Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Udall Son-in-Law To Top Elections Post, Plus: More On The Political Nonprofits, And: They're Photo Blogging From Denver Confab
Tom Udall might have had mixed feelings when he heard that his son-in-law, Jim Noel, was about to be named state elections director in the secretary of state's office. No matter how competent Noel may be--and he has a good track record of public service--Udall foes were sure to cast a wary eye. And some did. The state GOP's new spokeswoman, Shira Rawlinson, pounced on the appointment, firing off this statement: "The hiring of Tom Udall's son in law as state elections director is a stunning conflict of interest. During an election that will be extremely competitive, it is entirely inappropriate that a close family member of one of the candidates be in charge of counting the votes." Scored the GOP. But the SOS's office rebuffed that notion: ""We have a fair and equitable agency up here and everybody is treated fairly. ... This is nonpartisan," argued James Flores from the hot seat at the SOS office.
Noel is the husband of Udall stepdaughter Amanda Cooper. She in turn is the campaign manger for her father's US Senate campaign. Noel won't actually be counting the votes. That job is reserved for each county clerk who report results to the secretary of state. But Noel, an attorney who leaves the NM Judicial Standards Commission for the secretary's office, will have a hand in administering election laws and overseeing the final Election Night count.
Having worked with Secretary Herrera over the years in media and PR, we know the Black Helicopter crowd is amiss if trying to see a vote-fixing conspiracy afoot. But did the appointment of Noel originate with the SOS, or did Big Bill, who Cooper has also served as a campaign manager, have a hand in the appointment?
Whatever the genesis of his appointment Noel, who will be paid $105,000 a year, has plenty of incentive to shoot straight and narrow. His days as an obscure state government bureaucrat are over. The harsh spotlight of La Politica will now shine on his performance, giving him the chance to prove his critics wrong and improve an election system sorely in need of improvement.
NONPROFITS FUNDING NON PROFITS
So, readers ask, what about the nonprofit foundations funding the political nonprofits that are being charged by the attorney general and secretary of state with violating their nonprofit status by mailing hit campaign literature? NM Youth Organized, an arm of the nonprofit Center for Civic Policy, has been ordered to report its donations and expenditures to the state, just like a regular political committee. The Center says it will go to court to avoid reporting.
The foundations giving big money to the Center, which is administered by political consultant Eli Lee, also benefit from their federally approved nonprofit status. They receive tax deductible donations. We asked Michael Chamberlain, chief operating officer for the NM Community Foundation, about their $52,000 donation to the Center for Civic Policy and whether, in light of the state's legal action, it presents any problems.
The New Mexico Community Foundation is a Section 501(c)(3) organization. One of the requirements...is that the Foundation neither directly nor indirectly participate or intervene in any political campaign. Accordingly, when the New Mexico Community Foundation makes a grant to another organization, the Foundation conditions the acceptance of the grant on the grantee agreeing to not using any of the grant funds received from the New Mexico Community Foundation in any way, directly or indirectly, to intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective office or for or against any political party.
Does the Foundation's indirect financing of NMYO which the AG says is engaging in illicit in campaign activity, jeopardize the nonprofit status of the NM Community Foundation and the other big non profits who have given tax-deductible donations? Chamberlain seems to think not, but we are entering uncharted territory, and who knows where this will eventually lead.
Here's more in this recent ABQ Journal editorial.
THE NUMBERS GAME
August polls are about as predictive as that seven day forecast Mark Ronchetti or Joe Diaz put out with a wink and a nod, so we don't put too much stock in the Mason-Dixon poll out this week that for the first time has McCain ahead in NM. It's 45% to 41%. Not that we don't believe it; we just don't believe much of anything right now, except that the prez race here is close. Rasmussen's latest has Obama ahead by six points 47% to 41%. Take your pick. There will be plenty more of them to come.
We would be remiss not to mention that the Mason-Dixon survey, conducted among 400 likely voters August 13-15, does show Governor Big Bill getting a higher favorable rating--56%--than the 49% Rasmussen gave him in an Aug. 20 poll and which we blogged on Monday. The average of the two is around 53%. The salient point remains: Bill's approval rating has plunged from its lofty levels, most likely because of his prez campaign that kept him out of the state, and the new economic realities facing voters and which are making them increasingly grumpy.
DOES RALPH MATTER?
We haven't talked much about the third party presidential candidates in our state this year, but now that Ralph Nader has scheduled a visit for ABQ and Santa Fe today, the topic is again timely. First the news, then the analysis.
"...The New Mexico Independent Party nominated Nader at a national convention in Los Angeles on August 16 ensuring that the candidates will be on the ballot in New Mexico. At 1:30 p.m., Mr. Nader...will speak at a "Nader for President 2008 Rally" in the UNM Student Union, Ballroom C. At 5:00 p. m. the candidate will host a Santa Fe news conference, followed by a rally at The Forum at the College of Santa Fe (between the Greer Garson Theater and the Library).
Nader scored 3.55% of the NM vote in 2000, but fell to 0.54% in 2004, when he managed only 4,053 votes. Dem Obama has attracted intense support in the cities of ABQ and Santa Fe where Nader derived much of his support. Unless something dramatic happens, there's no reason to expect a big third party vote for either Nader or Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, a former GOP congressman from Georgia. The Libs took 0.31% of the vote here in 2000. Barr, with a national following, will probably improve on that.
What do you mean you're not campaigning for Secretary of State in an Obama administration, Guv? Let's not be too humble about this. Not that we want those yummy government contracts that you coud steer New Mexico's way if you were SOS and not to mention other goodies we don't even know about. And not to mention it would be the highest cabinet level post ever achieved by a New Mexican. Somebody call Dave Contarino. The Guv has another campaign to run.
THEY'RE DOIN' DENVER
Here come the photos from the big doings in Denver. First up, is a NM delegate's snap of the state's place on the Dem convention floor. And then there is the leggy photo of a news anchor that the delegate captioned: "This one is for you, Joe." Well, with advance apologizes to the feminists, we put that one up as well. What's going on in that town, anyway?
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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