Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: One Healthy Industry

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 17, 2011

First it was Gov. Susana Martinez’s radio spots and robo calls urging people to call their legislators to vote for bills prohibiting illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses. Democrats in the Roundhouse have been howling over that for weeks.

Then Wednesday, the state Democratic Party struck back, unleashing a radio ad featuring two women dissing the governor.

“Well, obviously she hasn’t been focused on creating jobs. My husband is still out of work, and Governor Martinez is spending all her time on her divisive agenda,” one woman says. “Ugh, thought the campaign was over. Does she even have a jobs plan?”

Actually, there’s one industry that’s likely to be creating a lot of new jobs: The political attack ad industry. It’s thriving in New Mexico. Ugh! The campaign’s never over.

Speaking of ad campaigns: State law requires groups that advertise in favor of or in opposition to legislation to register and report expenses to the Secretary of State’s Office. So far, three have done so. One is the Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign, which on Feb. 28 reported spending $5,648 assumedly for the driver’s license spots.

Martinez’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey, wrote a note attached to the report saying, “We do not believe we are required to file this report, as the campaign committee’s expenditures promoting Gov. Martinez’s agenda promote her considered re-election campaign. However, out of abundance of caution and to be transparent as position, we are filing this report.”

The others filing reports were:

* The American Federation of Teachers, which on March 1 reported spending $38,489 on advertising. Of that, $15,000 went to Adelstein Liston, a political consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The rest went for newspaper and Internet ads. (Full disclosure — The New Mexican was paid $3,939.)

* The Conservation Voters New Mexico on March 3 reported spending $2,065 for “patch-through calls,” which allowed people to connect with their legislator to protest the Cultural Properties Review bills (HB 422 and SB 421). These bills would have made it harder to designate cultural and historic sites. (Both bills effectively died in committee.)

Hungry like a vote-fraud perpetrator: The restless specter of voter fraud reared its ugly head at the Roundhouse again this week. Secretary of State Dianna Duran testified before the House Voters & Election Committee that a cross-check of voter-registration lists and the list of foreign nationals with driver’s licenses showed that 37 of them had voted, possibly fraudulently, in state elections.

A Tuesday news release from the Secretary of State’s Office said, “These are still under investigation to verify the accuracy of the information.”

I was reminded of the last time the state Republican Party raised a stink about voter fraud, which included a case involving another D. Duran.

In October 2008, right before the general election, the party issued a news release with a subject line that screamed, “Fraudulent Votes Cast in New Mexico: Obama’s ACORN Must Be Shut Down Before Election, All Activities Investigated.”

The party released copies of public records they said demonstrated six specific examples of fraudulent voter registrations, “including one for the well known 80’s pop band Duran-Duran.”

However, two of the people named later showed up at a news conference to declare their legitimacy. And subsequent news reports pointed out that “Duran Duran” was the name of a real person in Albuquerque, who is listed in the phone book.

“Duran Duran” is not a common name, but it’s not unheard of. There’s another one in Ruidoso, plus eight more scattered around the country, according to a popular online phone directory.