Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Secretary of State is Engaged in Campaign to Undermine Public Confidence in NM Elections

Following is a press release by Common Cause New Mexico, questioning the Secretary of States motives within her latest voter file interim report.

Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) warns that Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s manner of conducting a review of New Mexico’s voter file seems to reflect a disturbing partisan bias. The organization’s comments follow Duran’s public release of a 17-page interim report about the process.

While CCNM lauds her efforts to clean up New Mexico’s voter file and agrees that this is a legitimate function of the Secretary of State’s office, CCNM believes that she is deliberately undermining public trust in New Mexico elections purely to promote policies, such as voter photo ID, which are designed to prevent qualified New Mexicans from casting a ballot.

“The way she’s gone about this secretive process is completely bizarre,” says Steven Robert Allen, executive director of CCNM. “The report is yet another example in which Secretary Duran consistently paints New Mexico elections as a hotbed of problems, while refusing to provide documentation to back up her assertions. This doesn’t make any sense unless she’s trying to deliberately stir up fear among both decision-makers and the general public to advance her own political agenda.”

Allen points out that the Secretary of State first launched her media campaign in March of this year while advocating for a burdensome new voter ID law. Voting rights advocates believe that such a law would have the effect of disenfranchising thousands of legitimate New Mexico voters, in particular among senior, student, Native American, Hispanic and low-income populations. Since March, Duran has repeatedly kept the public and voters in the dark about the methodology she’s using to conduct the review.

“This seems to be part of a national effort to suppress voter turnout,” Allen says, “which has been popping up most often in swing states like New Mexico. The goal is to pass laws specifically designed to disenfranchise qualified voters in the run-up to a major election year.”

Allen notes that the Colorado Secretary of State launched a similar media campaign within days of Secretary Duran.

In the recent ‘interim’ report, Duran fills numerous pages insisting that she has been engaged in a valid, objective, non-partisan process. CCNM believes that if this were so, she would have launched her media campaign after her office attempted to resolve discrepancies in the voter file by working directly with county election officials. The fact that she has to this date failed to take this obvious step – instead choosing to actually attack the integrity of some of these same county election officials – makes her actions and motivations highly suspect, at best.

New Mexico has had numerous problems with its Secretaries of State in recent years. CCNM believes New Mexico desperately deserves a chief election official who is willing and able to conduct herself in a manner that protects the rights of all qualified New Mexicans to cast a ballot.

CCNM urges Secretary Duran to abandon her partisan media campaign and get down to the serious business of preparing the state for the important election year ahead.

November 22, 2011 at 09:46 AM in Dianna Duran, Election Reform & Voting, NM Secretary of State | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Stephanie DuBois Guest Blog: Many Concerns About Today's Dem Party

StephanieDuBois110 This is a guest blog by Stephanie L. DuBois of Tularosa, who is a life-long Democrat who recently ran for New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner.

I am a 65-year-old Democrat and activist and have been for many years. I am presently the CD2 vice-chair for the State Democratic Party, my 5th term. I am a dog groomer and trainer. I am a certified mediator for Magistrate Court,volunteer. I have run for various offices unsuccessfully, but at least I made sure a Democrat was running. I am an American, a patriot and the daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor.

I moved to Deming, New Mexico in 1978. I now live in Tularosa and have for 21 years. I had always been involved in politics in one way or another in my native state of New York -- not New York City but Long Island -- specifically, a town called Miller Place, three miles east of Port Jefferson where the ferry went to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

My parents and grandparents were Democrats and, at age 21, I registered as a Democrat as well. I have been a registered Democrat ever since. I have voted in any and all elections where I was eligible to vote -- school, county, city, etc. I have now lived in New Mexico for 33 years.

Ladies and gentlemen I don't know about you, but I am very concerned about our state and our state politics and the direction we are headed.

My county of Otero was pretty much Democratic when I moved here in 1990. Within what seemed to be overnight, we became and still are totally Republican and we now have the unsolicited voice of the bogus "tea party." To be fair, I do like the fact that they question their elected officials. They even go so far to give them ultimatums to make sure they carry out the tea party agenda. When the tea party demonstrates, they make sure to wear or carry a firearm to punctuate their position.

I have many concerns regarding voting, redistricting and the protection and security of our public records -- which should be just that, public. We, as Democrats (and I am talking about real Democrats -- not those who use the Democratic Party for their own personal gain but then embrace Republican philosophies and values), should be watching out for the good of our Party. I think our Party -- the Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton -- has been infiltrated by moles, Republicans pretending to be Democrats who undermine our Party from within. Are there any real Democrats who will defend our values, civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, etc. out there now?

A couple of things are happening that really scare me -- and I don't scare easily.

Senator Rod Adair: Conflict of Interest
One is the acceptance by Democrats of a situation that allows a state senator to form a consulting company that bids on county contracts to draw their county lines as part of redistricting. He has received, just from two counties that I know of to date, $34,000. However, no one feels this is a conflict of interest.

Senator Rod Adair (R-Roswell), the senator in question, has also garnered contracts from at least two other counties that I know of. When questions about a possible conflict of interest were raised, the answer I saw was, it is a citizen legislature there are bound to be conflicts of interest because the legislators all have jobs outside of their elected positions. That quote was from Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who was a state senator working in the Otero County clerk's office for many years.

Dianna Duran: Answer These Questions
Now today, as Secretary of State, Duran has the power to turn 64,000 voter files over to the State Police to investigate possible voter fraud. She has by-passed the county clerks' offices as the most obvious place to check voter records and not cost tax payers any additional monies. The Democrats have not questioned the impact this will have on us the taxpayers and citizens of New Mexico.

Questions that should be asked include: Are these documents protected? Are they secure? Is your or my name among those documents under investigation? I think we, the people, have a right to know. The only information on a voter card that is not for public knowledge is the person's birth date and phone number. Everything else is public.

Dems Need to Speak Out Publicly
The office of Secretary of State is very powerful, as we found out in the selection of George W. Bush in the Bush/Gore election in Florida. Katherine Harris had a great deal of influence over that election and the eventual outcome with Bush being selected. We don't ever want this Secretary of State to have that kind of influential power.

In states across the country where governors are Republican and Republicans control the secretary of state offices, there is a movement to make sure that minorities and  Democrats generally have a much more difficult time voting. In these states they are instituting things like shortening the time you can register to vote and requiring picture ID. Some of these over-the-top requirements are akin to the old Jim Crow laws that were in effect requiring a poll tax for African Americans who wanted to vote.

We, as Democrats in New Mexico, need to stand together and speak out strongly to make sure that this Secretary of State is not going to run over our elections and make rules that will keep even one person from being able to vote. We can't do that by remaining silent.

I think we need press conferences letting the public know that the Democratic Party is not going to stand quietly by while Republicans and "tea baggers" take our rights away from us -- rights that our fathers and grandfathers thought they were fighting for. I think we should demonstrate in front of the Secretary of State's office and the Governor's office and let them know in no uncertain terms we are not going to stand for them messing with our voting rights.

We are Americans. We are patriots. We won't be silenced!

This is a guest blog by Stephanie L. DuBois. 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.

August 3, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Democratic Party, Dianna Duran, Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2011, NM Secretary of State, Otero County, Redistricting, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Updates) New Mexico PAC Calls for Immediate Resignation of SOS Dianna Duran for Racist "Humor"

Update 2: The AP reports that SOS Dianna Duran has placed a state employee who works in her office on leave in response to this controversy, and has issued a statement saying the racist "humor" was "deeply offensive" toward two African-American legislators. Duran also said she "will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry." Still unanswered are the questions of why a staffer in Duran's office would feel comfortable putting demeaning language on a state form, and why nobody caught it before it was posted online and sent out in the mail to political action committees around the state.
**********
Update 1: Since I published this post, the Secretary of State's website has taken down the offending spreadsheet. Here is a pdf of the original document that resided on the site, as noted below.
**********

DiannaDuran Is this Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran's macaca moment? 

Today, the New Mexico-based Justice League PAC called for the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Dianna Duran for racist jokes aimed at two African-American legislators in her political reporting form required of all New Mexico political committees.

The Justice League PAC says it received a packet in the mail yesterday from Duran’s office with instructions for filing the bi-annual campaign report for state political committees, due April 11, 2011. The packet contained instructions to download an Excel spreadsheet from the Secretary of State’s website (http://www.sos.state.nm.us/sos-pacs.html then click “2011 PAC Filing Form for April 11, 2011 Report”).

The Excel spreadsheet (xls) contains the following racist language in the “Monetary Contrubutions” (sic) tab, targeting African-American state legislators Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque 19) and Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-Albuquerque 44):

ORGANIZATION NAME

LAST NAME

FIRST NAME

ADDRESS

National Organization of the Beer Drinkers and Guzzlers

Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson

JeffersonDavis

246678 North
General
Dwight D.
Eisenhower
Boulevard
Northeast

“Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson” is obviously a merger of the names of the aforementioned African-American legislators and “JeffersonDavis” was the President of the Confederated States of America.

Commenting on the insulting characterizations and languge in the spreadsheet, Justice League PAC Treasurer Eli Il Yong Lee said, “I was shocked when I downloaded Secretary Duran’s spreadsheet this morning to find such racist comments on a State document. Secretary Duran should be ashamed of herself. We expect more from elected officials. There is no place for racism in New Mexico, much less in a state office. She should resign immediately.”

An Emerging Pattern of Wedge-Issue Bigotry?
We're in only the third month of Secretary of State Duran's first term and she has already been heavily criticized and challenged on her announcement late in the just-ended legislative session that she had started comparing driver's license lists provided by Gov. Susana Martinez with voter rolls, and claimed she had already found examples of possible voter fraud by undocumented immigrants. Nothing to back up that claim, of course, but it served to once again call attention to the immigrant wedge issue and another right-wing favorite, "voter fraud" -- both of which have been used extensively during the campaigns of Duran and Gov. Susana Martinez and beyond.

Duran's unsubstantiated claims even prompted the ACLU NM to file a massive document request so they can investigate what's really going on related to Duran's statements. The Bernalillo County Clerk's office filed a similar document request. 

By emphasizing hot-button ethnic-racial and immigrant issues like driver's licenses for foreign nationals, the targeting of immigrants by law enforcement and immigrant "voter fraud," the Martinez administration, Republicans in the legislature and the Secretary of State's office have clearly helped to create a racially and ethnically charged negative atmosphere in the state. Local right-wing radio talk shows have featured invective-filled "discussions" about immigrants, Democratic lawmakers have reported receiving large numbers of phone and email messages containing hate speech and threats in response to their refusal to support the repeal of driver's licenses for foreign nationals -- and now this. 

Clearly, at least some of the staff in the Secretary of State's office have picked up on the atmosphere of bigotry unleashed in New Mexico by the political maneuvering of Dianna Duran herself and other right-wing politicos, and thought it was funny -- and acceptable -- to inject racial insults into an official document issued by the office. Especially in a multi-ethnic state like New Mexico, it's horrible to encounter something this offensive and unconscionable emerging from a government office. 

Call for Duran's Resignation
I believe all New Mexicans of conscience should join in the call for Dianna Duran to immediately tender her resignation and apologize for the racism contained in the spreadsheet. New Mexicans should not be expected to tolerate this "macaca moment" -- or the hateful atmosphere that evidently produced it. This is not Arizona and we cannot permit our state to become another outlet for the kind of wedge-issue hate offensives typified by the Republicans who are in power in our neighboring state to the west. We have to nip it in the bud right now.

Take Action: Call the Secretary of State's office at 505-827-3600 and the Governor's office at 505-476-2200 and demand that Dianna Duran immediately resign her post due to the racist material released by her office.

The Justice League PAC is a statewide political committee and was formed by Neri Holguin, Sandra Wechsler, Eli Il Yong Lee, Keegan King and Antionette Tellez-Humble, who have years of experience in New Mexico politics and issues. For more information, please go to www.justiceleaguepac.com.

March 31, 2011 at 12:34 PM in Dianna Duran, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Minority Issues, NM Legislature 2011, NM Secretary of State, Racial Minorities, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Common Cause NM, Somos Un Pueblo Unido Say Susana Martinez Violated Campaign Reporting Act

Following a careful review of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act, Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) has come to the conclusion that Republican Governor Susana Martinez may have violated the act when she used leftover campaign funds to pay for radio spots lobbying for a bill favored by her administration. CCNM says it has urged the Attorney General’s office to investigate this matter.

“The Campaign Reporting Act places strict limitations on how campaign funds can be used,” said Steven Robert Allen, executive director of CCNM. “Funding this kind of lobbying advertisement seems to be a clear violation of this statute.”

Allen added that he was puzzled by media reports that the Secretary of State’s office found no evidence that the Campaign Reporting Act was violated. Even more puzzling, according to Allen, is the assertion that numerous other candidates have used their campaign funds in the same manner.

“My organization is intensely interested in instances in which this has occurred, because aside from some very narrow exceptions outlined in the Campaign Reporting Act, a candidate’s campaign funds are only to be used to fund a campaign for elected office,” Allen said.

As reported in an Albuquerque Journal article, February 24, 2011:

Duran said definitions in the act give the campaign committee authority to run political ads, even in a noncampaign season. She said numerous other candidates have used their leftover campaign funding in the same way over the years.

"We believe that conducting an advertising campaign for a political purpose is expressly permitted for a political committee," Duran said.

Duran was responding to a complaint filed with the Secretary of State's office by immigrants' rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido. The organization also filed a similar complaint with the Attorney General, and one with the Santa Fe District Attorney. The complaints allege Martinez violated the Campaign Reporting Act when her campaign committee paid for radio ads pushing for the repeal of the state law that allows undocumented immigrants and other foreign nationals to obtain driver's licenses. Duran said that her office reviewed the situation and does not think Martinez violated the law.

Somos asserts that the act restricts many uses of leftover campaign funding and that the costs of the political radio ad are not allowed.

"(The act) allows such funds to be used only for the payment of campaign debts, donations to charities or the state's general fund, contributions to other candidates or political parties and refunds to the contributors," the complaint says.

To the extent that any candidate is spending campaign money in a manner not listed in the statutory section that describes the lawful use of such funds (Section 1-19-29.1 NMSA 1978), CCNM has urged the Secretary of State to forward all such instances to the Attorney General’s office for investigation.

Click to see the provisions (pdf) of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act describing the lawful uses of a candidate’s campaign funds.

February 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Immigration, NM Secretary of State, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (6)