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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Dona Ana Emailgate: It's Also About What Was On Destroyed Emails; Some Media Curious Others Not So Much 

Campaign signs are popping up like weeds after a spring rain. This one touting the candidacy of Democratic Public Regulation Commission candidate Sandy Jones found its way into the arms of the familiar Uncle Sam figure that graces Sparky's restaurant in Hatch in Dona Ana County. Sparky's serves up some of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the state. Jones faces incumbent Republican Ben Hall. . .

The most one sided New Mexico Governor's race since Bill Richardson trounced Republican John Dendahl in 2006 continues. Gov. Martinez is not relenting on Dem Guv hopeful Gary King, coming with a new attack ad over his leasing of a Moriarty building to the state. It joins the now notorious Casanova Con ads that have been the Guv's mainstay against the attorney general.

The problem is these unanswered negative ads are keeping King pinned down under 40% so when he does eventually come with his own attacks, he will have to make up a lot of lost ground just to get back to where he started.

KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson weighs in on the campaign thus far:

A new Martinez TV ad slaps her on the back for job creation. With New Mexico's notorious and agonizingly-slow recovery from the recession, you might think the economy would be red meat for a Gary King ad – but it doesn't work that way when you don't have the money. Is money everything in the modern political campaign? No. Certainly not. But it's the fuel that runs the engine, and without it, you ain't going anywhere!

ANOTHER EMAILGATE?

And then there's King's awkward effort to make an emailgate out of the destruction of emails at the Dona Ana County district attorney's office. He's announced a criminal investigation into the matter, but half the state has little idea of what it's really all about. That's because much of the state's media is not reporting what Mother Jones magazine did months ago--that there are allegations that someone in the office of DA Amy Orlando--Susana Martinez's successor as DA--was running the license plates of political foes of then-Guv candidate Martinez through the federal NCIC system. Former KOB-TV reporter Gadi Schwartz and the Democratic Party submitted open records requests for any emails that might shed light on the allegation.

The New Mexican and Santa Fe Reporter have both mentioned the allegation which would be a reason for the destruction of emails, but the ABQ and Las Cruces papers and KOB-TV have not mentioned the elephant in the room.

King himself could force the issue by actually mentioning it. Why isn't he? Instead the public is left to conclude that the investigation is simply about whether a DA's office can destroy emails--not what may be on the emails that led to their destruction. Sound familiar? Former Martinez aide Jaime Estrada has been found guilty of hacking the Gov's campaign email account, but the shadow government and the shady dealings over the lease for the ABQ Downs racino that were disclosed in those emails fell by the wayside. . .

And is anyone asking if possible misuse of NCIC extended to not just running license plate checks, but actual names of individuals who were not suspected of any wrongdoing?

Here's the money lines from Mother Jones that many of New Mexico's journalists have chosen to ignore:

Martinez's [2010] crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.

A number of readers ask where the US Attorney is on all of this?  If the license plates or the names of innocent civilians were being subjected to federal criminal background checks for political reasons is that not a civil liberties issue? Good question. And why didn't King turn over the investigation to the FBI if as alleged some of the information deleted could deal with illegal use of the federal NCIC?

And from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) website:

All records in NCIC are protected from unauthorized access through appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. These safeguards include restricting access to those with a need to know to perform their official duties, and using locks, alarm devices, passwords, and/or encrypting data communications.

USE CONSTRAINTS: Users of the NCIC system will be restricted to only those privileges necessary to perform an authorized task(s).


That a district attorney was allegedly destroying emails is news and so is what is on those emails and what was the motive for their destruction. At least, that's how we were taught about public info back in the pre-email days during our  time at the UNM Daily Lobo. . .

COMING HOME

Dem political consultant James Hallinan left the state to work on the east coast for a while. He writes in reaction to our blog reporting on how desolate the ABQ Sunport was on a recent Saturday night:

I left my home state for several years for work due to the dismal economy and lack of opportunity in New Mexico since the Republicans took control, but I am home now on a full scholarship at Anderson for an MBA program. Since returning, I only hear terrible and more terrible stories from friends and family about how they lost their job, can’t find a job despite excellent schooling or experience, or how only the out-of-state politically chosen get the jobs. What has happened to our state?? We are living in poverty and a lack of opportunity, and it doesn’t take a CNBC analyst to tell you that! You just need to talk to your grandma, your primo, or your buddy from high school to tell you that our home is no longer the Land of Enchantment—it’s the Land of Disenfranchisement. We need an SOS… Save Our State… from the horrid Republican policies, inaction and cowardice that is keeping New Mexico down. We’re better than this.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Early voting? Don't ask us. We've fouled up the dates two days in a row. Check your county clerk's website. It's all there.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcome In To Our 12th Year Of Blogging New Mexico, Plus: Udall Gets Popular Friend On Trail, And: John Sanchez Analyzes Campaign '14 

That's Me
The old saying goes "time flies when you're having fun," and maybe even when you're not--like covering Campaign '14. Just where is that thing? Aside from the million dollar attack ads, substance this time around is as thin as gruel. But for better or worse we're back to imbibe it with you and today gladly kick off our 12th year of New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan.

Quite a ride it's been, and since we haven't been bucked off the bull yet, we'll keep on riding.

Some of you have been with us since the beginning in '03-04' and many of you have hopped aboard since. We appreciate each of you and are thankful and grateful for your interest.

Now let's head out to the campaign trail and look for something of interest. . .

RALLY THE  BASE

Sen. Warren
Time for the Dems to try to rally their base for the Nov. 4 election. To that end, Sen. Udall is bringing to town one of the nation's currently most popular and liberal D's--Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Interest should be high for this one so here are details:

Rally with U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Elizabeth Warren; October 1st, 4:30-6:00 PM; Coordinated Campaign Office 115 Montclaire SE ABQ

Warren has been tough on Wall Street in the wake of the '08 financial crash. It has earned her a reputation as a populist and her name on the list of possible '16 Dem presidential candidates. The pundits say she won't run but if Hillary falters. . .

Udall is no slouch when it comes to liberalism. In the National Journal rankings of 2012 he tied for the title of most liberal senator. But in an off-year election when the voters tilt more conservative it's not something he's going to shout about. He'll let Elizabeth Warren do that.

And Udall isn't always the liberal. Remember he endorsed the controversial corporate tax cut engineered by Gov. Martinez and the legislative Dems. Progressive Dems were noticeable in their opposition.

A final word on this from the Nat'l Journal:

Here’s the thing about New Mexico,” said Mo Elleithee, a Democratic consultant who worked on Udall’s past House and Senate campaigns. “It is a state where I don’t think the traditional left-versus-right paradigm, liberal-versus-conservative, has ever meant anything.... The ‘us versus them’ is more populist versus the powerful in New Mexico, and that’s always how Tom has been. I don’t think he thinks about whether something is liberal or conservative, he’s just tried to be a champion for people.”

Populist vs. powerful. Well said. . .

WHY, MR. MAYOR?

Simple question, Mayor Berry: Why is this officer still carrying a badge and a gun?

Two hours before ABQ police officer Keith Sandy shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd, he was recorded telling another officer that he would shoot Boyd in the penis with a shotgun. Sandy responded to the scene on March 16th where Boyd refused to come down from a makeshift campsite in the foothills near Tramway and Copper. At the scene, Sandy saw former colleague State Police Officer Chris Ware. Sandy didn’t realize it, but Ware’s dash cam was rolling and picked up their conversation. Sandy, according to an APD spokeswoman, is on administrative leave, but may still carry his gun and badge.

It's possible criminal charges will be filed in connection with the killing of Boyd. It seems quite likely the lawsuit over his death is going to cost ABQ taxpayers many millions of dollars.

NO RESPONSIBILITY?

The newspaper this week comes with a strong report detailing the very weak New Mexican and ABQ economies. Only one thing is missing says this reader:

The article does not mention one word about the Gov's responsibility for NM's economic stagnation. What's up with that?

No question Gov. Martinez and ABQ Mayor Berry--both Republicans--have largely been given a pass on the sour economy. The newspaper can be faulted but the political opposition has been anemic. The gubernatorial campaign has been bereft of any serious economic discussion as the Guv's Casanova Con TV ads divert voter attention. Dem hopeful Gary King has no TV ads airing.

JOHN SANCHEZ SPEAKS

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
We haven't heard much from the state's #2 during this campaign but Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is campaigning out in the hinterlands. He was in Carlsbad and Hobbs last week. And he also recently had some political analysis on the Guv race:

". . . Conservative Democrats, who are primarily Hispanics have been important backers. Hispanics in New Mexico are not a monolithic block as far as they cast their votes. They want leaders they can relate to, and leaders who will offer solutions to the challenges facing theme every day – their kids' education and ability for them to have a good job."

Sanchez is often touted by R's as a possible 2018 Guv candidate but we don't think he's is getting too far ahead of himself, especially not after that ill-fated US Senate primary challenge he ran against Heather Wilson in 2012.

IF SHE DOES. . . 

Regarding speculation voiced here that perhaps Gov. Martinez could start diverting some of her own hefty campaign treasury to a super PAC aimed at getting GOP control of the state House, an Alligator comes with this:

Advance New Mexico Now PAC is the one run by former Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler that many believe will be the one that Susana and Jay funnel money through for the House races. So far, there's $227,550.00 in the account but it has come from other sources.

Appreciate that. The Dems also have a super PAC up and running for the state House candidates. It has received most of its money from labor unions.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Some things in New Mexico are just fine, thank you. For example this from the new owners of La Fonda, Santa Fe's iconic hotel on the Plaza:

The new owners don't plan major changes to the hotel. She says it's not broken and doesn't need to be fixed.

Owning La Fonda is like serving as a trustee for New Mexico history. It's not something you want to screw up.

In a first draft Monday we had the incorrect date for the start of in-person early voting. It's October 18.

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, September 29, 2014

Guv Race Starting To Look Eerily Like '13 ABQ Mayor Contest; Dem Worries Grow Over Turnout; King Still Dark On Tube As Martinez Hammers Away, Plus: Susana Touts Some Job Growth But She Can't Fool The Bear 

The calender turns to October this week and still no TV ads from Dem Guv hopeful Gary King. No wonder two major polls now have him dropping below 40%. Gov. Martinez has smothered the air with a wave of attack ads that have gone unanswered before hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans.

It is eerily akin to the 2013 ABQ mayoral race when Dem Pete Dinelli was so financially outgunned he too could not put up TV to respond to the barrage of attacks against him. Republican Mayor Berry went on to score an historic winning margin of 68%.

In the Rasmussen Poll conducted last week King polled 37% to Martinez's 50%. The survey was of 800 likely voters and somewhat mimics the ABQ Journal survey from mid-September that showed Martinez at 54% and King at 36%. Most veteran politics watchers put the Governor's top line number at 55%, but that assumes a spirited media challenge from her foe. If she doesn't get one, that assumption is called into question. The first Rasmussen survey back in July showed the Guv race tied 43% to 43% but it was seen as an outlier. . . .

King began the contest in the Journal's August poll at 41% to Martinez's 50%. What followed may be looked back upon as the crucial moment. King did not come with a wave of attack ads to bring Martinez down below the magic 50% level and get the race talked about and the money flowing. Instead, Martinez accelerated her attacks and brought King down about five points and kept herself above the critical number.

Now, if and when King comes with a sizable media buy, much of it will go to take him back to where he began--at that 41% mark. Getting to 50% looks steeper than ever. So steep that Rasmussen is ranking the race "safe Republican." That may be just a dash premature as no significant attacks have been leveled against Martinez and we don't know with certainty how the public will respond. But that's a quibble. In-person early voting--when thousands of ballots are cast each day--begins Oct. 18, leaving King little time to get the race in contention.

King is going to have to throw a round of Molotov cocktails and Martinez is going to have self-immolate by making a big mistake to get the race in play. King--who loaned his primary campaign about $500,000-- can be expected to come with around $250,000 more of his own, according to insiders. That's enough to set off a firecracker, but not much fireworks. . .

IT'S THE TURNOUT

It's the turnout that is now of concern to Dems. If the King-Martinez race is a dud, will we see voters staying home as they did in the ABQ mayoral contest and inflate the incumbent's winning margin? If they do stay away it would play to the Governor whose conservative supporters are the most likely to vote. Marginally involved Dems are the most likely to throw in the towel before Election Day. And that's how a Republican gubernatorial candidate could get beyond the 55% mark.

Insider polling shows Martinez has few if any coattails in the key legislative districts that will determine control of the NM House of Representatives. Again, the issue is turnout. If discouraged Dems are put off by a run away at the top of the ticket, they could shy away from voting and give the R's a better shot at the House, down-ballot statewide races and local judgeships. However, from what we are seeing the Dems are putting up a good fight in the key House districts--and unlike King--they have the money to do it.

One unknown that is soon to become known is whether any of Martinez's ample cash kitty--some $3.8 million at the end of August--will find its way into the House races. If she thinks she has put away King early perhaps the odds of it increase. Martinez is limited by state law on how big a donation she can accept--$5200 per election per donor--but experts we consulted say she is not limited on what she can donate to a super PAC. Such a PAC could be used to wage combat against the Dems in the House battle and could also pump money into a down-ballot race or two. Stay tuned. . .

KORTING KING

While King has been shot off his horse by Martinez and is being dragged from behind it through the streets of Laredo, he is trying to get off a few shots against her in social media. He comes with two campaign ads on YouTube here and here. The first one features ABQ Public School Board member Kathy Korte arguing on behalf of King, saying:

I don't want Susana back because she's taken away control from local school boards and we as school board should be able to serve our communities the best way we know how...

UDALL VS. WEH 

Rasmussen has it at 52% for Udall and 39% for Weh in a poll conducted last week. The Senate race is ranked safe Democrat

THE ABQ BEAR

Martinez is out with an ad that skirts the economic implosion that has occurred under her watch by saying the state has added 30,000 private sector jobs since she took office in January of 2011. But we are last in the nation in job creation and ABQ is the only metro area in the USA in a double-dip recession, says the Brookings Institution. Also, the state is seeing an outmigration as the economic malaise deepens. But Susana and Jay know all of that all too well. That they can come with an ad claiming economic progress just shows that the amount of hubris grows proportionate to their lead in the polls. But at this point the Dems have only themselves to blame. . .

The Dems may fear Susana and company, but the Bear Market fears no one. And on it marches, mauling Susana's beloved private sector like it hasn't been mauled since the 30's. The latest:

Lauren Home Fine Furnishings--which occupies 42,000 square feet at 4401 Wyoming NE--is preparing to permanently close, owner John Jones confirmed. A veteran furniture retailer, Jones said business the past year has been as bad as any he’s seen in the last 16 years.

"It’s just an unfavorable business climate here in Albuquerque. I thought it would come back a little more here. This year just had a steady decline, and I don’t see it getting any better here for the next two, three year."

Lauren Home will become the latest in a string of furniture stores to close in ABQ. In less than two years, the closures have included Leishman Interiors, Valley Furniture Warehouse and Baby Furniture & Accessories.

Maybe the Dems and King can put Jones or one of his 14 soon-to-be out of work employees in one of their TV ads like Susana is doing with victims of the Casanova Con whose early prison release she pins on King. Oh, we forgot. The Dems have no TV message. . .

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, September 26, 2014

Autumn Brings Some Good News, Plus: Udall Adds Edge In Campaign Against Weh, And: It's Back: ABQ Vs. Burque 

It's hard to be pessimistic as the glory of Autumn returns to New Mexico, and there is some good news to accompamy the change in the calender. The severe drought has relented, we haven't had a fatal ABQ police shooting for a while (knock on wood), the Navajo Nation has been given over half a billion dollars to right the wrong over federal management of the Tribe's natural resources and we're just days away from the season's most colorful event--the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta. That will be a welcome sight for all those eyes already tired of the political ads on TV. Now out to the playing field as we head into the weekend. . .

As the Alligators expected, Tom Udall is getting more edgy in his race against Republican Allen Weh. The Dem senator, seeking a second six year term, comes with a negative TV hit on Weh, scoring him for advocating repeal of Obamacare. He also claims Weh "would destroy Social Security and Medicare" to give the wealthy tax breaks. The attack comes in the wake of Weh's negative ads that have been slamming Udall all month. Udall led Weh 51% to 38% in the mid-September ABQ Journal poll.

Weh is pretty tough on "Washington politicians" like Udall. But Allen might want to lighten up just a bit. We all knew Weh's CSI Aviation is making a handsome dollar off the Washington Feds, but the Udall campaign came with the full eyebrow raising numbers:

1999-2014: CSI Aviation Services Inc. Received $829,389,744 In Federal Government Contracts. According to USASpending.gov, CSI Aviation Services Inc. received $829,389,744 in federal government contracts from 1999 to 2014. [USASpending.gov, accessed 8/13/2014]

CSI Aviation Has Won More Than $657 Million In Contracts For Immigration Deportation Flights Since 2008. According to Reuters, “ICE uses the New Mexico-based CSI Aviation to provide charter flights for deportations. The company has won more than $657 million in contracts from ICE since 2008, SmartProcure data shows. CSI referred all questions about its contracts to ICE. ICE said the company is the sole contractor for ICE Air, which conducts deportation flights.” [Reuters, 8/1/2014]

All we can say to Allen is the next time we run into him at Starbucks, he's buying.

GOOD AT HIDING?

Democratic activist Teresa Trujeque writes:

It strikes me as strange that the woman who was elected Governor and allegedly stands for transparency in government does not have a problem with records being destroyed by her handpicked successor as Dona Ana County district attorney. Don't you think that those emails and hard drives may have had information about cases they were working on and may have been necessary for the new District Attorney or were those records simply destroyed because they contained information about their illegal activity? This administration has to be given credit for one thing they are very good at hiding their illegal activities. Look at the racino lease at the ABQ Downs.

As for the state House races. I will tell you that if the Republicans take over the House, it will not be for lack of trying by Speaker Ken Martinez. He is everywhere and working hard. I don't know when he sleeps or sees his family. I think because of his commitment and dedication, Democrats will again have a majority in the House.

TALKER GOES SILENT

Radio talk show host Jim Villanucci, who was a fixture at KKOB-AM in ABQ for over a decade but left last year for a job in Portland, Oregon, has now left that position:

There is little known at this time about what has transpired to cause midday talk show host Jim Villanucci to resign from his position with Alpha Media’s KXL, Portland but a Tweet from KXL’s Lars Larson states simply that Villanucci has resigned for “personal reasons” and that Larson wishes him well.

KKOB has tumbled in the ratings since Villanucci's departure. We're told he was drawing solid ratings in Portland.

ABQ VS. BURQUE

You thought we had laid to rest the argument over the ABQ nickname "Burque." No such luck. Carmie Toulouse writes:

My grandparents moved to ALBUQUERQUE over 100 years ago from Santa Fe. My late father graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1936, I graduated from Highland High School in 1962. While I am female, I talked with and listened to many males during my high school years and will state categorically I never heard this city referred to as "Burque." I have spent my life around city, county and state politics (I still am marginally involved) and I have not and do not hear us referred to as "Burque." 

I have seen the term in print more and more frequently over the years and personally I find it offensive. To me it sounds ugly and looks ugly in print. I can't see any time in the future that I would stoop to using it. But then, I'm a 69 year old grandmother whose grandsons will probably call their birthplace "Burque" if the people around them do so whether grandma likes it or not.

We've been on your side, Carmie, but we may be outnumbered.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Question That Still Dangles: Did Martinez Campaign Use Federal Database To Run License Checks On Political Foes? New Report Says Emails Erased And Hard Drives Wiped; We Explore, Also: More Yates Vs. McCleskey 

Martinez & Orlando
A TV news report about how computer hard drives and emails have been destroyed at the Dona Ana County district attorney's office may have left some viewers baffled. KOB-TV reported this week on the investigation of the missing information by the current district attorney, Mark D'Antonio, saying:

The investigation stems from IPRA requests made by former KOB investigative reporter Gadi Schwartz for copies of emails sent and received by former undercover officer and DA's Office Chief Investigator and IT Supervisor Kip Scarborogh during the first six months of 2010. Schwartz also had requested all names entered into the National Crime Information Center by Scarborough from December 2009 to December 2012.

Curiously, the TV report did not spell out why reporter Schwartz wanted names entered into the NCIC computer which is used by law enforcement to check out the backgrounds of suspects.

We can tell you that Schwartz and the state Democratic Party wanted those records to determine if political opponents of Susana Martinez were having their backgrounds checked--illegally--by the Dona Ana County DA's office. That office was headed by Martinez until she became Governor in January of 2011. When Martinez resigned as DA and became Governor she named Amy Orlando as her replacement.

The national publication Mother Jones magazine reported on the allegation in April:

A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.

And Mother Jones followed up this week with a blog on D'Antonio's report--which was not a criminal investigation.

In June in an interview with NM Politics with Joe Monahan, former Gov. Bill Richardson went public with the allegation that Martinez's DA office used NCIC to check out political foes while she was running for governor. That was picked up by the Santa Fe Reporter:

SFR asked Martinez’ top political advisor Jay McCleskey about it. In a series of emails, he never addressed the allegation directly and refused to comment on the record. That changed, following comments made by Gov. Bill Richardson, who addressed the license plate allegation for political blogger Joe Monahan. . .  

McCleskey wrote to SFR that “the allegation is nonsensical and false,” yet he repeatedly refused to answer the direct question, “Did Susana Martinez’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign, or anyone on its behalf, use any government resource to run a license plate number?. . . SFR has for a year sought records about vehicle queries run through the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database by Martinez’ DA office in 2010. Using that database for political research is illegal. The state’s Department of Public Safety, a Martinez agency, says it destroyed records that reveal use of the database during that time.

KOB settled for a statement from former DA Orlando who is now working as an attorney for the Martinez administration. She said of the missing emails and hard drives requested by investigative reporter Schwartz and the Dems:

My office fully complied with public records requests and laws and that's why (current DA Mark D'Antonio) left with nothing but baseless innuendos and black-helicopter conspiracy theories."

Democrat D'Antonio defeated Orlando when she sought election as DA after being appointed.

It is an interesting development to learn of the erased emails and hard drives. But the real story here is whether someone broke the law by using a federal government database to investigate political enemies and if they did, who ordered them to do it? And whether those emails and NCIC entries would divulge the truth.

MORE ON THIS

The state Democratic Party came with this:

What happened to these e mails? Was Governor Martinez aware? What public resources were used to bolster Martinez's 2010 campaign? These questions go well beyond politics –now it's a matter for law enforcement professionals. If public records were destroyed to help Governor Martinez, the people of New Mexico deserve to know. We call for Governor Martinez, her former staff and allies to come clean and explain what happened.

Conceivably, the US Attorney could take an interest in looking at whether the NCIC--National Crime Information center--database was used for political purposes and what the Governor and Orlando knew about it. But this isn't Watergate where there were tapes. The evidence, if that's what it was, apparently has been destroyed.

The Las Cruces Sun-News also did not address the license plate allegation in its report on the investigation, but it did come with this excerpt from the report on Schwartz's request for email records:

The reporter's public information request sought emails of then-District Attorney Susana Martinez, then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Orlando and senior investigator Aaron "Kip" Scarborough between Aug. I to Dec. 1, 2010, as well as correspondence to or from employees of the District Attorney's Office relating to the Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign between July 2009 and December 2010, and email and written correspondence from employees of the Third Judicial District Attomey's Office that mentioned the name "Diane Denish," "Denish" or "license plate."

Schwartz is now a general assignment reporter at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. The full report by D'Antonio's office can be read here.

And there's more. The liberal advocacy group ProgressNowNM says it has obtained some of the missing emails from the district attorney's office that were archived by other state agencies. The group says:

. . . Among the emails captured by off-site servers are discussions between Orlando, the office’s top prosecutor, and the (Martinz political adviser) Jay McCleskey, about an active voter fraud registration investigation naming Republican Party officials as official targets just weeks before the November 2010 elections. The emails show that Orlando sent McCleskey the entire confidential law enforcement file, including the names of targets, witness statements and copies of evidence, before investigators had begun to investigate the case. Upon finding the emails in August, ProgressNowNM alerted the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. The office recently confirmed to us that the matter has been assigned to an investigator.

McCleskey responded:

When someone falsely claimed that the District Attorney’s Office had declined to investigate a voter registration fraud case, we simply requested the public records proving that the case had been referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency and those same documents were provided to the media.

YATES VS. McCLESKEY (PART II)

McCleskey
The feud between former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates and Governor Martinez's hyper-controversial political adviser Jay McCleskey keeps a blogger busy. Now Jay is responding to Yates' blast at him in an op-ed piece carried in southern newspapers. Yates said anyone who criticizes Martinez gets labeled "sexist" or "racist" by McCleskey and that the media has been intimidated by him. McCleksey fires back telling the New Mexican:

The ramblings of a bitter man who is accustomed to buying influence and power with donations, and in this case, he found sharp rebuke from an Administration committed to cleaning up the good old boys club. I’m flattered that Harvey Yates is still thinking about me — I’d forgotten about him. P.S. I wish him and Tim Jennings the best.


So what do you have to say to that, Harvey? Not that we want this war to continue. Of course not.

That zinger about Tim Jennings comes because Yates supported the former Dem state Senator in 2012 when McCleskey's forces ousted the Roswell area lawmaker.

As for being bitter that's a trait both of our warriors may share. McCleskey once said of former ABQ state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, "I hate that bitch." More recently he dubbed a group of anti-abortion demonstrators protesting near his home "pieces of shit." And that's just a few of his not so greatest hits. Maybe someday we'll get them all in a book. They can call it "Talk Dirty To Me."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On the Trail: What Would The R's Do If They Take The State House? Plus: Looking At Dunn Vs. Powell, And: 2010 Guv Nominee Blogs In On '14 

What should we expect if the NM GOP pulls off the upset and takes control of the state House for the first time in over 60 years? Radio talk show host Richard Eeds posed that intriguing question to us . We responded that we see the R's trying to stick to an economic agenda and not wading into the controversial social issues like abortion that the Bible Belt R's may want to take on.

Specifically, if the R's take command and Gov. Martinez is re-elected we would expect a play for a right-to-work-law and a push for additional tax cuts. That doesn't mean there won't be a fight over the social issues but most of it will be within the House GOP caucus. . .

By the way, would any of that GOP House agenda stand a chance of passing the state Senate and making it to the Governor's desk? It might, if the conservative coalition that runs the chamber still holds power. . .

Eeds is an ardent environmentalist and said he's not worried about rancher Aubrey Dunn defeating incumbent Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell. Dunn is one of the few statewide candidates up on TV and is also advertising heavily on the Internet. Eeds says Powell, the longest-serving land commissioner in NM history, is well-known and opposition to him is not that great on the conservative east side. Dunn would need to score big there to pull off the surprise.

Powell has crossed swords with the base of the Dem Party for not embracing the proposed constitutional amendment to use money form the $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for very early childhood programs. He proposed an alternative, but a recent poll shows overwhelmingly public support for the amendment. That gives Powell room to take a second look at it after the election.

In the money race, at the end of August Dunn had about $150,000 cash on hand and Powell had roughly $119,000.

Back on Dunn for a minute, you may recall that he once sought the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. The PR he is drumming up with this campaign might be a prelude to another run for that seat when Rep. Steve Pearce, 67, ends his run.

NAME THE BRANCHES

If you're reading this blog, you're way ahead of the curve:

A poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found many Americans don't know how the government works. The poll showed only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of the government and 35% couldn't name any of them. It also found over 60% of Americans don't know which political party controls the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

Well, the way the Congress has been acting, maybe ignorance is bliss.

DENISH BLOGS IN

Diane Denish, the 2010 Dem Guv nominee, blogs in on the events of the day:

This picture is a good depiction of the Governor (with her new Rick Perry look) and her protector, Kent Walz, editor of the ABQ Journal, looking smug as a bug in a rug. It was interesting that she chose to brag at Monday's gubernatorial forum about a company that is bringing 50 jobs to Rio Rancho from California. Over 4 years, 50 jobs, now were cookin!

On a recent return trip from Denver, my observations about the Albuquerque Sunport were similar to those you had on your Monday blog. Dismal. It made me long for the days when there was a high-end destination restaurant on the upper floor, where Albuquerqueans gathered for good food, watched the foot traffic of travelers, and conversed about what might be in our future. Leaders gathering for serious talk of the future with vibrancy and hope, not just putting on a new set of glasses to appear to be serious while reading a script.

And on that op-ed piece from former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates criticizing the Governor, it was humorous that he now wants to shut down the monster he helped to create--Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey. Be careful what you wish for comes to mind, Harvey. But he did get one thing correct -- the short sighted progressives (Democrats) created the fundraising web that now emboldens Martinez and hampers King.

THE SUNPORT REPORT

Reader Jonathan Lee writes of our ABQ Sunport adventure:

Joe, One thing I kept waiting to read in your Tuesday blog but it wasn't there: how crowded were the flights to/from NYC? PS: Thanks for ending on a positive note about our nice airport, I really appreciate that after getting past the doom and gloom portion of your piece.

Jonathan, The flight was not packed but it appeared to be at least 80% full and that's about the overall passenger rate JetBlue reports for the ABQ/NYC flights. We did a one way trip on JetBlue and returned from the city via another airline. The midnight flight is nonstop and gets you into NY at 6 in the morning. That can leave you lagging for a while. Here's a suggestion: Take another airline out of ABQ, but return on the bargain JetBlue flight that leaves NYC around 8 p.m. and arrives in ABQ at 11 p.m.

NOT THRILLED

Reader Mary Jean Murphy is not happy about the recent NM Supreme Court ruling allowing "advisory" questions on the election ballot:

Joe: I was thrilled to hear of the plan of the Chaves County Commission to add their important topics to their ballots down there---legals getting drivers licenses, right to work, etc. It’s good to hear that both liberals and conservatives will take advantage of this poorly thought out decision passed by the NM Supreme Court. Let’s go ahead and clog up the ballots so that  people will quit voting in disgust. It won’t be the Republicans who will not vote, I can tell you that. Also for all the pot lovers, did everybody read the news report last week about the young man who coaches for the Academy hitting and killing a bicyclist who tested out for high use of cannabis? So, for everybody who says people won’t have accidents using pot – there’s #1 (maybe more than that).

Bernalillo and Santa Fe County voters will be asked Nov. 4 to give their opinion on decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The vote will have no legal impact. But Mary Jean doesn't have to worry about the Chaves County ballot being overrun with advisory measures. The deadline to get them on the ballot has passed.

HIKING FOR VETS

Reader Lisa Schatz-Vance at NM Legal Aid asked for help in supporting this hike today through the Grand Canyon to raise funds for veterans in need of legal assistance?

Beginning at 2 A.M MST on September 24th, Matt Vance and Pawel Listwan will step off the South Rim from the Bright Angel Trailhead. The hike will be "rim-to-rim-to-rim," from the South Rim to the Canyon floor, up to the North Rim, back down and up to the South Rim again, all in 22 hours or less. The hike will feature over 20,000 feet of elevation change, and a 45-degree swing in temperature. Get up to the minute live updates on the progress of their trek by liking the Facebook page and you can make a donation in support of the hike here.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Forum Or A Farce? Martinez And King Meet For 1st Time To Answer Preprogrammed Questions, Plus: Staring The Recession In It's Face: A Saturday Night At The ABQ Sunport  

They called it a forum but some said it was a farce. So went the first joint appearance by the 2014 candidates for Governor.

The noon Monday forum, sponsored by real estate and construction groups and aired on KOB-TV, did a better job than the Secret Service could in protecting Martinez from herself. She and Dem challenger Gary King received the questions a full month in advance and she took full advantage by putting on her reading glasses and delivering her well-rehearsed answers.

King was more impromptu but the forum rules provided no opportunity for real rebuttal, thwarting any hope he may have had of forcing an error on the Governor's part. (The full forum can be seen here.)

And then there was the physical buffer between the two candidates. Besides the canyon of space between the hopefuls, a podium occupied by moderator and ABQ Journal editor Kent Walz was placed right between the pair--not off to the side as it should be. There would be no confrontation. It was like they took a pillow and suffocated democracy.

By most accounts King outperformed Martinez because he spoke more spontaneously while she--for the most part--rigidly adhered to her script--this after four years as chief executive. But, as Dem consultant Harry Pavlides noted, being 18 points behind in the latest poll King needs to force some errors and level newsworthy attacks. The format made sure he was unable to do the former and his campaign did not do the latter.

A newspaperman pointed out that there was a "bit of an edge" between King and Martinez and that it's clear "they aren't dinner buddies," but he pointed out it was "preprogrammed" edge, not the kind that is going to inform the voters about who may be the superior candidate.

Martinez reinforced her reputation as a symbolic governor who is quite poised when heavily scripted and happy to stay within the script's easy confines. It may work around here but it will be put to the test if she takes talk of national political ambitions beyond the talking stage. King demonstrated his intelligence and sincerity but also his lack of a killer instinct. He needs to make a big splash each and every time he appears with Martinez--not ripples.

The forum was apparently one of only three times the two gubernatorial candidates will appear together, making the non-debate decision even more egregious. But the business community here--even as it reels from recession and job loss--seems content to hold on to what it can.  The notion that we need a bloodletting--a real argument--over what has happened here is anathema to the business leaders. Unlike their brethren of the past they seem wedded to the notion that no matter how questionable the leadership or how sagging the economy, conservative leadership is their only real choice.

GETTING CLOSE

Today is National Voter Registration Day and the clock is ticking. For New Mexicans the deadline to register to vote in the November election is October 7.

A NIGHT AT THE AIRPORT

If you really want to stare the great ABQ recession right in the face come with us on a Saturday night to the ABQ International Sunport.

We decide to arrive at 8 p.m for our midnight JetBlue flight to JFK in NYC. The idea being that we would utilize the Sunport's excellent complimentary Wi-Fi and knock off some work before we headed East. Never did we dream we would have such solitude. In fact, it was downright spooky.

A friend dropped us off in front but as we peered through the windows at the ticket counters there is not a soul to be seen--literally not one person. We turn back and tell our friend that something strange is happening. There is no one in the state's major airport. We step forward to take a closer look and finally spot a fellow traveler near a vending machine. He is the only sign of humanity on the entire capacious ground floor. All the ticket counters stand unmanned, looking like a set from the Twilight Zone.

We tell our friend we're now good to go. We both laugh and at the same time say, "I See People!"

Up the escalators we go then past the shuttered newsstand and closed restaurant and toward the security checkpoint. All the while we were completely alone in the 600,000 square foot Terminal Building, like a visitor to the scene of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

We turned the corner into security and were met with a traveler's dream (or was this a nightmare?)--not one other person was preparing to go through security. We approached the three security officers, glad to see a sign of life. As we presented our paperwork, one of them asked us if we had eaten dinner yet. We gave him a bemused look and wondered if that was some kind of new ISIS security question. No, not that. He gave a wry smile and said: "There's nothing open back there."

When he said "back there" we got a bit unnerved. Just what was back there--a wasteland with no food and water? A place where you confront your existential loneliness as you wait to be delivered to outside civilization?

As these thoughts swirled around our head another guard casually interjected: "You don't have to take off your shoes." It seems the recession does have its perks.

So off we went through the large automatic doors leading to to the JetBlue gate. Again, not man or beast was to be found as we made our way briskly down the long spacious hallway. Finally, at the end of that corridor we had our first encounter with a human other than security. Well, it wasn't exactly an encounter. It was the JetBlue attendant pacing back and forth, apparently getting exercise or maybe going stir crazy by the emptiness of it all. He did not make eye contact as we walked by and that was fine by us. (There was a little stand with water and snacks at the gate, contrary to the warning of the security officer. )

After setting up our laptop a custodian appeared and we leaped at the chance to ask him what in the name of depopulation was going on at the airport. He helpfully offered that Saturday nights have been this way for quite a while. Few or no flights and even fewer to come when Southwest Airlines makes cuts next month. The emptiness, he declared, "takes some getting used to." I'll say.

Traffic has fallen at the Sunport by nearly 24% since the peak of 2008 and more losses are expected at least through 2015. Cuts to government travel budgets, the business recession/stagnation and tighter travel budgets for New Mexicans are the obvious culprits.

The good news is that the Sunport remains in excellent condition, easily one of the most welcoming in the nation as well as one of the most distinctive, featuring eye-catching Southwestern art and architecture. It is immaculately clean and easy to navigate. Despite the severe drop in traffic, the airport is financially sound with no onerous debt. It relies largely on on funds generated by lease agreements and federal grants. Management has kept the revenue flowing throughout the downturn.

In other words, if and when ABQ emerges from this era of stagnation the Sunport will be ready to roar back to life. We look forward to that and the papering over of our Saturday night memory of being the last man on Earth.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Will Turnout Get High From Marijuana Vote? Plus: Pearce Pans Rocky With Negative TV, And: Another Round Of Yates Vs. McCleskey 

That Friday decision by the NM Supreme Court paves the way for Bernalillo and Santa Fe county voters to be asked their opinion at the Nov. 4 election about decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The vote will be nonbinding.

The Democratic-controlled county commissions stand accused of trying to help Dem candidates by working to get the pot proposal on the ballot over the objections of the secretary of state. But will many thousands of voters now decide they have a reason to go to the polls? It's doubtful. This is not legalization and again it is an opinion poll--not a real vote with real impact.

Still, some consultants argue that if the marijuana cause boosts turnout even just a couple of dozen votes in the two hotly contested state House races in Bernalillo County, it could impact those hard-fought battles in favor of the Dem candidate. Another question: Will pro-marijuana groups kick in media money to advertise the measure? That could have an impact. . .

The ABQ Journal poll of likely NM voters shows marijuana legalization (not decriminalization) going down 50% to 44%, but when a less conservative sample of all registered voters is asked--support for legalizing pot jumps to 49% and opposition is at 45%. One of our readers experienced in polling thinks support could actually be higher, depending on how the question is asked:

I can guarantee you the results of the Journal poll question on the use of marijuana would have been significantly different if the word "recreational" had not been included in the wording of the question.
That word raises the negatives and should have been left out.

The word "recreational" was used in the polling during the run-up to the vote legalizing marijuana in Colorado...

PEARCE PANS ROCKY


Southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, favored to win re-election to another two year term, is taking no chances as he comes with a negative TV hit on Dem challenger Rocky Lara. She was first out of the gate with a negative ad. Now he portrays her as a candidate being bankrolled by "liberal special interests." The spot also says Lara and House Minority Leader--"San Franciso liberal"--Nancy Pelosi--are good buddies. We suppose that invokes dread among the voters Pearce is targeting---if they even know who Pelosi is.

For her part, Lara comes with her second negative ad on Pearce which accuses him of voting to up end the Medicare program by voting for the Ryan budget in 2011 and supporting tax cuts for the wealthy. Pearce maintains there were no Medicare cuts in the Ryan budget.

This second ad from Lara--narrated by a senior citizen--is tougher on Pearce after an opening volley against him that drew mixed reviews. But it still rings soft if the goal is to eject Pearce now and not wait for a second chance in '16.

The problem seems to be that Lara wants to stay likable while still going negative on Pearce. The campaign could have avoided this if it had put up positive introductory ads on Lara over the summer and then went after Pearce. While Lara is a solid recruit for the Dems, apparently a million bucks in the bank isn't enough to do the job the complete way these days.

We rank the Pearce-Lara contest likely Republican.

GARY'S DEFENSE

Gary King would love to have a million bucks in the bank. As it is, he is pretty much broke. So how is he defending himself against the myriad of charges he is fielding from Gov. Martinez? He
makes a lengthy case
against various TV ad accusations on his web site, even if it will be seen by only a very small fraction of the voters who are seeing Martinez's TV.

The New Mexico Governor's race is ranked likely Republican.

YATES VS. McCLESKEY

Yates
The bad blood between former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates Jr., Governor Martinez and her chief political adviser Jay McCleksey is still flowing. Yates had a falling out with McCleskey early in Martinez's term when he saw the power McCleskey was accumulating and shutting Yates and other top R's out.  McCleskey is known as the "Shadow Governor" because of the sway he has over all things Martinez.

Yates, who as party chairman memorably endorsed Martinez in the 2010 GOP Guv primary, hails from an immensely wealthy SE NM oil family, and is not one to give up the fight. He's back this election season, scorching McCleskey in the Las Cruces Sun-News. He says Martinez's political operation is quick to label any critics "sexist" or "racist" and by doing so. . .

 They wish to taint the offending party so markedly that other potential questioners will fear to raise the offending issue. . . Issues that should be addressed are not. People with information about corruption do not reveal it. Reporters hesitate to ask questions. Newspapers hesitate to write stories. No one wants to be classed as "racist," or "sexist" or as some other politically incorrect degenerate. Too often, the politically correct mute button is effective.

. . . Ask Gov. Martinez why she granted her political operator, Jay McCleskey, inordinate authority to effect state government, or suggest that McCleskey is using her as a profit center. Or say , "You ran on "bold change" in New Mexico. Where is the 'bold change'"? The PC MUTE button is likely to be aimed at you by McCleskey, by the governor or by one of McCleskey's dutiful servants.

If you are female and raise such questions, the PC MUTE button is apt to be, "She is wild-eyed and disgruntled" — meaning you are a screwball who cannot deal with the governor's admirable administration or McCleskey's upright fundraising operations. If you are a male who raises the questions, the PC Mute button likely will be, "What he said smacks of sexism." And if you happen to be an Anglo, that also presents the PC MUTE button master an opportunity for an allegation of racism. . .

The National Journal last year came with a similar critique of McCleskey's tactics. The Governor's office said the magazine, founded in 1969, was a "tabloid" and "racist" and sexist."

OUT OF STEP?

Reader Norm Gagne writes of APD:

On the issue of police conduct, it is interesting to compare the new Albuquerque Police Department patrol cars with the old ones. The old ones were white with colorful markings and the legend, "In Step With The Community" on the side. The new ones are predominantly black with very dark windows. Conspicuously missing? "In Step With The Community."

There is a slow change of consciousness under way (finally?) about APD and the root causes of the problems it has had dealing with the public and which prompted a Department of Justice civil rights probe. ABQ City Councilor Klarissa Pena is touting an increase in the gross receipts tax in to better address mental health issues. The tax is unnecessary and unfair to the lowest income residents. It won't pass but her proposal is advancing the debate on what we should do. And from the Bernalillo County Commission comes this:

Bernalillo County announced it has purchased an 8-acre site in the South Valley for $732,646 for use as a residential transitional living facility to help young people recover from drug addiction and rebuild their lives. The money came from discretionary capital outlay funds allocated over two years from a number of state representatives and senators of both parties. . .


Where change is slow taking hold is on the 11th floor of Government Center where Mayor Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry continue to fight pleas for new faces in the upper reaches of APD to implement a sorely needed cultural change in the way the city is policed. Without that, Berry is putting a band-aid on a tumor. 

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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