Wednesday, June 20, 2012

McCleskey and Martinez Should Come Clean to the Voters: Guest Blog by Eli Lee

Following is a guest blog by Eli Yong Lee, Consultant, Albuquerque, NM.

New Mexico’s primary election is over, and what a bruising season it was.

From my days as a political consultant and as the former Executive Director of the Center for Civic Policy, I am no stranger to giving and receiving attacks. I believe strongly in the right of any nonprofit to highlight the wrongdoings and achievements of elected officials. Similarly, I believe in the right of candidates and political committees to point out differences and make one’s best case for why a candidate should be elected or defeated.

However, I believe it is essential that everyone play by the rules. That is where Governor Susana Martinez and her campaign operative, Jay McCleskey, may have done a tremendous disservice to the voters.

The Center for Civic Policy and I were involved in a series of court cases against New Mexico’s Attorney General about the right of nonprofit organizations to hold elected officials accountable for their voting records. The Center meticulously followed the state and federal rules of civic engagement for nonprofits. A New Mexico district court judge, New Mexico’s Court of Appeals, and the federal courts agreed that our actions were in full compliance with state and federal law. Many disagreed with our approach, but the indisputable fact is that we followed the rules.

Last month, McCleskey and Martinez created a new political action committee with an innocuous-sounding name: the Reform New Mexico Now PAC. This PAC is run by McCleskey and shares an office with Susana PAC office.

Reform New Mexico Now quickly raised $205,000, primarily from two of Governor Martinez’s largest campaign donors – the Chase Oil Corporation with a $130,000 contribution and the Mack Energy Corporation with a $50,000 contribution.

McCleskey originally reported these contributions as received on April 24th. If true, then McCleskey failed to report these contributions to the State on May 14th, when all other candidates and political committees were required to do so. Further, McCleskey did not report the existence of his PAC until May 29th, when state law requires filing as a political committee within ten days of raising or spending $500. If those contributions did arrive on April 24th, then McCleskey and Martinez’s PAC would have violated state law.

After several media reports, Reform New Mexico Now filed an amended report on June 2, changing the dates of these contributions – and three other contributions – to late May. McCleskey’s PAC stated, “There was a typo in the initial report filed with the Secretary of State by listing all contributions as 4/24/12….We were instructed on how to file an amended report and did so. The Secretary of State’s office has informed us that we are in total compliance with the law.”

McCleskey and Martinez’s PAC spent over $100,000 in last minute attack efforts via mailers and radio ads during the final weekend of the Democratic Primary election.

Governor Martinez and Jay McCleskey have the right to criticize candidates with whom they disagree, and even to set up a front group so that the attack seems to be coming from someone other than Governor Martinez. Both activities are well within the rules. But Governor Martinez and McCleskey do not have the right to hide PAC information from the voters, as required by law. Their actions are a slap in the face to all voters. We all have to play by the rules, no matter one’s political persuasion.

Several candidates have filed ethics complaints and the Secretary of State has opened an official investigation into the McCleskey/Martinez PAC. McCleskey and Martinez have until June 21 to answer the charges. The Attorney General should act even more quickly and demand notarized copies of all bank statements from Wells Fargo, Reform New Mexico Now’s bank, to find out what the truth is, rather than simply taking McCleskey’s word for it.

The voters deserve to know that everyone – even Governor Martinez and Jay McCleskey– have to play by the rules.

June 20, 2012 at 07:46 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Guest Blogger, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 04, 2012

Oil Money Disguised as Republican Reform NM PAC Supports Carl Trujillo

Carl Trujillo is a democrat who is running for Speaker Ben Lujan's vacated seat District 46 and his opponent is Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. There is no Republican running in the general. It is obvious the Gov Martinez wants to have her say in the decision of who will represent District 46.

Mr. Trujillo provided this statement over the weekend in response to Governor Martinez's Reform PAC dumping money in the form of literature into the District 46 race. This message from Trujillo speaks volumes;
"Organizations (Gov Martinez) that have independently done things without any involvement from us. For example, two organizations (Gov Martinez) sent out mailers that were negative to our opponent (Mayor Coss). We had nothing to do with them, but there’s nothing we can do to stop them."  Trujillo goes on to say; "Unfortunately, the opposition (Mayor Coss) has been using slimy tactics to insinuate that we are somehow connected to these organizations and that’s proof that we have some kind of secret evil agenda."

Well - Carl you could start by saying your opponent, Democrat David Coss, is not the one using slimy tactics. Slimy tactics are what the Governers new Reform PAC are doing to your race. You are not a victim to these very smart operatives trying to shape the politics in New Mexico. You could have said I denounce these slimy tactics made by these organizations which sent out material in my district, meddling in the affairs of the people of District 46. But you did not choose to denounce the republicans you saved your comments about slimy tactics to release venom about Mayor Coss.

Who's side are you on Carl Trujillo? Your statement appears you agree with the R's helping you in your race, who is the one hungry for power if one stoops to that level. Will you really represent the people of district 46? What do you stand for? There is so little known about you, so little you have revealed. This one press release (pasted below) speaks volumes of your democratic character in these very troubled times.

One of the greatest things about this campaign has been the outpouring of support from the people of our community who are committed to working for a better future.

But sometimes we get support from organizations who may have agendas that are likely to be at odds with our interests. And sometimes they may do things on their own, without our knowledge or our consent -- whether it's putting up a sign, sending out emails, making a financial contribution or something bigger.

This week, we had a few interesting examples. Organizations that have independently done things without any involvement from us. For example, two organizations sent out mailers that were negative to our opponent. We had nothing to do with them, but there’s nothing we can do to stop them.

Unfortunately, the opposition has been using slimy tactics to insinuate that we are somehow connected to these organizations and that’s proof that we have some kind of secret evil agenda. Our agenda is not secret; it is clear. There is only one interest that I seek to serve, and that is the very special interests of the people in the community that I grew up in, that my family has lived in and raised our children in for 400 years-- the people of District 46.

Some may ask why organizations like Reform New Mexico or the Business Alliance want to support our campaign in opposition to the entrenched machine candidate David Coss. They sent out their mailers without our involvement or approval, and we don’t know their reasons.

Perhaps they have their own genuine, legitimate concerns about Mr. Coss, because while David Coss and I, as fellow Democrats, may not be that far apart in our specific stands on specific issues, we seem to have very different views about the political process when it comes to fairness, openness and transparency.

For example, I’m on the record for being willing to listen and include everyone in the dialogue, whether we agree with them or not, and my belief that if we're going to get government unstuck, we're going to have to start talking with and listening to each other. Yes, even across the political divide, perhaps especially where we have strong differences.

This does not mean that I don’t have strong views on vital issues which are often in opposition to these big special interests-- especially when it comes to issues like protecting our environment, helping our families survive and prosper free from the ravages of substance abuse, violence and unemployment, providing better education for our children so they can have a better future, and helping local business to succeed in this difficult economy.

So, while we can't stop organizations from doing certain things like sending out mailers, we can and do return checks from special interests that aren’t in line with the priorities of our community. Because there's only one special interest that I'm looking to serve and that's the people of the 46th District of New Mexico.

June 4, 2012 at 03:51 PM in 2012 Legislature Races, Candidates & Races, Ethics & Campaign Reform | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Senator Phil Griego, Stop Hiding and Come Clean"

Yesterday marked the end of the 15 days the Secretary of State gave Senator Phil Griego to respond to the formal ethics complaint filed by challenger Jack Sullivan. Sullivan filed the ethics complaint against Griego for violating New Mexico campaign finance laws. Rather than answer the complaint, Griego has asked for more time, giving no indication how much time he needs to respond to the questions raised.

On April 27, 2012 Jack Sullivan submitted a letter to the Secretary of State's Ethics Division outlining incidents which Senator Griego unlawfully used his campaign account for personal expenses.

Specifically mentioned were expenditures of $955 for NFL Bronco tickets reported as a "constituent event," $7500 for new office furniture, and $2100 in credit card payments.

"Griego's delay is a stalling tactic. I believe the public has a right to know how they were served by the NFL tickets, golf trips or expensive new office furniture the Senator purchased," says Jack Sullivan, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner. "Now is the time for the Senator to come clean and answer the charges: is he illegally using lobbyist contributions to pay for his personal expenses?"

In the last two years, Senator Griego, who was not up for an election, received $92,000 thousand in lobbyist and corporate contributions and spent $83,000 thousand. He is the top democratic recipient of lobbyist campaign contributions, according to New Mexico Watchdog.com. The allegation suggests Senator Griego used much of his campaign funds on personal expenses like golfing, trips, and fixing his car.

Voter Conci Bokum, said, "I am sorry to hear the Senator's response.  I would hope he would respect voters and make the information available very soon."

New Mexico State Law [Sections 1-19-29.1 (A.2) NMSA 1978] forbids legislators from using their campaign account for personal expenses.

The law states that penalties for violating the Campaign Reporting Act should be referred to the attorney general or district attorney for further investigation and may include a civil penalty of two hundred fifty dollars for each violation not to exceed five thousand dollars. (Campaign Reporting Act, 1-19-34.6 Civil Penalties NMSA 1978.)

Jack Sullivan is challenging Senator Phil Griego and Nicole Castellano in the June 5 Democratic Primary. Jack Sullivan has the backing of the American Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood New Mexico, Conservation Voters New Mexico and the Sierra Club.

For a copy of the complaint Jack Sullivan filed, go here.
For a copy of Phil Griego's campaign contributions for 2010-2011, go here.

May 15, 2012 at 06:42 PM in 2012 Legislature Races, Candidates & Races, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Common Cause New Mexico Releases Research -- Role of Campaign Contributions in NM Health Policy

On May 7th,  Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) released their latest report, Connecting the Dots – The Role of Campaign Contributions in New Mexico Health Policy, focusing on campaign contributions and how legislators vote when receiving donations from industries affected by their voting. Between 2000 and 2010, various healthcare industries contributed a combined total of $4,863,088 to candidates running for political office in New Mexico. Furthermore, contributions from these industries have increased substantially over time, from $268,096 in 2000 to $1.3 million in 2010.

Focusing on six pieces of health-related legislation between 2007 and 2010, our findings suggest that money does play an influential role in the voting behavior of New Mexico legislators. In almost all instances, decision-makers who receive larger amounts of money from the healthcare, tobacco, business, eating and drinking establishments, gambling and lodging, and pharmacies are more likely to vote in a manner that is favorable to that industry.

New Mexicans want to be assured that our legislators are voting for the public good, not to pacify or cater to industry in New Mexico,” says CCNM’s Executive Director Viki Harrison. She continues by saying that “public confidence in the legislative process is critical if we are to trust our legislators and have confidence in the legislative process.”

In nearly each case, decision makers who receive larger amounts of money from the healthcare, tobacco, and liquor industries are more likely to vote in a manner that is more favorable to that industry. However, we want to clarify that the correlations found here between campaign contributions and voting behavior do not imply that legislators are trading votes for campaign donations. Identifying individual motivations for voting one way or another, or to vote at all for that matter, are impossible to determine at any level of certainty. That said, the correlation between contributions and voting behavior alone can erode trust in government and interest in politics among the population. If the public believes that powerful interest groups can use their financial resources to steer policy in the direction of their interests, this is not good for the status of democratic governance in our state

May 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM in Candidates & Races, Citizens United, Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Matter Of Public Trust: Republicans Explain That Lobbyists Have Absolutely No Influence In Our Legislature

Following is a guest blog by Peter Moulson.

Bill (SB103) (or “The Lobbyists bill”) which would have limited the roll-over of influence of New Mexico legislators who leave office and immediately become lobbyists, failed to pass the Senate Rules Committee and is therefore dead for the session.  Republican Governor Susana Martinez doesn’t think this revolving door serves her state well, and so she supported this bill.

The legislation was carried in the Senate by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque). “This is the same bill I have brought for three or four sessions now asking for a cooling off period between when a legislator leaves office and begins to lobby the same body he or she just left.

“It’s a matter of public trust.  We have developed a culture of family here, where we include the lobbyists, refer to them if they are former colleagues—as Mr. Speaker, Senator, Representative—and they have more access to us than the general public. I think that we don’t appreciate how the general public feels left out of this culture and believes that there is undue influence on decisions we make here.”

Voting against the bill was the Senate Republicans’ top man Senator Stuart Ingle. “I have never known a legislator that was retired who had any influence” he suggested. “And I have never known a legislator that paid attention to former legislators.”

Ingle was supported by Republican colleague Senator Gay Kernan: “I count on lobbyists to tell the truth” she explained with a straight face.

Next we tracked down the “Poster Boy for The Revolving Door” Kent Cravens. Cravens resigned from the Senate last fall and immediately became Director of Government Affairs for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association—aka Chief Lobbyist .

Interviewed today, Cravens appeared upset as he felt under attack from all sides as the Governor had supported this bill. “I feel pretty hurt about all this. I’ve always helped the Governor and then they did this to me.” 

So, if our Republican politicians are to be believed, legislators pay no attention to former colleagues when they become industry lobbyists.  That is very odd, because in the following video taken this week we see Lobbyist Kent Cravens walking out of senior Republican Senator Stuart Ingle’s office carrying two US Post office boxes. Senator Ingle follows close behind Mr. Lobbyist Kent Cravens.

Who does not believe that there is a connection between lobbyists and legislators? 

Mr. Lobbyist Ex Senator Kent Cravens is a Board Member of ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative Republican corporate-funded organization which presents legislators with their pre-prepared legislation. He talks and dines with New Mexico’s conservative politicians, feeding them the legislation that his corporate organizations wish them to champion. That might well be considered back-door influence.

The question asked by the supporters of this bill is, if the Governor supported SB 103, why did she not work with legislators to ensure it passed? Did she really want it to pass or was it a sham? It should be noted that Senators Peter Wirth, Linda Lopez and Dede Feldman voted for the bill, presumably not convinced by Republican smoke and mirrors.

It was President Pro Tempore Senator Tim Z. Jennings who seemed to think he had the answer: “The accusations (of corruption) just come because they sell newspapers.”

Oh sure.

February 14, 2012 at 08:36 PM in Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eric Griego to Sponsor Comprehensive Package of Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform Bills in the Current Legislative Session

DFNM is inserting an update here regarding the passage of the SJM 24 (“Oppose Citizens United Ruling”) passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously on Friday morning. It is being scheduled to be heard on Monday by the Judiciary Committee.  Since it requires both chambers to pass jointly, it’s a heavier lift than unicameral memorials, but it’s the version with the strongest language adopted from Bernie Sanders’ bill.

Eric Griego 120311On January 19th, the Griego for Congress Campaign released the following statement.

Eric Griego for Congress (NM-1) announced that State Senator Eric Griego will sponsor a comprehensive package of campaign finance and ethics reform bills in the current New Mexico legislative session.

The Griego Reform Package includes:

  • Public financing for all state public offices
  • An independent ethics commission to oversee state elected officials
  • A ban on state contractors contributing to campaigns
  • A bi-cameral Joint Memorial supporting a U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)’s proposed federal constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (SJM 24)

“I’m proud of continuing to lead the fight in New Mexico to make the government become more responsive to the people, not just big corporate interests and the wealthiest 1%,” Griego said.  “If we truly want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we need to put a stop to the unlimited corporate money influencing our democracy and hold our elected officials more accountable to the people we are elected to represent.”

Griego has been New Mexico’s leading champion for campaign finance and ethics reforms.  He passed voluntary public financing of elections as an Albuquerque City Councilor, making the city one of the few in the nation to do so.  As a State Senator, he has sponsored bills to limit individual contributions for legislative elections to $250 and to create a strong independent Ethics Commission in the State Legislature.

On Tuesday, January 17th, Griego also became the first candidate in the nation running for a federal office to sign the Occupy/99% Movement’s “99 Pledge”, committing to fight for legislation in Congress to limit corporate influence in our democracy and overturn Citizens United.

Griego is also the first, and still the only, candidate running for Congress in New Mexico’s First District to release a comprehensive campaign platform on campaign finance and ethics reforms, with a proven record to back them up.

Griego’s campaign finance and ethics reform platform released on December 15th states his support for:

  • A constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens Untied and regulate campaign finance
  • Stopping the “revolving door” between Washington politicians and their staff and K Street lobbying firms representing powerful corporate interests
  • Public financing of elections to promote the competitiveness of grassroots-powered candidates.

January 28, 2012 at 01:00 PM in Citizens United, Eric Griego, Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2012, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Marty Chavez Statement on the Anniversary of Citizens United

MartyNew Mexico First Congressional District candidate Marty Chavez released the following statement on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision:

“Today, it is important that New Mexicans and all Americans take note of the anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that severely impacted the ability of individual citizens to have an equal say in our political process.

“In a victory for the mega-corporations who wish to buy our elections with massive anonymous campaign expenditures, the Court said that the bank accounts of Exxon and the Koch Brothers deserve the same First Amendment rights as you and I do.

“Very simply, money does not equal speech, and I am vehemently opposed to this ruling. In Congress, I will do everything in my power to overturn the decision, including being a co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act and the Fair Elections Now Act.

“New Mexican families need more than talk – they need results.  Though ultimately unsuccessful, at my direction the City of Albuquerque fought all the way to the Supreme Court to maintain spending limits in our city elections and in 2005 filed an amicus brief in support of Vermont’s contribution limits for state races.

“As my campaign to bring equal opportunity for all continues to highlight the importance of creating jobs here in New Mexico, we must stay vigilant against the influence of corporate money in our electoral process in order to ensure that government stays in the hands of the people and not corporate special interests.”

January 21, 2012 at 05:27 PM in Candidates & Races, Citizens United, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Martin Chavez, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sen. Keller Announces Gov Reform for PRC, State Fair and SIC

KELLERState Senator Tim Keller (SD-17) announced a package of bills that have been pre-filed for the upcoming 2012 legislative session.  “These bills are needed government reforms to tackle problem areas in our government, and increase transparency, accountability and effectiveness.  Reforming areas of government like the PRC, the State Fair and the SIC remain critical to government’s ability to serve citizens and work with businesses.”   Keller explained at a gather of supporters.

Sen. Keller’s package includes a combination of State Fair, PRC reform, increased oversight.  Legislation includes:

  • SJR 2: Redesign the PRC: leverage governance best practices and recent studies finding various problems with PRC operations and structure.  Create a process similar to judicial standard's committee to appoint commissioners, require relevant experience or education, term limits of one 5 year term, ban personal contracts with regulated entities and lobbying for3 years, and require four superintendents for each division that would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • SB 4: Expo NM/State Fair Governance:  restructure the management of Expo NM such that the director be confirmed by the senate and  hired by the commission, require the commission to take public comment at each meeting, require them to comply/post on the sunshine portal, and procurement code, ban campaign contributions from long term leasers with leases greater than $1m are, Require the director of the fair to report twice a year to the legislature once on general operations and once on state fair performance (similar to what we do with space port and others).
  • SB: Remove Politics from the SIC (Neville/Keller): the number one recommendation by the Ennis Knupp research completed in 2010 was to remove the Governor as chair of the State Investment Council (SIC).  SB 18 in 2010 attempted this but was amended at late stages in the legislative process to keep the Governor on the board.  This bill would remove all elected and replace them with appointees.  Executive branch power and representation would remain via several executive appointed seats and representation of the DFA secretary.  NM is currently the only state in the country with a Governor personally residing on the state's investment fund board and directly responsible for investment decisions.
  • SB: Foreclosure Property Maintenance: similar to the ordinance in Rio Rancho, bill that requires cities to establish rules for owners of foreclosed properties to maintain base level of property maintenance.  This deters foreclosures in the first place, helps cities and neighborhoods retain property value and decreases blight.
  • SJM: Interim committee on Inter Government Reform, Structure and Process: that would shine a light on challenges in Government operations, conflicts of interest, inefficiencies and overlapping mandates. 

January 10, 2012 at 11:05 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Government, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2011

NM-1: Eric Griego Releases Ambitious Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform Platform

Eric-griegoThe following release is from the Eric Griego for Congress Campaign.

On Thursday, Democrat Eric Griego released his campaign finance and ethics reform platform, pledging to make it a centerpiece of his agenda.

“We can’t effectively solve the problems we face as a nation unless we first save our democracy from the corrupting influence of corporate money,” Griego said.  “If we truly want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we need real campaign finance reform.”

Griego said that the government’s ability to effectively represent the people is under assault by corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United ruling.

Citizens United gives unprecedented power to Big Oil, Wall Street, the health insurance industry and other deep-pocketed corporate special interests to put pressure on elected officials to support their positions, even if they’re in direct conflict with the interest of the public.  Those who don’t fall in line face the threat of an unlimited barrage of expensive ads distorting their record.

Griego said he is deeply concerned that too often, these special interests win and the people lose.

Griego’s campaign finance and ethics reform platform includes:

  • Support for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and to regulate campaign finance.  Griego does not believe that corporations are persons deserving of constitutional rights equal to real people.  He believes they should be subject to regulations limiting their ability to influence the political process.
  • Stopping the “revolving door” between politicians and their staff and K Street lobbying firms representing powerful corporate special interests.  Griego would not turn his public service into a career as a registered lobbyist and would prevent his congressional staff from lobbying his office if they leave for employment elsewhere.
  • Support for public financing of elections to limit the influence of deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists and to promote the competitiveness of grassroots-powered candidates.

Griego has a long record as a champion of campaign and ethics reform in New Mexico.

As an Albuquerque City Councilor, Griego passed voluntary public financing of campaigns in city elections and created the city’s Office of Inspector General to examine allegations of fraud.  As a State Senator, Griego fought to limit individual contributions for legislative elections to $250 and for a strong Independent Ethics Commission in the State Legislature.

December 16, 2011 at 06:43 PM in Candidates & Races, Corporatism, Eric Griego, Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Senate Dems Statement: Business as Usual at Expo NM, Missed Opportunity at State Fairgrounds

Following is a statement by the Senate Democrats.

“Yesterday’s actions by the state fair commission to approve the Downs 25 year land deal at our fairgrounds represents a huge missed opportunity to create a true pride point for our city and state. My constituents from surrounding areas and I are deeply disappointed that despite all past troubles and challenges outlined in the Audit, the commission voted to perpetuate the status quo at Expo NM,” stated Senator Tim Keller (SD-17).

Keller added, “It has been 25 years since we’ve had the chance to redesign the State Fairgrounds (now officially known as Expo New Mexico). As the state senator representing most of the area, I know that the communities surrounding Expo New Mexico have repeatedly called for an opportunity to participate in a formal strategic plan for the development of the 250 acres in the middle of our city.”

With just 30 days to respond, only two entities met the deadline. No formal community input was solicited, plans were kept secret, accountability measures have not been put in place yet, and broader plans for Expo New Mexico were excluded from the discussion.

With little transparency and accountability, today’s state fair commission meeting the rules were changed to amend previous motions and change the agenda so this lease could be approved without event taking public comment.

The 2011 Legislative Audit further revealed a disturbing history including millions of dollars in mismanagement, questionable short-term decisions and annual taxpayer bailouts. Then on Nov. 8, the Albuquerque Journal reported $70,000 of campaign contributions went to the governor from the Downs’ ownership.

“We had hoped things would be different under a new administration, but nothing has changed when it comes to Casinos at the Fairgrounds. Tax payers deserve a lot better from our State. If these trends continue, many of us State Fair supporters worry that legislators statewide may not continue to foot the bill even with this new deal. This new rushed 25 year land lease blocks any significant redesign and perpetuates business as usual at Expo,” Sen. Keller noted after a tax committee meeting today in Santa Fe.

The new casino lease is less than 26 years and is solely within the governor’s responsibility and therefore today’s action will not go to legislature for approval. Senator Keller intends to bring forth legislation to clean up the governance at Expo New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session.

 

November 25, 2011 at 02:03 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Susana Martinez, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Independent Source PAC Calls for Federal Investigation into Possible Pay to Play and Bid Rigging in Racino Contract

Independent Source PAC (ISPAC)is calling on the the US Attorney to investigate potential bid-rigging at the Downs at Expo New Mexico fairgrounds. Yesterday in a surprise vote Martinez's State Fair Committee pushed to award a large donor a large state contract worth many millions of tax payer dollars.

This from the Susana Martinez who could not say enough of how corrupt and full of pay to play cronyism the Richardson administration was, and who also smeared all the same claims at the Democratic governor candidate Diane Denish and the Lieutenant Governor candidate Brian Colon as well as anyone else with ties to the Richardson administration.

In the article "Downs gets racino bid" within the website onPolitix.com, it is stated, "The Downs, the same group that is there now, is the winning bidder. This is the same group that was just slammed by an audit for not paying its bills to the state, but in the end State Fair officials said they are the best pick."

The article goes on to say, "For the first time ever, Expo New Mexico put out request for bids for the 93 acre plot of land that makes up the racetrack and casino. The Downs has had the lease since 1985 and it expires in January. "We choose this process because that's what we wanted," Dan Mourning, GM of ExpoNM said. "We wanted to see what a competitive bid would do, rather than a sole source."

He said in the end The Downs was the best choice, beating out the other bidder Laguna Development.

To read more about the actions taken at yesterdays meeting regarding the Racino see this article by KRQE.  Furthermore, if you would like to read a historical breakdown of the lead up to the Racino deal see this post by Patrick Davis.

You have to admit this whole deal does not pass the smell test, in my opinion it smells like horse manure. 

On the Meet Governor Martinez link on the States Gov website the first paragraph says,"Susana Martinez is the Governor of the State of New Mexico. She was elected on November 2, 2010, pledging to cut wasteful spending, lower taxes to create more jobs, end “pay-to-play” practices and other corruption in government and fight to reform education."

And if you dig a little deeper you can see what is stated on the Martinez's "Ensuring Transparency and Ethics in our Government" link. A small excerpt states "For far too long, government officials have abused their office for personal or political gain. Politicians have regarded taxpayer money as their own and rewarded cronies, while workers, students and taxpayers are stuck with the bill. Decisions have been made to benefit the powerful and the connected, while New Mexico families pay the price."    This goes on to say " It is time to restore the spirit of public service to government positions. I have proposed harsher penalties for public officials who break the law because restoring confidence and faith in elected and appointed office begins with ensuring that our public servants are the best possible stewards of taxpayer money."

So now do you think this deal with our tax dollars lives up to Martinez commitments stated above and to her promises to New Mexicans?

November 22, 2011 at 04:56 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Expo NM, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (1)

Guest Blogger Patrick Davis: Gov. Martinez's Big Bet with Public Money Gives Big Donor the Purse

PatDavis This is a guest blog by Patrick Davis - Executive Director of Progress New Mexico.

Martinez's "Super Committee" Gives Commission Just One Option to Approve Governor's Handcrafted Process Gives 25 Year Multimillion Dollar Contract to Big Donor

The State Fair Commission's "surprise" vote yesterday afternoon to award a big Martinez donor a multimillion dollar state contract was no surprise at all to members of the public and State Fair Commission.

As late as Monday morning, commissioners were cited in the Albuquerque Journal questioning whether the public notice for a "workshop" to discuss the procurement process was improperly posted to allow for a possible vote on Monday.  With time running out, the commission took a squeaker 4-3 vote on the only proposal they had been given, bringing to a successful conclusion the result of the governor's hand-designed process to award the state's most lucrative and long-term contracts to major out-of-state political donors who already owe the state millions in unfulfilled promises from previous contracts.  

The Downs proposal also reportedly offered to pay the state substantially less over its 25 year life than the only other proposal submitted. The governor does not normally personally appoint proposal review members for independent state commissions.

Placing millions in public money on the line, Martinez made sure the odds favored one of her biggest political donors. When the State Fair Commission votes could not be assured to vote her way, the governor created a new 'super commission' of three personally selected reviewers to limit the State Fair Commission's choice to just one bidder: one that gave $70,000 to her campaign just last year.

Everyone knows that the house stacks the odds when it comes to casinos, but she is playing with public money and this is no game.

Governor Susana Martinez ran promising to end "pay-to-play" and to be totally transparent when dealing with public money. But when elected, she hand selected the State Fair Manager and all three "super committee" members who negotiated behind closed doors on a twenty-five year multimillion dollar renewal of the Expo New Mexico lease to the Downs at Albuquerque despite a recent audit showing the Downs is millions of dollars in arrears on payments to the state in its current lease. 

Previous disclosures by the Downs show revenues of as much as $28 million a year generated by the lease. 

Follow the timeline and judge for yourself:

2010: 

March 2011: 

June 2011: 

  • Mourning announces that he has independently negotiated a new lease extension with the Downs without public input. The legality of lease extension is called into question since contracts are not permitted to extend beyond 25 years.
  • In response to criticism over the back room lease negotiations, Governor Susana Martinez promises to place the Downs lease on the call for the Special Session so that the public and legislature can weigh in.  She never does. 
  • Governor Martinez appoints a "super committee" of three hand-picked reviewers to select one bid in a closed-door process with Mourning. 
  • Mourning hastily issues a 30-day Request for Proposals for a twenty-five year multimillion dollar plan to lease portions of the Expo.

August 2011:  

October 2011: 

  • An audit of the fair shows that "The state fair’s lease with the Downs at Albuquerque “is fraught with problems,” the evaluation reported, pointing out the Downs is underpaying its electricity bill; is not meeting its obligation to provide $420,000 in promotional events, marketing and advertising; and owes the state fair $215,000 in revenue from horse racing." 
  • The "super committee" begins secret negotiations a winner they selected, but they refuse to tell the public who it is.  Secret negotiations with the Downs, Mourning and Downs attorney Pat Rogers, a well-known Republican political operative notably sued for allegations of working to suppress Democratic turnout, begin. 

November 2011:  

  • (Nov. 9): The State Fair Commission meets and delays a vote after members and the public state that they have never seen the evaluation process or actual proposal. They agree to come back on November 21 to host a "public workshop" to review the proposals and to vote in December on the proposal. 
  • (Nov. 11): The public notice of meeting includes notice of the "workshop" and states that the commission may vote on the proposal, an item not included in the meeting notes from the week before.  Commissioners cry foul.  The commission, a majority of its members appointed by Martinez, votes 4-3 to give the Louisiana-owned Martinez donor group the lease. 

The next stop in the lease approval process is the State Board of Finance, which Martinez chairs. She also appoints four of the seven members.

This is a guest blog by Patrick Davis. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

November 22, 2011 at 08:44 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Expo NM, Guest Blogger, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (1)