Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Politics at it's Worst" Guest Blog by Charlotte Rode State Fair Commissioner

Governor Martinez often uses the phrase “this is politics at its worst” when faced with opposition. As a conservative Republican, I happen to agree with her. Let me give you a few examples of how ‘politics’ is interfering with ‘good government’ in New Mexico.

During the 2010 election cycle most of us were ready for a new era in Santa Fe. Bill Richardson’s demeaning vocabulary and strong-arm tactics were wearing thin. Big campaign donors whose money bought them relevance, appointments and power were costing us millions. His appointees were forced to sign resignation letters in advance to ensure they performed as rubber stamps, advancing his agenda and rewarding friends. Despite campaigning on a promise of transparency and against corruption, the Martinez administration has us feeling like little changed in the two years since her election.

The vulgar, demeaning language used by Keith Gardner in a recording to describe his and the Governor’s feelings about Senator Jennings goes beyond any form of decency. The only reason I can imagine a close friend secretly recording your conversation would be a lack of trust. Keith is the Governor’s Chief of Staff. His job, and hers, is to hold the public trust. As quoted in an article, the Senator believes this attack was a result of his opposition to the Down’s Racino contract. In the same obscenity-laced conversation, Keith offers the Expo management position to his friend, even though hiring management at Expo is, by statute, the responsibility of the State Fair Commission. The Governor’s office has doled out all five senior management positions at Expo at an annual expense of nearly $400k and saw to it that Larry Kennedy became the Commission Chair. Mr. Kennedy is the only commissioner denied confirmation by the NM State Senate.

Martinez’s handler, Jay McCleskey stated in the Albuquerque Journal that “moving the governor’s agenda forward trumps everything” – the ends justifies the means. Does it trump ethics? In identical language, I was told the role of the State Fair Commission was to move the Governor’s agenda forward and if I disagree then I should do the right and respectable thing and resign. Where does that leave our State? If an appointed official witnesses corruption, they should resign instead of speaking out? Tom Tinnin, a well-respected Republican, served for 16 years on the State Board of Finance under four governors. He resigned over concerns with the Downs contract and said before Martinez, he “never had a governor ask him to compromise his integrity, on any level”.

They kept the RFP secret and now they’re doing the same with the enforcement of the new 25-year lease, shielding big money donors from public accountability. A year after the Downs won the award, they have yet to make significant progress towards completion. The new contract is not being upheld. They have not obtained a performance bond, shown evidence of financing or paid their utilities. The State Fair Commission is nowhere to be found. Chairman Kennedy is playing ‘hide the ball’ and hasn’t convened a meeting since June, unilaterally running the commission and completely disregarding state law. They are still operating in secret. In the past year I have been denied nearly every document I’ve requested, even after submitting a formal public records request.

Our state and our country are in desperate need of great leaders, not great politicians. Great leaders are not necessarily liked, they’re respected and effective. We have tremendous human resources in NM, let’s try engaging the talent and expertise of all who represent our diverse electorate, allowing each community to decide for themselves who best represents their needs. This all-or-nothing, seek-and-destroy mentality will not reform our state. Principled leaders will.

Charlotte Rode, State Fair Commissioner

October 31, 2012 at 04:02 PM in 2012 General Election, 2012 Legislature Races, Government, Guest Blogger, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Darren White Being a Close Friend of Susana and Jay McCleskly Pays-off

Darren White continues to be passed around for some position in the Martinez administration. And currently the Racino Downs is part of the Martinez/McCleskly administration. Maybe Pat Rogers will be hired as deputy GM under White?

In the days that we are living in of hard to find jobs, and tough scrutiny over applicants it is aggravating to see such favoritism and out right cronyism from the Governor of New Mexico. Governor Martinez ran on a platform of " NO Corruption", "NO cronyism", "NO favors". The response to this accustation will surely be it is not my administration appointing and running the Downs, it is not Susana's NM Government, it is her NM Shadow Goverment.

Following is a good recap of Darren Whites history provided by ISPAC.

Darren White Is New Downs General Manager. REALLY ???

In the latest chapter of the “Dirty Downs Deal” saga, Darren White has been selected as General Manager for the Racino.

So what are Darren White’s qualifications for the General Manager position at The Downs? How critical is this position for the operation of the Racino? And what does this say about the perfect score of 300, lead evaluator Charles Gara awarded the Downs for “managerial expertise”?

  1. Darren White is best buddies with Jay McCleskey. The two of them spend a lot of time sitting around the swimming pool together. White is also very close to Downs lobbyists/lawyers Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett.
  2. Barnett’s law firm has represented both White and McCleskey in some family law matters.
  3. Oh yeah, and Charles Gara contributed money to Darren White’s failed congressional race and also hired Jay McCleskey to run a political operation for him. Think they are all tight?

According to the Response to RFP submitted by the Downs on August 25, 2011, the General Manager position “has been created in anticipation of the new facility”. So White was given a job that did not previously exist, despite the fact that the Downs has operated as a racino (racetrack and casino) since 1999.

The job appears to be one of the most critical to the operation of the racino: “the General Manager serves as the head of the administrative department. Reporting to the General Manager will be the accounting, human resources, audit/compliance and marketing divisions, as well as the Casino Manager and the Racing Manager. The General Manager will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of The Downs, including implementing and monitoring policies, establishing and managing the budget, hiring and training the management team, ensuring managers are actively monitoring compliance with all regulatory requirements and providing overall operational support.”

Here is what Darren White brings to the job:

2011 - 2012 White has no gaming management experience. His only involvement with the racino before this was as a “security consultant” helping the Downs at Albuquerque prepare its response to the RFP. White then briefly worked as the Project Manager at the Downs for the construction of the updated racino. As of the last several weeks, however, there does not appear to be any actual construction going on at the Downs.

2011 Before the Downs, White served as the Public Safety Director for the City of Albuquerque. When White intervened at the scene of his wife Kathy’s one-car accident, his brief stint in this position ended with “No-Confidence” votes by members of the Albuquerque Police Department (85%) and the Albuquerque Fire Department ("overwhelmingly”).

2008 In February 2008, as Bernalillo County Sheriff, Darren White helped TruTouch Technologies secure a sole-source contract in the amount of $379,995 to “supply alcohol screening and testing prototype equipment.” White notified the County Commission that “the Sheriff’s Department fully supports the Sole Source contract award to TruTouch Technologies of Albuquerque.” White was also running for US Congress, and received campaign contributions from TruTouch officers during a prohibited time. (Disclosure: Michael Corwin of ISPAC initially unearthed that these contributions were made during the prohibited time in the procurement process. This discovery later led to Bernalillo County severing ties with the company.) The current Bernalillo County Sheriff, Dan Houston, has requested an investigation by the New Mexico AG, as this equipment was never put into service.

1999 - 2001 Darren White was the crime reporter at KRQE.

1999 The two no-confidence votes in 2011 were not the first of White’s management career. While serving as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, members of the New Mexico State Police Officers Association voted 243 - 31 “No Confidence” against White. The state police officers accused White of improperly supplying equipment and cars to its officers, which they felt was an officer safety issue.

1999 White was investigated by the New Mexico AG for possibly committing two felonies, 1) violation of the anti-donation clause and 2) unauthoried destruction of a cultural property (property located on state land). While secretary of DPS, White called the State Land Office and arranged to have state Highway Department workers demolish, without a permit, buildings located on state land at the behest of his buddy Don Imus’s brother, Fred Imus. Imus had called White to see if the state could remove some "dilapidated ranch buildings" on the state land adjoining the Imus Ranch, claiming they negatively impacted their property. The investigation was stopped when Imus agreed to pay the state $6,696 reimbursement for the use of state workers to tear the buildings down.

These are but a few of the situations that raise serious concerns over White’s selection as the General Manager of the Downs. Not only does he lack any relevant experience to managing a racino, he has yet to prove himself as a competent manager at all. He has done very well at proving he is someone willing to engage in ethically and legally questionable behavior.

July 23, 2012 at 10:56 AM in Darren White, Government, Independent Source PAC, Jobs, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

NM AG King Asked To Investigate PED’S Larry Behren's Email to Political Director Jay McCleskey

Using our tax dollars Governor Susana Martinez uses her senior administrative staff in the Public Education Dept. as her own private work force for political gain in the state. Or she is using her political office and our public workers to push her political agenda of busting unions, and blaming teachers and dividing teachers, or worse things like blackmailing the teachers for their own job protection. Anything can be fair game for our Governor Martinez, after all we saw her go after her own Repub. Legislators who did not agree with her fully. So one could expect the same kind of strong arming will go on with the already battered down teachers across the state.

Bear in mind this all comes from a Governor who ran on no corruption and restoring trust in the state government. Attorney General King should pick this matter up and dig into it, there is no automatic entitlement for any elected officials at any level.

ISPAC has broke and researched much of this story, Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican was the first to pick it up, read Steve's article here.

Press release below from the Senate Democrats.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Linda M. Lopez and House Education Committee Chairman Rick Miera have asked Attorney General Gary King to open an investigation into possible violations of the New Mexico Government Conduct Act by high government officials, including the Governor and her top political advisor. The request is in response to an email sent from Public Education Department (PED) spokesman Larry Behren’s private e-mail account to Governor Susana Martinez’ Political Director Jay McCleskey. The e-mail was also sent to the Governor’s Chief of Staff Keith Gardner and her spokesman Scott Darnell, using their private email accounts at the Governor’s Political Action Committee, and copied to PED Secretary designate Hanna Skandera and her Chief of Staff, also on their private e-mail accounts. According to the e-mail, and reports in the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal, PED’s Information Technology Division and budget staff compiled a list of all New Mexico teachers that contained their e-mail accounts, a list of which school districts have union contracts, and another list of nonunion teachers' emails.

Email ped 001
Email above from Behren to McCleskey

“It is very clear from this e-mail that government employees were ordered to spend their time and state tax dollars on behalf of the Governor’s private political consultant,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Linda M. Lopez. “Use of government resources for political purposes is strictly forbidden under the Government Conduct Act.”

“Today we are asking the Attorney General to investigate violations of state law by what can only be described as a Who’s Who of New Mexico’s most powerful government officials,” said House Education Committee Chairman Rick Miera. “The Governor’s creation of a list of union teachers versus non-union teachers, using state resources, is a divisive act that will create discord among our state educators at a time when we should all be working together to improve our educational system.”

“There is no doubt in my mind,” said Senator Lopez, “that these data bases developed by PED employees is intended for the Republican Super PACs, who will use them to anonymously inundate our hardworking educators’ school e-mail accounts with mountains of ugly political spam. We are further asking that Governor Martinez direct her Political Manager to immediately put a halt to this activity.”

Attached is the letter that was sent to Attorney General King.

June 16, 2012 at 06:53 AM in Linda Lopez, Susana Martinez, Transparency, Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Lack Of Transparency In NM Governor Martinez Downs Deal

From ISPAC: So Why All the Secrecy from the Sunshine Governor?

There’s an old joke that goes something like this, "how can you tell when a politician is lying?" Answer: "Her lips are moving".

Susana Martinez is the self-described "transparency governor", and spent much of her time on the campaign trail attacking Governor Richardson, accusing him of secrecy and corruption.

In October 2011, ten months into her term, Martinez told the New Mexico Press Association, "I have promised since day one that state government will be more transparent, more accessible, and more accountable."

Her lips are moving and her pants are on fire!

Martinez’s administration routinely waits the maximum allowable 15 days to provide information requested under the Inspection of Public Records Act. That is, if they provide any records from her administration at all.

Here is a real life example of how they attempt to skirt the law: As part of our investigation into the "Dirty Downs" deal, ISPAC has made multiple requests for records pertaining to the First Gentleman, Chuck Franco’s, hunting trip to Louisiana in early September 2011.

The significance of this lies with the majority owners of the Downs at Albuquerque, John S. Turner, Jr. and William C. Windham. Both live in Louisiana. Both are wealthy guys with extensive property and business interests, including hotels, gaming, oil and gas, and marine (boating) throughout the state. They both own lots and lots of land too.

These two men have access to a lot of places for Mr. Franco and his security team to stay, to hunt, to fish, and to gamble while showing them some old-fashioned southern hospitality.

Mr. Franco’s trip happened to occur after the Downs and Laguna Development Corp had submitted their competing proposals to operate a racino at the state fair, but before Charles Gara, gave the Downs a perfect score for "management expertise" (completely absurd considering their actual track record).

This perfect score ensured that the Louisiana folks, who gave huge sums of money at very questionable times to Susana Martinez and Susana PAC, won the contract worth a billion dollars over twenty-five years.

It is illegal for the First Gentleman, or anyone in the Governor’s administration, to receive any gifts from a bidder during the procurement process controlled by his wife.

This would force the termination of the Downs’ contract. It is also criminal conduct.

Under state and federal law, interstate travel in furtherance of bribery (receiving gifts to sway the bidding process) is a very serious offense.

In response to our IPRA, the Martinez administration first claimed they had no documents responsive to our request.

However, the Department of Public Safety provided one document; a spreadsheet showing the dates, times, and locations of gas purchases by the security officers on their state credit card for the state vehicle they used for the hunting trip.

This one document shows that Mr. Franco and his security team passed through Shreveport/Bossier City where Mr. Turner and Mr. Windham both live, and stopped in Natchitoches, the location of Mr. Turner’s company---the one that operates hotels.

Yet the Martinez administration said no documents (invoice, emails, or even postcards) exist showing where they stayed while they hunted. No documents exist showing who paid for the accommodations, hunting guides, or on whose land they hunted.

Is it credible that the governor did not know where her husband and his security team were for 5 days?

A Deputy Chief with the state police told us that the trip had been planned as a vacation for the two members of the security team, and that Mr. Franco asked to come along.

This is counter to a statement from Martinez’s spokesman Scott Darnell made April 18, 2012:

"...it was first gentleman Chuck Franco who made the trip to Louisiana, for a hunting vacation, paid for by him, with two security officers sent at the direction of the State Police chief."

So whose vacation was this? The First Gentleman’s or two security team officers?

A source with extensive security detail experience told us that security team officers are on the clock whenever they are in the company of the person they are assigned to protect. That would seem to include this hunting trip, regardless of who initiated it

We next requested leave/vacation requests and time sheets for the security officers. One or the other of these documents must exist. The time sheets are the most likely since they did charge their gas to the taxpayers and drove around in a state vehicle for the entire trip while accompanying the First Gentleman.

Yet despite the trip having occurred way back in September 2011, the Martinez administration is claiming that the governor and the first gentleman’s safety would be compromised by disclosing where they stayed, who paid for it, and on whose land they hunted.

In an interesting coincidence, the governor hired the wife of one of the security detail officers into a high paying job in February 2012. This happened only a few weeks after we issued our first investigative report on the "Dirty Downs" deal.

The job was for an exempt position that conveniently did not have to follow the normal hiring process--- the process of publicly announcing the position, collecting applications, and selecting the most qualified.

This same State Police officer assigned to the Governor’s security detail was convicted on two counts of contracting without a license in 2010.

There is no legitimate or discernible threat to safety here. However, there does appear to be a serious effort to conceal any information from the public that could reveal the Louisiana bidders showing the First Gentleman a good time during the procurement process.

If nothing improper happened, why go to such great lengths to hide it? Surely, the public’s right to investigate corruption and illegal conduct outweighs any unfounded claim of personal safety, especially when the trip took place nine months ago. We will find out.

This is the "transparency" governor?

June 8, 2012 at 04:17 PM in Independent Source PAC, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (4)

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)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Heinrich Calls for Greater Transparency in Political Advertising

220px-Martin_HeinrichToday, U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to swiftly implement greater transparency measures in disclosing to voters who paid for political advertisements.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Rep. Heinrich, along with 12 other House members, said, “With campaign season in full swing and new Super PACs springing up weekly, the public must have access to information about who is funding these ads.”

Rep. Heinrich supports the agency’s proposal to require TV stations to place their political files online. Currently, broadcast stations are required to make the public inspection file, including the political file regarding campaign ads, available to the public in paper form only. The information in these files should be available in an online, searchable database, and disclosures should include information about the people and organizations that purchase political advertisements.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United opened the floodgates to unrestricted, special-interest campaign donations in American elections–even from entities controlled by foreign governments. Since then, Rep. Heinrich has worked to pass numerous bills to increase transparency and disclosure of political spending. And just last year, he introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would regulate the raising and spending of funds in elections—regulating Super PACs, which we’ve all seen concentrate money and political power in the hands of the elite and away from working Americans.

Joining Rep. Heinrich on the letter to the FCC were Representatives Gary Ackerman (NY-5), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Russ Carnahan (MO-3), David Cicilline (RI-1), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Susan Davis (CA-53), Ted Deutch (FL-19), Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), Jim Moran (VA-8), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Olver (MA-01), and Jared Polis (CO-02).

The full text of the letter is below:

March 5, 2012
Julius Genachowski; Chairman Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski,
We want to express our full support of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rule to have broadcast stations make political files publicly available online and we urge you to implement these proposed rule changes as soon as possible. With campaign season in full swing and new Super PACs springing up weekly, the public must have access to information about who is funding these ads.

Currently, broadcast stations are required to make the public inspection file, including the political file regarding campaign ads, available to the public in paper form only. Taking the additional step of having these documents available online would create transparency in a time of increasing campaign-finance secrecy. The information in these files should be available in an online, searchable database, and disclosures should include information about the people and organizations that purchase political advertisements.

With the 2012 election season already underway, citizens have a right to know who is purchasing public airtime to support or oppose candidates. More people rely on TV stations for information than any other medium, making transparency in advertising critically important. However, the creators of campaign ads often hide behind confusing organizational names that do not provide adequate information about who is actually paying for the ads, or worse, can actually mislead the public about the identity or purpose of the advertisement. This problem is compounded by the Citizens United decision and the proliferation of Super PACs. The online posting of information in broadcast stations’ political file cannot wait until months after the election; citizens deserve to know who is responsible for funding these advertisements today.

When formulating the final rule, we urge you to take into consideration the comments of broadcasters and do everything possible to find a cost-effective and efficient method for publishing this information online, especially for small- and medium-sized stations.

We urge the FCC to act swiftly and decisively to make the entire public inspection file readily available to the public, by posting the information in an online, searchable database. The contents of the political file must be included, since that information is necessary for the public to know the truth behind who is funding campaign ads. While acting quickly to establish the new rules, we ask that the FCC make every effort to limit the administrative burden to broadcasters. The public files need to be taken out of the file cabinet and moved onto the Internet to ensure that the public has easy access to this information.

Sincerely,

March 5, 2012 at 06:28 PM in Citizens United, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Transparency | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Senators Encourage FCC Effort to Make Campaign Advertisements More Transparent

Tom udallSen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and seven other senators issued a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski yesterday encouraging swift implementation of a proposed rule to make political advertisements more transparent.

“With the 2012 election season already underway, citizens have a right to know who is purchasing public airtime to support or oppose candidates,” the senators wrote. “More people rely on TV stations for information than any other medium, making transparency in advertising critically important.  However, the creators of campaign ads often hide behind confusing organizational names that do not provide adequate information about who is actually paying for the ads, or worse, can actually mislead the public about the identity or purpose of the advertisement.

“The online posting of information in broadcast stations’ political file cannot wait until months after the election; citizens deserve to know who is responsible for funding these advertisements today.”

This problem has become widespread in this election cycle with the Citizens United decision creating a proliferation of ads backed by opaque outside groups. A recent analysis by OpenSecrets.org found that, as of January, more than 95% of spending on the 2012 elections had been backed by outside groups as opposed to candidates and political parties. At the same point in 2008, the ratio was roughly 50-50.

The proposed rule would require broadcast stations to make files related to political advertisements available publicly online. The stations are currently required to make the files available to the public, but only in paper form. Additionally, the Senators requested that the information be posted in a searchable database to make it easier for voters to find information about the ads they are viewing.

In addition to Udall, the letter was joined by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

The full text of the letter follows below and is available online here.

February 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM in Citizens United, Sen. Tom Udall, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Luján Votes to Reform Washington by Strengthening Rules Against Insider Trading

Lujan w flagCongressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District voted today in support of legislation to strengthen rules against insider trading by Members of Congress, congressional staff, executive branch officials, and judicial officers.

“This commonsense legislation makes it clear that Members of Congress and their staff must play by the same rules as everyone else,” Congressman Luján said.  “The American people need to know that their elected official will be looking out for the interests of our country and our communities, not their own bottom line.  Unfortunately, House Republican leaders took out bipartisan provisions that were added by the U.S. Senate to help prosecute criminal conduct by public officials.  I am hopeful that when the differences between the House and Senate versions are worked out, this important provision will make it in the final bill.”

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act prohibits members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they obtain as lawmakers.  It makes it clear that they are not exempt from the federal law and regulations that ban such insider trading.  Members of Congress will be required to disclose the purchase or sale of stocks, bonds, commodities futures, and other securities within 30 days of notification of the transaction.  Similar disclosure requirements would also apply to many federal employees in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies.

House Republican leaders dropped a provision from the Senate version of the STOCK Act and one that passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee that would give prosecutors tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials.  The bill now moves to a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.

February 10, 2012 at 12:10 PM in Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Transparency | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Heinrich Votes to Bring Accountability to Washington

220px-Martin_HeinrichU.S Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) today voted for legislation that holds Members of Congress, congressional staff, Executive Branch officials, and judicial officers subject to the same insider trading rules as everyone else. Rep. Heinrich is a cosponsor of the original Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. A revised version of the STOCK Act passed the House today by a vote of 417-2.

“This is just one of many steps we must take in order to restore trust in government and bring accountability to Washington,” said Rep. Heinrich.

House Republican Leaders finally relented in bringing the STOCK Act to the floor for a vote, but not before meaningful provisions that promoted additional transparency and accountability were removed.

“It’s outrageous that in the dark of night Republican leaders stripped critical provisions from the bill that would police those who collect ‘political intelligence’ and help prosecute criminal wrongdoing by public officials,” said Rep. Heinrich. “I remain hopeful that these bipartisan provisions will be added back to the bill when it goes to the Conference Committee in order to provide additional transparency and accountability in Washington.”

Here is an overview of many of the bill’s provisions to bring greater accountability to Washington:

  • Ban Insider Trading: Prohibits Members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. It makes clear that they are not exempt from the federal law and regulations that ban such insider trading.
  • Reporting on Stock Sales: Requires Members of Congress to disclose the purchase or sale of stocks, bonds, commodities futures and other securities within 30 days of notification of the transaction, allowing up to 45-days if there is an extension granted. The information would be posted on the Web. The new reporting requirements would not apply to transactions involving investments in widely held investment funds (i.e. mutual funds or 529s).
  •  Expand Ban on Congressional Pensions for Felons: Expands existing law that bans Congressional pensions for Members of Congress convicted of committing a felony. The amendment stops pensions for Members of Congress convicted of 22 additional crimes, including insider trading, and would apply to crimes while serving as any elected official – not just while in Congress.
  • No Bonuses for GSEs: Bans the payment of bonuses to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives while the two government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) are under government conservatorship.
  • Mortgage Disclosure Provision: Requires Members to publicly disclose all residential mortgages, including the date that the mortgage was entered, the range of the amount, the interest rate, the term, and the name and address of the creditor.
  • Post-Employment Negotiation Restrictions: Includes provisions with restrictions on how executive branch officials handle job negotiations with prospective employers.
  • Wrongfully Influencing Private Entities Employment Decisions Executive Branch Officers and Employees: Extends the current Congressional prohibition on wrongfully influencing private employment decisions to cover all executive branch officers and employees.

February 9, 2012 at 06:40 PM in Corporatism, Government, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Transparency | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Showdown in Santa Fe: Historic Veto Override on the Horizon

The following post was authored by Pat Davis and posted on ProgressNow New Mexico. Pat Davis is the Executive Director of ProgressNow NM.  

A big showdown is setting up in Santa Fe this week between the governor and the legislature.

Last week, the Senate took the first step toward achieving an historic vetoShowdown override of a governor when they resurrected 2011's SB47 back from the dead and placed it on the President's calendar for a veto override vote. (Our research shows that the last time this succeeded was in 2002 under Gov. Gary Johnson - though it was tried a few times under Richardson).

The bill passed both houses with unanimous approval last session, only to meet the governor's veto pen

SB47 (2011) should have been an easy approval from the governor pushing a "transparent and accountable government" agenda.  It would have required the executive branch to complete an audit of every tax credit in the state over $500,000 for:

a projection of the costs of tax expenditures for all significant general fund sources; 

 the statutory basis, including year of enactment, date of repeal, and purpose; 

 quantity of revenue expended by the state for each expenditure;

 the aggregate amount of each expenditure and the business that used the expenditure

 the total of all the costs of expenditures for each fiscal year

 the estimated number of jobs created and the number of businesses that qualify for but failed to apply the tax expenditure; and

 should identify unexpected effects of the tax expenditure

Seems simple enough, and something EVERY legislator could get behind in 2011.  But the governor didn't want to publicly disclose which businesses were getting the biggest tax breaks, how many jobs those businesses created with those breaks or how much revenue the state was giving up to help those businesses. 

The bill even provided for the opportunity to identify New Mexico businesses which could benefit from the credit, but hadn't. Imagine if the state tax collector called and said, "Hey, did you know you could be saving a couple-of-hundred thousand dollars in taxes and hiring more workers?"  How's that for good government?   

How the governor could be opposed to this is beyond me, unless she was looking to protect those big tax giveaways for companies that take New Mexico tax break money to buy corporate jets and fund big corporate bonuses out of state.

The more interesting piece, at least in the short-term, is whether any Republican legislators will cross the governor and vote against her veto, or whether they will flip-flop their vote from last year under pressure from the 4th Floor.

Will this be one of those votes the governor scores when she is looking to hand out her million-dollar campaign slush fund?

Only time will tell, but I can bet you everyone from the 4th Floor to the legislative floors will be counting.

February 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM in NM Legislature 2012, ProgressNow New Mexico, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

US Attorney Alerts FBI to Martinez Expo Deal

The following is from Progress New Mexico:

The scandal that surrounds Governor Martinez's efforts to award a sweetheart lease deal at the State Fair to one of her biggest political contributors is not going away.

You might have missed it, but a small news brief in this morning's Santa Fe New Mexican noted a big development in the case:

"U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales this week told a liberal political action committee that he'll forward its request for an FBI investigation of last month's controversial award of a 25-year lease for the State Fair racetrack to political contributors of Gov. Susana Martinez..."

Susana Martinez campaigned on a promise to end what she called "pay-to-play" in New Mexico politics, but with her first big chance, she failed to deliver.

By all accounts, the process to renegotiate a 25-year lease at Expo New Mexico was engineered to ensure that a wealthy political donor would win out in a secretive process outside of public review. 

But, don't take our word for it.  Here are just a few headlines from local news after the deal was exposed:

Downs Deal Smells of Money, Albuquerque Journal

Expo Status Quo Doesn't Serve Public, Albuquerque Journal

        Gov. Ally Says She Pushed Downs Deal , KRQE-TV

You can read the full time line and our take on the proceedings on our blog at ProgressNewMexico.org

Today's news is big news, and we need you to help spread the word: New Mexicans won't stand for "pay-to-play" deals and back-room gambles with our money!

Lastly, watch this video:
The State of Unfair Affairs at the State Fair

 

December 10, 2011 at 12:18 PM in Corporatism, Expo NM, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heinrich Joins House Colleagues to Introduce Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment

This legislation is a companion to Senate Resolution that empowers Congress to regulate campaign finance

On November 14, 2011, U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) joined Representatives Betty Sutton (OH-13), Jim McDermott (WA-07), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02) to introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures, and allow states to regulate such spending at their individual levels.

Rep. Heinrich led the fight for public financing of elections while he served on the Albuquerque City Council and continues to be a fighter in the House to take back control of the campaign finance system.

“This is about putting the American people before big corporations,” said Rep. Heinrich. “It’s time we put voters first and increase the transparency and disclosure of political spending.”

The amendment would provide Congress with the responsibility to regulate the raising and spending of funds, which would allow laws to be established regulating so-called, “Super PACs” which have worked to concentrate money and political power in the hands of the political elite and away from working Americans.

“I have yet to find somebody who thinks this is a bad idea,” said Rep. Heinrich during an interview with the New Mexico Independent earlier today. “Unfortunately, if you look at the other people who are behind this bill, it’s largely Democrats. Still, I think even the most ardent Tea Party activists are concerned that corporations have been given this status of being more important than individuals, and that Republicans are going to wake up to that. It’s a mistake that the Republicans don’t already see this. But I do think they’ll have to respond to the growing sentiment that’s out there.”

The amendment offered is a companion amendment to one introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (NM) and Michael Bennett (UT) on November 1, 2011. The proposed amendment:

  • Authorizes Congress to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate such spending at their level.
  • Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs, made in support of or opposition to candidates.
  • Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.

A PDF of the text of the amendment can be found, here.

November 17, 2011 at 08:40 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Transparency | Permalink | Comments (2)