Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Obama Visit; Taking Small Steps, Plus: Last Supper In Santa Fe? Lawmakers Face Reality, And: Watchdogging the Watchdog; Those Political Nonprofits 

Obama Takes Command in ABQ
Barack Obama was grinding away in New Mexico Monday, taking another step towards nailing down this Democratic-dominated swing state by meeting with Indian leaders and wowing a heavily Hispanic Dem crowd in ABQ's South Valley. (For the junkies, here is the complete one hour Rio Grande High video, including Big Bill's intro.)

"We think we are ahead here. We need to keep taking these small steps. It doesn't appear McCain who is from a neighboring state will give up here. Obama will be back several times." An Obama insider told me shortly after the visit. He said the campaign expects NM to remain a swing state all the way to November.

Obama met briefly with state pueblo leaders as well as the president of the Navajo Nation at Rio Grande High School shortly before his speech and townhall meeting there.

"It was good to get that done. It is a key constituency for us. An extra thousand Navajo votes could make all the difference. Those precincts vote Democratic at a rate of at least 66%," informed our insider.

Before heading deep into the Valley, Obama, who overnighted at the Downtown Hyatt, met with about 40 invited women at the downtown library to talk about equal pay for women. Because Obama held a similar women-only event when last in ABQ June 24, some questioned why he was doing another. "The morning event was aimed more at the national audience. The afternoon was geared towards New Mexico," explained our insider.

Obama nursed an obvious cold at the library, but they must have pumped him with medicine by the afternoon because he appeared energized and on message. The old-fashioned high school gym rally before a crowd of 1,800 played well, and even had what seemed to be an authentic moment--if here is a such a thing in national politics anymore--when the first question to Obama was a tough one--whether he had back pedaled on his position on Iraq. He called the questioner "feisty," and then had to tell her why she was wrong. Good stuff.

Everything leans Dem this year. The race issue may be the only thing holding Obama back here. His exposure Monday in the Valley and future trips to Hispanic strongholds across the state are an important element in putting him over the top.


This is one of my favorite Mark Bralley photos in a long time. It is the daughter of the woman who introduced Obama at his downtown library event Monday. Her name is Viviana Edwards, 6, daughter of Michelle Kavanaugh (Mom Michelle beams in the background). It tells the story that the presidency of the USA, despite its problems of late, retains its mystique with the public--whether that President be Democrat or Republican--or black or white.

Here's the official McCain page on his Wednesday visit to Las Cruces, his first one there of the campaign season. And here is an in-depther from the Sun-News. Bush narrowly lost Dona Ana County to Kerry in '04. McCain would be happy to do the same with Obama.


Big Bill is like the guy holding a stock that has gone down 50% but swears it will go back up. But the oil and gas boom is over for now. The American nation can't tolerate four or five dollar a gallon gas and it won't. The economy simply can't function at that level, and hoping and praying for the return of higher prices won't make it so. That's the central message of the special session of the NM Legislature underway in Santa Fe and which is seeing Bill's taxpayer rebates based on a faith-based oil and gas surplus ripped to shreds, pared to an amount that could barely fill the gas tank of a Geo Metro.

It's been a great run, but the party is over. The punch bowl has been taken away, the cops have been called, the lights have been turned on and the agile ones are running for the exits. Can you imagine the hangover when the next Governor and Legislature face the prospect of actually cutting programs? My, how the liberals will roar and the conservatives, in hibernation for years, will finally get to sharpen their under-used Ginsu knives. Diane Denish, be careful what you wish for.

In the meantime, here's more from the fabled Roundhouse and the grumpy group gathered for what might be their last supper.


When you are reaching for the upper rings of political power, they'll use everything against you. Take, for example, the recent pummeling Big Bill has had at the hands of grumpy state senators called into special session by the Guv, who is often mentioned as a possible secretary of state in an Obama administration. From the e-mail box: "If you cant deal with the new Mexico Senate, I don't want you dealing with (Russia's)Putin."

It's been amusing to see the mainstream media speculate with vigor about Bill being chosen as Obama's running mate. The soon-to-be Dem prez nominee gave obligatory praise of the Guv at Rio Grande High Monday, but nothing out of the ordinary. Insiders, including Bill's own, long ago ruled out his chances at getting on the ticket. In fact, the worry is that the Guv could get nothing and be stuck here for two years dealing with that grouchy state Senate we saw on full display this weekend.


That Club for Growth TV ad we told you about Monday that hits Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall will be on the air in the ABQ market for two weeks at a cost of $150,000. The Club
came with $275,00 in primary support for Pearce, so they are well on their way to at least meeting that total in the general. You can see the ad here.

Is the issue of "Eminent Domain," featured in the ad, that big of a deal? Probably to the GOP base and some conservative Dems, and to card-carrying members of the Club for Growth. But soon Pearce is going to have to appeal to undecided centrist voters. It is almost September and the southern NM congressman--and his allies--are still going after votes that should be taken for granted. Udall has to be smiling.


NM Secretary of State Herrera has agreed with AG King and on Monday ordered NM Youth Organized (NMYO) to register as a political committee, forcing them to disclose their contributions and expenditures. The group, an affiliate of Eli Lee's Center for Civic Policy, says it will fight the order in court, which could prove expensive and raise questions by donors concerned that their money is being used for lawyers' fees. Here's a complete report from the ABQ Journal. Read on for our analysis.
AG King
The political nonprofit at the center of the storm over disclosing contributions and expenditures is lawyering up and pulling out all the PR stops. But none of it will avoid the inevitable collision. Center for Civic Policy executive director, Eli Lee, writes in an op-ed piece in the ABQ Journal that the people of NM deserve to know "from whom (legislators) receive financial contributions" but then he turns around and asserts the people have no right to know who is funding his nonprofit's expensive mail attacks on an assortment of legislators. His latest excuse is that release of the donors to the Center would subject them to "harassment." Does that mean we should halt already required financial disclosure because it is a threat to the public safety? Lee, under pressure, recently identified foundation donors, but not individual donors, to his group.

The political nonprofit has sent out loads of hit literature against legislators they claim is "educational" while the AG argues it is blatantly political. The enduring question is why Lee and his allies, who so forcefully promulgate disclosure by the campaigns of elected officials, are themselves so reticent to adopt this ethical behavior as their own, even as they claim to be self-appointed ethical watchdogs of our Legislature. If there were an indictment for being hypocritical, the grand jury would be looking at a true bill.

Lee has also not disclosed specific group expenditures, including his salary. Informed insiders tell us he may be getting as much as 20% of the gross donations. That would be about $329,000 if his group collects his projected amount over two years. (If our insider figure is inaccurate, we would be glad to provide updated information from the Center, or they can give it to the newspapers.)

King has been ridiculed by Center allies as a backwoods country lawyer. It now faces a legal fight over his quest to force full disclosure of the estimated $1.645 million the Center says it will take in this year and next (Although some say the recent publicity can't be helping the Center's fund-raising while others argue the legal trouble will spur it on). Center lawyers say King's action could lead to "unnecessary litigation." But we face the prospect of continued undisclosed funding coming into this state from far and wide, depriving us of the knowledge of who is trying to influence public policy here. Under those circumstances, litigation is something to look forward to, not shy away from.


On our use of the term "farolito bonfire" Monday, a reader writes: "Northern NM and Metro ABQ have opposite references for farolitos and luminarias. In the north, the bonfire is a luminaria and the candle in a lunch bag is a farolito. I think the north is technically correct because a farol is a lantern but my Mom from Belen never accepted that and my Dad from Las Vegas stopped arguing about it."

Maybe we should make it like red or green--either one is acceptable?

Keep us posted. E-mail your news and comments.

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