Monday, September 24, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Working Together in Harmony

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 24, 2012

The year 2012 isn’t quite cooked yet, but — shock shock — Gov. Susana Martinez already is running for re-election. Recently, her political action committee sent out a full-color mailer to voters, including one to at least one registered declined-to-state I know.

On the address side of the card, in huge letters, it says, “Something Republicans and Democrats Can AGREE ON.”

On the flip side it says, “Gov. Susana Martinez is working to stop corruption.” Below that: “People have honest disagreements. But there is one thing on which we can all agree — there should be no room for corruption in state government. … Susana Martinez ran for governor to clean up government. From day one, she’s been working to bring Democrats and Republicans together to clean up government and stop corruption.” The part about working to bring Ds and Rs together is outlined in yellow.

The card then touts a law Martinez signed “requiring elected officials found guilty of corruption to forfeit their state pensions.” That’s close, but not quite correct. The pension isn’t required to be forfeited. Under the bill, sponsored by Senate GOP Whip Bill Payne, if a public official is found guilty of a corruption-related charge such as bribery or embezzlement, there would be a hearing to determine how much, if any, the official should be fined. The fine could not be greater than the value of the official’s salary and benefits.

The card is correct that Martinez worked with leaders of both parties to sign it. Carrying Payne’s bill in the House was Democratic floor leader Kenny Martinez (no relation to the governor.) Payne introduced the bill for years, but 2012 was the first time it ever got anywhere.

The mailer goes on to tout an executive order Martinez signed banning her political appointees from lobbying for at least two years and her rule that all political employees submit financial disclosure statements.

“Ending corruption is not a partisan issue,” says a quote above a smiling photo of the governor. “In New Mexico, Republicans and Democrats are showing we can work together.” Running along the bottom of the mailer is the message “Susana Martinez: Bringing people together to clean up government.”

Sending out such a card, even two years before she’s up for re-election, probably is a smart move. She’s starting early to define herself as a tough reformer intent on keeping campaign promises, while at the same time seeking bipartisan consensus and common ground.

Kumbya, my Lord, Kumbya …

Meanwhile, that other PAC, Reform New Mexico Now, headed by Martinez’s political director, Jay McCleskey, is revving up to savagely attack legislative Democrats who have “honest disagreements” with the governor.

Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings of Roswell is the first known victim. “I’m lucky, I guess,” Jennings said wryly. The conservative Democrat, who is running for re-election against Republican Cliff Pirtle, told me Thursday that last week people in his district began receiving mailers from the PAC that said he was “More Liberal Than You Think” and blasted him up and down on several issues.

But you can’t say Reform New Mexico Now doesn’t reach out to the other side of the aisle. During the primary they helped a handful of Democrats — including Sen. Phil Griego of San José and Carl Trujillo of Pojoaque — who were running against more liberal challengers. Griego and Trujillo won their primaries.

Earlier this year in the primaries, Susana PAC went nuclear against a Republican Senate candidate in Clovis, rancher Pat Wood, who was running against a candidate Martinez had endorsed. One of Woods’ vile transgressions was making campaign donations to a handful of Democrats who had backed agricultural legislation Woods was pushing. Woods fought back and won the primary.

More lawmakers are bound to feel the sting shortly. According to Reform New Mexico Now’s latest campaign finance report, the committee has more than $305,000 in the bank.

I don’t think much of the campaign material coming out of this PAC will be talking about bringing Democrats and Republicans together.