Friday, July 29, 2011

New Indictment in SOS HAVA Funds Case

Almost two years after a state grand jury charged former New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and three consultants hired by her office on multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and other charges, a federal grand jury has indicted two of Vigil-Giron's co-defendants on additional charges.

Political consultant Armando Gutierrez, currently of Corpus Christi, Texas, and lobbyist Joe Kupfer of Rio Rancho are accused of overbilling by about $2.5 million for services in a voter education project administered by Vigil-Giron. The project involved federal money from the Help America Vote Act.

Vigil-Giron was not indicted in the federal case.

The state case has been jammed up in state court for months and months. The Defendants were successful in taking the prosecution out of the hands of the Attorney General. Now they have to find a new judge, as the last one, Pat Murdoch, just resigned after being charged with raping a prostitute.

(That looks great for New Mexico, doesn't it? We have to delay prosecuting the former secretary of state because the judge is being tried for raping a prostitute.)

Read my full story HERE and take a look at the indictment below.
110728 Gutierrez-Kupfer Indictment

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judge Tosses Conflict Claim Against AG

This just in from the Attorney General's Office: District Judge Stephen Pfeffer has ruled that allegations of conflict on the part of AG Gary King in the Vanderbilt Capital pay-to-play case can't be raised by attorney Victor Marshall because his client, Frank Foy, does not have legal standing.

Pfeffer's ruling said: "The AG’s duty of representation would run to the State Investment Council (“SIC”), the entity represented by the AG in the litigation pursued by the AG in other courts and, therefore, any alleged conflict of interest would be for the SIC to raise in the context of that litigation."

Pfeffer also ruled that King and others at the SIC did not have to give depositions.

King commented, "Judge Pfeffer's ruling is a huge step forward in clearing the air of Mr. Marshall's self-serving and spurious allegations of conflict. I believe the motion to disqualify my office has always been about preserving Mr. Marshall's legal fees at the expense of the best interests of the state."

I've asked Marshall if he wants to comment. I'll post that when it comes in. (Update: Marshall declined comment.)

Trip Jennings wrote about a legislative hearing about this issue that took place yesterday. You can read that HERE.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: My First Political Rally

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 28, 2011

I recently digitized a whole box of 8mm home movies, mostly from the 1950s and a few from the early ’60s.

There in living color were herky-jerky moving images of my brother, my sister and me as babies and toddlers; both of my parents when they were in their 20s; and my late grandparents when they were younger than I am now.

There are soundless clips of Christmases, birthdays, trips to Yellowstone National Park and San Diego and glimpses of everyday life in the Terrell family. I hadn’t watched any of these in well over 30 years.

No, I’m not going to bore you with all my home movies. Just one reel. In that box of forgotten memories is footage of my very first political rally. And even though we didn’t live in Santa Fe back then, it took place here on the Plaza.

Kefauver, left, Stevenson, right, in Santa Fe
The date was Aug. 27, 1956. Former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for President, and his running mate, Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., opened their national campaign here in Santa Fe. I was less than a month shy of 3 years old. My family was there in the crowd, which was estimated to be 8,000, according to that day’s The New Mexican. Like good 1950s tourists, we brought the family movie camera.

The reel begins with me apprehensively approaching a donkey — it’s a Democratic Party rally, remember — decked out in a homemade “Adlai-Estes” banner. The man holding the reins gently takes my hand and lets me pet the donkey.

All the way with LBJ in Santa Fe
Cut to my brother, then 11 months old, and then all of a sudden there’s a 1950s state police car cruising down Palace Avenue in front of the Palace of the Governors.

It’s a political motorcade, convertibles stuffed with waving politicians. In the back seat of the first car behind the police is a man holding a white cowboy hat. This would be future President Lyndon B. Johnson, who at the time was Senate majority leader. (I had to pause the video several times to be sure.) A couple of cars behind was a yellow Cadillac convertible carrying Stevenson and Kefauver.

What were they doing in Santa Fe?: Checking 1956 microfilm of The New Mexican, I learned that these were just a few of the Democratic bigwigs in town that day. House Speaker Sam Rayburn was there as were various senators and governors from around the country. Santa Fe Mayor Leo Murphy was on hand as were Gov. John Simms, Lt. Gov. Joe Montoya and Sen. Clinton P. Anderson.

After the rally there was a regional Democratic conference for the campaign at La Fonda “to discuss New Mexico’s problems and the problems of other Southwestern states,” the newspaper said. It was the first of several such events around the country.

Among those participating in the conference was Robert McKinney, identified in the article as chairman of the Citizens Panel on the Impact of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. He also was publisher of The New Mexican.

A few weeks later on a return campaign trip to New Mexico, Kefauver would stay at McKinney’s home in Nambé.

Ultimately, Stevenson lost New Mexico and the election to incumbent Dwight Eisenhower later that year.

Back to the video: The quality of the film gets iffy for the remaining few seconds of the rally on the reel. But you can see the crowd gathered around the bandstand, a mariachi strumming a guitarrón Méxicano, somebody speaking at a podium, someone crossing the stage, flags waving in the breeze.

In other words, it doesn’t look that much different from the other political rallies I’ve seen on the Plaza.

Yes, political rallies can be tedious and, Lord knows, predictable. But as a political reporter, I have a strange fondness for them. Maybe there’s some flickering subconscious memory of hearing happy mariachi music and petting a donkey that keeps me going back.

Crossroads GPS: Obama Will Crush a Little Girl with a Big Crate

Karl Rove isn't coming to New Mexico until next month, but his Super PAC, Crossroads GPS, is already here. They're running another ad on New Mexico television stations. (Last month they ran this ad in New Mexico and elsewhere.)

According to their news release: "In New Mexico, the ad will run on TV stations in the Albuquerque and El Paso markets, with buys totaling $101,305. The total dedicated to the effort nationally, including national cable, local TV, Internet advertising and production is $3.5 million over two weeks. ... The new spot is part of a $20 million advocacy campaign begun by Crossroads GPS in June to frame the national issues debate on the economy and national debt, as Congress negotiates a deal with President Obama."

I've been hearing a lot of Republicans lately criticizing Obama's "fear tactics" in the debt-ceiling debate. But this looks pretty scary too.

Rove Comes Back to NM for Heather

Heather Wilson's senatorial campaign announced this morning announced today that Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff  and political director for President George W. Bush, is coming to Albuquerque for a fundraiser next month.

“I am pleased to have Karl as a special guest for my Senate campaign,” Wilson said in her news release. “Karl has one of best minds in modern politics and he continues to inform and influence American life as an author, columnist and commentator.”

The event is Aug. 11.

Rove and Wilson appeared together at a political event in Colorado last month.

Democrats surely will point out that Rove and Wilson go a long way back.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

AG Appeals IPRA Damages

Attorney General Gary King has appealed a judge’s ruling that he must pay $100 for each day since Jan. 14 that his office has failed to comply with a public-information request by a lawyer representing three of AG staff attorneys in a federal suit against King.

In a notice filed Thursday in the state Court of Appeals, King’s lawyer said he’s appealing last week’s order by state District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse. Brickhouse ruled that King’s office had violated the state Inspections of Public Records Act by not honoring lawyer Dan Faber’s request last year for information about salaries of Attorney General staff lawyers.

The damages total about $20,000 as of Monday.

King’s lawyer has asked that the order be “stayed” until the appeal is decided. That means the total sum would not increase each day the case is in appeals.

Faber represents three female AG lawyers who are paid less money than male employees. That case is pending in federal court.

I'm still awaiting comment from the AG's office.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Family Affairs

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 21, 2011

Is it a case of high-level nepotism? Or are they just the cutest couple on the Fourth Floor?

Late in May, Gov. Susana Martinez’s office hired Alexis Valdez Darnell for the position of operations director. It’s an exempt position, which means she serves at the pleasure of the governor.

She makes $75,000 a year, slightly less than her husband Scott Darnell, Martinez’s communications director and chief spokesman. He makes just under $80,000.

The governor’s chief of staff, Keith Gardner, defended the hire.

“There is no conflict, because she and Scott have completely different responsibilities and do not report to, nor supervise, one another,” Gardner said in an e-mail to me Wednesday. Both the Darnells report directly to Gardner.

All in the Family: The Darnells aren’t the only relatives to work for a New Mexico governor in recent history. Bill Richardson hired Eric Witt to serve as his legislative liaison and point man on film-industry issues and Lee Witt, Eric’s mom, as an aide to First Lady Barbara Richardson.

Prior to that, Gary Johnson’s chief of staff Lou Gallegos worked in the governor’s office at the same time his wife Rita Nunez worked there too.

A serious threat?: For months the state’s political writers — myself included — might have been short-changing Mr. Short-Bald-and-Honest.

Almost everything written about the Republican Senate race deals with former Congresswoman Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. Sometimes the lesser-known Greg Sowards and Bill English are mentioned as “long-shot” candidates.

However, in the last round of campaign finance reporting, Sowards — whose website is — pulled a surprise. He raised a respectable $230,000 in the last quarter and reported $334,000 cash on hand. Since he first announced -- which was even before incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced he wouldn't seek anouther term -The Las Cruces businessman has contributed more than $200,000 of his own money to the campaign.

The Washington D.C. publication The Hill wrote that Sowards’ report showed “ a promising early sum for an unknown candidate. If he continues to fundraise at that pace, he could have enough money be a factor in the race.”

Sanchez raised $311,987 in the last quarter. Of that, $200,000 of that was money he gave himself. Sanchez basically self-financed his own successful campaign for lieutenant governor in last year’s GOP primary, but it’s going to be harder to do that in the Senate race. The Sanchez campaign was quick to point out that his totals for that quarter represent only represent “26 business days” because he declared his candidacy in late May.

Wilson, who is leading in the polls, also blew away both competitors in the money race She raised $450,000 in the last quarter and, as of the end of June, had more than $600,00 in the bank.

I’m yet to be convinced that Sowards is going to be a threat to Wilson. However, he might become a major annoyance for Sanchez. The two are working the right side of the street fighting for the “true conservative” vote.

In a recent campaign e-mail Sowards quoted a recent Jay Miller column about the race. Miller said Sowards’ “unwavering conservatism could weigh heavily in his favor” in the column headlined “Who is Conservative Enough?”

“With candidates like Heather Wilson and John Sanchez, voters actually should be asking, ‘Is either a real conservative?’,” Sowards wrote.


The New Mexico branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Dianna Duran claiming she violated open-records act.

The suit, filed in state district court in Albuquerque, says Duran illegally denied the organization’s public records request for documents related to 37 cases of  foreign nationals voting in the state alleged by Duran during a committee meeting of this year's regular legislative session. Duran improperly claimed executive privilege in denying the requests for documents, the suit alleges.

“These sorts of hit-and-run allegations are reckless and irresponsible,” ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a news release. “Without offering any proof, the Secretary of State has undermined the public’s confidence in our elections system while hiding the evidence for her claims behind the cloak of executive privilege.”

One of the things claimed in the lawsuit is that the reason Duran turned over approximately 64,000 registered voter records to the state Department of Public Safety was "an effort to convert public records to records not obtainable pursuant to the IPRA."

However, because Duran has since said, in an interview with me, as well as at a recent interim legislative committee hearing, that she wasn't alleging any criminal activity, those records are not exempt from the Inspection of Public Records Act.

The suit also claims the whole SOS/MVD investigation was spurred by an email from Colorado elections director Judd Choate to Duran's office.

The e-mail from Mr. Choate stated that on March 8, 2011, the Colorado Secretary of State would hold a news conference to discuss legislation under consideration in the Colorado House that would allow the Colorado Department of State to spot check and investigate voter registrations for the possibility that non-citizens are 1) currently registered to vote, 2) are being accidentally registered to vote, or 3) are willfully seeking to register in violation of both state and potentially federal law. In addition, simultaneous with this press conference, the Colorado Department of State planned to issue a report outlining the research they had undertaken to determine if there were persons currently registered to vote who may not be U.S. citizens. Mr. Choate concluded by stating that “I wanted to warn you that this report will be issued in case it becomes a national story requiring that you address the issue relative to your state.”

UPDATE 4:20 pm: I just spoke SOS chief of staff Ken Ortiz who told me his office has not yet been served with the suit, so he can't comment. "I just find it interesting that the media got the suit before we did," he said.

Watch this space as well as tomorrow's New Mexican.

Here's the suit:

ACLU v Duran

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Foreigners With NM Driver's Licenses: Prove You Live Here

Gov. Susana Martinez just announced that the state Motor Vehicles Division will be contacting 10,000 foreign citizens who have New Mexico driver's licenses to weed out those who don't really live here.

Beginning today, MVD will be sending letters to a random sample of 10,000 foreign nationals who have obtained New Mexico driver’s licenses. Each individual who receives the letter will have 30 days in which to contact MVD to schedule an in-person appointment to verify their residency in New Mexico. They can call 855-784-8407 or go online to to make appointments. The letter includes a description of the process for verifying residency, and an MVD center at the Bank of the West building in Albuquerque has been established to handle the required in-person appointments. The address of the office is 5301 Central Avenue in Albuquerque, on the building’s first floor. ...

The residency requirements for foreign nationals are the same as for anyone else who wants to obtain a New Mexico driver’s license. Some of the documents that can be shown to verify full-time residency in New Mexico include: bank statements with activity in New Mexico; utility bills; lease agreements; and pay stubs. A complete list can be found on the MVD website at

More than 85,000 foreign nationals without a Social Security Number have been issued New Mexico driver’s licenses since a law was passed allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in 2003, the governor's release says.

And no, Martinez isn't giving up on trying to appeal that 2003 law. “Let me be very clear - the fraud and abuse related to New Mexico’s driver’s license will not go away until the irresponsible law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is repealed,” she said.

Governor Loses Pic-a-nic Basket During Daring Bruin Burglary

Well, not exactly.

But one of Yogi's cousins knocked over a couple of outdoor trashcans at the Governor's Mansion over the weekend.

And the Governor's Office made public this security video. (See below)

In a statement yesterday, Gov. Susana MNartinez said, "If you live near an area affected by drought or wildfires, take proactive steps to keep animals away from your home by removing or safeguarding items like pet food, bird feeders, and — as Chuck and I learned this weekend — trash cans."

Otherwise, "Ranger's not gonna like it, Yogi ..."

Bear Visit 07/17/2011 from Susana Martinez, Governor on Vimeo.

Friday, July 15, 2011

White Resigns from Judicial Standards Too

Several hours before Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White announced his retirement in the face of controversy,  I asked Gov. Susana Martinez about White's future on the state Judicial Standards Commission, to which Martinez had appointed him earlier this year.

This was right after the governor's speech to the state Bar Association this morning. She told me that anyone who has “done wrong” shouldn’t be allowed to serve on state boards and commissions. But she added that she’d reserve judgment on the actions of White until an independent investigation into the accident was completed.

“’I’m just going to step back and let the process work,” Martinez told a reporter following the governor’s speech at the annual meeting of the State Bar of New Mexico at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque on Friday morning.

Shortly after White's announcement, Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell confirmed that White had resigned from Judicial Standards.

Janice is In

Janice Arnold-Jones is through exploring. She's running for Congress in CD1 in the Republican primary.

Her campaign guy Steve Kush said the former Albuquerque legislator has sent in all the paperwork to the Federal Election Commission. A formal announcement is coming some day soon.

Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis is running in the GOP primary. State Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela is thinking about it.

Arnold-Jones said in her news release:

“At a time when millions of Americans are without jobs and our economy is upside down our nation is faced with a clear and present danger. Spiraling national debt, a President who is more interested in photo ops than staying at the negotiating table and an energy policy that threatens our nation’s security are among the issues I can no longer remain silent on. It is time to move forward, as a campaign committee, so we can debate the issues of the day and let the voters decide who is best suited to go to Washington and work to fix our broken government and make America the strong nation she once was.

Johnson Campaign: $6,006 Cash on Hand

It's safe to say that former Gov. Gary Johnson is running a low budget campaign.

According to his campaign finance report filed this week, Johnson between the first of April and last of June  raised $180,236.80 and spent $174,230.25, leaving him $6006.55 in the bank.

To put things in persepective, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney reportedly raised about 20 million in the last quarter while Michele Bachman, who is leading in Iowa polls, raised about $4 million in the past three months.

And incumbent Democrat Barrack Obama's campaign raised $86 million last quarter, though about $38 million of that is for next year's Democratic National Convention.

At least Johnson is doing better than former Republican House Speaker New Gingritch. His campaign is more than a million dollars in debt.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Billy, They Don't Like You to Be So Free

Susana Martinez has become the second governor in a row to exploit New Mexico's most famous gunslinger, Billy the Kid.

On behalf of the state Tourism Department, Martinez is touting a new contest -- a contest with a $10,000 prize.

“Others may have considered pardoning Billy the Kid,” the governor said in a news release, referring to her predecessor, who got the state, and himself, untold tons of publicity with his consideration of a Kid pardon. Richardson masterfully milked that until his very last day in office.

“But, we’re not letting (Billy the Kid) off the hook," Martinez said. "This effort should provide New Mexicans and others with not only a chance to interact with one of our state’s most infamous historical characters, but a wonderful opportunity to enjoy all of the diverse and exciting wonders that exist in every corner of New Mexico.”

The Tourism Department has created a website where those wanting to compete can create a profile. There will be locations aroundthe state that will have clues that lead to Billy’s New Mexico "hideout." (Most historians think he's been "hiding out" in a grave at Ft. Sumner for the past 131 years, but I don't want to spoil the fun.)

"The more clues that are collected, the more information will become available as to where, when, and how the Kid can be captured," the news release says. "People can download the `Catch the Kid' smartphone application to play along, or they can play by taking pictures next to clue posters in each location throughout the state and uploading them to their profile page. The first posse to present the Kid with an arrest warrant will win a $10,000 reward."

So there you have it.

But the best thing about Billy the Kid popping up in government stories is that it gives me an excuse to post good music on this blog. Enjoy some Zimmerman:

Heather Gets it From All Sides

Former Congresswoman Heather Wilson is getting it from all sides concerning her refusal to take a clear position on the Paul Ryan budget proposal.

That's a situation she's used to being in. But if that recent PPP poll is anywhere near correct -- that she's got a wide lead among Republicans to win the GOP primary -- it might not be concerning her all that much.

Her Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, just issued a statement saying she "hasn’t changed much from the liberal member of Congress she used to be."

That's referring to a statement Wilson recently made in Politco: "I don’t agree with some of the things in his budget plan. There are a lot of things in there that cause some concern.”

That's similar to what she told me in May. "I don't agree with everything in the Ryan plan, but I give him a lot of credit for trying to have a serious debate about saving Medicare. Democrats have not offered one single idea to save Medicare."

Sanchez in his statement today, said, "A genuine conservative should have no trouble supporting Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal. It is not perfect by any means, but it is a bold step toward truly reforming how our federal government does business. It protects our seniors, pays down our national debt, puts us on a responsible path to prosperity and repeals ObamaCare. I would vote for Rep. Ryan’s plan. ... For Mrs. Wilson to punt on such an important issue is disappointing, and unfortunately consistent with her record.”

Sanchez's statement is far more definite than the answer he gave me in May. Then he said Ryan's plan was a "good start," but declined to say whether he'd vote for it.

Meanwhile, the national Democrats are beating the same drum. A news release yesterday from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee points out that Wilson signed powerful small-government advocate Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge earlier this year. The DSCC referred to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal that says Norquist has a "new set of marching orders" for the GOP -- enact the Ryan budget.

“Heather Wilson has a long history of kowtowing to Norquist’s demands, but she refuses to say whether she will follow his latest marching orders." a DSCC spokesman said. "... Will Wilson follow Norquist per usual? "

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Retreat to Santa Fe

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 14, 2011

The Democratic Party might have a 3-to-1 voter registration edge over Republicans in Santa Fe, but the city in late September will play host for a “retreat” attended by major GOP contributors and potential big-money donors, organized by the Republican Governors Association.

At least one potential presidential candidate is scheduled to be at the private Sept. 21-23 gathering. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who currently chairs the Republican Governors Association, will be there, according to a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, as will several other GOP governors.

And yes, the host governor will attend, spokesman Scott Darnell said Wednesday.

Politico’s Mike Allen said in a column this week that the Santa Fe retreat is one of several held each year by the association’s Executive Roundtable.

“The roundtable — which requires members to contribute a minimum of $25,000 a year to the RGA — is part of an RGA effort to cultivate major individual donors, rather than the corporate donors upon whom the group traditionally relied,” Allen wrote.

Allen quotes “a source familiar with the RGA’s finances” who said that contributions from roundtable members accounted for almost half of the $22.1 million the RGA raised in the first half of this year.

Specifics of the events haven’t been publicized. And it doesn’t look like they will be.

Asked Wednesday where the retreat will take place, association spokesman Mike Schrimpf said “We usually don’t give out that information.” None of the events will be open to the public, he noted.

Schrimpf said such retreats typically feature policy sessions with GOP governors as well as dinners and other social events.

A roundtable retreat is scheduled in Aspen, Colo., for next week. According to both Politico and a Washington Post blog, among the Republican governors attending that event will be Perry, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

If Martinez does have national ambitions, as some pundits have speculated, getting well acquainted with the big-money bunch at these private schmooze sessions won’t hurt.

Rite of first refusal: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week publicly refused to sign a controversial pledge by a group of social conservatives in Iowa. On Wednesday, his rival Tim Pawlenty followed suit and said he wouldn’t sign “The Marriage Vow — A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” touted by the organization called Family Leader.

The pledge covers a variety of issues including gay marriage, abortion, marital fidelity, porn and Sharia law. Candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum quickly signed on.

The original version of the document included a statement that suggested that African-American children born into slavery were better off in terms of family life than black children born after Barack Obama became president. That statement has since been removed.

But while those two former governors were agonizing over whether to risk offending the religious right, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a longshot 2012 contender, not only declined to put his John Hancock on the pledge, he ripped into it with glee.

“While the Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance,” Johnson wrote Saturday in his campaign blog. “In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting. ...

"The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country," Johnson said, "If we nominate such a candidate, we will never capture the White House in 2012.”

“Well, first of all, who’s Gary Johnson?” Family Leader leader Bob Vander Plaats asked when sought his response to Johnson’s statement.

Moore Heading Guv's DC Office

One of Gov. Susana Martinez's deputy chiefs of staff is heading to Washington, D.C. to head the governor's branch office in the nation's capitol.

Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell confirmed that in an e-mail. Moore's transfer was first reported by blogger Joe Monahan,

Moore, a former legislator from Clayton, "will work regularly with the staffs of our congressional delegation, as well as federal agencies when necessary and the National Governors Association," Darnell said. "His office will ensure communication and coordination on the many issues that affect New Mexicans that have federal and state components."

Darnell said Moore's move was permanent, not a temporary position. Of course, in reality, no political job is permanent.

Meanwhile, Martinez quietly let a D.C. lobbying firm's contract expire with no intention of finding a replacement.

"The previous administration had not only a staff member in Washington, but also a lobbying firm on contract that was paid $10,000 per month by the administration," Darnell said.  "We have done away with the previous practice of hiring a lobbying firm and will simply utilize one staff member," he said, referring to Moore.

My story in today's New Mexican is HERE

UPDATE: 8:28 am: I just corrected an unintentionally funny typo. In the original version of this post it said, " ... no political jon is safe." I must have been thinking of Sens. Ensign and Vitter and Professor Chris Garcia. The correct word is "job."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

NM Tries to Join the Un-Jet Set

If you've got an extra $3.15 million you can get a good deal on the state's 2005 Cessna Citation Bravo. It's been sitting unused in a hangar in Santa Fe, but the state's still paying to maintain it.

My story on the status of the jet sale is HERE.

The state General Services Department says the state is paying $400,000 a year to keep the jet. But that figure is for maintenance and fuel. But, the jet hasn't used any fuel to speak of since December. I asked for but was not able to get a breakdown of the actual cost of maintaining the jet.

Wetzel Aviation, the aircraft broker trying to sell the jet offers all the specs on the plane HERE.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Audit Shows Ex-Sheriff Sold $73,000-plus of SF County Assets

According state Auditor Hector Balderas, former Sheriff Greg Solano sold $73,364 worth of goods belonging to Santa Fe on his eBay account.
Balderas' office in a press release said the audit, performed by the Moss Adams firm, showed that Solano sold "handcuffs, body armor, print cartridges, digital recorders, smartphones and dozens of cell phones."

The audit findings also revealed "an overall lack of policies and procedures at the Sheriff’s Office, including deficient controls related to the office’s evidence, ammunition and supply rooms," Balderas' release said.

"... auditors found that it was generally difficult to identify and locate items due to the clutter and disorganization of the evidence room, the evidence offices and the officers’ supplies room. Even though this situation was noted as far back as 2001, auditors noted that the problem seems to have progressed. Auditors also found that the evidence lockers leave evidence susceptible to theft, and Solano and one Sergeant periodically overrode controls by walking in and out of the evidence locker room area without signing in or out. Moreover, auditors found that the Sheriff’s Office does not adequately discourage theft in key risk areas such as in the supply, ammunition, inventory and asset areas."

Among the other findings:

• The half door blocking the evidence offices and officers’ supply room is not locked and auditors noted that, at times, personnel entered restricted areas without question;
• There is no inventory of unit equipment in the shed held by Fleet Management, and auditors noted Solano sold a rotating police light, light-bar controllers, a light PA control box and a light panel on Ebay;
• The Sheriff’s Office has not adequately addressed the backlog of evidence needing to be logged, filed and properly secured;
• The County does not have a scale to weigh the drugs upon arrival for future inventories; and
• There are times that staff is ordered to release property from the evidence room without the proper paperwork completed and signed off.

In May Solano's lawyer Brooke Gamble said that the former sheriff, who resigned late last year because of the theft investigation, will plead guilty. But she and prosecutor Matt Chandler of Clovis said a plea couldn't be accepted until an audit was completed.

Solano is charged with 251 counts of embezzlement and one count of fraud.

Balderas is running for U.S. Senate.

(Full disclosure: Lawyer Gamble represented one of my family members in an unrelated matter more than a year ago.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup:To Sing an American Tune

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 7, 2011

Is this a case of clairvoyance or just a stupid coincidence?

About three months ago, in my political blog, I wrote about former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist having to make a humiliating public apology to singer/songwriter David Byrne for using the Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere" in a political ad. Byrne sued and won, and Crist looked like a sad sack.

In the blog post, I quipped, "Wow, Tom Petty could mop up if he sued every politician who played 'I Won't Back Down' at a political rally. (Are you listening Bill Richardson and Tom Udall?)"

Udall used the Petty song as his entrance music in Albuquerque when he announced he was running for Senate back in 2007. Richardson used the same song the same way just about everywhere I saw him speak in Iowa and New Hampshire when he was running for president. They played "I Won't Back Down" when I saw Richardson speak in Manchester, N.H., the night before the New Hampshire primary. Just a couple of days before he, well, backed down.

And now Petty is threatening legal action against a politician using his song.

But not Udall or Richardson. And not over "I Won't Back Down." Petty is trying to get Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to cease and desist using his song "An American Girl" at her rallies.

This tension between rockers and the candidates who try to co-opt their music goes back at least to 1984, when both Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale were trying to ride on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." coattails.

It's not the first time a liberal rocker got upset over a song used by a conservative. In the '90s, Chrissie Hynde was upset because Rush Limbaugh used the instrumental from The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone" as his radio theme song. Limbaugh eventually agreed to pay an annual licensing fee for the song, which Hynde reportedly donates to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

As I've said before, I liked it better when politicians still considered rock 'n' roll to be evil.

More fun with polls: Gov. Susana Martinez has to be happy about the latest Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico voters. It showed 52 percent approving of her job performance, with 37 percent of those polled disapproving.

PPP director Tom Jensen said, "Most of the Republicans elected governor in Obama states last November have quickly become very unpopular. Not so in the case of New Mexico's Susana Martinez."

Among the poll findings was that Martinez got high marks from about a third of the Democrats polled. Also, 49 percent of Hispanics approved of Martinez, with 41 percent disapproving.

According to the poll, Martinez would beat Democrat Diane Denish in a rematch by nine percentage points — a slightly larger margin than she had last November.

Diane Denish
In a case of bad timing, the poll results were released shortly after The New Mexican published an op-ed by Denish, in which she wrote, "I promised to stick around and fight for our families, and I intend to do so. Just how that will play out, perhaps in seeking another office or just participating in the public debate, is to be determined."

Denish endorses: On Wednesday, Denish was talking about another candidacy. Not her own, but that of Hector Balderas, the state auditor who is running for U.S. Senate.

"The Senate needs more leaders like Hector Balderas. Leaders who reject the premise that 'fiscal responsibility' and 'accountability' are Republican words," Denish said in a news release.

Balderas is running against U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich in the Democratic primary. A PPP poll released last week showed Heinrich ahead by nearly a 2-1 margin. Balderas' main handicap in that poll appeared to be lack of name recognition.


Here's "American Girl" by Tom Petty

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Susana Poll Numbers Looking Good

In the most recent numbers released by PPP, Gov. Susana Martinez is enjoying a 52 percent approval rate, with 37 percent of those polled disapproving.

Gov. Susana MartinezIn the PPP blog, poll honcho Tom Jensen says, "Most of the Republicans elected Governor in Obama states last November have quickly become very unpopular. Not so in the case of New Mexico's Susana Martinez ... A female Hispanic Governor who's maintaining her popularity as she governs a blue state? Martinez would be at the top of my VP list for next year if I was a Republican strategist."

Of course, Jensen is not a GOP strategist. PPP is a Democratic polling firm.

The latest poll finds that Martinez would beat Democrat Diane Denish in a rematch 53 percent to 44 percent. About a third of the Democrats polled approved of Martinez's first six months as governor as did a plurality of Hispanics.

The poll also asked about same-sex marriage.

When asked whether same-sex marriage should be legal 42 percent said yes and 48 percent said no. "Respondents under 65 narrowly support it but are outweighed by 58/30 opposition among senior citizens," Jensen said.

However, when respondents are given the option of "civil unions" the numbers get interesting. 37 percent chose same-sex marriage as the best option, 31 percent chose "civil unions" while only 30 percent agreed that "there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship."

Other poll findings:

* Outgoing Sen. Jeff Bingaman's approval rating is 59 percent (29 percent disapprove) while Sen. Tom Udall has a 48 percent approval (31 percent disapprove). U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan's figures are 30 percent approval, 34 percent approval, but those numbers are statewide, not just CD3, which Lujan represents.

* Former Gov. Bill Richardson's still are low -- 27 percent favorable, 63 percent unfavorable.

PPP surveyed 732 New Mexico voters from June 23 to 26. The margin of error is 3.6 percent.

PPP Release NM 705

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Independence Day Weekend

I'm off work today and won't be back until next Wednesday.

I probably won't be blogging much here until then. But in the meantime, here's what Politico says about the New Mexico Senate race, which it ranks as number 7 in the Top 10 competitive races:

7. NEW MEXICO (Up 1 spot) — New Mexico leapfrogs Ohio after a Public Policy Polling survey showed both former Rep. Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez within single digits of their potential Democratic opponents. Rep. Martin Heinrich and state auditor Hector Balderas showed comparable strength, presenting a difficult decision for a party eager to place more Hispanic faces at the top of the ticket. A subtle signal of the importance of Latinos: After indicating it was on the verge of backing Heinrich, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it will remain neutral. On the margins, neutrality is a win for Balderas. So far, he and Heinrich have been playing nice, while Wilson and Sanchez duke it out over who is a more genuine conservative.

Who won June: Balderas

Of course, it doesn't mention the PPP results released yesterday showing Heinrich beating Balderas among Democrats by a 2 to 1 mmargin.

Oh well, have a safe holiday. And as I posted on my music blog, make sure any fireworks you shoot in New Mexico this year are this kind: