Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Have a safe holiday and don't forget: Give all your money to politicians.

That's the message I'm getting in my email inbox. Tonight is the FEC deadline for the quarterly reports! If we don't collect enough, our opponents will shame us, then ruin America!!!! Please give give GIVE ...

Even politicos I normally like are driving me nuts with all their begging.

But don't worry. I'll be back to complain more next year.

Meanwhile, enjoy a short message from Allen Sherman:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Vacation and a Holiday Wish

I'll be gone for the next week, so this blog, baring anything totally earthshaking, will be dark during that time.

My Christmas wish is that everyone on all sides of the political fence come together and work in peace and harmony, putting aside all petty differences and resisting all temptations to take cheap political shots and underhanded partisan maneuvering. Instead of crass competition, let all sides joyfully strive to uplift one another and work for the public good.

Wait a minute, I'm wishing myself out of a job. Never mind. Talk to you in January.

(If you want some truly crazy holidaze music, check out my Christmas podcasts, all free.)

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: First Shot Fired in SOS Race

Rod Adair
The first shot in the race for Secretary of State’s Office has been fired. Not surprisingly, it was by the challenger, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernallilo County clerk who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Dianna Duran. But the target was not Duran herself, but one of her employees, Rod Adair, a former state senator who is an administrator in Duran’s Elections Bureau.

In a fundraising letter Friday, Oliver said, “Two days ago the Republicans won again in their battle to ensure that dark money continues to pour into New Mexico.”

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the contribution limits the New Mexico Legislature adopted on “independent expenditures” were unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.

“And who was leading the charge to get this law overturned? Why, it was the Republican Party of New Mexico and none other than former State Senator Rod Adair, who happens to be in charge of elections and campaign finance enforcement in the Secretary of State’s Office. Unbelievable!"

But Adair, of course, shot back ...

For the rest of this column go to The Santa Fe New Mexican

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NM Supremes Rule Same Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right

UPDATED BELOW With comment from the governor

NM Supreme Court hears case in October
Most observers, even opponents of same sex marriage, predicted this would happen, but this morning the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same sex couples have the same right to get married as anyone.

Justice Edward Chavez wrote in the court’s opinion that while none of New Mexico’s marriage statutes specifically prohibits same-gender marriages, existing state laws have had the effect of prohibiting same-gender couples from civil marriage.

“Because same-gender couples … are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional. Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage laws, unless the proponents of the legislation — the opponents of same-gender marriage — prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is substantially related to an important government interest.”

The national Human Rights Campaign said in a news release, "With lesbian and gay couples having married over the past several months in many New Mexico counties, today the state Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex couples throughout the state to continue making lifelong commitments through marriage.  This makes New Mexico the first state in the Southwest with marriage equality and the 17th state nationwide."

Update: 3:30 pm Governor Susana Martinez's office just sent me this statement from the governor about the decision:

 “My personal views on this issue are well-known, and I’m confident that most New Mexicans believe, like I do, that it should have been settled by a vote of the people. Instead, the Supreme Court stepped in and rendered their decision. While there will surely be intense debate about this decision moving forward, I encourage New Mexicans to continue to respect one another in their discourse, as this is an important issue for many New Mexicans on both sides. As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead.”

There will be more on this in tomorrow's New Mexican.

The complete decision is below:

McWilliams Resigns from Human Services

Diana McWilliams, acting director of the Behavioral Health Services Division and acting CEO of the New Mexico Behavioral Health Collaborative, has resigned.

She told me last night that she's taken a job in Philadelphia to head a non-profit agency dealing in behavioral health and child welfare.

My story in this morning's New Mexican is HERE.

Her resgination letter is below.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wirth Pre-files Some Familiar Bills

The Legislature's web site now has the (growing) list of pre-filed bills. The first day of pre-filing was yesterday.

Wirth speaking in Rotunda during a previous session
Among the first batch are a couple of bills from Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, that repeatedly have failed in past sessions. That's not a knock on the senator. Sometimes it takes years for a bill to squeeze through.

There's Wirth's texting while driving bill, (Senate Bill 19) which died a lonesome death on the Senate calendar, where it stayed for weeks and weeks this year. (I recently wrote about that issue.)

Then there's SB 18, Wirth's bill that would require independent expenditure groups to disclose their contributors. Several times this bill has passed the Senate with unanimous or near-unanimous bi-partisan support, only to get lost in the maze of the House of Representatives before getting a vote. Someone over there just doesn't want this to pass.

Both the texting and the campaign finance bill would have to be on the governor's call in order to be discussed during the upcoming 30-day budget session, which starts Jan. 21

Wirth also has a bill, SB 17, which would require out-of-state "unitary corporate banks" to file combined state income tax returns. This year Wirth finally got the governor to sign his "combined reporting" bill for large retail stores. It was part of the big tax bill that passed in the closing moments of the Legislature. That one, which was kicked around in the Legislature for years, is a good example of Wirth's persistence paying off.

I did a story in Tuesday's paper about Think New Mexico's job bills getting pre-filed. You can find that HERE.

Monday, December 16, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Expect to See More Activity by Social Welfare Groups in NM Politics

The murky world of “social welfare” organizations with a political bent was in the news here last week. First, State Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against an entity known as New Mexico Competes, claiming it was illegally coordinating with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

But there will be others competing with New Mexico Competes during the upcoming political season.

But the Dem-friendly New Mexico Prosperity won't be among them.

See more in my Sunday column HERE.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bamboozled with Skuldugery

The New Mexican looks for a "Quote of the Day" during legislative sessions. We don't do that for interim committee meetings, but if we did, yesterday would have provided a doozy.

At yesterday's Legislative Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, perked up everyone's ears when he accused the state Human Services Department of "skulduggery."

 “I’m more confused, baffled and bamboozled today more than any time in the past several months. This is the greatest extent of skulduggery I’ve witnessed in decades.”

Special props to the senator for fitting "bamboozled" and "skulduggery" into one sentence. I was just disappointed that he didn't call anyone a "rapscallion" or "ne'r-do-well." Or perhaps talk about "dastardly deeds" and the dastards who commit them.

I looked up "skulduggery on World Wide Words, and it turns out it's hardly the first time it's been used in the context of state politics:

This means underhand or unscrupulous behaviour or trickery. ... The first recorded instance appeared in 1867 in Beyond the Mississippi by Albert D Richardson: “From Minnesota had been imported the mysterious term ‘scull-duggery’, used to signify political or other trickery”. ...

The word was still mysterious a few years later. One of its very early sightings is in this splendid political exchange, which I have gleaned from the Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, 1873-1874:
Mr. WEST. It is urged upon the assumption that there has been what some gentlemen here have characterized as “smouzling”.
Mr. HOADLY. What is that?
Mr. WEST. Skulduggery.
Mr. HOADLY. Well, what does that mean?
Mr. WEST. I do not know what it means, but that is what I heard talked about here.

I think Mr. Hoadly was bamboozled.

My story about yesterday's LFC meeting and a scathing report on the behavioral health situation that prompted Cisneros' remark is HERE.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gary Johnson: Super PAC Man

Former Gov. Gary Johnson, a former Republican now titular head of the Libertarian Party, has started a new Super PAC aimed at helping "Liberty-minded" candidates across the land.

It's called Our America PAC and is set up as a 527 political organization, which plans to support candidates through independent expenditures.

In a news release this morning, Johnson said, “From the realities of government-run healthcare setting in to the continuing disclosures of the breadth of NSA’s domestic spying, more Americans than ever are ready to take a serious look at candidates who offer real alternatives to business-as-usual.

"However, the reality of our political system is that voters must first have the opportunity to learn about those candidates and their plans for smaller government and greater freedom.  That is the purpose of the Our America PAC.  Through independent efforts and funding in support of credible, qualified candidates, we plan to help put liberty on the ballot in a meaningful and competitive way."

Johnson added, “Voters deserve real choices beyond varying shades of big government, and helping provide those choices is our goal. We intend to make a real difference in the upcoming 2014 elections.”

There are things for both Democrats and Republicans to love -- and hate -- about the issues Johnson is pushing. Liberals can love the libertarian stances on marriage equality, legalizing marijuana and downsizing the military, while conservatives can embrace significant cuts to government spending, repealing Obamacare and opposition to gun control.

The trick, of course, is finding those who want both gay marriage and big cuts to government programs, drug legalization and no gun control, etc.

Our America PAC is not to be confused with the Our America Initiative, Johnson's 501(c)(4), which is an issue advocacy group.

Honorary board members of Our America Initiative include Johnson's 2012 running mate, retired California judge Jim Gray, Barry Goldwater, Jr., son of the late Arizona senator and 1964 GOP presidential nominee, Whole Foods co-founder & co-CEO John Mackey, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer who ran as a moderate Republican for the GOP nomination last year, and Alex McCobin, president of Students for Liberty.

There are several state organizations for Our America PAC, though none yet for New Mexico.

Monday, December 9, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP:Richardson and his Pals on the Right

BILL RICHARDSONFormer Gov. Bill Richardson, in an interview with Newsmax last week, admitted that he’d “screwed up” in trying to negotiate a hostage release in Cuba a few years ago.
There are a couple of things about this that are pretty amazing:

• Bill Richardson admitted that he’d made a serious mistake. That never comes easy to any politician.

• Bill Richardson gave an interview to Newsmax, one of the most conservative online news sites out there. ...

But maybe I shouldn't be surprised about that last one. Richardson actually had pretty good relations with some national conservative media figures and entertainers throughout most of his administration.

For more, see the full version on the Santa Fe New Mexican website,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Another "Susana For Veep?" Story

The latest national profile on Gov. Susana Martinez is in The Washington Examiner,  a right-leaning publication.
Gov. Susana Martinez
The article by reporter Rebecca Berg is pretty glowing and there's not much that New Mexicans haven't seen before about the gov.

She's a  "popular governor, with approval ratings in the mid-60s, and she is a Hispanic and a woman, two demographics that have so far eluded Republicans on the national level." and "She’s maintained a tough-but-compassionate persona through her career ..."

The story also gives examples of how Martinez has differed with prevailing GOP positions on some issues.

Martinez, whose husband is in law enforcement, supports a national gun registry to prevent sales to people with proven histories of mental illness. And she approved an expansion of Medicaid in New Mexico that was an option under President Obama's signature health care law, a step some conservative Republicans have likened to embracing the law in its entirety.

Despite the headline -- "Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez a Republican VP candidate?" -- the piece includes what might be Martinez's most recent denial that she would accept a spot on the national ticket. First she talked about why she declined to be considered for Mitt Romney's running mate last year.

“I had no intentions of leaving my state, and no intentions, vetted or not, offered or not, of that position,” Martinez explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner at the Republican Governors Association conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., last month. “So it would have been a waste of their time.” 

Asked whether she would consider being vetted for the job in 2016, her response was no less Shermanesque, if more succinct: She shook her head “no,” somewhat wistfully, followed by a firm, “Nuh uh.”
Berg gave a couple of prominent New Mexico Democrats a chance to share their feelings on Susana Martinez.:

Were her state record subjected to further scrutiny, New Mexico Democrats say, it would not hold up.
“Anyone considering her as a running mate should be aware, she will be the Sarah Palin of New Mexico,” said New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Sam [Bregman].
Martinez’s predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, declined an interview because he has “a very negative opinion of Martinez,” a spokesperson said.
(The story actually identifies Bregman as "Sam Bernalillo.")

I have the feeling we haven't seen the last of such articles.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Manny Probably Gone to a Halfway House

Former state Sen. Manny Aragon, known for years as the most powerful force in the state Legislature, was released from federal prison in Colorado Thursday.

Aragon, 66, was serving time since June, 2009 in the federal correctional facility at Florence, Colo. for his role in skimming money from an Albuquerque courthouse project.

It's not clear exactly where he is going in the immediate future, but a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons told The New Mexican that it's normal for inmates to be released to a halfway house "for a period of transition and readjusting to society."

Aragon's lawyer, Ray Twohig had no comment about Aragon. An employee of Twohigs confirmed that Thursday was Aragon's release day. Originally sentenced to five and a half years, Aragon's original release date was May 2 next year.

Aragon, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2008 to three felony counts of conspiracy and mail fraud. All counts were related to a scheme to defraud the state of nearly $4.4 million in the construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque. The crimes took place while Aragon was serving as state Senate President Pro-tem.

More in tomorrow's Santa Fe New Mexican

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Exchange Blues

No this isn't about some technical problems with some website. It's a song recorded by a bunch of New Mexico musicians, part of The New Mexico Blues Society, to plug NMHIX, the state's health-insurance campaign.

Musicians here include singer Hillary Smith, guitarist Chris Dracup, Bob Andrews on keyboards, David Barclay on accordion, Jeff Sipe on bass and drummer Chuck Lucero.

Remember, if you like the blues you have, you can keep 'em.

Enjoy the video:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Morales IPRA Battle

UPDATE: 12-2-13 9 a.m. More on the "IPRA Battle" at the Santa Fe New Mexican site

Two campaigns for gubernatorial candidates are using the state Inspection of Public Records Act to bludgeon each other.
Sen. Morales

Last week state Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for governor sent an official public-records request to several state agencies for all emails between state employees and Jay McCleskey, Gov. Susana Martinez's political consultant, for records of “meetings of state officials, and or staff with Mr. McCleskey regarding public information which official state business was discussed.”

That was Nov. 26. The very next day, McCleskey hit back. An employee Stephen Dinkel, sent an IPRA request to the Legislative Council asking for  "Any and all emails to or from Sen. Morales that discuss public business, including public business emails sent to the gmail address Morales lists on the legislative website of, "hcm260[at]gmail.com"

The request asked for any calendars or schedules used by Morales and "Any and all records of meetings with anyone outside of state government regarding public information in which official state business was discussed, including any and all meetings with lobbyists."

In an email to potential donors, Morales described this move as " a counterattack" saying the request was "for my personal correspondence, for no reason other than the hope of finding a way to slander me."

Indeed, the gmail address listed in Dinkel's request was a private address for Morales. But that's what is listed on Morales' official page on the Legislature's website. He's hardly alone in doing this. Dozens of lawmakers use personal email accounts to conduct business.

Team Susana's request probably won't get very far. Earlier this year the Legislature voted to approve a new rule that shields lawmakers' private emails from public records requests. It passed by a huge bipartisan vote, one of those issues where legislators put aside petty partisan politics and vote for the good of all New Mexicans. (For those with an irony deficiency, I was being sarcastic there.) Morales voted in favor of shielding lawmakers' emails.

I spoke with Morales last night. He said he hadn't yet actually seen the request for his records.

The state agencies that Morales asked for information regarding McCleskey aren't off the hook. I predicted in my column Sunday itprobably take a long time for the administration to produce these records.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Martinez on Cover of Moderate GOP Mag

Gov. Susana Martinez, along with her running mate, uhhh..., I mean fellow GOP governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, is on the cover of the latest issue of The Ripon Forum with a caption that labels them "Role Models"

The magazine is published by The Ripon Society, an organization of moderate Republicans, started in the mid 1960s by a group of Rockefeller Republicans.

The cover story, by GOP consultant Leslie Sanchez, talks about how Republican Christie, who called on Martinez to go campaign for him at the close of the campaign, won a majority of Hispanics in his recent landslide re-election.

Sanchez basically follows the prevailing national media line on Martinez, which some Democrats dispute. ("... built support by reaching across party lines to seek compromise wherever possible ... worked with a Democratic-controlled legislature to fashion a workable agenda that governs from the center-right." etc.)

The Ripon Society, according to its website, was the first major Republican organization to endorse the Civil Rights Act. "We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation," said the first public statement by the Ripons in 1964.

Conrad James Wants to Reclaim House Seat

Conrad James
Former Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, who lost his seat to Democrat Liz Thompson last year after serving one term, wants a rematch.

An announcement, sent by House Republican Whip Nate Gentry, points out that James lost the 2012 by less than 300 votes.

The announcement says:

During his term in the legislature, James was a stand-out – he carried important legislation that reduced tax pyramiding in the manufacturing and construction industries, and he received the Spirit of Bipartisanship Rising Star Award from New Mexico First and the Soaring Eagle Award from the New Mexico Association of Counties.  In January of 2013, Gov. Susana Martinez appointed James to the New Mexico Board of Regents where he serves as Vice-Chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee.
James, who works at Sandia National Laboratory, has a PhD in applied and engineering physics.

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: McCleskey Himself Becomes an Issue.

Thanksgiving for the New Mexico Democrats running for governor came early this year in form of a scathing article in the Washington, D.C.-based National Journal targeting Gov. Susana Martinez’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey.

As I pointed out in the paper, the lengthy article written by Daniel Libit — with the headline “The Man Who Discovered Susana Martinez Could Also Be Her Downfall” — was one of, if not the only national media piece on Martinez that wasn’t entirely flattering. Using entirely Republican sources, including former GOP state Chairman Harvey Yates and current Chairman John Billingsly, it portrayed McCleskey as a divisive, slash-and-burn Svengali who has way too much influence over Martinez.

It looks like the Democrats felt a little left out. The candidates who want Martinez’s job all have had something to say.

For more see The New Mexican website.