Sunday, June 30, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: A Civil-Rights Battle Ahead in NM

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 30, 2013

Will gay marriage undermine the sanctity of cake? 
Gay and lesbian people from all over New Mexico celebrated last week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for gay marriage in California.

But when the celebrations were over and the sun rose on Thursday, the reality remained that same-sex couples still can’t get married in this state.

And despite the demise of DOMA, there still is doubt whether gay and lesbian couples married in other states and living in New Mexico will be able to enjoy the same federal benefits as non-gay couples.

Still, the court decisions made proponents more optimistic than ever that a change is going to come — and may come sooner than later.

There are two practical ways to bring marriage equality to New Mexico. One method would be in the form of a constitutional amendment, which would be decided by voters in the 2014 general election. The other way is through the courts.

Gov. Susana Martinez last week endorsed the constitutional amendment route. I probably should clarify: Martinez, a Republican who has stated her opposition to same-sex marriage, did not endorse the passage of such an amendment. She merely said that voters, not politicians, should make that determination.

Such an amendment was introduced in the Legislature this year. Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, the sponsor of that measure, told me that the governor didn’t appear to be working for or against the amendment. Egolf’s proposal failed when a couple of Democrats on the Voters and Elections Committee joined Republicans to table it.

That’s one of the main problems with the constitutional amendment process. It has to go through the Legislature, which for years has been timid about passing anything even resembling same-sex marriage. Still, there had been close votes in recent years for bills that would have allowed “domestic partnerships” in the state. But momentum on domestic partnerships stalled after the Catholic Church came out against it a few years ago. The opposition — Republicans and conservative Democrats — was joined by some northern Hispanic Dems who previously had supported the idea.

But even if proponents had the votes in the Legislature for a marriage equality amendment, there are many who don’t believe this route would be wise or fair.
One of these is Tanya Struble of Jemez Springs, who would like to marry her longtime partner Therese Councilor. Struble told me last week that she’s afraid that such a ballot question could have a similar result as what happened in California in 2008 with Proposition 8. In that case, voters decided to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry — which already had been in place. (The U.S. Supreme Court settled that last week. Gay weddings have resumed in California.)

Struble’s fear that voters could reject a constitutional amendment is hardly far-fetched. Polls show the question is close. But while younger voters overwhelmingly support marriage equality, older voters tend to oppose it. And guess which group is significantly better at showing up to the polls.

Also, Struble said she just doesn’t like the idea of people voting on her civil rights. Linda Siegle, a lobbyist for Equality New Mexico, made the same point in February when Egolf’s proposed amendment went down. “It’s always kind of scary to have the majority voting on the rights of the minority,” she said.

The other way to achieve marriage equality here is the judiciary. Struble and Councilor — along with four other couples — are involved in a lawsuit filed by the America Civil Liberties Union trying to end legal roadblocks to gay marriage in the state.

Egolf, as a private lawyer, is representing two Santa Fe men denied a marriage license by the county clerk in a separate case. Last week, Egolf petitioned the state Supreme Court to hear that case. If the Supremes decide to hear it, that would save a lot of time.

Whatever happens, a civil-rights battle is looming on New Mexico’s horizon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

FOG Names New Director.

The state Foundation for Open Government has named Terry Schleder, a health advocate and policy consultant, as the organization's new Executive Director.

It's the first time the watchdog group has named someone other than a journalist to that position.

According to a news release, Schleder has been field director for the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans since 2009. He has worked in and with state government in the Department of Health since receiving his Masters' in Public Health from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

"Terry brings a wealth of organization leadership to the NMFOG and a strong understanding of our mission, Terri Cole, president of the FOG Board said in the news release.

Schleder, the statement said, "presented organization plans to the FOG search committee for 1, 3 and 5 years out which were well thought out and showed a strategy of growth for the organization and broader understanding of the Sunshine Laws in our state."

Schleder starts work July 10. He replaces Gwenyth Doland, who resigned earlier this year.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Susana: Let the Voters Decide on Same-Sex Marriage

I just got this statement from Gov. Susana Martinez's office regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions on the same-sex marriage cases:

Gov. Martinez’s personal views on the issue, that marriage should be between a man and woman, are well known.  The US Supreme Court decisions tend to indicate a desire for this issue to be decided at the state level, as opposed to the federal level. The governor believes it is most appropriate for voters – not politicians – to make the determination in New Mexico. 

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, had a  proposed constitutional amendment to make marriage a right for same-sex couples in the last legislative session. It was defeated in committee. There also was at least one proposed "Defense of Marriage" amendment in the session that also died in committee. This could be a hot topic once again in the 2014 session.

New Mexico ACLU Statement on Supreme Court DOMA Ruling

Here's a new release I just received concerning the Supreme Court's ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico welcomes the historic overturn of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), the legislation that prevents federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples, as well as the overturn of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned same-sex couples from marrying in California. The ACLU represented 80-year-old plaintiff Edie Windsor in United States v. Windsor, the case that overturned DOMA, and filed a friend-of-the court brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit that overturned Prop. 8.

There are more than 1100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference—from eligibility for family medical leave, to social security survivor’s benefits, to access to health care for a spouse. Today’s decision will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of legally married gay couples. Married same-sex couples who live in states that recognize their relationships should now be eligible for these benefits and protections. 

“This is truly a historic moment for basic fairness in the United States,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “DOMA is the last federal law on the books that mandates discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay, and today’s decision takes down its core. It’s a great day for equality and the beginning of the end of official discrimination against lesbians and gay men.“

New Mexico is in a somewhat unique position. Although New Mexico does not yet permit same-sex couples to marry, New Mexico does not bar recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples who legally married in another place.  In addition, the New Mexico Attorney General issued an opinion in 2011 concluding that New Mexico law supports recognition of those marriages and that New Mexico courts likely would rule that those marriages must be respected.  This should mean same-sex couples who are legally married and living in New Mexico are eligible for all federal benefits; however, we cannot know for certain at this time whether the federal government will extend all federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples in New Mexico.

Some New Mexico residents, however, will likely feel immediate effects of the court striking down DOMA, including military personnel and other federal employees. U.S. Army reservist Major Christina Altamirano and her spouse, Jennifer Altamirano, both New Mexico natives, welcomed today’s decision:

“I have served my country for 14 years in the military, including a wartime deployment to Iraq,” said Major Altamirano. “But because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” my wife and children were treated differently than other military families, denied protections, respect and recognition because we are a same-sex couple. After today’s ruling, I finally feel like the country I defend fully honors and recognizes our family’s service and sacrifice.”

“It has been a struggle for our family because in addition to not receiving the health insurance and other benefits other military families take for granted, the government considered me and my wife strangers,” said Jennifer Altamirano, Christina’s spouse. “If she were to be wounded, killed or captured in the line of duty, the military wouldn’t even let me know.”

The ACLU of New Mexico, along with the national ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed a lawsuit on March 21 that seeks to clarify New Mexico’s law regarding marriage for same-sex couples. The lawsuit alleges that under New Mexico’s Constitution, committed and loving same sex couples should already be allowed to marry in our state. Should this suit prove successful, married same-sex couples in New Mexico would enjoy full federal marriage benefits now that DOMA has been removed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Eichenberg Running for Treasurer

Former Albuquerque state Sen. Tim Eichenberg, who didn't seek re-election to his Senate seat last year, is running to politics, running for the Democratic nomination for state Treasurer.

Eichenberg, 61, in his announcement today praised incumbent Treasurer James Lewis, who legally is barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

“We all owe a debt to our current State Treasurer, James B. Lewis, who is termed out, for the work he has done to restore ethics and honesty to the Treasurer’s office. We share the same core values of respect for the public trust as well as ethical behavior by elected officials, and I will continue his fine work. My experience and reputation for fiscal responsibility make me the right choice for the office so crucial to our state’s financial integrity.”

Lewis, who was elected in 2006, followed former Treasurer Robert Vigil who eventually served prison time after being implicated in a kickback scheme.

Eichenberg's first public office was Bernalillo County treasurer, to which he was elected in 1974 at the age of 22.

He will face former Bernalillo County Treasurer Pat Padilla in next June's primary.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 23, 2013

Trust us.

That’s basically what Gov. Susana Martinez’s spokesman said when refusing to identify the people who put up Gov. Susana Martinez’s husband, Chuck Franco, and two state police officers guarding him on that 2011 alligator hunting trip to Louisiana.
Chuck Franco

It wasn’t anybody who is doing business with the state, the governor’s spokesman, Enrique Knell, said. It wasn’t anybody involved in New Mexico politics.
How do we know that?

Trust us.

Some of the governor’s political enemies seem to be convinced that the hunting trip, which took place in early September 2011, is somehow connected to the awarding of a lucrative 25-year contract to operate the racetrack and casino at the state fairgrounds. The “evidence?” Two of the three principals in The Downs at Albuquerque live in Louisiana. The trip took place between the time the company submitted their bid and the time the company was awarded the contract.

Of course, millions of other people live in Louisiana. A supporter of the governor wryly pointed out to me that the son of state Democratic Chairman Sam Bregman lives there, too. (Ah, the plot thickens …)

Asked specifically if Franco’s hosts were connected with The Downs, Martinez spokesman Knell said no. I tend to believe him — if it’s not true, it would be incredibly damaging to Martinez when the names of these mysterious hosts finally are known. And I believe that eventually, one way or another, those names will be known.

Of course, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that there is no connection between the hunting trip and The Downs, because state officials won’t reveal the names.

The thing is, assuming there is no deep dark hidden secret here, this whole mystery could have been nipped in the bud months ago had the administration just come out with all the information when people first started asking for it.

But from the start they resisted. At first, all information was denied because of “security.” In December, Attorney General Gary King ordered the state Department of Public Safety to release documents like time sheets and gasoline expenses for the trip. A few months later, those documents were released.

But then, when newspapers requested food and lodging receipts, once again the administration played the security card, based on a decision of the Texas Supreme Court.

Even though the names of the two officers who accompanied Franco on the trip were made public when the Department of Public Safety released its documents, one of the reasons given for withholding the food and lodging receipts was because it would identify the officers.

The name of this alligator has been
withheld for reasons of security
“Disclosure of such information could compromise the physical and identity security of the governor or her family, thereby compromising the governor’s and her family’s right to be free from physical harm,” said the letter denying the release of the requested documents. I wondered how a 2-year-old receipt from, say, a Taco Bell in Lake Charles, La., could endanger anyone.

But it turned out there weren’t even any receipts, at least not for the out-of-state expenses. Last week, after months of this cat-and-mouse game, the administration finally admitted that Franco and the officers didn’t pay anything for food and lodging.

Feeling insecure? As anyone who has followed the whole National Security Administration scandal knows, governments can invoke “security” to hide a multitude of sins.

Remember when then Gov. Bill Richardson kept getting in trouble for making his state police drivers go 100 mph on the highway? At one point, Richardson’s public secretary claimed the reason for one of those incidents was because of “security concerns.”

“Security” also was a reason why in the early days of the Richardson administration, his office refused to release information on who was providing the governor with private jets for all those out-of-state trips he was making. (Although to his credit, in 2009, Richardson’s office, in response to a records request, did release several months worth of expense records for his security team showing hotels and restaurants where the officers had been.)

“Legit or not, ‘security’ is becoming a standard administration answer for questions the governor doesn’t like answering.”

I wrote that in this column in 2003. The governor has changed, but it’s still true today.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Udall and Bi-partisan Group of Senators Move to Block Syria War Funds

U.S. Senators Tom Udall, a Democrat has joined with a bi-patisan group of senators to introduce legislation to prohibit the President from using any funds on activities that would escalate U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The bill, introduced Thursday, would ban the Department of Defense, the CIA and all other agencies from funding any military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria, a news release said. The legislation wouldn't affect humanitarian aid.

Udall's co-sponsors are Mike Lee, R-Utah; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.

All four have spoken out strongly against President Obama’s decision to arm rebel groups in Syria.  Udall, Murphy and Paul, are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They cast the lone votes in the committee against authorizing the White House to arm and train rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing civil war.

A Pew poll released early this week showed 70 percent of Americans opposed to arming the rebels while only 20 percent support it. Sixty percent of those polled said the rebels might be no better than Assad.

Udall in a statement said:

“I am deeply disturbed by the current situation in Syria and atrocities committed by President Assad’s regime and other militant groups inside Syria.  The ongoing humanitarian tragedy deserves the attention of the international community.  But there are too many questions about how the President’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels will be handled, and unfortunately many of those answers are being kept secret.  We don’t know where the money is coming from, who the arms are going to, and whether the arms are going to individuals who have the capabilities to maintain a chain of custody of those weapons.  This would not be acceptable in any standard sale of weapons to another government and should definitely not be acceptable for sales to rebel groups we know little about.  We need to place a check on the President’s unilateral decision to arm the rebels, while still preserving humanitarian aid and assistance to the Syrian people, and that is why I’m introducing this bill.  Bottom line: We should not get involved in another civil war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sabato's Crystal Ball Says Susana Re-Elect Likely

Political scientist Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, just release his ratings for all of the 2014 governor races.

Below is his take on New Mexico. (I left in the links from his site.)

New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) recently told National Journal that she has no interest in running for president. However, it’s possible that the lady doth protest too much. Martinez is viewed by many in the GOP hierarchy as a rising star. And why wouldn’t they? She is a Hispanic governor of a state that President Obama won twice by large margins, the kind of profile that many Republicans think is key to expanding the party’s membership and giving it a shot of winning in 2016. But before Martinez can determine her interest in the next presidential cycle, she will need to win reelection first. However, if her 66% approval rating is any sign of things to come, defeating her will be tough sledding for Democrats in 2014. So far, the top challenger is Attorney General Gary King (D), son of a former governor. But it’s possible that King could be vulnerable on his left flank, having recently announced that he would not offer an opinion on whether New Mexico law permits gay marriage, a decision Martinez agreed with. State Sen. Linda Lopez (D) is the only other declared candidate in the race, though several other state legislators are also considering the contest. No matter who winds up being the Democratic nominee, right now it looks like it will be an uphill battle to defeat Martinez.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gov Bound for Miami

Gov. Susana Martinez will speak at a Republican political action committee meeting in Miami next month, the  Sunshine State News reported today.

She'll be speaking at MavPac, which is associated with George P. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's son, the publication said.

The article referred to Martinez as a "potential Republican presidential candidate," though Martinez repeatedly has denied she'll run for president in 2016. It noted that "two other possible Republican presidential candidates" will speak at the meeting -- Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Martinez has made or scheduled several several out-of-state trips in recent weeks. She recently attended a fundraiser for her own campaign in Washington, D.C., and last month went to Austin, Texas for a fundraising event by national Republicans to recruit and elect more women and minority candidates. On June 29 she's scheduled to speak at the Ohio Republican Party's State Dinner in Columbus.

Estrada Pleads Not Guilty, Lawyer Promises to Expose Problems in Government's Case

Gov. Susana Martinez’s former campaign manager Jamie Estrada on Monday pleaded not guilty to all counts of illegally intercepting Martinez’s campaign email and lying to lying to the FBI.

Estrada made his plea at an arraignment hearing in federal court. It was his first appearance in the case. He is charged with 12 counts of email theft and two counts of lying to the FBI.

After the hearing, Estrada’s lawyer Zach Ives spoke to reporters as Estrada stood beside him.

“Jamie Estrada is not guilty of the charges against him,” Ives said. “This is just the beginning of a process that should allow us to expose the significant legal and factual problems with the government’s case.”

Ives declined to detail the problems he said he sees in the case.

Estrada served as Martinez’s campaign manager for several months in 2009. Martinez has said she fired him from the campaign. Estrada, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission in 2010, has insisted that he left on his accord.

The FBI, in affidavits, say Estrada kept the password on Martinez’s campaign website domain and renewed the account — using a fake name — after it expired and diverted emails to a separate account he controlled.

Many of the emails ended up in the hands of Martinez’s political enemies including Independent Source PAC, a union-funded group that has been highly critical of the administration, and Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, who since has been elected state Democratic Party chairman.

The leaked emails showed that it in the first year of the Martinez administration it was common for key officials to conduct state business on private email accounts — including the old campaign email account — rather than their official state email accounts, which frequently are inspected by news organizations and others.

Soon after the first leaked emails were publicized, Martinez ordered her staff to use their official accounts.

In his only statement to reporters, made on the day his indictment was announced, Estrada said, “Individuals in whom the public has placed its trust have come after me in an attempt to divert attention from their own improper actions, including the suspected Albuquerque Downs Racino bid rigging.”

That was a reference to a controversial racetrack and casino contract awarded to Martinez supporters. Some of the leaked emails dealt with that contract process.

Also implicated in the email case is Democratic consultant Jason Loera, who, the FBI affidavits say was in frequent contact with Estrada and others. He was indicted on child pornography charges after investigators say they found sexual images of children on his computers, which had been seized during the email investigation.

UPDATE 4:55 pm Republican lawyer Pat Rogers, who attended Estrada's indictment, just sent a lengthy statement concerning the case. Rogers is not one of the parties to the case, though he said he was interviewed by the  FBI about the emails. According to FBI affidavits, after newspapers began publishing stories about the governor's emails, Rogers was sent by Gov. Martinez and her political consultant Jay McCleskey last year to confront Estrada, who denied any role in renewing the internet domain.

Some emails sent by Rogers led to him resigning from the Foundation for Open Government board as well as from his job at the Modrall Sperling law firm in Albuquerque.

Here's his statement:

Stealing property such as private emails is a serious federal felony offense and it has significant consequences including prison time, fines and restitution obligations.  Mr. Estrada’s decision to steal and misuse private emails, with the help of Sam Bregman, the state party chairman of the Democrats, Michael Corwin, former Gov. Richardson’s private investigator  and other hyper-partisan Democrat political hacks, is a decision that is unlawful, unfortunate and not exempt from the reach of the law.  The public and all honest citizens concerned about privacy or thieves stealing and misusing private property should appreciate the work of the FBI agents and the prosecutors involved.  

The suggestion that Mr. Estrada hijacked and disseminated the emails as part of a plan to expose `wrongdoing' by others is a desperate and  late invention  that does not begin to explain why he would also lie to the FBI.   

In addition, I was an attorney for two of the owners of the Albuquerque Downs.  I did negotiate the competitive and open lease that replaced the  sole source, secret   deal proposed during the Richardson administration.  I have met with FBI agents and had a number of conversations. All discussions have concerned the people involved in stealing and misusing the emails stolen from the governor’s private email account . I was never asked about the Albuquerque Downs.   

Sunday, June 16, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Evolving With Gary King

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 16, 2013

Attorney General Gary King caught flack recently when he announced he would not be offering a formal opinion on whether state laws allow same-sex marriage. He advised county clerks around the state to keep refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

King said at a news conference he won’t issue a formal opinion because of pending litigation over the issue of same-sex marriage licenses. A legal analysis by his staff concluded that state law doesn’t allow same-sex marriage but could be vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.

The AG’s non-action prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to say she agrees with King. That’s probably not something that someone running for governor in next year’s Democratic primary — as King is — wants to hear.

At that news conference, though, King said that his personal opinion — which, like formal attorney general opinions, is nonbinding — is that gay couples should have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

But King didn’t always feel that way.

Jerry Lee Alwin
Back in 1997, when King was a legislator, he was chairman of the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee. The committee that year considered House Bill 640, a classic “Defense of Marriage Act,” sponsored by then Rep. Jerry Lee Alwin, R-Albuquerque.

“If you accept same-sex marriages today, then you can’t stop marriages of incest, polygamy or even human-animal relations,” Alwin told the committee.

That must have convinced them.

All members present, including King, voted to recommend the bill, sending it on to the House Judiciary Committee.

Not only did the bill specifically prohibit marriage between people of the same gender and define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, respectively,” it also said that no same-sex marriage that was valid in other states or countries “shall be valid, binding or enforceable in this state.”

More than two years ago, King issued a formal opinion, saying, “A comprehensive legal analysis by my office concludes that valid same-sex marriages in other states would likely be valid in New Mexico.” Of course, he couldn’t have come to that conclusion had the bill he voted for become law.

On the day of the vote, King told The New Mexican that he voted for Alwin’s bill because it is broadly supported by his constituents.

“We are a representative democracy, and the majority of people who live in my district are for this bill,” he said. When asked what his own views were, King told a reporter, “My personal opinions will have to stay my personal opinions,” he added.

Until 2013, I guess.

HB 640 went on to stall in House Judiciary. Similar bills have been introduced in almost every legislative session since then. These days they normally die in Consumer & Public Affairs.

The evolution will not be televised. Asked about this last week, a spokesman for King replied, “His views on same-sex marriage have changed. Over time, it has become clear that even domestic partnerships, which he originally supported, did not sufficiently address the constitutional rights of same-sex couples. His position has become more informed over the years and he is confident that same-sex couples are entitled to equal protection, to the same rights that opposite-sex couples enjoy today.”

King’s not the only politician who has changed his mind about gay marriage since the ’90s. Back then, Bill Richardson was leading the charge in Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

During that 1997 legislative session, Alwin’s bill was endorsed by another Gary, Gov. Gary Johnson.

“Call us old-fashioned, but we’re against same-sex marriage,” a spokesman for the governor said of the bill.

Johnson, however, became a vocal champion of marriage equality by the time he ran for president on the Libertarian ticket last year.

President Barack Obama publicly “evolved” on the issue. I’m pretty sure we’ll see more politicians follow suit.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tom Udall to Replace Lautenberg as Subcommittee Chair

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall will replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.

“As chairman I look forward to the responsibility of ensuring taxpayers dollars are spent wisely and the interests of hardworking families in New Mexico are protected,” Udall said in a news release. He said he will “work hard to support small businesses, expand rural broadband, protect consumers and ensure the safety of our financial markets."

The subcommittee oversees annual funding for financial-related agencies including the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.

It also has jurisdiction over several key agencies that have a direct impact on New Mexico, including: The Small Business Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Office of National Drug Control Policy. the Federal Election Commission and the General Services Administration.

Lautenberg, D-N.J., died on June 3.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Longtime Medical Marijuana Advocate Won't Be Returning to Advisory Board

Dr. Steve Jenison
Photo by Jane Phillips
A physician and long-time Health Department administrator who was instrumental in establishing the state’s medical marijuana program and who was chairman of the program’s advisory board learned this week that he had not been reappointed to the board.

Dr. Steve Jenison is a retired medical director for the New Mexico Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Bureau and the first director of the medical marijuana program. Jension said this morning he was informed in a letter by Health Secretary Retta Ward that he would no longer be part of the advisory board.

Jenison said that on Friday, June 7 he’d asked Ward about whether she was going to reappoint him. Instead of telling him the answer, he said, Ward told him that a letter was in the mail. On Monday he got the letter.

“I totally accept that it’s the secretary’s prerogative to appoint and reappoint who she wants,” Jenison said. “I just wish they’d been more respectful in the way they handled it.”

Asked for a response, Kenny Vigil, a spokesman for the Health Department, said , “There’s nothing more we can say about that at this time.”

Emily Kaltenbach, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance, said Tuesday she’s sorry Jenison wasn’t reappointed. “He’s been a true advocate of the program and has done a very judicious job,” she said. “I hope this isn’t a case of politics trumping science.”

Jenison was appointed to the advisory board in 2010 after he retired from the Health Department.The board is made up of eight board certified practitioners and meets at least twice a year to discussed proposed changes to the medical cannabis program.

During the 2010 campaign Jenison appeared in a TV spot by Drug Policy Action that was critical of Susana Martinez, who in her campaign for governor had said the medical marijuana program should be abolished.

A news release for the organization quoted Jenison saying “Ultimately doctors — not politicians — know what’s best for patients who are suffering and need relief.” He also appeared in the ad, which is posted below.

Asked Tuesday whether he thought that ad might have been a factor in the decision not to reappoint him, Jenison said it’s possible, though he added, “I would have thought if that were the issue that they would have done something much earlier than now.”

Since she became governor Martinez has not moved to get rid of the program.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

Monday, June 10, 2013

SF Dems Hold Forum on Open Primaries

The Santa Fe County Democratic Party is hosting a forum next week to debate whether the party should open its primaries to (at least) independent voters.

"New Mexico permits only registered members of a party to vote," County Chairman Richard Ellenberg said in an email this afternoon. "Some argue everyone or at least independents should be allowed to vote in the primary. Others contend that only persons registered to a party should pick the candidates for that party."

The forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday June 19 at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road. It's free and open to the public.

In April, Fred Nathan, director of the Santa Fe public policy think tank Think New Mexico wrote the state chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties asking for their support to open their respective primaries.

“By including and listening to independent voters, you will better position your party to win the general election,” he wrote. “Since independents often comprise the deciding swing votes in close elections, gaining their support early could make the difference in many elections. So there will be an advantage to whichever party moves first to open its primaries.”

On its website, Think New Mexico points out, "The number of New Mexico's `independent' voters, who are not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party, has tripled from 6% to 18% in the last three decades, yet none of those 230,839 voters are allowed to vote in the state's primary elections."

Tax money pays for the primary elections.

Regarding Nathan's letter, state GOP Chairman John Billingsly said he was worried about outside groups disrupting the primaries. (Some Dems have the same fear.) But then-Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales said he supports the idea.

“It’s not only healthy for democracy but for the Democratic Party,” Gonzales said. “I believe our ideas would resonate for many independents.”

Both Nathan and Gonzales are scheduled to be at the forum, as is Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. (I haven't talked to him yet about this issue.)

Nathan and others have pointed out that a majority of states have some sort of open primary. Some states allow independent voters to choose what primary ballot they want. Some allow all voters to choose what primary ballot they want when they go to vote.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Odds 'n' Ends From the Email Scandal

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 9, 2013

David Letterman got some cynical laughs out of New Mexico back in early 2009, when he made a brutal quip about then-Gov. Bill Richardson.

Richardson had just withdrawn his name for consideration to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of commerce. This was due to a grand jury investigation of an alleged pay-to-play deal. Letterman, talking about the situation on his Late Show, characterized Richardson’s withdrawal:

“You know what, I’ve been doing some stuff that may be too illegal to be in the Cabinet but just about right to keep me as governor of New Mexico.”

That grand jury never produced any charges. But the joke still stung.

I thought about Letterman’s joke last week while working on a story about the recent email scandal in state government.

Jamie Estrada — recently indicted on charges of illegally hijacking Gov. Susana Martinez’s emails and lying to the FBI — had been Martinez’s campaign manager until sometime in late 2009. The governor said he was fired for, among other things, reading her personal emails, which led her to believe he was “of suspect character.”

Estrada, however, has said he didn’t break any laws and flatly denies he was fired from the campaign. Last week, his lawyer released several documents several documents that indicate Estrada remained in contact with the campaign for many months after he left, even receiving kind words from Martinez and others.

Shortly after leaving the Martinez campaign, Estrada announced he would be running in the Republican primary for the southern District 5 Public Regulation Commission seat.

So who ran the Estrada campaign? Campaign finance records from 2010 show that his political consultant in the race was Lincoln Strategies, which at the time was the company of none other than Jay McCleskey, Martinez’s political consultant.

In fact, out of the $15,959 Estrada received in public funding, $15,224 of that went to Lincoln Strategies.

Estrada went on to lose the primary to Ben Hall, who went on to win the general election as well.

So why would McCleskey agree to help Estrada’s campaign if Estrada was such a bad egg? And why would Estrada want to hire McCleskey if there were hard feelings with the Susana camp over being fired?

Surely nobody said, “You know what, Jamie’s been doing some stuff that shows he may be too much of a suspect character to manage this campaign, but just about right to put him on the Public Regulation Commission”?

McCleskey said in an email: “On the Martinez campaign, it was clear for some time that Estrada would never be the permanent campaign manager. He was being replaced by Adam Deguire and was resistant to it. There were several efforts made to help him with a graceful exit, including my firm agreeing to work for him in his PRC campaign, after he was unable to get a job with the [Albuquerque Mayor Richard] Berry administration. Ultimately, Estrada was abruptly fired before he could leave on his own terms.”

Martinez didn’t endorse Estrada’s PRC candidacy, McCleskey said.

The bigger picture: Another name familiar in Republican circles popped up in the email
Photo by Enrique C. Knell
investigation last week. That’s Anissa Galassini Ford, who served as Martinez’s personal assistant during the 2010 campaign.

According to FBI documents unsealed last week, investigators looking at various Internet communications determined that Ford was in frequent contact with Estrada as well as Jason Loera, a Democratic consultant who recently was charged with possessing child porn — which the FBI found while searching Loera’s computers for the governor’s hijacked emails.

I looked at Ford’s Facebook page and came across a nice looking photo of Ford with Mitt Romney posted last August. The photo has a watermark for the professional photographer who took it: Enrique C. Knell — yes, Gov. Martinez’s spokesman, who has worked as a professional photographer.

Knell said last week that he shot the picture during the 2010 campaign. One person was cropped out of the photo on Facebook, however, he said: Susana Martinez.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Free Museum Admission for Fire Evacuees

Thompson Ridge a few days ago
Having to evacuate your home because of a forest fire can't be much fun. But the Department of Cultural Affairs is trying to make it a little less dismal by waiving admission fees to state-run museums and historic sites for residents who have been evacuated due to the Thompson Ridge and Tres Legunas fires.

“We are opening our doors to those who have been affected by the fires in Northern New Mexico in the hopes that this service will support displaced families and provide an educational and fun diversion from the stresses they are facing,” said Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales in a news release.

The participating museums are Museum of International Folk Art and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Santa Fe's Museum Hill; the state Museum of Art and Museum of History/Palace of the Governors on the Plaza; New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque; and New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.

The historic sites are Coronado in Bernalillo; El Camino Real Historic Trail Site, south of Socorro; Lincoln and Fort Stanton in Lincoln County; the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner; Fort Selden in Radium Springs; and Jemez near Jemez Springs — though fire officials are asking travelers to avoid NM Highway 4 between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos because of the Thompson Ridge fire.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

R.I.P. Rabbi Helman

I'm not Jewish, but Leonard Helman was my rabbi. I've been saying that saying that for 20 years or so, ever since I heard him give a wonderful. moving and funny eulogy at the funeral of the late writer/singer Jackie McCarty.

Rabbi Helman died today at St. Vincent Hospital at the age of 86. Read his obit HERE

One of the first times I really talked with Helman was back in the late '80s when he called me because he was mad at me for putting his age in some story I'd written. But by the end of the conversation, he wasn't angry anymore. He invited me to lunch at The Shed.

I remember seeing him one night years ago tearing up the dance floor at Vanessie's. After that I jokingly called him "Rabbi (slash) swinger Leonard Helman." He seemed to get a kick out of that.

In his later years, I'd frequently see the rabbi here at the state Capitol. He was one of the chaplains for the Legislature and often gave the invocations before morning floor sessions. I'm sure going to miss seeing him at future sessions.

There's No Opinion Like "No Opinion."

But that's what  Attorney General Gary King determine in the question of whether county clerks can legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

I guess it's on to court with the ACLU lawsuit over the issue, filed a couple of months ago.

Here's the AG's press release:

Attorney General Gary King today said, “Based on extensive research, we cannot state definitively that New Mexico law currently permits same-sex marriage.   

Although state statutes may limit marriage to couples of the opposite sex, this does not mean they will pass constitutional muster.  New Mexico statutes that preclude same-sex couples from marrying are vulnerable to challenge under the equal protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.”    

AG King also announced that because there is currently an active lawsuit in Bernalillo County over the issue of same-sex marriage licenses, he will not issue a formal AG’s Opinion, which is consistent with the Attorney General’s Office usual practice of not issuing an opinion while a lawsuit is pending. 

New Mexico Representative William J. McCamley, of Doña Ana County, had requested an opinion regarding whether county clerks in New Mexico can legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Representative McCamley made his request in light of a March 19, 2013 memorandum written by the Santa Fe City Attorney, which concluded that same-sex marriage was legal under current New Mexico law. Soon after the City of Santa Fe released the March 19 memorandum, two same-sex couples filed a lawsuit challenging the Bernalillo County Clerk’s refusal to issue the couples a marriage license.  The lawsuit raises issues similar to those raised in Representative McCamley’s opinion request.  

AG King adds, “I am keenly aware that some county clerks may have been waiting for direction regarding their authority under current New Mexico law to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Because of our conclusion, we caution against issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples before the courts have decided the issue or the legislature changes the law.” 

It is important to note that the Attorney General’s Office does not have general superintending control over the county clerks and, as a rule, does not provide them with legal advice. 

Bregman Fires Back

It took a few days, but state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman, just a few minutes ago, posted a response about the email investigation on the party's Facebook page. (And just now, in a press release.)

Bregman, before he was elected party chairman, had a political action committee called Grassroots New Mexico which hired Jason Loera. Loera was arrested last week and charged with several counts of possessing child pornography. The FBI found the offending material when searching his computers for links to the case of the emails stolen from Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign email account.

One of those emails, which Bregman gave me and several other reporters last year was from an email account linked to Loera.

Here's what Bregman said this morning.

“Over the last 48 hours Governor Martinez has attacked my integrity and character in an attempt to make a partisan issue out of a criminal investigation conducted by the US Attorney’s office. The Governor has chosen to do this after knowing full well that the day after I received the email in question I personally hand delivered the email to a judge and to the Governor’s lawyers in a judicial proceeding. For the Governor to suggest or imply that I have done anything improper or violated any law is reprehensible. 

As a lawyer and therefore an officer of the court and the Chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, I feel compelled to respond.  

Governor Martinez, need I remind you that as a lawyer you are an officer of the court and you have professional responsibilities as well.  

You should take a refresher course to better understand that you should not attempt to use your position as Governor to influence, inject politics into or bully the US Attorney’s office in their investigation, all while attempting to deflect the investigation of your shadow governor, Jay McCleskey and the Dirty Downs Scandal. Or perhaps your motive is to change the conversation from the miserable, sorry job that you have done as Governor when it comes to creating jobs in this state and educating our children. 

Regardless, I will not make further comments regarding the criminal investigation and you should reconsider your current behavior as the Governor of New Mexico.”

Email Investigation Documents Show More Involved

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 6, 2013

For some reason, my story on the newly unsealed affidavits in the governor's email case case didn't make it to the New Mexican's web site. I'm posting it below:

A Democratic political consultant communicated regularly with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s former campaign manager and her former personal assistant, according to documents unsealed Wednesday by federal authorities. The FBI says the three also shared Martinez emails that allegedly were intercepted illegally.

The affidavits are part of the federal government’s case against Jamie Estrada, Martinez’s former campaign manager, who was indicted last week on charges that he illegally obtained Martinez emails and lied to the FBI.

Estrada, who is scheduled to be arraigned June 17 at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque, has said he didn’t break any laws.

Jason Loera, the Democratic consultant, was arrested this week on three counts of possessing child pornography. An affidavit unsealed Wednesday confirmed that authorities found pornographic images of young children on computer discs at Loera’s home after confiscating his computers and other equipment in November while searching for evidence in the hijacked-emails investigation.

Loera’s lawyer, Brian Newman, told The Associated Press he had no comment and hadn’t seen the unsealed affidavits.

FBI agents in November also searched the Rio Rancho home of Martinez’s former assistant, Anissa Galassini Ford, who allegedly received emails from an account controlled by Loera. Ford has not been charged with any crime.

During an interview with FBI agents, Martinez identified Estrada and Ford as people with possible motives for intercepting her emails. According to the affidavits, Martinez told the FBI that both had left her campaign under “unfavorable circumstances.” 

Estrada has disputed that he was fired and earlier this week released documents showing that Martinez and her campaign kept in contact with him and included him in some campaign functions.

One of the affidavits said Ford had worked as Martinez’s personal assistant until November 2010, which is when Martinez was elected governor.

“During a review of evidence seized from Estrada’s residence, numerous text messages, chat conversations and emails were identified between Estrada, Ford and Jason Loera which confirm [they] know each other and communicate on a regular basis,” one of the documents said.

Another person included in some of the emails from Loera, according to one of the affidavits, was Bruce Wetherbee of Independent Source PAC, a union-funded group that has been highly critical of Martinez and which released many of the emails.

Wetherbee said Wednesday he knew Loera but said he couldn’t talk about any possible sources of the campaign emails. He said a statement about the matter would be posted on the PAC’s website. It hadn’t been posted as of Wednesday evening.

According to the affidavits, the FBI got a break in the case from an email made public last September by Sam Bregman, the Albuquerque lawyer who this year was elected state Democratic Party chairman. Bregman included the email in legal documents he filed in an appeal of a state Corrections Department employee’s firing. 

The email had been sent to Martinez from her former deputy chief of staff, Ryan Cangliosi. That email indicated that it had been forwarded to Bregman from an account called

The name is similar to “Omar Ravenhurst,” a pen name used by the late Kerry Thornley, a 1960s counter-culture writer, conspiracy buff and acquaintance of Lee Harvey Oswald.

After executing a warrant to search Google records of that account, the FBI learned that Loera was behind

Before the latest batch of search warrant documents were released in the Estrada case, Martinez took to her Facebook account to post a lengthy statement about the email investigation, attacking some of her political opponents.

Martinez in the statement pointed out that Loera was involved in a political action committee headed by Bregman. “Bregman was very active in trying to use the emails to attack me,” she said.
One of the search-warrant affidavits pointed out that Loera had been paid by Bregman’s PAC, Grassroots New Mexico, and had made a contribution to the PAC. Bregman on Wednesday declined to comment to The New Mexican or The Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that during a news conference in Rio Rancho on wildfires, Martinez said she was troubled by Bregman’s possible involvement in the email case, saying, “I think the public deserves to know what he knew, when he knew it and how much he knew.”

On her Facebook posting, the governor also ripped into one of the Democrats who has declared plans to run against her next year, writing that, “Some of the stolen emails included things such as bank account information, receipts for clothing, and political strategy memos. Those personal emails were released to be publicized by New Mexico Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Gary King. Afterward, King claimed he had no idea there was an ongoing FBI investigation despite the fact it had been very publicly reported in the media.”

King said in an interview Wednesday that under the state Inspection of Public Records Act he had no choice but to release the emails, which had been requested by the Santa Fe Reporter and others, including a Republican activist. King said the records act does not have any exceptions for the type of “personal” information Martinez complained about.

“Does the governor believe the attorney general shouldn’t follow the law if it’s something she doesn’t want released?” he said.

Although there had been reports in newspapers about the FBI looking into the governor’s emails, he said the FBI never contacted him about it — until after he released the emails.

King took issue with the notion that he had interfered with the FBI’s investigation. “It looks like they got their man,” he said, referring to Estrada.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just to Take a Quick Break from Politics ...

Holy cow! Here's the scariest press release I've gotten all day:

From the NM Game & Fish Department:
This is the bear believed to have attacked woman

RATON – A large black bear broke into a home north of Cimarron and attacked an elderly, bedridden woman Tuesday night. A bear believed to have been the attacker was caught and killed by Game and Fish officers today. The woman received minor injuries. 

The 82-year-old woman, who asked to not be identified, was in bed with the doors and windows open when a bear broke the latch on a screen door and entered her room. The housekeeper went in about 10 p.m. to close the doors and turn off her light and found her with scratches on her nose and head. The housekeeper applied first aid but didn’t find it necessary to call for further medical assistance. Game and Fish officers were called the next morning when it was apparent that a bear had broken the screen door. 

Conservation Officer Kyle Jackson contacted Hap Blacksten, a local houndman, who was able to find the bear with dogs. The bear was killed and taken to the Veterinarian Diagnostic Center in Albuquerque, where it will be tested for rabies. 

“This was a large male bear, probably weighing over 400 pounds,” Officer Jackson said. “Comparing it to the marks on the door, we believe this is the bear that broke in, but there was no apparent reason for the bear to enter the house.” 

Normally, food smells entice bears into camps or homes, but there was no food in the bedroom. The housekeeper said she didn’t hear a sound and there also was a dog in the house that didn’t alert to the bear. 

Anyone who lives in bear country should make sure that their doors and windows are locked. Windows and doors left open for ventilation are easy entryways to bears and other wildlife looking for food.

Governor Posts Lengthy Response to eMail Stories

Gov. Susana Martinez has posted a lengthy take on her Facebook page about the email scandal.

In it, she attacks state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman, Attorney General Gary King and others.

No, she doesn't talk about the FBI interviewing her former campaign finance manager about the racetrack contract and other scandals. She's already said no such investigation exists, despite Andrea Goff going public.

She concludes the post saying, "I stood up to criminals for 25 years as a prosecutor, I wasn’t intimidated then and I won't be intimidated now." I'm assuming the "criminals" she's talking about aren't the attorney general, Bregman and Ives.

I've asked for a response from Bregman and hopefully will be talking to others. I'll update this post as needed. (UPDATE: 1 pm. A spokesman for Bregman just told me, "the Chairman has no comment.")

I'm not sure what she means by Jamie Estrada's lawyer promising a "smear campaign," unless she's talking about Zach Ives saying that he will be mounting an aggressive defense.

Here's the governor's statement in its entirety:

How low will they go? 

Please indulge a lengthy post, as many of you have asked me about the recent news of my email theft and I thought I would take time on my flight back to New Mexico to provide you a thorough update. 

Last week, an individual I fired from my campaign was indicted in federal court for illegally intercepting my political and personal emails for almost a year that were then released to the media by leftwing political groups last year. The man is also charged with lying to the FBI about the scheme. 

A few days later, another man whose computers were seized by the FBI in the email theft investigation was arrested for possession of child pornography. The child pornography was found when the FBI served a search warrant in the email theft investigation, according to news reports. This man was the PAC Manager for the now Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Sam Bregman. Bregman was very active in trying to use the emails to attack me. 

Some of the stolen emails included things such as bank account information, receipts for clothing, and political strategy memos. Those personal emails were released to be publicized by New Mexico Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Governor Gary King. Afterward, King claimed he had no idea there was an ongoing FBI investigation despite the fact it had been very publicly reported in the media.

In politics, we should expect tough and vigorous debates on the issues. But it’s disgusting to see operatives committing crimes and invading the privacy of their political opponents just to score cheap political points. And it's almost unbelievable that the state’s chief law enforcement officer interfered with an ongoing federal investigation by releasing emails he had to have known were stolen -- and provided to him directly by a union-funded PAC. That shouldn't happen on either side of the aisle.

Now, the leftwing criminal defense lawyer representing the indicted is promising a smear campaign. I stood up to criminals for 25 years as a prosecutor, I wasn’t intimidated then and I won't be intimidated now. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Estrada Pushes Back on Claim Martinez Fired Him

Last week after Gov. Susana Martinez said she'd fired her former campaign manager Jamie Estrada -- who has been indicted on charges of illegally intercepting Martinez's emails. She said Estrada was "a man of suspect character."

However, at some point before she got elected governor, there apparently was some kind of reconciliation. Estrada's lawyer Zach Ives released several documents showing communication between Estrada and the Martinez campaign several months after he left it.

For instance, below elow is an invitation to a Washington, DC fundraiser in which Estrada is listed as a member of the host committee.

However, apparently there was some bad blood around the time Estrada left the campaign. Search warrants released by the U.S. Attorney's Office Tuesday quote an email from Estrada to Martinez's political adviser Jay McCleskey saying, "I can't understand why she wouldn't think there are political consequences for treating me poorly and unfairly."

The search warrant affidavits document the FBI's cyber-sleuthing that led them to consider Estrada a suspect.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

An "Unrelated Investigation"

A search warrant for computers belonging to child-pornography suspect and former Democratic political consultant  Jason Loera of Albuquerque shows that before FBI agents searched Loera's computers for kiddie porn,  those computers already were in federal custody in connection with another case.

Is that other case the one that involves the alleged hijacking of emails from Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign accounts?

On  page 9 of the search warrant application below, Special Agent Aaron Cravens wrote that on Nov. 20, the FBI executed a search warrant signed by a judge the day before at Loera's Albuquerque home "in connection with an unrelated investigation ..." Agents seized computers and other devices including several CD-Rs from the house.

A subsequent examination of the discs showed pornographic images and videos of children believed to between the ages of six and 12.

These images were not within the scope of the "unrelated investigation" Cravens mentioned.

That initial search warrant still is sealed, the U.S. Attorney's Office told me a few minutes ago -- though it might be unsealed in the very near future.

But last night Albuquerque freelance journalist Peter St. Cyr posted on Twitter a photo of one page purported to be from that original search warrant affidavit. If the photo is what it claims to be, then agents were looking for documents  related to the "Susana2010" domain; any communications with and; and the "" domain.

Last week former Martinez campaign manager Jamie Estrada was indicted on charges of intercepting email from Susana2010 accounts. The domain name originally was purchased from

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said she can't confirm at this time whether the first search warrant is connected with the email investigation. Below are the child-porn warrant as well as St. Cyr's photo.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kiwanis Club Wants TV Blackout for Zozobra

Because of declining attendance at the annual pre-Fiesta burning of Zozobra, The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe is requesting the city not do a live broadcast and webcast of the event this year.

For years the city, in partnership with Kiwanis and Santa Fe Community College, has broadcast the event for the benefit of elderly or disabled people who aren't able to make the long walk from downtown to Fort Marcy Park and for school children who have to attend classes Friday morning.

But Santa Fe Mayor David Coss said today that he is inclined to go along with Kiwanis' wishes.

"We asked (Kiwanis) to cut their ticket prices because $20 is too much for working families," Coss said in an interview. "We asked them to not move it to Friday night because of public-safety issues. They've tried hard to be very cooperative."

The mayor said he'd talk to senior staff about the request tomorrow.

In a letter to Coss Monday, Kiwanis Zozobra event chairman Ray Sandoval said, "As we have disclosed our attendance last year was an all-time low of only 13,000 paid attendees while public access had over tens of thousands of unique local I.P. addresses viewership of its live webcast."

In the letter, as well as a  news release, Sandoval noted that not only has the ticket price been cut in half, children under 10 will be admitted for free. The club also is adding 50 more volunteer ushers and adding more light towers to illuminate streets around Fort Marcy to make the exit from Zozobra safer.

"... we have spent this entire year redesigning everything from the ground up to make sure the community can come together and celebrate this Santa Fe Tradition together, and in person," the Kiwanis news release said.

While Coss said he is sympathetic to the request not to do a live broadcast and webcast of Zozobra, he's not  inclined to broadcast a video of the burning 24 hours later as Sandoval requested. People wouldn't want to watch it a day late, Coss said. "They'll already know how it ends."

Hint to those who haven't seen Zozobra: Here's how it ends:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Fascinating Contracts

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
June 2, 2013

Nathan Korn is a member of the state Law Enforcement Academy Board, first appointed by then-Gov. Bill Richardson, then reappointed in 2011 by Gov. Susana Martinez, who also named Korn to her transition team the year before. He also is a lawyer and the owner of Kaufman’s West in Albuquerque, which bills itself as “The Most Fascinating Store in New Mexico.”
Nathan Korn

I became fascinated when I realized that Kaufman’s West has made more than a million dollars selling uniforms, body armor and other equipment to state government in the past four years.

According to information from the state Sunshine Portal, Kaufman’s contracts total $1,222,401 for the fiscal years of 2010 through 2013.

His biggest two clients in state government are the Department of Public Safety, with $182,184 in Kaufman contracts for the current fiscal year, and the Corrections Department, which has just under $85,000 in contracts with Korn’s store this year. But other departments, including Game and Fish, Children, Youth and Families, and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, also have contracts.

No, the Law Enforcement Academy Board — which certifies officers and revokes or suspends certifications for officer misconduct — does not award contracts for police uniforms or equipment.

Neither Korn nor Gov. Susana Martinez, who reappointed Korn to the board, have made any secret of Korn’s business with the state. The news release from the Governor’s Office announcing Korn’s reappointment noted, “Korn is the president and founder of Kaufman’s West, LLC, which provides uniforms, gear and equipment to the U.S. Military and law enforcement organizations across New Mexico.”

In his financial disclosure form filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, Korn wrote, “All public safety agencies in New Mexico,” in the section that asked about “business with state agencies over $5,000.” He didn’t spell out every contract, but the disclosure forms don’t ask for such specific information.

Korn is a political contributor, too, though not a large one. Like many businessmen, Korn has contributed to both sides. In 2010, for instance, he contributed $2,300 to Martinez as well as $1,000 to Democrat Diane Denish, who ran against Martinez for governor that year. His wife, Deborah Peacock, gave Denish $2,000 that year. Korn later donated $2,000 to Martinez’s 2011 inauguration.

In 2006, Korn gave $1,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson’s re-election campaign, plus $1,000 to Attorney General Gary King. That’s somewhat ironic, considering that on the academy board, Korn is best known as a critic of King, who also sits on the board. He and other board members have blamed the backlog of misconduct cases on King’s office.

To be fair, Korn’s company has been supplying state agencies with uniforms and equipment since 2006 — four years or so before he was appointed to the academy board. According to a spokesman for the state General Services Department, Kaufman’s contracts totaled more than $611,000 in the 2008 fiscal year, so he could argue that he’s actually made less per year since he joined the board.

I asked a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office if there appeared to be any conflict of interest with a person sitting on a law-enforcement board making big cash bucks from selling goods to law-enforcement agencies. There doesn’t appear to be any, spokesman Phil Sisneros said.

I asked Vicki Harrison, executive director of New Mexico Common Cause, about it. She said as long as a contract is awarded by competitive bidding and the official doesn’t get involved in the procurement process, there’s no problem.

But, she added, “there are still issues with public perception when an appointed official makes money from the agencies they work with, so full disclosure, combined with excusing oneself from voting on anything that can be construed as a conflict of interest, is paramount to keeping and strengthening the public’s trust in government.”

That seems to be the case here. But I still find it fascinating.