Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Judge Hall Says GOP Lawyers Can Get Sanderoff eMails, etc.

Judge Jim Hall ruled today that Republican lawyers in the upcoming redistricting court battle can ask for email, notes and other communications between legislators and pollster Brian Sanderoff, who was hired to help draw up redistricting maps during September's special session.

The redistricting cases are scheduled to begin next week.

Lawyers for Democrats argued that such communications between Sanderoff and legislators should be considered confidential.

Not so, said the judge. He ruled there was no privilege of confidentiality because Sanderoff was identified as an expert witness to testify in redistricting trials.

Hall's order is below:

Protective Order - Order Denying Motion

You can find all sorts of redistricting trials documents HERE.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Bears in Them Woods

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 27, 2011

Fifteen years ago, Santa Fe’s municipal judge sent a dire warning to local newspapers and radio stations about the dreaded Blue Star acid “a small piece of paper containing a blue star. They are the size of a pencil eraser, and each star is soaked with LSD.”
Does showing this on my blog make me one?

A few years before that, the Santa Fe Police Department put a warning about a possible “gang initiation” in which prospective gang members cruise around in the dark on city streets with their headlights off, then murder the first hapless boob who flashes his lights to alert them.

Both the Blue Star LSD and the “gang initiation” are urban legends that have been taken seriously by those involved in the criminal justice system in Santa Fe and elsewhere. I was reminded of these warnings last week when the Attorney General’s Office emailed reporters with a warning about a new menace called “PedoBear.”

The news release quoted Attorney General Gary King saying that his Internet Crimes Against Children unit “has received reports that the PedoBear window sticker has been sighted in Albuquerque on at least two vehicles recently. We are very concerned about the potential link between the PedoBear symbol and pedophiles; we also want to increase public awareness of the potential danger to children, especially young girls.”

Images of this cartoon bear
have been associated with
picnic basket thieves
The news release included a flier and a photo of a Jeep in Albuquerque sporting a decal of the sinister cartoon bear.

A wolf in bear’s clothing: PedoBear started out as a Japanese anime cartoon character. Apparently some anime fans began posting his image on online forums if they thought someone was saying something inappropriate about children. It was a joke. Black humor.

But last year in California, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department issued warning about actual pedophiles adopting the symbol as a way to attract children. It’s almost identical to the one sent out by King’s office. Both contain the following text:

“At the San Diego Comic Con 2010 in July of this year, law enforcement discovered an individual dressed in a PedoBear costume, handing out candy and being photographed in contact with attendees, including multiple children. Once identified, the young man and his costume were excluded from the family-friendly event.”

Last year the flier made it to Tulsa, Okla., where police told a TV reporter that the guy at Comic Con was a convicted sex offender. He wasn’t. The TV station had to retract it.

Why do I get the sinking feeling that this also may be the story of that Albuquerque Jeep driver whose vehicle is in the attorney general’s press release? If there have been actual arrests of actual pedophiles using this symbol, it sure hasn’t shown up in any of these law enforcement warnings.

Protect the children: King spokesman Phil Sisneros said his office is aware that PedoBear started out as a joke. “... unfortunately, our investigators here and others around the country have found that pedophiles indeed have adopted the joke symbol and use it to identify each other. ... I guess we figure if we can prevent one child from being molested it is worth any ridicule we might get for publicizing this.”

I wish I had a buck for every bad piece of legislation passed or policy implemented based on “if we can prevent just one child from being harmed ... ”

Sisneros said that a sticker alone would never be the sole reason a suspected pedophile is investigated. “Just displaying the sticker is not against the law,” he said. “But it could draw the interest of law enforcement.”

Or maybe vigilantes.

Here’s an idea: Watch your kids. Tell them not to take candy or rides from strangers. But don’t get hysterical about every weird warning issued by well-meaning government officials.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Johnson Ponders Bid as Libertarian

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson told me this week that he's well aware he’s not going to win the New Hampshire presidential primary and that he won’t be the 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

But, he said he’s seriously considering running for the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

“I feel abandoned by the Republican Party,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “The Republican Party has left me by the wayside.”

He’s been left out of all but two of the seemingly endless Republican presidential debates. His fundraising is low and his poll numbers are below radar level.

“If I’d have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there have been “overtures made” by the Libertarian Party. While there’s no guarantee he’d win the nomination, Johnson believes he’d have a fair chance.

See more in today's New Mexican.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Debate Invites, But Gary Finds Some Sympathy

Gov. Gary Johnson's exclusion from the Republican debates -- including last night'sas aroused  foreign policy/national security debate -- has aroused sympathy for the former New Mexico governor in at least a couple of national media outlets.

In Slate, Dave Weigel wrote:

The rules that allowed no-hopers like Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore, and Tom Tancredo into the 2007 debates would have let Johnson and Buddy Roemer in. So we're spared the presence of governors who last won elections in 1989 and 1998, and gifted with a senator who last won election in 2000 and a businessman who has never won anything. In the public interest. Or something like that.

Even Comedy Central's Indecision website is weighing in. Referring to the letter that Johnson sent to the Republican National Committee asking them to help open the debates, Indecision sarcastically wrote, "Whoa, settle down there Gary! Are you seriously suggesting that the RNC would allow certain voices within their party to be silenced by massive, wealthy media conglomerates?"

As for the RNC's contention that you have to have some thresholds to get into the debates or otherwise you'd have "utter chaos," the comedy website said:

Exactly. This isn't about excluding politicians who have unpopular views on social issues or who aren't rich enough. It's about making sure the debates are coherent events that allow voters to make reasonable judgments about who the best candidates are.

These candidates are poised and knowledgeable, and aren't into bickering or shouting matches. Gary Johnson just doesn't understand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RNC: No Help for Gary Johnson

It probably wasn't unexpected, but former Gov. Gary Johnson's recent appeal to the Republican National Committee for help in getting included in televised GOP debates (in his words, to  "exert some leadership and reclaim the nominating process from the national news media who are today pre-ordaining the viability and success of candidates.") didn't get very far.

The Johnson campaign, in an email today, published the reply from the RNC. In it, chief counsel John R. Phillippe, Jr. points out that there are 21 Republicans who have filed in the New Hampshire primary.

"We simply have to have some minimum criteria in order for candidates to participate in these debates. Otherwise, the debates would be utter chaos and unhelpful to Republican voters as we select our nominee," Phillippe wrote.

He said the threshold for getting into RNC-sanctioned debates are $1 million in third-quarter fundraising or having an average of 3 percent in polls (as averaged by the Real Clear Politics site.)

Johnson's campaign manager, Ron Nielson, responded: “It is not surprising to us that the RNC feels it is not in a position to become involved in the presidential debate selection process in demanding that fairness be observed. Frankly, that is our concern. There is something wrong when CNN or CBS or the Washington Post can decide to exclude a successful two-term Republican governor from the field, and the RNC is powerless to do anything about it. Our only demand is fairness, and fairness isn’t happening.

“There is also something fundamentally wrong when one of the criterion for participation in the process -- embraced by the national party -- is a fundraising threshold. Since when does the size of one’s contributor list have anything to do with qualifications to lead the nation, and how is a candidate to be expected to raise millions of dollars when he is denied the opportunity to even appear on the debate stage?"

The old chicken and egg deal.

Here's the RNC letter, copied from Johnson's email:

Dear Governor Johnson:
Thank you for your letter to Chairman Priebus of October 20, 2011. As you know the Republican National Committee does not decide which candidates are invited to participate in every one of the presidential debates. Those decisions generally are made by the debate sponsors.

The RNC has, however, become involved in a limited fashion through the sanctioning of certain debates. Acting through the Committee on Presidential Debates, the RNC has set objective criteria to guide our decision as to which debates to sanction. Such criteria are necessary given how many individuals have declared candidacies for president. For example, 21 Republican candidates have filed in New Hampshire.

We simply have to have some minimum criteria in order for candidates to participate in these debates. Otherwise, the debates would be utter chaos and unhelpful to Republican voters as we select our nominee. The criteria chosen were aimed primarily at ensuring that only candidates exhibiting minimum indicia of viability would be allowed to participate. A candidate can establish that he or she has met this threshold by hitting certain fundraising targets or achieving a minimum level of support in public polling. The latter would allow candidates whose campaigns are more grassroots-oriented to still demonstrate viability even if they had not raised substantial money.

The third quarter threshold for fundraising was one million dollars, and the polling threshold, based on the RealClearPolitics average, was three percent. Eight candidates met at least one of these criteria. We will strongly encourage the debate sponsors to allow those candidates that meet that requirement to be included. With respect to non-RNC-sanctioned debates, you have to meet the criteria of the debate sponsors.

I understand the problem you and others have had with respect to being excluded from certain public polls. The RNC will work with various pollsters to encourage them to include as many candidates as possible in the polling.

We do not take your concerns lightly, and we appreciate your contacting us to raise the issues. Please let me know if you have any questions.

John R. Phillippe, Jr. Chief Counsel

Will Ben Run or Not?

HOUSE SPEAKER BEN LUJANI wrote a story in today's New Mexican about the fact that House Speaker Ben Lujan says he hasn't decided whether he'll seek re-election to his House seat.

"That's for me to decide," he said.

Well, that's true.

I pointed out that it's only four months until filing day. I also noted that there have been no stirrings from Carl Trujillo -- who lost to Lujan by 80-some votes last year -- or any other potential opponents.

But I also should point out that last election, hardly anyone had heard about Trujillo until filing day.

So, all I can say is stay tuned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: A Turkish Friendship Dinner

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 20, 2011

At first glance, it looked as though it might be some kind of political dinner. The room was crawling with politicians, especially legislators.

But it was a bi-partisan affair. There were Democrats, such as state Reps. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, Rick Miera, Al Park and Moe Maestas, and Republicans, such as state Sen. Bill Payne, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Reps. Jimmie Hall and Jim White.

The event, which took place at Marriott Pyramid hotel in Albuquerque last week, was The Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner for the local chapter of the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue. The institute is associated with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, a Texas-based organization with chapters in Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi and several other states. It’s mainly made up of Turkish-Americans and Turkish people who live the United States. There are an estimated 500 Turks in New Mexico.

Tolerance and dialogue were the main themes of the dinner. The Democrats, Republicans and others seemed to have no trouble tolerating each other. They even tolerated a few news dogs among them.

Fethullah Gulen
The Turquoise Council and the Interfaith Dialogue Institute are associated with the Gulen movement, inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Muslim theologian known for a moderate brand of Islam that stresses education and tolerance for other religions and cultures. Gulen, for the past several years, has lived in Pennsylvania.

A few months ago, I wrote about this group sponsoring trips to Turkey for several legislators. As both the Attorney General’s Office and the Legislative Council explained, there is nothing illegal about these trips. The organization does not lobby the Legislature. There has been no legislation affecting the Turkish groups except a couple of innocuous and nonbinding memorials giving lip service to friendship between New Mexico and Turkey, etc. There is a Gulen charter school in Albuquerque, but nobody has asked the Legislature for any special favors for the school.

As I’ve said before, my problem with the trips is not with the Turkish organizations, but with New Mexico state law. There’s no mechanism to report the trips — which consist of about 10 days of lodging and food and, in at least some cases, airfare from Albuquerque and Istanbul. They aren’t campaign contributions and they aren’t gifts from lobbyists, so there’s no way to know whether someone is paying for an overseas trip for your legislator.

Politicians, for some reason, never issue press releases about such things.

But I also was interested in attending this dinner because of some rather rabid reaction I got from the previous stories about the Turkish trips. According to several emails I received and comments on my blog, there’s something very sinister about these guys. One gentle reader asked in a blog comment , “... are you really defending a ‘religion’ that idolizes a murdering warlord and his violent exploits against unbelievers????”

I can see how a group that espouses friendship, tolerance, education and finding common ground might make this guy uncomfortable.

So are the politicians who go to Turkey on the dime of the Turquoise Council dupes of an extremist Muslim movement? Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think I’m going to question the patriotism of Rear Admiral Bill Payne, a former Navy SEAL.

As a Gulen-movement paper in Turkey pointed out, U.S. critics of Gulen claim that an extreme Islamic fundamentalist lies beneath his public statements and that he is someone who wants to bring Sharia law to both Turkey and the United States. In Turkey, though, his enemies portray him as a Zionist puppet of the CIA and Israel.

I can relate to that. Here in the U.S., reporters have a saying, which I’ll clean up a little for the Sunday paper: If you’ve got both sides (angry) at you, you must be doing your job.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ben Ray Gets Dem Challenger

Sean Closson
A 25-year-old Santa Fe artist and hotel worker is challenging incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Lujan in next year’s Democratic primary.

Sean Closson, a political novice is challenging Lujan, currently serving his second term in Congress, announced his candidacy in a column published in the well-known national liberal website The Daily Kos.

“I'm here to represent the people who don't have lobbyists,” he said in the Nov. 5 column. “People who are struggling just to make rent and feed their families. People who get foreclosed on, even when they did everything right. People who's job gets sent overseas, or can't afford gas to heat their homes, or who have to hide in the shadows of society because they don't have the right paperwork. The people who, up to this point, have borne all the consequences of the recession, while those who are the best off reap record profits and enjoy unparalleled freedom to buy our elections.”

On his website he wrote, “They’ll try to smear me, destroy me personally, convince people I’m a bad person, a socialist, a hippy, a nut job, whatever will stick. Come at me, bro. I don’t care.”

Closson, who now works at a local hotel, was unemployed for several months after his temporary job with the U.S. Census ended.

He says that his experience being unemployed gives him a good perspective for representing the district. “I'm not someone who at some vague point in the distant past experienced some economic hardship. I'm someone who was on unemployment in 2010,” he said in the column.

Closson also criticizes Lujan for co-sponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would give the U.S. Justice Department and copyright holders more power in fighting intellectual property theft. Supporters say it’s needed to stop theft. Critics say the bill could lead to censorship of the Internet.

“Under this act, sites like Google, YouTube, and Twitter could all be shut down by the Department of Justice for linking to infringing content,” Closson said in a statement. “... It's too broad, it's draconian, and it would destroy the Internet as we know it today.”

Defeating an incumbent is rarely easy. Lujan, who faced no primary opposition in 2010, already has amassed more than $280,000 in campaign contributions, according to his latest report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Closson said he comes from a military family that moved several times during his youth. He went to high school in North Carolina and college in Florida, where he  graduated from the Ringling College of Art & Design.

He moved to Santa Fe in the summer of 2008. He said he chose this town because it's the second largest art market in the country.

While Closson is attacking from the left, Lujan also got a Republican challenger recently Businessman Rick Newton of Taos, whose career has included high-profile deep-sea recovery projects, announced his candidacy late last month.

SOS Duran's Car Involved in Fatal Accident

Here's some sad news. Secretary of State  Dianna Duran's car was one of several vehicles that struck a pedestrian on Santa Fe's bypass (NM 599) last night.

Apparently she driving was one of the cars that hit the man after he initially was struck on the road.

New Mexican crime reporter Geoff Grammer has the story HERE.

Duran issued a statement this morning:

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim who lost his life Thursday evening on Highway 599 and Camino La Tierra.

This past evening at approximately 7:30 while driving home from work, my car was apparently one of multiple vehicles to pass over what appeared to be an animal that had been struck in the middle of the right lane of Highway 599.

We later learned that what I believed to have been an animal was in fact the body of someone who had been hit a few minutes before while crossing the highway.

I am sure other drivers have been just as shocked and saddened as I have been to learn what had actually taken place in this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the family for this tragic loss of life.

Police Capt. Aric Wheeler told Grammer, "We aren't sure how many vehicles may have hit the man or maybe drove through the scene collecting evidence without even realizing it."

UPDATE 3:45 pm: Geoff Grammer has more details on The New Mexican site.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SOS to Send 104 Cases to Attorney General

Secretary of State Dianna Duran will be sending the Attorney General’s Office the names of 104 non-citizens who have registered to vote in New Mexico.

Of these, 19 have actually cast ballots in elections in the state, according to a report Duran submitted this week to legislators and county clerks.

The 18-page report, called “Interim Progress Report: Ongoing Efforts by the Secretary of State’s Office to Improve the Accuracy and Integrity of the Statewide Voter File.” doesn’t accuse anyone of consciously committing voter fraud. But the report says the possibility of fraud is there.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

The report is below:

SOS Interim Report 11 17 11 Final

Text Books for Religious Schools

An interesting constitutional question is being raised by a petition to the state Supreme Court. A Santa Fe woman and a Las Cruces man are challenging the constitutionality of a 40-year-old state law that permits the state to distribute free text books to private schools, including church-run schools.

The state Public Education Department says, correctly, that they're just following the law. But does the law itself pass constitutional muster?

Attorney Gary King, who along with Gov. Susana Martinez, is a defendant in the case, gave some powerful suggestions that the law indeed may be unconstitutional.

My story about this is HERE. The AG's opinion, written last December, is HERE.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Extremists, Fascists, Terrorists & Libyan Agents Ru Amok in NM Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 13, 2011

Political rhetoric by its very nature tends to be overheated, over-reaching and hyperbolic. You can’t really blame the people who write it. You’re not going to fire up your crowd by saying, “There are several technical issues over which we don’t see eye-to-eye with our opponents.”

But in recent days there have been several cases here in which the political rhetoric, accusations and insinuations have gone overboard.

I’m tempted to say that it’s the worst hyperbole in the history of the world!
Extremist Teddy Bears' Picnic

On Wednesday, the state Republican Party sent out a news release bashing the Bernalillo County Commission for nominating a Democrat, Lisa Curtis, to take the place of longtime State Sen. Kent Cravens, an Albuquerque Republican who is stepping down to become a lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.

I can see why the GOP would be upset. It’s a heavily Republican district that Cravens has represented for more than a decade, and commissioners selected Curtis on a party-line vote. But the party’s press release cried that the commission appointed a “Liberal Extremist.”

There was a time not so long ago when the word “extremist” was reserved for wild-eyed maniacs with bombs strapped across their chests or jackboots on their feet.

Reading on, I learned the “extremist” was Lisa Curtis, president of the state Trail Lawyers Association. Granted, Republicans don’t like trial lawyers, but “extremist”? (The basis for this charge is that Curtis doesn’t support repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses and is against Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposal to stop “social promotion” in elementary schools.)

Then there was the case of Christopher Monkton, a global-warming skeptic who recently spoke in Santa Fe. His use of — and defense of — the word “eco-fascists” to describe his critics even raised an eyebrow at the conservative Capitol Report New Mexico news site.

But not all the hyperbole is on the right end of the spectrum.

Last week the pro Democratic Party group Progress New Mexico sent an alarming news release: “Did Martinez Hand-Pick a Quaddafi Advisor to Join PRC?!” screamed the subject line.

The email went on to point out that Doug Howe, who Gov. Susana Martinez appointed to take the place of disgraced former commissioner Jerome Block Jr. on the Public Regulation Commission, had “served as an advisor to former Libyan dictator Muammar Quaddafi’s government from 2005-2007 while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Group ... If Howe was the best fit to design a system to serve Moammar Quaddafi why in the world would Susana Martinez allow him to regulate New Mexico?”

Oh no! Susana plans to murder her own citizens to stay in power using her Libyan puppets on the PRC!

Or something.

Howe told the Associated Press that his firm was hired by the Libyan electric company to help upgrade its management and operating practices to provide a more reliable supply of electricity. He said he only dealt with management of the utility during his work there. This was after the U.S. had resumed diplomatic relations with Libya and lifted terrorism-related sanctions against the country. He said he never met with any government official or member of the dictator’s family.

But it’s not just the political pros who engage in this rhetorical overkill. There were photos in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter of a guy who hates living near the Rail Runner tracks so much he goes out with a protest sign when a train passes.

The picture that caught my eye featured the man with a sign that read, “Rail Runner: State Sponsored Terrorists.”

That’s right. Some terrorists blow up school buses. Others operate commuter trains.

Some might say that, a year before the 2012 election, the “silly season” has started. But the beauty of the world of New Mexico politics is that silly season lasts year-round.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Perry's Debate Flub Brings Back Memories

Texas  Gov. Rick Perry's disastrous flub in last night's Republican debate on CNBC -- in which he couldn't remember the third of three cabinet departments he said he'd eliminate -- stirred some memories of debates in the past. First here's Perry's big moment.

The first thing I thought of was the infamous 2006 debate debate between two New Mexico Congressional candidates, Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Patricia Madrid. Madrid's painful hesitancy in answering a question from Wilson about tax increases is painful to watch. The Wilson campaign campaign got a devastating attack ad out of this moment. Some believe this was the deciding factor in that extremely close race.

However, when I was watching the debate at home, I thought the question shown in the below video was a far worse mistake on Madrid's part.

Below are a couple of examples from presidential debates. I like the first one especially because it features Michael Dukakis himself owning up to the fact that he blew it with with his dispassionate answer to the infamous hypothetical question about whether he'd want the death penalty if someone raped and killed his wife.

And the mother of all debate gaffes ...

UPDATE: 1:58 pm A co-worker just reminded me of this one from last year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Howe Says Think NM Plan for PRC is Worth Considering

It wasn't exactly an endorsement, but new Public Regulation Commissioner Doug Howe has gone on record saying Think New Mexico's plan to reform the commission has some good ideas.

"I think their calls for certain qualifications and a possible tearing off of the commission to other agencies is something to consider," Howe told The New Mexico Independent yesterday

Howe, who was appointed to serve the remainder of disgraced former Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr.'s term, wouldn't have any problem meeting Think New Mexico's proposed minimum qualifications -- a college degree or five years experience in any of the various areas regulated by the commission . He's got a PhD in mathematics and decades of experience in utilities.

Other commissioners to say they like some of the Think New Mexico proposals are Pat Lyons and Jason Marks.

However, Commissioners Ben Hall and Theresa Becenti-Aguilar are very much against the proposals.

In related news, Howe denies he was an accomplice of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

National Dems Advertising in NM

The Democratic National Committee is targeting New Mexico as well as two other swing states, Ohio and North Carolina, with a new ad supporting President Obama's jobs plan. This is right before an expected Senate vote on part of Obama's plan that relates to hiring veterans.

It's a fairly low-key ad, focusing on an unemployed Iraq war vet. The only "finger-pointing" is the part that says " ...it's paid for by asking millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share. But Republicans have said no."

It looks like the Dems are playing to sports fans. Besides CNN, the ad will be running on ESPN and the NFL  Network.

This is the second ad the DNC has run in this state this year -- and the first one in English.

Here's the ad:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Non-Citizen Voters

Secretary of State Dianna Duran last week informed Attorney General Gary King about two cases of non-citizens registering to vote in New Mexico.

But neither case involves sneaky illegal immigrants using their New Mexico driver's licenses to register in hopes of committing voter fraud.

In fact both cases involve people who registered to vote not realizing that it was against the law to do so. And in fact, both voluntarily asked to be taken off the voter rolls, Duran said.

The problem, Duran told King, could be the voter registration process, specifically third-party registration agents. Some foreign nationals used  foreign documentation to get their voter registrations.

These are the first — and so far only — specific cases of noncitizens on the voter rolls Duran has reported since she told legislators earlier this year that she had found 117 foreign nationals who had registered to vote. Duran said at the time at least 37 of those people had actually voted in state elections.

That's the case with one of the two people Duran told King about. He's been voting in nearly every election since 1998.

My story about this is in today's New Mexican is HERE

Here's Duran's letter to King.

Duran King Letter 11-3-11

Monday, November 7, 2011

Independent Appointed to Block's Old PRC Seat

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed Santa Fe energy consultant Doug Howe to fill out the term of Jerome Block, Jr., who resigned last month from the Public Regulation Commission.

Howe is a registered independent. He will join two Democrats and two Republicans on the PRC, which regulates utilities, corporations, the insurance and transportation industries and other areas.

Here's the governor's news release:

Governor Susana Martinez announced today that she has appointed Doug Howe of Santa Fe to represent District Three on the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Howe is a professional in the energy sector who currently serves as a consultant to Cambridge Energy Research Associates (IHS CERA), a research and consulting company focused on regulatory, policy, environmental, and conservation issues. He will fill the seat vacated by former Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr., who resigned from his position on October 7.

“Northern and Central New Mexicans deserve a commissioner who is competent, trustworthy, and focused on the numerous issues in front of the PRC,” said Governor Martinez. “As an accomplished professional who is well-versed in energy, environmental, and regulatory issues, Dr. Howe has demonstrated the knowledge and experience required to serve capably on behalf of the people of New Mexico. I am confident that he is the right pick to serve on the PRC and will approach his position thoughtfully and professionally.”

Since 2010, Howe has served as an independent consultant to IHS CERA, working on issues relating to regulations, environmental policy, renewable energy, and conservation for companies in the global energy sector. From 2002 to 2010, Howe was employed by IHS CERA as a senior director and consultant. He has also worked as Vice President for Regulatory Policy for General Public Utilities Service Corporation and acted as a consultant to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He has consulted on a number of energy issues and development projects in the United States and abroad. Howe holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Kansas State University and earned his M.S. and PhD in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a registered Decline-to-State voter.

Following Block’s announcement that he would resign from the PRC, the Governor’s office received roughly 90 applications for the vacant seat, which serves portions or all of Bernalillo County, Colfax County, De Baca County, Guadalupe County, Harding County, Los Alamos County, Rio Arriba County, San Miguel County, Sandoval County, Santa Fe County, Taos County, and Union County. After reviewing applications with a focus on professional qualifications and experience, Governor Martinez announced five finalists for the position on October 24. The Governor’s appointment of Howe is effective immediately.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: The 2012 Attack Ads Are Starting!

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 6, 2011

The 2012 negative campaign ad season is upon us. There are only 365 slandering days left until the general election.

Last week, a national group connected to the Democrats’ favorite right-wing billionaire boogeymen, David and Charles Koch, began exercising its right to free speech in New Mexico and other battleground states by launching a $2.4 million television ad campaign targeting President Obama on the Solyndra solar company scandal.

The 60-second spot is running here as well as Florida, Michigan and Virginia.

The group Americans for Prosperity announced this the day after U.S. Tom Udall announced his proposed constitutional amendment to allow the federal government and state governments to regulate campaign contributions and spending — including “independent expenditures” by groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

Udall, at a Washington, D.C., press conference, lamented the proliferation of campaign ads that are “overwhelmingly nasty, negative and mean-spirited” since last year’s “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I later spoke with state House Republican Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington. While not endorsing Udall’s proposal, Taylor also spoke with disdain about the unwelcome barrage of attack ads by mysterious groups with generic-sounding names.

Just thinking about the inevitable wall-to-wall attack ads — which will have even political junkies like me pulling hair out — made me think that singer John Prine had the right idea 40 years ago in the song, “Spanish Pipedream:”

“Blow up your TV.”
The first shot: As far as attack ads go, “Obama’s Green Giveaway” actually is relatively restrained. The issue is bound to be embarrassing for Obama, but the delivery is not as vicious as many I’ve seen.

The Koch Bros: Beware those wealthy donors!
“Wealthy donors with ties to Solyndra give Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the spot begins. “What does Obama give them in return? Half a billion in tax-payer money to give to his friends at Solyndra, a business the White House knew was on the path to bankruptcy, but loaned them the money anyway.”

The narrator continues: “What’s worse? The Obama administration has just approved a billion dollars in loans to solar companies who also donated money to Democrats.”

The implication: The contributions were the main reason for the loans. Plus, being “solar companies,” they’re bound to fail, just like Solyndra.

The ad concludes, “Tell President Obama you shouldn’t use taxpayer money for political favors.”

Good advice. Of course, the ad stops short of saying the government should stop subsides to oil companies that contribute big cash bucks to politicians.

A Washington Post blog in September reported that “evidence is mounting that there was something irregular about the way the Solyndra deal got greenlighted.”

The blog noted White House emails — some of which appear in the ad — from the administration pressing the Office of Management and Budget to approve the deal in time for a Solyndra groundbreaking ceremony in September 2009.

But the Post noted that Solyndra’s loan was initiated by the Bush administration and that several key investors were Republicans. The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program has made $38 billion in loans for 40 projects.

Here's the ad:

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Corrections Secretary Appointed

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed Gregg Marcantel, who has been serving as acting deputy secretary at the troubled state Corrections Department to serve as secretary. Marcantel also has been a deputy secretary at the state Public Safety Department.

He replaces Lupe Martinez, who resigned in August, shortly after her live-in boyfriend became the subject of a police investigation for firing a gun outside of their home on the penitentiary grounds.

According a news release from the Governor's Office:

Marcantel served in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for almost 19 years, most recently holding the rank of Captain and assigned as the Division Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division. In addition, he led the department’s Support Services Division, overseeing the agency’s $31 million budget and managing many of its operations. Marcantel has also held the rank of Captain with the Bernalillo Police Department and served as a Law Enforcement Coordination Manager for the United States Department of Justice. He was also elected Executive Director of the New Mexico Gang Task Force. He has served as Deputy Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety since June 2011. Marcantel holds a Master of Science degree in Forensic Science and Legal Psychology from the University of Leicester and a Bachelor degree in Criminal Justice from Chaminade University of Honolulu. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He is a resident of Sandoval County.

Interestly, Marcantel was quoted in an investigative piece on Corrections Department problems in the New Mexico Watchdog:  "Marcantel said he doesn’t consider himself part of long-term management at Corrections. During his interim role, he is determined to get a handle on problems while not upstaging whomever soon steps in to lead the department."

The governor also announced that she is filing three vacant warden positions. Two of the three have been serving as acting wardens at their respective prisons.

Get Those Reports In!

A couple of unsuccessful legislative candidates, as well as a political action committee used to help Javier Gonzales re-elected as state Democratic Party chairman last spring found out this week that they're going to have to pay the state at least $850 for not filing their campaign finance reports on time last week.

I wrote a story about that in today's New Mexican.

According to state law, the fine for not filing on time is $50 a work day, up to the maximum of $5,000. The reports were due on Oct. 11.

Ken Ortiz, chief of staff for Secretary of State Diana Duran, told me that it's not clear whether this law actually has been enforced before.

There could be some significantly larger fines coming down the road. Ortiz said he's sending letters to 40-50 candidates who have failed to file multiple reports in recent years. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unmoderated Chat with Gary Johnson

Former Gov. Gary Johnson
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, will be the first candidate to engage in a live unmoderated “town hall” video chat on Yowie.

You can participate and follow the discussion at The New Mexican's website. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday.

“Yowie enables me to have a direct digital dialogue with the public and engage in an open Q&A on key issues like smaller government, the economy, drug policy reform, tax reform, or any question a participant wishes to ask — no topic is off limits,” Johnson said in a news release.

Johnson’s campaign is considered a longshot. Lagging in the polls, he has been excluded from all but two of the GOP debates so far.

“Considering this is the first unmoderated online video chat by a U.S. Presidential candidate, we hope it sets a good example of how technology can help further bridge the gap between voters and their elected officials and candidates,” Johnson said.

R.I.P. Gerald Gonzales

I was shocked Tuesday to learn of the death of former Santa Fe Country Manager Gerald Gonzales. He died of cancer at the age of 68.

Gerald, a lawyer by profession, had a number of high-profile government jobs. I knew him in recent years mainly as a spokesman for state Senate Democrats. He always was pleasant and easy to work with.

At one point in his career he was chief of staff for Tom Udall when Udall first went to Congress.

Udall, now a U.S. senator issued a statement Tuesday praising Gonzales:

"Gerald Gonzales was thoughtful, intelligent and loved New Mexico, its people and our history. That is why I hired him as my first chief of staff in the House of Representatives. He had a long career in New Mexico government and Jill and I are saddened to hear of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gerald’s wife Carrie and his entire family at this difficult time."
My colleague Tom Sharpe has more on Gerald in today's New Mexican.