Sunday, July 21, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Independent Source PAC Suddenly Fades

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
July 21, 2013

For the past couple of years, several times a week a group called Independent Source PAC has mercilessly pounded the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez on issues big and small.

Pumping out press releases, blog posts, a newsletter and “in-depth investigative reports,” the political action committee — led by former Gov. Bill Richardson’s former opposition research private detective Michael Corwin — made a big splash on New Mexico’s political landscape.

But that’s about to change. Independent Source PAC was great at digging the dirt, but not so good at raising funds. Corwin said last week that he has to earn a living. So the PAC, which was funded almost entirely by the Communications Workers of America union, will no longer be active.

“We operated for as long as we could, but like many organizations, you have to move onto other things when funding dries up,” he said in an email. “I have returned to case preparation for attorneys as a result.”

ISPAC actually was two political action committees, one state and one federal. Corwin said he’s already shut down the state PAC but has to keep its federal counterpart open because of a still-open Federal Election Commission complaint by the state Republican Party.

My main dealing with ISPAC was last year’s revelation that top members of the Martinez administration were using private emails to communicate with each other about state business.

Corwin — who never objected to being named as a source — personally handed me the email from the Public Education Department spokesman who had compiled a list of non-union teachers for Martinez’s political consultant Jay McCleskey.

A deluge of other administration emails — sent to and from private email — would follow. Months later, a federal grand jury indicted Jamie Estrada, who had worked briefly as Martinez’s campaign manager, on charges of hijacking the emails. That case is pending in federal court. Though email correspondence with one ISPAC official showed up up in the FBI investigation of Estrada, nobody from Corwin's PAC was charged in the case.

Martinez ordered an end to the the practice of using private emails for state business after it was revealed by the press.

Independent Source PAC was one of the loudest voices blasting the administration for the way the 25-year lease on the State Fair Race track was handled.

Independent Source PAC’s website will remain up. “We will continue to post occasional pieces as the opportunity arises,” Corwin said.

The rest of my column this week also included a slightly rewritten version of this blog post about Gov. Martinez being on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's "worst governors list