Monday, February 28, 2011

We Weren't Really Serious About Those Campaign Contribution Limits, Were We?

A bill that the Attorney General's Office would "erode and undermine" the campaign contribution limits that went into effect after last year’s election is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by The House Voter & Elections Committee.

House Bill 605, sponsored by Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, would exempt political party caucus committees would from campaign contribution limits established in 2009 by the Legislature.

In a fiscal impact report for the bill, the Attorney General’s Office says the bill would create a loophole by allowing unlimited campaign contributions to be given by political party caucus committees. The AG also said the bill might be unconstitutional because it would favor incumbents.

Currently contributions for legislative races in the state are limited to $2,300 from individuals and $5,000 from political committees in primary elections and the same for general elections.

The bill is opposed by the Otero County Tea Party, which this afternoon sent out a news release about Tuesday's committee hearing and gave the bill a "Brown Recluse Spider" award for being a "poisonous proposal."

The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in Room 317.

UPDATE: 10 :05 pm 

Rep. Stewart, in a Tweet directed at me after this was posted said, "you failed to mention my co-sponsor, Minority Leader Tom Taylor. Money is all going under ground. I'm asking bill be tabled."

Well, I didn't mention Taylor because his name doesn't appear on the bill. But she's right -- I should have made clear that the bill has bi-partisan support (and I suspect bi-partisan opposition.)

But the important thing is that she's going to ask for the bill to be tabled. So I suspect that HB605 as we know it is dead.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Night Fights

The political fights are starting to get interesting around here.

Shortly before 5 p.m., the state Republican Party emailed a press release taking a small swipe at Common Cause New Mexico -- which had called for an investigation of Gov. Susana Martinez's recent radio ads -- and a big swipe at Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, who has been critical all week of Martinez using videos of certain legislative committees to make political points.

" ... the Republican Party of New Mexico (RPNM) today asked Common Cause whether they see any ethical problems with a special interest group that supports driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants having a state Senator on its payroll.

"At issue is the fact that state Sen. Eric Griego is the paid executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which lobbies the legislature on a number of liberal issues.

"Griego’s group is also the member of an organization called `Better Choices New Mexico' that recently sent mailers encouraging people to `Call Gov. Martinez' in support of tax increase measures. As an aside, Griego is the same politician who complained just this week about Gov. Martinez encouraging citizens to call state legislators on the issues being debated in the Roundhouse.

Griego, in a written response, fired back:

“I along with several other public officials and community groups have questioned whether it is legal or ethical for the Governor to use campaign funds and state employees and official state websites to lobby for her conservative political agenda.”

“It is interesting the state Republican party has questioned my employment as a non-profit manager of a children’s advocacy group while serving in the legislature, but has not raised the same concern for the numerous Republican legislators who work in real estate, insurance and other private industry while advocating for a corporate agenda of deregulation, tax subsidies for businesses, and cutting programs for children and families.

" ... as unpaid citizen legislators, most members of the House and Senate have regular jobs. We are educators, realtors, lawyers, and miscellaneous other professionals. Often, legislators sponsor legislation that may directly affect their profession or industry. In my case, I fight for vulnerable children and working families, for which I make no apologies.”
Griego said that he's on administrative leave from Voices for Children during the session.

Steve Allen, executive director of  Common Cause New Mexico, in a statement, stood by his belief that Martinez's use of campaign funds to pay for radio ads was against campaign laws.

"CCNM is unaware of any specific state law that would prohibit any of the conduct of Sen. Griego ... If the Republican Party of New Mexico is aware of a potential statutory violation, CCNM would be open to reviewing the matter."

Yes, I do believe that whatever "honeymoon" there was in this session is pretty much over.

Have a great weekend.

Olive Branch in the Video War?

I hadn't looked at Gov. Susana Martinez's website in a couple of days. It looks like there have been some changes on her committee video page.

As of Wednesday night, there were several videos of Saturday's Consumer and Public Affairs Committee hearing on the driver's license issue. Now there's just one at the bottom of the page.

It appears at first glance that the six or seven videos that originally appeared on the site have been combined into one long one.

More significantly, a written narrative in which Martinez praised the committee members who voted for the bill and said she was disappointed with the ones who voted to table it, is gone. Several senators had complained that  taxpayer money shouldn't be used on a government to "attack" opponents.

Is this an olive branch for some legislators?

UPDATE 3:53 p.m.: Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell says not to read too much into the changes."We’re just making presentation changes so that the videos are easier to view by the public. Now, the public doesn’t have to click through numerous videos on each hearing, and we’re providing links to bill text, etc."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Susana's New Campaign

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 24, 2011

Hands down, the biggest buzz around the Roundhouse on Wednesday was Gov. Susana Martinez’s three-pronged public-relations attack to rouse public support for legislation to stop undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.
Gov. Susana Martinez
There are radio ads paid for by Martinez’s campaign funds. There are videos of a Saturday committee hearing — where the bill Martinez is backing was tabled — posted on the governor’s state website. And there are robocalls, paid for by the state Republicans, which allow recipients to press a telephone button and immediately call their legislators.

All are aimed beyond the walls of the Capitol, where Martinez believes public sentiment is on her side regarding this issue. They are attempts to get the public to contact the Legislature and demand a floor vote on the driver’s license issue. But the grumbling that the efforts caused among lawmakers just might be the first sign that the honeymoon with the new governor is on borrowed time.

On the radio: “New Mexico is attracting people from all over the world. China, Poland, Brazil,” a female voice, the kind you only hear in negative political ads, warns. “But they’re not coming to ski or for the Balloon Fiesta. They’re illegal immigrants coming for driver’s licenses.” Before the 60-second ad is over, we learn about a criminal gang from El Salvador that came to the state to commit robbery and murder. “And two gang members had driver’s licenses.”

One immigration-rights group on Wednesday denounced the radio spots as illegal and asked the attorney general, the Santa Fe district attorney and the secretary of state to investigate. Marcella Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said in a news release, “We are shocked to learn that the Governor, in an effort to push her anti immigrant political agenda, would direct her campaign committee to misuse left-over funds to intimidate legislators and interfere with the legislative process.”

In a letter to Attorney General Gary King, Diaz argued that the state Campaign Reporting Act restricts the spending of campaign funds after an election to “payment of campaign debts, donations to charities or the state’s general fund, contributions to other candidates or political parties and refunds to the contributors.”

“Immigrants who live, work and pay taxes in New Mexico are complying with our state laws by getting driver’s licenses, buying insurance and registering their vehicles,” Diaz said. “We would expect that our governor would also comply with state laws that regulate the use of campaign funds.”

The Governor’s Office referred a reporter’s question about the ads to Danny Diaz, a Washington, D.C.-area consultant who worked for Martinez’s campaign and has no relation to Marcella Diaz.

“It’s ironic that a radical special-interest group that believes illegal immigrants have a right to New Mexico driver’s licenses does not believe the Governor has a right to free speech,” Danny Diaz said. “We disagree.”

A spokesman for King said the secretary of state would be the first agency to look at the complaint.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran said Thursday that her staff researched the issue and determined that the radio ads were an allowable expense under the law.

Smile, you’re on the governor’s camera: Several Democratic senators were upset about Martinez posting videos from recent committee hearings. Most of the videos — 10 of them — are from Saturday’s meeting of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

On the governor’s website, Martinez praises those who voted for the bill and expresses disappointment at those who voted to table it.

Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, complained on the Senate floor, “This is campaigning going on here.” He said it shouldn’t appear on a government site.

Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said the videos represented “a slanted effort to get her message out while (taxpayers) are footing the bill.”

Martinez on Wednesday defended the videos, telling reporters, “My biggest promise was that I was going to bring the people to the process, and there was going to be more transparency with what was goes on in the Roundhouse. And that includes the committee hearings.”

In  a decision that was partly fueled by the governor's videos, the Senate voted to restrict webcasting, photography, and video or audio recording of Senate committees by the public unless there is permission from a panel’s chairman and ranking minority-party member. The rule was adopted on a 35-3 vote.

Richardson Joins Consulting Group

Former Gov. Bill Richardson has been hired APCO Worldwide to be chairman of the company's executive advisory service, Global Political Strategies.

"The idea behind GPS is to provide counsel to companies and institutions at the highest levels as they globalize their activities. We are very excited to have Gov. Richardson assume the chairmanship of this group of former senior government officials from around the world," said APCO's founder and CEO Margery Kraus in a Wednesday news release.

"Gov. Richardson has a unique combination of local, state, congressional, executive branch and foreign policy experience gained through high-level diplomatic and political posts held throughout his career," Kraus' statement said. "Given his strong leadership qualities, his extraordinary achievements in government and business and his global knowledge and experience, we know he's the right person to head this high-caliber group."

APCO has been involved in several controversies through the years. In 1993, APCO was behind the creation of "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition," a Phillip-Morris funded group dedicated to discredit federal studies showing the dangers of second-hand smoke.

APCO also was the public-releations firm involved in an alleged health insurance industry plan to discredit filmaker Michael Moore and his movie Sicko.

One client of interest is the World Wrestling Entertainment. From the company's website:

WWE approached APCO Worldwide to help improve public perceptions and present a positive, responsible image to appeal to politicians, the media, parents, advertisers and the wider community. WWE is a responsible programmer and civic-minded corporation, but it was having difficulty communicating these attributes to the right audiences.

WWE CEO Linda McMahan said:

"APCO has helped us build relationships with various constituencies important to our business, from educators to elected officials. The campaigns APCO developed for us added tangible value to our business and helped us use our immense popularity to encourage young people to become more engaged in their communities and in other positive endeavors."

And if that fails, you can always hit the referee in the back of the head with a metal chair.

SOS Duran Accuses Herrera of Contract "Irregularities"

Secretary of State Dianna Duran this afternoon said she has referred "several matters of serious concern" to State Auditor Hector Balderas. She's talking about “ a number of irregularities in contracts and purchasing processes conducted by the previous administration which appear to violate the New Mexico Procurement Code ..."

Duran also said that some documents appears to be missing from the office’s files. "Unless those documents are recovered, their disappearance could impair an independent audit that will be conducted later this year," a news release said.

Also, Duran said, data on some hard drives on office computers has been deleted. "The data, if not recoverable, is significant to the core operations of the Office of the Secretary of State," the release said.

Duran also raised the possibility that federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds were spent appropriately and whether timely reports were submitted to the federal government.

 “I intend to bring this office into full compliance with the law,” said Duran, “and so I am asking for an independent investigation by the State Auditor into a number of issues that appear to raise doubts.”

UPDATE: (3:35 pm)  Herrera, in a phone interview, disputed Duran's complaints.

She pointed out that in her office's last budget in June she got a clean bill of health with no findings.

Herrera said that after losing the election, she and her staff made a concentrated effort to have a smooth transition and said "went out of our way to leave everything in place," because, she said, there had been little communication between her staff and the staff of her predecessor, Rebecca Vigil-Giron. "I didn't want anyone to have to go through what I did," Herrera said.

Herrera denied that there are missing documents. She said that the contents of her computer and that of her deputy, Don Francisco Trujillo, were sent to the state archives. She also said Duran's staff has called Herrera's former staff to ask where certain things could be found.

"I don't know why (Duran) doesn't continue to move on," Herrera said.

Valerie to Challenge Jerome?

Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza told me Tuesday she intends to run for the Public Regulation Commission seat held by Jerome Block Jr.

Espinoza is serving her second term as county clerk. She leaves that office at the end of 2012 and constitutionally isn't allowed to seek a third term.

Block, who is serving his first term on the PRC, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Assuming he runs for another term, he would face Espinoza in the Democratic primary in June 2012.

Both have problems. Some Democrats are still mad at her for supporting a Republican -- Dianna Duran, who defeated incumbent Secretary of State Mary Herrera last year.

As for Block, well, he still faces felony charges stemming from his 2008 election.

My story in today's New Mexican can be found HERE

Will NM Be the Next Wisconsin?

Well, there's nothing in the hopper like Wisconsin's collective bargaining bill. And Gov. Susana Martinez's spokesman says the governor is "not focused on the politics of other states. She deeply appreciates the contributions of New Mexico's state employees, and that's why she opposed layoffs or furloughs when crafting the executive budget."

Read my story about Tuesday's demonstration HERE.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Democrat Announces for Bingaman's Seat

Valdez, left, and Pastor Leo Brannan, his
campaign manager, Pastor Leo Brannan
Andres Valdez, a longtime anti-police-brutality activist from Albuquerque, just told me he's going to run for the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

"I want to rock the boat," said Valdez, 60. "I know I'll probably be the dark horse.'

Valdez said this will be his second run for office. He ran for City Council in Albuquerque about 10 years ago.

Valdez is executive director of the organization Vecinos Unidos.

Monday, February 21, 2011

If Anyone's Keeping Count ...

At the halfway point of this Legislative session, the House has passed 30 bills so far.

The Senate has passed 18 bills, 19 if you include HB1 The Feed bill, which so far is the only one to pass both chambers.

Not including "dummy" bills (blank bills introduced before the deadline so legislators can introduce bills late in the session), there were 1,185 bills introduced in the session, 606 in the House and 579 in the Senate. There is no "Bill of the Beast" this year because neither chamber got up to 666 bills.

My story on the halfway point, published in Sunday's New Mexican, is HERE.

Heinrich "Actively Considering" Senate Run

On Friday I asked all three current congressman from New Mexico whether they might be considering a run for Jeff Bingman's Senate seat next year Martin Heinrich was the only I didn't hear from.

Until Sunday. Here's his answer.

"Since the announcement Friday by my friend and mentor, Senator Jeff Bingaman, that he would not seek a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, many constituents and friends across New Mexico have asked if I will run for his seat. I have not yet made a decision, but together with my wife Julie, I plan to actively consider running. Jeff Bingaman and I share a passionate concern for this great state and its people, and my decision will be based on whether I believe I can best serve New Mexico in the House or in the Senate."

For the record, spokesmen for Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce said their bosses were focused on their current jobs.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Official Word From Bingaman

Today I am announcing that I will not run next year for election for a sixth term in the United States Senate.

Representing the people of New Mexico in the Senate is a great honor, and a great responsibility which I have enjoyed for over 28 years.

At the end of this Congress, I will have been in public service for thirty-four years—four as New Mexico’s Attorney General, and thirty in the United States Senate.

The end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside and allow someone else to serve.

It is not easy to get elected to the Senate, and it is not easy to decide to leave the Senate.

There is important work that remains to be done. That is true today, and it will be the case at the end of this Congress. It will be true at the end of every future Congress as well. The simple truth is, there is no ideal time to step aside.

I am proud of my service in the Senate, and the work of my staff in New Mexico and Washington who have shared in the trust given by the people of New Mexico. My family, and that fine staff, have made my service possible. We will continue to serve the people of New Mexico through the remainder of this Congress which has just begun.

When I started in the Senate in 1983, and Anne, John and I moved to Washington, we never considered it a permanent move. We have always considered New Mexico our home, and have cherished the time we have been able to spend here over the last three decades. At the end of this term, we will come home to New Mexico to live, and to pursue other challenges.

Meanwhile the well-wishing from politicos keep coming in:

Gov. Susana Martinez: "... For nearly thirty years, Jeff Bingaman has represented New Mexico in the United States Senate and during that time, he has served as a strong advocate for his constituents and contributed significantly to some of the most important debates in our nation’s history."

Congressman Steve Pearce: "For more than three decades, he has worked tirelessly as a public servant. It has been and continues to be a privilege to call Jeff my friend and colleague. I look forward to working alongside him in his last two years serving the people of New Mexico.”

Pat Vincent-Collawn, President and CEO, PNM Resources: "... U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman admirably served the interests of New Mexico and the nation on a variety of issues, including energy, health and education. Our state and the country are a better place because of his hard work on our behalf.”

UPDATED: Even more reax

Sen. Tom Udall: Jeff has never been one to promote himself, but his accomplishments are too great to list. He has been a national leader in pushing for a 21st Century energy policy; he is an expert in the healthcare arena; and he is a champion in the effort to protect our environment and conserve our special public places in New Mexico and across the country for generations to come.

He is one of the most thoughtful and serious legislators in the United States Senate, and his presence will be missed

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan: (This isn't his formal statement, just an answer to my question whether Lujan is considering running for the Senate) Senator Bingaman has served the people of New Mexico with distinction for nearly 30 years in the Senate and I commend him for his accomplishments on behalf of our great state. My focus at this time is on representing the people in my district as we work to turn our economy around, put people back to work, and move New Mexico forward. .

More Reax to Bingaman Retirement

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce's spokesman Eric Layer sent me this email in response to my question whether Pearce, who was the Republican senatorial candidate in 2008, will make another stab at it.

“Last I spoke with Congressman Pearce, he was intently focused on his priority of serving the people of New Mexico’s second district.”

And here's the well wishes from the National Republican Senatorial Committee

“It speaks volumes about the state of the two political parties that as strong Republican candidates step forward in key races, Senate Democrats in important battleground states are stepping aside. Like the earlier retirements in North Dakota and Virginia, Senator Bingaman’s decision immediately presents another strong pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans. It also further limits the ability of national Democrats to play offense when their resources will be spread out over such an expansive defensive map.

“Whomever the Democrats now choose as their nominee, this election will offer a clear contrast for voters in New Mexico between a fiscally responsible Republican leader and a Democrat who believes we should stay the course on more spending, more taxes, and more government.”

Bingaman to Retire Wapo Says

At Democratic Party election night gathering Hotel Andaluz, AlbuquerqueWe haven't heard anything from the senator himself, but The Washington Post's Chris Cilliza is quoting unnamed sources:

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party's efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012.

Bingaman had been mulling whether to run for a sixth term for months and, if he had, would have almost certainly been re-elected. He told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of his decision to retire last night.

His retirement, however, creates an open seat contest that both national parties will almost certainly target. Democrats should start the race with an edge, however, given President Obama's 15-point victory margin in the state in 2008.

Bingaman is the fourth Democratic (or Democratic-aligned) Senator to announce that he will not run for re-election in 2012, joining Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) on the sidelines.

Two Republicans -- Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) -- are not running for new terms.

Bingaman's spokeswoman just told me Bingaman plans to make an announcement in Albuquerque today.

UPDATE: The first response I've heard  from NM Democrats is from state Auditor Hector Balderas who praised Bingaman  in an email:
... One of his greatest unspoken legacies will be that he has served as role model to young elected officials like myself on how to comport oneself in public life—focus on making people’s lives better and do so with humility. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Bingaman the next two years in improving the quality of life for all New Mexicans.”

I guess Bingaman's retirement opens the seat up to some young elected officials like Hector's self.

In Case Anyone Was Wonder What Bill Richardson Was Doing Saturday

Middle East in Transition:
Prospects for Iran?

Saturday, February 19, 2011
11:00 am – 1:00 pm

The Mayflower Hotel, State Room
1127 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036

§  Honorable Lee Hamilton, former Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee
§  Honorable Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico (2003-2011)
§  General Michael Hayden, Director of NSA (1999-2005), Director of CIA (2006-2009)
§  Honorable Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States (2007-2009)
§  Honorable Walter Slocombe, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (1994-2001)
§  Ambassador Dell Dailey, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, State Department (2007-2009)
§  General Peter Pace, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (2005-2007)
§  General Hugh Shelton, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997-2001)

§  Honorable Robert G. Torricelli, United States Senator (1997-2003)

For the Majority Leader

Yesterday while killing time on the Senate floor while bills were getting ready to be introduced, Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, engaged in a little musical trivia, stumping some of the younger senators.

For the benefit of the young whippersnappers in the higher chamber, here's a couple of songs Sanchez mentioned. They're good ones.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Perennial GOP Issues Go Down in Committees

The margins are closer than they were just last year, but House Democrats showed Thursday that they are still in charge. Two issues dear to Republicans were tabled in two different committees -- both on party-line votes.

In the case of Voter ID, House Bill 308, sponsored by Rep. Diane Hamilton, R-Silver City was tabled  in the House Voters & Elections Committee.

“Those thousands of New Mexicans who want voter photo ID should take a good look at those who voted against it today,” Hamilton said in a written statement. “I’m not finished with this fight,”

Voter ID is a GOP issue around the country. Republicans say it’s necessary to stop voter fraud. Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, a Republican appointee, was fired partly because state Republican leaders complained he couldn’t find any evidence of mass voter fraud.

However earlier this week University of New Mexico political science professor Lona Atkeson testifying about the bill earlier this week, said there is no evidence that people are casting votes for dead people still on voter rolls.

Daniel Ivey-Soto, a lobbyist for the state’s county clerks, said the clerks are split on the issue. (Deputy Santa Fe County Clerk Denise Lamb testified against the bill.)

However Ivey-Soto said the clerks were unanimously opposed to HB308 because it didn’t apply to absentee voters who cast ballots by mail.

Therefore, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, introduced HB577, which would require a photo ID for all voters who cast a ballot in-person or absentee.

Gov. Susana Martinez, apparently referring to Brown's bill,  weighed in on the issue Thursday afternoon, urging citizens to call their representatives and senators to demand they support voter ID legislation.

Then there's the gay marriage issue.

The House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee essentially killed two proposed constitutional amendments that would have defined marriage as being between one man and one woman for legal purposes in New Mexico.

House Joint Resolution 7, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, would have made gay marriage unconstitutional if approved by the legislators and voters in the 2012 general election.

HJR8, sponsored by Rep. David Chavez, R-Los Lunas, also would have done that. But it also would have amended the constitution to prevented New Mexico from recognizing otherwise legal out-of-state marriages between persons of the same sex. Earlier this year, state Attorney General Gary King said New Mexico should recognize such marriages, even though same-sex marriage cannot be performed in this state.

The committee also tabled House Bill 162, also sponsored by Chavez. That bill would would have prevented the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state.

All three measures were tabled in committee on a straight 3-2 party vote.

“We don’t dare call today’s development a victory, but we are clearly happy that these bills have been tabled for now,” said Todd McElroy of Los Alamos, a board member of Equality New Mexico, a gay-rights organization. “EQNM applauds our legislators who saw this bill as an affront New Mexico's families.”

"Teacher Protection" Bill Rises from Primordial Swamp

Some Capitol cynics thought Rep. Tom Anderson's bill to protect science teachers who teach "controversial topics" -- a bill embraced by those who want to see creationism or intelligent design taught in public schools -- is on the House Education's agenda for Friday.

Anderson told me earlier this month that his bill was about protecting teachers, not promoting creationism. He told Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal this week that his bill has been "hijacked" by creationists.

The Intelligent Design Network, the leading anti-Darwin group in the state bought a full-page ad in support of the bill in the Journal. The ad ran Monday.

Bill opponents, such as New Mexicans for Science and Reason, point out that the bill has similarties to "model legislation" proposed by a Seattle-based anti-evolution think tank. Anderson denies that's where his bill came from. NMSR did a comparison between the "model" bill and HB 302.

The Education Committee meets Friday at 8 a.m. It's the sixth item on the agenda, so there's a chance it could get held over until next week.

Meanwhile, here's what Andre Williams thinks:

Belated Las Soleras Update

A blog reader, commenting on a post I did here three months ago asked whether there was any news on Gov. Martinez's decision on the Las Soleras project.

I did have a brief in the paper on Feb. 10, but I forgot to post it here. T

Here's that brief:

Gov. Susana Martinez has asked for another three months to make a decision on a proposed new “supercomplex” government office building south of the city on the Las Soleras property.

In November, the Capitol Buildings Planning Commission approved the project contingent on the developer agreeing to give the state the right to terminate the deal in 90 days. That deadline would be next week.

“We have requested an additional 90 days to continue to review this project, which was agreed to verbally by the developer,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said Wednesday.

“A formal written acceptance of the additional review period is forthcoming.”Las Soleras, near the intersection of Cerrillos Road and Interstate 25, is being developed by a partnership headed by Albuquerque developers John Mahoney and Gordon “Skip” Skarsgard.

If the project becomes a reality, all Human Services offices, now scattered in several rented buildings in Santa Fe, would be under one roof. The state would pay the partnership $6 million for the land and give the partners 4.4 acres of state land in southeastern Santa Fe.

Roundhouse Roundup: The Mysterious Munoz eMail Hijacking

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

Somebody out there really doesn't want Sen. George Muñoz's Senate Bill 196 — which would give New Mexico hunters a bigger share of the state's Big Game Draw licenses — to pass.

Not only did this opponent e-mail another senator, Howie Morales, D-Silver City, to badmouth the bill, but he also somehow was able to hack into Muñoz's personal Gmail account Wednesday to do it.

"I got a call this morning from Sen. Morales saying, 'Hey, did you send me an e-mail?' " Muñoz said Wednesday.

Muñoz, D-Gallup, showed me a printout of the e-mail, which indeed was from the address listed on Muñoz's page on the Legislature's website.

The writer, who claimed to be a hunter from Longview, Texas, left his name — or at least his purported name — as "Ronald," at the bottom of the e-mail. He also listed his surname, but I won't use it in case the hacker was falsely using an innocent person's name there.

The bill would set aside 90 percent of the big-game licenses for state residents — up from the current 78 percent.

Muñoz said he hasn't heard of anyone aside from Morales who received the e-mail.

"This goes a little overboard," Muñoz said in a serious understatement.

Muñoz said he'd contacted Google about "Ronald," but he hasn't yet contacted police. He said he changed his password when he learned of the hacking.

This is the second known case in recent months of a New Mexico lawmaker getting hacked.

In October, Attorney General Gary King's office reported that a scamster had gained access to the e-mail of Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque. In that case, the evildoer claimed to be Park and sent messages to everyone on Park's contact list claiming he was stuck without any cash or credit cards and needed friends to wire him money to get home.

One of the recipients of that desperate message was the attorney general himself.

Star witness: Gov. Susana Martinez caused a mild sensation this week when she made a surprise appearance to testify before the Senate Public Affairs Committee on the proposed expansion of "Katie's Law" (Senate Bill 365, sponsored by Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad).

Nobody around the Roundhouse I've talked to could remember the last time a sitting governor had done that. One former aide to a former governor told me the danger of doing this is that everyone starts wanting you to show up to personally testify about their bills.

But after her appearance Tuesday, Martinez told reporters, "I'll be showing up more often" to testify on that bill and others. "There are several that are very important to us."

Where might she turn up next? One possibility is House Bill 371, and another is House Joint Resolution 6. Both would restore the death penalty in the state.

I asked Martinez at a news conference whether she's willing to appear before committees on behalf of these measures.

"Yes, I am," she said without hesitation. "The majority of New Mexicans want that law that did away with the death penalty to be repealed. ... It's important to New Mexicans; it's important to law enforcement that anyone who kills a law-enforcement officer or rapes and kills a young child, that the jury have the option of imposing the death penalty."

But the governor might have to wait. The death-penalty measures, both sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, have been languishing, like an inmate on death row, waiting to be scheduled for their first committee hearings.

Katie's Law, which has bipartisan support, has a much better chance of passing. Named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was raped and murdered in 2003, the law requires collection of DNA samples from those arrested in certain felonies, such as murder, kidnapping, burglary and sex offenses. SB 365 would require DNA testing of anyone arrested for any felony in the state.

UPDATE: This column has been correct to reflect that Sen. Howie Morales is from Silver City. Sorry, Howie!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Senator's eMail Gets Hacked

Just a few months after someone hacked Rep. Al Park's email -- and tried to get people to send him money so he could get home safely from London (Park wasn't really in England) another hacker has gotten his or her hands on the email address of Sen. George Munoz.

But Munoz's hacker isn't trying to scam money. This one is trying to kill some legislation Munoz is sponsoring.

It's not clear right now what the false e-mail said.

Here's the press release:

Sen. George Munoz (D-Gallup) said his personal e-mail address had been hijacked by an out-of-state hunter opposed to his Senate Bill 196 (SB196) in an effort to put out misinformation under the Senator’s name. “We think this is an immoral act,” said Sen. Munoz, “in that non- residents and people behind the non-residents are trying to influence New Mexico legislators by fraudulently using sponsor’s e-mail.”

The fraudulent e-mail, purportedly signed by a Longview, Texas hunter, was sent to at least one New Mexico Senator this morning. Sen. Munoz says “We should probably ask the State Police and DPS to investigate and send a strong message.”

Sportsmen have come out strongly behind Sen. Munoz’ SB196 that gives this state’s hunters a bigger share of the state’s Big Game Draw licenses. SB196 would raise the license draw quota for resident hunters to 90 percent. Current state law sets aside only 78 percent of the licenses for residents, the lowest percentage of any Rocky Mountains state.

The current law gives 12 percent of licenses to nonresidents who must hire an outfitter and another 10 percent to nonresidents who can choose whether or not to hire an outfitter. Sen. Munoz noted that the current quota law actually gives non-resident hunters better odds of drawing a license than residents in more than two-thirds of big-game hunts.

Sen. Munoz said “If a New Mexico resident can’t draw a license, many of them just won’t hunt. That’s bad for our local businesses and bad for our local families.” The change would give 3,500 more residents a chance to draw big game licenses in their own state, at the current hunt levels. “It would give thousands of additional licenses to New Mexico families, and provide them an opportunity to get out hunting and fill the freezer,” Munoz said.

Senate Action on SB9 Delayed Again

I'm beginning to think that nobody really wants to deal with this bill.

I'm talking, of course, about SB 9, Sen. Peter Wirth's bill that would make it harder for ticket-prone teenagers toget driver's licenses. As my story in today's New Mexican noted, Republicans want to tack on amendment to outlaw the issuing of driver's licenses to undocumented people.

That would be an end run around the committee process and would would spark an instant and undoubtedly lengthy floor fight. Wirth said that would be unconstitutional because such an amendment would change the intent of the original bill.

Early this afternoon Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez announced that SB9 would be one of the five pieces of legislation heard today. However, when it came time for the bill, Sanchez announced the would be going back to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wirth told reporters afterwards that he had planned to introduce a floor substitute. Earlier in the day there had been a little spat about another senator introducing a floor substitute.

Wirth said the substitute basically just cleans up his original bill and is not an attempt to get around the immigration issue. But Senate Republican Whip Bill Payne told reporters he thinks that sending the bill back to committee would be a way to let the bill die quietly without a vote. Wirth insists that's not the case.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poll Says Johnson Would Have a Hard Time in NM GOP Primaries

Gary Johnson, a political unknown when he announced he was running for governor in 1994, surprised many when he won the Republican primary for governor that year.
a href="" title="Former Gov. Gary Johnson by Robotclaw666, on Flickr">Former Gov. Gary Johnson
But now a new poll shows a Johnson victory in a GOP primary next year also would be surprising.

PPP, a North Carolina Democrat-affiliated company which polled New Mexicans earlier this month, showed the former governor would have a hard time in both the presidential primary or the U.S. Senate primary.

Johnson -- who has shown no interest in a Senate race -- would lose to former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in a Senate primary.

In a New Mexico presidential primary, Johnson would finish behind Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, tying with Newt Gingrich for fourth place.

PPP surveyed 357 usual New Mexico Republican primary voters from February 4-6. The survey’s margin of error 5.2 percent.

Ppp Gop Primary 2-14-11

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PPP pollster says Richardson's Career in Elected Politics Probably Over

According to a PPP poll conducted last weak, Bill Richardson left office as the third most unpopular governor in the nation. The only ones less popular are Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Nevada’s scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons.

In PPP’s latest poll of the state, 34% now rate his eight years in the governor’s mansion positively, while 55% disapprove. Republicans unsurprisingly line up almost
unanimously against his tenure, and independents split, 30-50, in disapproval. He suffers most, though, because his fellow Democrats, who make up over half the electorate, are only barely, at 48-38, in his corner.

Now half of New Mexicans say they would definitely not vote for Richardson if he ran
for office again, while only 13% would be solidly in his corner, and 35% would give it
some thought. More Democrats (31%) have closed the door on him than the 19% who
still support him. 55% of independents are against another Richardson bid.

A couple of things to remember here: PPP is a Democratic pollster. Also, as a reader pointed out to me a couple of days ago, the sample for this poll is 55% Democrats and 29% Republican. According to the Secretary of State's website. voter registration in New Mexico is 49% Democrat and 32% Republican. So in this case, the real numbers might be even worse for the former governor.

Current Gov. Susana Martinez is faring much better than Richardson, according to the poll. her approval rating is 53 percent, with 29 percent disapproving. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman are doing well also. (Bingaman's numbers can be found HERE.)

Read all about it below. (As always, you'll be happier if you press the "Fullscreen" option.)

PPP Richardson Poll 2-11-11

When Did Susana Know?

When reporters asked Gov. Susana Martinez about Harrison Schmitt refusing to sign papers for his background check — a refusal that led to him withdrawing his nomination for a cabinet position — she said she’d only learned of the development a few moments before.

 However, an e-mail from Schmitt obtained Friday by The New Mexican indicates that Schmitt informed top Martinez aides at least four days before she told reporters she’d just got the news.

Shortly after 7 p.m. last Sunday, Schmitt e-mailed a message to fellow Cabinet secretary nominees telling them he was going to refuse to sign papers clearing the way for an Albuquerque private investigator to conduct a background check on him.

Asked about this Friday, a Martinez spokesman said the governor, when asked about Schmitt  the day before  had just been informed of Schmitt;s "final decision" not to submit the paper.

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

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sharpton Wows the Legislature

IMG_1544 The Rev. Al Sharpton's career is controversial to say the least. But Friday morning he received a standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans when speaking to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature.

Whatever you think of his politics, I don't think anyone who heard him this morning would argue that few if anyone with his oratory skills have ever spoken in the Roundhouse.

Sharpton spoke as part of the African-American Day festivities at the Legislature.

Although he's an outspoken Democrat, he congratulated Gov. Susana Martinez for being the first Hispanic woman governor in the U.S.

"We do not have to agree on politics to all acknowledge the achievements and progress made in this country ," he said. He called on leaders to "respect and regard each others' achievements" and to "disagree without being disagreeable."

IMG_1561Then the reverend delivered the applause line: "We cannot tell the children to not engage in youth gang activity when they see adults and public officials gangbanging in legislative halls."

Sharpton talked about the importance for people standing up for themselves. "If I step from behind this roster and walked over to your seat and knocked you off your chair, that's on me. But if we come back next Friday and you're still on the floor, that's on you. ... Even if you're not responsible for being down, you're responsible for getting up."

He said he didn't realize that he came from an "underprivileged home until he went to college. "... my single-parent welfare mother didn't raise me as to what I wasn't. She raised me, and my pastor raised me that I was expected to be something."

The cheers became less bipartisan when Sharpton talked specifics such as immigration, racial profiling and making rich people share in the sacrifice. "Don't subsidize the rich that took advantage of the economy by laying off workers," he said.

This is the second time I've heard Sharpton speak in person. The first time was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he was one of the few speakers who dared to "go off script" and not be totally boring.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Schmitt Withdraws

Here's the press release from the governor:

 SANTA FE – Governor Susana Martinez issued the following statement following Senator Harrison Schmitt’s decision to withdraw his nomination to serve as the State’s Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources:
“Senator Schmitt is a former NASA astronaut who underwent a complete background check by the Department of Public Safety as part of his nomination process.

“Senator Schmitt was willing to allow a private investigator access to his personal information, but he was not willing to waive that investigator’s liability for any improper actions or use of that information. While one can understand Senator Schmitt’s concerns, complying with the Legislature’s request is necessary to restore public confidence in state government. That’s why I am requiring all of my cabinet secretary designees to comply with that request and this has led to Senator Schmitt withdrawing his nomination. 

“I wish Senator Schmitt the best in his future endeavors and I will work swiftly to find a qualified replacement to lead New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.”


Schmitt Refusing Background Check

Beleaguered cabinet secretary nominee Harrison Schmitt is refusing to submit to a background check, as is required by the Senate Rules Committee.

Schmitt with Gov. Martinez announcing his nomination last month
Gov. Susana Martinez, asked about the refusal by reporters a few minutes ago, said she'd just found out about the refusal a couple of minutes before. She said her transition team had done a thorough investigation, but wanted to learn more before she commented.

Schmitt, a former astronaut and U.S. Senator, is Martinez's choice for secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources. He has been criticized by environmentalists for his view that global warming isn't caused by humans -- as well as comments he made in 2009 on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show that the environmental movement is full of communists.

I'll post Schmitt's comments about his refusal when, and if, I get it.  Below is Lopez's news release.

Three days ago, at his request, I met with the Secretary Designate of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Harrison Schmitt. Mr. Schmitt’s reason for requesting the meeting was to inform me of his refusal to allow a Senate conferee background check, which is a check all designated cabinet secretaries and high level appointed officials undergo as part of the Senate’s confirmation process.

First, I sympathize with Mr. Schmitt’s and all conferees’ discomfort when it comes to the background check process. It is an extensive review that includes a search for any prior criminal convictions and of the Federal Civil Court Records; verification of appointees’ assertions related to financial circumstances or improprieties such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and outstanding loans; and a review of disclosure statements related to potential conflicts of interest and ownership in business entities.

However, the New Mexico State Senate is constitutionally charged with confirming top state government officials because of the tremendous influence and authority and power provided to those individuals in their official government capacity. The forty or so individuals we confirm to these top positions are responsible for expenditures in the billions of dollars, investing the state’s multi-billion dollar pension funds, and promulgating regulations that impact citizens across the entire state of New Mexico.

The New Mexico Senate adopted background checks in 2007. They are part of a procedure that all high-level appointees must undergo as they put themselves forward into positions of public service and public trust. The review process is in place to protect the public and to provide the citizens of our state with an increased sense of confidence in their government. As such, there can be no exceptions to the background review process.

At the Senate Rules Committee hearing on Monday, February 14, we will discuss Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to adhere to the confirmation process. This will not be a hearing of Mr. Schmitt’s qualifications for service, nor to receive public input related to his appointment.

At this time, Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to comply with the background check process has left me with no choice but to oppose his confirmation.

Roundhouse Roundup: 8 days or 18 Months?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 10, 2011

Last week, former Gov. David F. Cargo disputed former Gov. Bill Richardson’s statement that all governors have sealed their records for an eight-year period after leaving office.

Richardson had ordered his records sealed for that length of time, though this week the state Attorney General’s Office instructed the state Archives and Record Center to allow people to inspect them.

“I released mine eight days after I left office,” Cargo told me. “I hand-delivered them (to the state archives) myself.”

Cargo said he would have handed over his papers earlier, but he hadn’t filled out the necessary paperwork. Cargo left office on Dec. 31, 1970.

So that’s what I reported here on this very blog. 

But a loyal reader pointed me to a 39-year-old Associated Press article that tells a different story, indicating the Cargo papers were unsealed 18 months after he left the Capitol’s Fourth Floor, not eight days.

The late great Albuquerque Tribune ran the wire story in its July, 15, 1972, edition under the headline “Never again!” The story was focused mainly on the fact that Cargo — who had just been defeated by Pete Domenici in the Republican U.S. Senate primary — had said he would never again run for office in New Mexico.

And Cargo kept that promise ... unless you count a 1986 race for Congress, a 1994 run for governor or a couple of campaigns for mayor of Albuquerque ...

But the story also said Cargo was “instructing the state to allow open access to the documents accumulated over his four-year stay in the Governor’s Mansion.”

“I’ll never run for office in New Mexico again,” the story quoted the former governor as saying. “Not any office. So there’s no reason why history can’t put a judgment on me now if they want.”

Cargo said in the story that he’d written letters to the archives director, Myra Ellen Jenkins, instructing her to unseal his documents.

“I’m the only governor who’s done this and I figure the public’s entitled to it,” Cargo said.

He made his decision to unseal the records the night before, the story said. “The records, which include documents, letters, notes, memoranda, etc. had been locked away in the state archives under the standard 20-year moratorium against inspection,” Cargo said in the story.

Apparently he did make good on that. A few days later, Larry Calloway, reporting at that time for The Associated Press, wrote a story, published in The New Mexican, about land-grant activist Reies Lopez Tijerina and the 1967 raid on the Rio Arriba County courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. The story, Calloway wrote, was based on intelligence reports that had just been unsealed from the Cargo records.

Unsealing and unsealing again: Asked Wednesday about the discrepancy, Cargo insisted that he had unsealed his records a few days after leaving office. “That’s really strange,” he said. “I remember I delivered them myself to the archives,” he said.

Nobody’s disputing whether he delivered the documents in January 1971. But if the AP story is accurate, Cargo made the decision to unseal in July 1972.

“I must have unsealed them twice,” Cargo said.

Meanwhile, back in 1972: According to Calloway’s piece, there were huge gaps in Cargo’s files on Tijerina and his group Alianza Federal de Mercedes. Missing were files pertaining to the raid as well as the subsequent — and still unsolved — slaying of jail guard Eulogia Salazar, who claimed Tijerina had shot him during the raid.

Calloway wrote that historian Jenkins “showed a box of about 250 empty file folders in the Cargo papers, including a half a dozen with titles bearing directly on the Alianza and the courthouse raid.”

Cargo said Wednesday that he ran into the same problem when researching his biography Lonesome Dave, which was published last year. “All of the files were missing,” Cargo said.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Say You Want an Evolution ...

Should science teachers in public schools who teach "controversial" topics like creationism and that global-warming is a hoax be protected?

That's what Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque says. His HB 302 would do that, he said, although scientific organizations say it's just a backdoor way to teach religious tenets in public schools.

My story in today's New Mexican is HERE

Below are links to sites by bill opponents and supporters:

New Mexicans for Science and Reason

• A site created by Intelligent Design Network, New Mexico Division

And whatever side you're on, enjoy some music while you read all this stuff.

Another PPP Poll ... But Wait ...

There's another PPP (Public Policy Polling) survey for New Mexico released today. This one shows President Obama way out in front of various Republican contenders.

Once again, PPP shows former Gov. Gary Johnson as the most possible Republican in the batch. Yesterday's poll showed Johnson as doing better than other Republicans against Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

But before we go one, one reader pointed something out to me.

"Their sample is way off," my source said. "55% Democrats and 29% Republican. A 26% gap" According to the Secretary of State's website. voter registration in NM is 49% Democrat and 32% Republican. A 17% gap."

Indeed that's a pretty big grain of salt to take the poll with. Also, remember, those surveyed are registered voters, not necessarily likely voters.

PPP is a Democratic polling firm. In fairness, they don't always bring happy news for Democrats. Last year Nate Silver rated the company the 13th most accurate in the country. (This was done before the general election. Not sure how they ranked after that.)

So do consider the sample here. And remember, like I said yesterday, this is way too earlier for anyone but the most shameless political junkies to give a hoot about. (Remember that great contest between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani?)

According to the PPP news release:

New Mexico was one of Barack Obama's most surprising states in 2008- not that he won it, but that he won it by such a wide 15 point margin after George W. Bush had taken it in 2004. Obama remains popular in the state and if he had to stand for reelection today he'd take it by a similar amount to his previous victory.

Obama's approval rating with New Mexicans is 55% with 40% of voters disapproving of him. Most noteworthy are his very strong numbers with independents, 60% of whom are happy with the job he's doing to 32% who dissent.

According to the poll Obama would beat Johnson -- who is considered a longshot for the nomination -  51-36. Mitt Romney would lose 53-37. The other match-ups: Mike Huckabee would lose 55-36; 21, Newt Gingrich would get 35 percent to Obama's 56 and Sarah Palin would receive 33 percent of the vote compared with the president's 62 percent.

PPP Release NM Obama 0209513

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AG to State Archives: Open the Richardson Records

Attorney General Gary King's office is instructing the state records administrator to unseal the records of former Gov. Bill Richardson.

Apparently King's staff believes the argument that the sealing of records is allowed only for "personal" records, not documents produced during the course of being a public servant.

"Accordingly the state Records and Archives must, upon request, must allow inspection fo public records recently transferred to the state Records Center by former Gov. Richardson unless the records are subject to an exception under (the Inspection of Public Records Act) or another law."

I haven't heard back yet from the Richardson camp. I'll update when and if I do.

8 Feb 2011-Src-Former Gov's Records (1)[1]

Bingaman Looks Safe, Early Poll Says

Even though much can change between now and November, 2012 and early polls basically are meaningless, (two years ago, Diane Denish looked unbeatable), I know political junkies, myself included, love looking at this stuff.

To nobody's surprise, according to this PPP poll, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman looks safe. What does surprise me is that his toughest competitor, according to this survey, is former Gov. Gary Johnson. Johnson. Johnson has been traveling the country in what many assume is in preparation for a presidential bid. Would he even want to be a senator? He's never expressed any interest, at least in public for running for Congress. Senators can't veto anything.

Correct me if I'm wrong (as if you wouldn't), but I think the only declared Bingaman challenger is Republican Greg Sowards. Sowards wasn't listed in any match-ups in this survey.

(UPDATE: I stand corrected. One fellow blogger pointed out that an Alamogordo Republican named Bill English announced last year that he's running.)

Bingaman should like this little factoid from PPP: "With a 56-27 approval-disapproval margin, Bingaman is more popular at home than all but four of the 77 colleagues which PPP has measured in the last year or so

PPP surveyed 545 New Mexico voters from February 4-6. The survey’s margin of error is 4.2 percent.

Take a look at it below:
PPP Release NM 0208