's total for the period would be that $500,000 contribution from the Republican Governor's Association. I'm assuming that was made before the Sept. 6 cut-off date. The story broke in the Washington Post on Sept. 9, so I guess there's an outside chance it was made on Sept. 7 or 8. We should know tomorrow.

Here's Denish's latest report. I'll post Martinez's as soon as I can when it becomes available.

(Don't make yourself blind. You can enlarge this to full screen.)

Denish Finance Report Sept 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane ...


New Mexico Democrats have decided to go after an under-served voter constituency in the state:

Comic-book nerds.

There's a new PAC headed by Dem activists Eli Il Yong Lee, Neri Holguin and Sandra Wechsler called The Justice League PAC.

I'm not sure whether they've cleared that with the legal beagles at DC Comics -- and I'm not sure if they're trying to imply the endorsements of Superman, Batman, The Flash and J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter, but here's what their website has to say:

We can no longer just rely upon charismatic leaders. We need to find the superhero in all of us – to act together, to talk to our families and neighbors, to be political activists in the truest sense of the word. Together, we can make politics about us, not about them. That way, we can control the terms of the debate, with our own feet, our own pocketbooks and our own voices. These are our real super powers.


And also, Susana Martinez is an evil robot.

Watch for the TV on Wednesday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Martinez-Denish Mesa del Sol War

This post has been updated (below, right before the video) with a response from state Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales.

In addition to the Susana Martinez ad about the teacher who appeared in an ad for Martinez's gubernatorial rival Diane Denish, the Martinez camp unleashed another ad yesterday regarding Denish's husband's work for the Mesa Del Sol development.

My story about those ads is HERE

Denish's campaign responded saying that Herb Denish did not lobby the state government for Mesa del Sol (or the parent company, Forest City Covington) -- though he did lobby Albuquerque's city government.

The campaign also said Diane Denish recused herself from discussion on the Mesa del Sol issue on the state Board of Finance, of which she is a member as lieutenant governor.

But the state Republican Party, in a news release pointed to several times in which Denish praised and promoted the Mesa del Sol development.

"Denish said for years, New Mexico fueled the nation with oil, gas and uranium. Now, she said, the state will lead with alternative sources of energy. 'We in New Mexico ... are in a perfect position to lead the green-collar revolution that people are talking about' that will provide both jobs and renewable energy, Denish said. 'If Mesa del Sol is anything like I expect it to be, it will have solar-powered homes, businesses and everything else dotting this mesa in a few years," she said. "It will be a model for the country.'" ("United States: Fed Lab, NM Private Development Partner On Energy," TendersInfo, 12/6/08)

“’The University Boulevard extension is an important milestone in the development of Mesa del Sol,’ said Lt. Gov. Diane Denish while U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) called Mesa del Sol ‘one of the most important economic development projects New Mexico has ever seen.’” (“University Boulevard Extension Paves The Way For Economic Development,” Forest City Covington’s “The Outlook” Newsletter, Feb. 2007)

“The solar research, development and manufacturing plant is the first structure to be built in the undeveloped Mesa del Sol area on the Southeast Mesa south of the Albuquerque International Sunport. … "This is a momentous day for Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and for the state of New Mexico," Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said at the ceremony. "I'd like to thank Advent Solar for choosing New Mexico.” (Debra Dominguez-Lund, “Solar Plant Breaks Ground; Company Promises Jobs, Attention,” The Albuquerque Journal, 1/15/06)


I've asked the Denish campaign for comment. I'll post that after I get it.

UPDATE: The Denish campaign never responded to my request for comment on this, but state Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales provided the following statement:

“Diane Denish has consistently supported efforts to bring innovative industries and new jobs to our state, but that doesn’t make anything in Susana Martinez’s ad true. Even the Republicans know that Denish recused herself from votes on that project and Martinez’s ad is patently false. But there’s a reason she’s airing it. It’s all she has. Martinez can’t defend her plan to cut funding from public schools or her beliefs that big corporations should be allowed to run wild with no accountability, and that’s why New Mexicans are getting a heavy dose of desperate attacks like this."


Here's the Martinez ad:

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's in a Name? I Found Out

O.K., this is embarrassing.

In my column this week, I referred to Don Francisco Trujillo as Secretary of State Mary Herrera's "top deputy, who prefers to use the Spanish honorific before his name."

Today Trujillo called to say that "Don" actually is his first name. Someone I trusted told me otherwise.

"I don't think I'm old enough to give myself the title of `Don,'" he said.

He offered to show me his birth certificate. I told him I wasn't a birther.

Lesson learned, I should have checked with Trujillo about the "Don" business.

I'm going back to the column and omit the reference now.

Best Ad of the Year?

That's what some national Republicans are saying about Susana Martinez's new one.

Karl Rove himself tweeted "Best rebuttal ad of #2010 so far ..."

The conservative National Review's Jim Geraghty was even more enthusiastic.

Nothing flashy, no fancy graphics, no Demonsheeps or folksy Alabamans on a horse. Just pointing out one really key fact that Susana Martinez’s rival, Democrat Diane Denish, failed to mention in her last ad. With one unbelievable unforced error, the Denish campaign just nuked their own credibility.


Here's what they're talking about:



A couple of nitpicks: The ad wasn't from the Denish campaign itself but the National Education Association, which is supporting Denish.

Also, according to The Albuquerque Journal, the man who was arrested is the ex-husband of the woman in the ad, a teacher from Las Cruces -- who says the guy got what he deserved.

Still, the ad is effective. It's refreshing to see the candidate herself talking -- not the usual attack-ad guy both parties use who sounds like he earns most his living doing voiceovers on horror movie trailers.

But let's not shortchange the Demon Sheep or the guy on the horse ...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GOP Governors Association Pump $500 K Into Martinez Campaign

That's what Chris Cillizza is reporting in his Washington Post blog The Fix.

The Republican Governors Association in recent days has donated $500,000 to Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez's gubernatorial campaign in New Mexico, the latest sign that national GOP strategists believe that they have a genuine pickup opportunity in the Land of Enchantment.

Martinez, who won a contested primary in June with the financial help of the RGA, is running strongly against Lt.Gov. Diane Denish in the race to replace term limited Gov. Bill Richardson (D).


Actually, the RGA's previous contribution to Martinez ($250,000) came immediately after the June primary, according to the organization's report filed with the IRS.

The Democratic Governors Association has contributed $181,500 to Denish as of the most recent available campaign finance reports, though, as Cillizza notes, the DGA has run tv commercials bashing Martinez.

The next round of campaign finance reports are due Monday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup:History of Staff Problems at SOS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 8, 2010


Secretary of State Mary Herrera's problems with her staff in the last few months have been well documented. But these problems didn't happen all at once.

In fact, some say her staff problems have been brewing from the beginning of her term. That view is bolstered by a letter of resignation from Herrera's first Elections Bureau director in January 2008 — just a little over a year after she took office.

In case you've missed the most recent development, Herrera late last week fired two administrators who had talked with the FBI about possible wrongdoing in the office. A few months ago, Herrera's election director left, firing off a blistering letter accusing her of breaking laws and policies.

For her part, Herrera in recent weeks asked state police to conduct a sweep for electronic bugs — apparently no such listening devices were found — and filed public-information requests for e-mails of past and present staff members and certain political enemies.

One of those former staffers was Albuquerque lawyer Daniel Ivey-Soto, who resigned in early 2008 as Herrera's Elections Bureau chief.

He said at the time he was quitting to pursue an appointment to a vacant judgeship. It's long been whispered that there was more to that story, and the letter shows that's true.

Ivey-Soto began his "Dear Mary" letter saying he was sending his resignation by e-mail because "communication between us has been strained as of late."

"It is important in any agency to have a sense of teamwork," he wrote. "This is especially true when there is a small team. It has been apparent to me for some lime that I am not integrated into the team here at the Secretary of State's Office. This saddens me greatly, because I really do have tremendous respect for you and I believe that you are capable of showing great wisdom when you rely on you own instincts."

But Ivey-Soto apparently believed Herrera wasn't relying on her own instincts.

"This is your team, and Don Francisco is your coach," he said, referring to Francisco Trujillo, Herrera's top deputy. "I know Don Francisco has asked you repeatedly to fire me, and I appreciate the loyalty you have shown. My staying, however, is only worthwhile if we can work together as a team. Don Francisco's behavior recently confirms for me that this is not possible. Because he is the coach, the honorable thing for me to do is to finish my task, and depart gracefully."

And so he did.

"I do not plan to say anything negative in public and would appreciate the same respect," Ivey-Soto wrote. He has stuck by that. And I've never heard a negative word about Ivey-Soto from Herrera — which is why I was surprised to see his name among those whose e-mails Herrera sought.

As he said in his letter, any time a reporter, including me, asked why he resigned from the SOS, he said it was for that possible judicial appointment, which he didn't get.

On Wednesday, Ivey-Soto, who now works for the state organization for county clerks, verified that a copy of the letter I'd obtained was authentic. But he declined further comment, saying, "I think the letter speaks for itself."

Trujillo didn't respond to a request for comment.

After Ivey-Soto left, the job was vacant for a few months. Herrera then hired Jim Noel, but state Republicans raised a stink because he's related by marriage to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who at the time was running for office. So Noel quit before he even started the job. (I wonder if he's sent a thank-you note to the GOP.) Lawyer Gerald Gonzales only lasted a couple of months.

Then came A.J. Salazar, who left with a bang in March with a fiery resignation letter accusing Herrera of soliciting donations from companies that contract with her office and ordering some of her employees to gather signatures on petitions for her re-election campaign.

UPDATE: This column has been corrected. It no longer contains incorrect information on Don Francisco Trujillo's name. (More details HERE)

Herrera Fires Employees Who Talked to FBI

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 8, 2010


Secretary of State Mary Herrera has fired two of her administrators who talked to the FBI about possible wrongdoing in her office.

The Española lawyer representing both Manny Vildasol and James Flores on Tuesday formally notified the state Risk Management Division that his clients might be suing, claiming the terminations violate the Whistleblower Protection Act.

"As you are aware, they reported to the FBI what they believed to be criminal acts within her office and immediately after the media reported they had spoken to the FBI, they were both placed on administrative leave and now, FIRED!" Rudy Martin said in his letter to Risk Management.

"Both of my clients have been accused of creating a hostile work environment for allegedly recording employees at the office," Martin continued. "My client Mr. Vildasol, never returned to the Secretary of State's office after the initial news story broke and Mr. Flores was accused of acts which he did not participate in. The actions by Ms. Herrera serve only as a guise in her attempts to justify her retaliatory conduct toward my clients."

Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo said Tuesday that he could verify Flores, former public information officer and Vildasol, whom was office administrator, were no longer employed by the office, but could not provide details because the firings were "personnel matters."

"I can tell you that after the investigations were completed, (the firings) have nothing to do with whistle-blowing," Trujillo said in a telephone interview.

Martin has said his clients, who also include former Bureau of Elections Director A.J. Salazar, have talked to the FBI about such issues as Secretary of State's Office workers going to political events during work hours.

In separate letters to Vildasol and Flores dated Sept. 3, Herrera thanked each for his services after saying, "your services as an at-will Governor Exempt employee have been terminated effective immediately."

Herrera does not have to state a reason to fire exempt employees such as Vildasol and Flores.

Although the term "hostile work environment" typically is used in relation to alleged sexual harassment, no such charges have emerged in the ongoing Secretary of State's Office controversies.

In Vildasol's case, members of Herrera's information technology staff on Aug. 18 complained to Herrera about Vildasol creating a hostile environment by videotaping them working on Herrera's personal laptop computer, which had been infected with viruses. Some of that footage later appeared on a KOB news report about problems in the Secretary of State's Office.

It's not clear why Flores is suspected of recording employees.

On Aug. 24, Trujillo wrote Flores saying, "the Secretary of State has received a complaint about a hostile work environment and is concerned with what appears to be an altered media distribution list. You are the subject of the investigation."

The reference to the "altered media distribution list" might support a claim by some Secretary of State's Office sources that Herrera suspected Flores of sending e-mail news releases to Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza — who is a critic of Herrera — and to Salazar, who resigned earlier this year, sending Herrera a scathing letter accusing her of several possible violations of law or policy, including having her staff do political campaign work in the office during work hours.

Herrera is seeking re-election to a second term. Her opponent is Republican state Sen. Dianna Duran of Tularosa.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Return of Allen Weh

Former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh, who in June lost to Susana Martinez in a bitter gubernatorial primary fight is launching a new political policy organization and a new Website.

The organization is called "For Country," which Weh says is "to build awareness of the nation’s challenges and support for the principles the United States was founded on: limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense.

According to the colonel:
“In the 21st century, our country faces more challenges as a nation than it has since its inception. International Islamic terrorists seek to destroy our country. There is a virtual combat zone in Mexico that is beginning to spill over into the United States. And our economy remains frail and vulnerable because of policies that have weakened our free enterprise system. If we want a thriving, prosperous nation, we need to address these issues and resolve them quickly. For Country will help facilitate these efforts.”

The organization — established under the provisions of IRS 527 — will also lend support to elected officials and candidates who share a similar vision for New Mexico and the United States of America, Weh said.

The press release didn't say whether Martinez would be one of those candidates For Country helps. Weh hasn't formally endorsed his primary rival.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guv Candidates on Social Issues

You can find my story on the positions of Diane Denish and Susana Martinez on various "social" issues like abortion, medical marijuana and domestic partnerships in today's New Mexican.

CLICK HERE

Spoiler Alert: Repubican Martinez is more socially conservative, while Democrat Denish is more liberal.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cheerful Holiday Tips from New Mexico's Office of Homeland Security

Take safety precautions if swimming or boating?

Don't drink and drive?

Don't burn down your house when you barbecue?

Naw, that's kid stuff. The state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management wants us to enjoy Labor Day weekend by preparing for Y2K -- 10 and half years late.



Cabinet Secretary John W. Wheeler is urging New Mexicans to take some time this weekend to make an emergency plan and an emergency kit. “The Governor has declared this Preparedness Month in New Mexico and we want everyone to be prepared for emergencies and all hazards.”

“Three days worth of food, water and other supplies is what we recommend” says Wheeler, adding that in addition to food and water you should have some emergency cash in case you can’t access your bank account, copies of important papers, a flashlight with extra batteries, a battery powered radio or one that winds up and of course, extra cell phone batteries.

Wheeler cautions that if you have small children or infants that you make special provisions for them. If there are special needs members of your family, make sure you take this into account when you assemble your kit.

Before you put the kit together “We recommend you sit down with the family and make an emergency plan. What you will do in case of an emergency or disaster. How you will evacuate if you need to and where family members will meet in case you are separated.” You also need to be aware of what emergencies may occur in your area.

“Our pets are also important members of our families, so a pet emergency kit and first aid kit is also something you should have. Plan on a gallon of water a day for your pet and each member of your household. Put a whistle in your kit in case you need to let rescue workers know where you are,” Wheeler concludes.

Now I'm worried. Do they know something we don't know?

Don't forget your duct tape. Have safe and secure Labor Day.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the illustration of the bomb shelter above was not from the good folks at Homeland Security. It was my embellishment as an attempt at humor.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Denish to Donate Malott Money to Charity -- But Not $$ from Mallot's Company

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 3, 2010


The day after Bruce Malott, the chairman of New Mexico’s educational pension fund, resigned over a questionable $350,000 loan, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish’s campaign announced it was donating to a charity more than $4,000 in campaign contributions from Malott — whose company once kept the books for the Denish campaign.
Bruce Malott
“In light of today’s revelation, the campaign immediately donated donations from Mr. Malott to a New Mexico nonprofit that supports our early-childhood education professionals,” Denish spokesman Chris Cervini said in an e-mail Thursday. “It was the right thing to do.”

However, records kept by the Institute on Money in State Government show that in addition to Malott’s personal donations, his company, the accounting firm of Meyners & Co., gave Denish $8,750 since 2007.

Malott and his business also have contributed $4,500 to the campaign of Denish’s running mate, Brian Colón.

Asked about the extra thousands from Meyners, Cervini said, “We saw it more of an issue with Mr. Malott than with his company.”

Cervini acknowledged that Malott’s firm served as treasurer of the Denish campaign until this spring.

“The campaign switched treasurers several months ago for a number of considerations, including our concerns about the use (of) state funds for Mr. Malott’s legal defense,” Cervini said in his e-mail. Malott’s firm was listed as campaign treasurer on Denish’s October campaign finance report. But the next report, filed in April, indicated another company was doing the books.

The state paid at least $300,000 in legal bills for a private lawyer Malott hired to represent him in lawsuits over failed investments and a pending federal investigation into public investments. A state-appointed attorney also is defending Malott in the lawsuits. Several legislators have criticized the plan for state money to be used to pay private lawyers in the investment scandals.

Malott’s resignation from the Educational Retirement Board was reported Thursday in a copyrighted story by the Albuquerque Journal. The report said he stepped down after an interview concerning the loan from Anthony Correra, a friend and financial backer of Gov. Bill Richardson. Correra’s son, Marc Correra, shared in millions of dollars in finder’s fees from investments by the ERB and the State Investment Council.
Diane Denish
Malott, an Albuquerque accountant, told the Journal he borrowed the money in August 2006 to pay federal and state taxes owed because of a tax-shelter dispute with the Internal Revenue Service.

Malott said that at the time of the loan he was unaware that Marc Correra had been receiving fees for helping money-management firms win investments from the pension fund and the SIC, which oversees state endowment funds.

Marc Correra shared in nearly $22 million in fees as a third-party placement agent, according to records of the state investment agencies. His lawyer, Sam Bregman — who also has represented Malott’s company — has said there was no wrongdoing on Marc Correra’s part.

Among the lawsuits in which Malott is involved is one by former Education Retirement Board director Frank Foy, who claims Malott pressured him into approving investments with the Chicago-based Vanderbilt Financial and related companies.

Denish’s opponent, Susana Martinez, was quick to jump on the connection between Denish and Malott.

“… It is clear that the culture of corruption is deeply rooted in the Richardson/Denish Administration and we are finding more conflicts and wrongdoing every day,” Martinez campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi said in a news release Thursday. “Denish stood by Gov. Richardson’s side and has strong ties with almost all the individuals making headlines for their crooked deals, which have held New Mexico back. New Mexicans have a right to know who else in the Richardson/Denish Administration and their boards had financial interests in these taxpayer-funded deals.”

State records show Malott’s company was paid more than $10 million by the state for auditing services between the fiscal years of 2001 and 2006, according to records obtained last year by The New Mexican.

Meyners currently has 21 auditing contracts with various state agencies, Antonio Corrales, chief of staff for the state Auditor’s Office, said Thursday. The contracts total more than $2.1 million, Corrales said.

Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson, said Thursday that “the governor was not aware of the loan and he has accepted Mr. Malott’s resignation.”

Malott was initially appointed to the pension fund’s governing board by former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, and he was reappointed by Richardson, a Democrat. Malott and his accounting firm had served as treasurer of Richardson campaign committees.

Malott submitted a terse resignation letter to the governor, saying he was stepping down immediately and he enjoyed being a board member for the past 11 years and appreciated the opportunity to have served during Richardson’s administration.

Anthony Correra served as a director of a nonprofit foundation that Richardson formed to do voter registration ahead of the 2004 presidential election. Malott’s company did the books for that foundation as well.

The elder Correra is a close friend of former state investment officer Gary Bland, who was appointed by Richardson but resigned last year amid a federal grand jury and Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into state investments.

Correra served on a committee that recommended Bland for the investment officer position after Richardson was elected in 2002. Anthony Correra and his investment management firm contributed $27,800 to Richardson’s 2002 campaign for governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Debugging the SOS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 2, 2010


Is someone bugging Secretary of State Mary Herrera?

I don’t mean bugging as in “bothering.” In recent weeks, a lot of people — reporters, some of her staffers, county clerks and who knows who else — have been bugging her in that respect.

I’m talking about bugging as in electronic surveillance.

Apparently Herrera sometime in recent weeks thought that someone was pulling a Watergate on her.

I asked Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson about a tip that Herrera’s office had called in state police to do a “sweep” for electronic listening devices.

Olson in an e-mail confirmed it. Kind of.

“I believe there was a sweep,” he wrote. “I don’t know what the outcome was. We often search state buildings for stuff like this and other safety issues. ... It’s not common but we do it on occasion.”

Did the sweepers uncover anything suspicious? “I don’t believe anything was found,” Olson said.

Is Herrera, who is running for a second term against Republican state Sen. Dianna Duran of Tularosa, getting a little paranoid? It was just two weeks ago that this column revealed that Herrera had done a public records request for e-mail correspondence involving various political enemies, staff members and others.

Thinking that someone might be secretly recording her might not be that far-fetched of a fear for Madam Secretary. Don’t forget that one of her own staff members recently secretly videotaped Secretary of State’s Office technicians working to get pornography viruses out of Herrera’s laptop computer. (That employee, office administrator Manny Vildasol, is one of two staff members recently suspended by Herrera.)

Or perhaps Herrera feared the FBI was listening in. Vildasol, public information officer James Flores and former elections director A.J. Salazar all have talked to the FBI about what they think might be violations of law in the Secretary of State’s Office.

Olson referred further questions to the Secretary of State’s Office. Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo didn’t return my phone calls or an e-mail Wednesday.

Eat this: Here’s my favorite state government news release of the week. It’s from Expo New Mexico, or the state fair, or whatever they’re calling it these days.

“World Burrito Championship Returns to 2010 NM State Fair” was the subject line. No, it’s not a cooking contest. This is an eating contest.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 11, will feature “a host of the world’s best competitive eaters, including #1-ranked Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut,” the news release said.

“Chestnut, who counts asparagus and pizza among his numerous eating records, won his fourth consecutive hot dog eating title last month at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island. He now looks to add burritos to his resume of world records. Chestnut will also seek to set a new world record in the burrito discipline. Last year’s World Burrito Eating Championship, Bob ‘Notorious B.O.B.’ Shoudt, consumed 38.5 burritos in 10 minutes to set the benchmark.”

Yum.
One of America's Finest SportsThe release quotes Richard Shea, president of Major League Eating — yes, there is such a thing.

“Having proven himself the best eater in the world, Chestnut is favored in every competition he enters,” Shea said.

“However, there’s a chance we will witness an upset in Albuquerque, especially since many local competitors have deep knowledge of the burrito, its composition, how the beans play off the tortilla, et cetera.”

The 10-minute event — with green chile beef burritos provided by Garcia’s Kitchen — begins at 2:30 p.m. at the State Fair Pavilion. There's $3,000 in prize money. That'll buy a lot of Alka-Seltzer.

Now I’ve got to search through my e-mail for state Health Department releases on the importance of good nutritional habits.

Protecting the Judges

When New Mexican police reporter Geoff Grammer told me he'd heard about a bill that would have made threatening judges a felony had been introduced but had died in the Legislature, my first reaction was skepticism.

Geoff, of course, was working on the story of the Chimayo man arrested on charges -- misdemeanor charges -- of threatening the life of state Dsitrict Judge Michael Vigil. (His story in today's paper is HERE.)

This is the kind of apple-pie bill the Legislature usually loves, I told him. When lawmakers can't agree on anything else, both sides of the aisle usually are happy to slap heavier penalties on people found guilty of despicable crimes.

But what I learned was there were not one, but two bills introduced in the 2009 Legislature by lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.

They weren't mirror bills. Rehm's had tougher penalties. But both were introduced early in the session, and, according to committee votes, both had bi-partisan support.

Rehm managed to get his bill through the House, but it went nowhere. Wirth's bill made it through the Senate Public Affairs Committee, where it passed unanimously. But it was tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Committee votes aren't recorded for tabling actions, but Wirth told me the vote was close. Perhaps a one-vote margin, he said.

Why was this defeated? Rehm said some opponents said such a law would be used infrequently. Wirth said some of the opponents of his measure were worried about tougher laws leading to more prison overcrowding. These two objections would seem to contradict each other. Someone in the Senate apparently just doesn't like this idea.

Both lawmakers say they will try again next year. And state Supreme Court Justice Ed Chavez, who testified for the bill, says he and other justices are behind the idea of making threats to judges a felony.

One might think that the Judge Vigil incident would shame the Senate into taking action next year. But the 2009 bills were sparked by a situation with another judge, Nan Nash, of Albuquerque, who had been threatened by a party in a divorce case she was presiding over. Senate Judiciary turned down Wirth's bill in spite of Nash testifying for it.

My story about the Wirth and Rehm bills can be found HERE.