Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Already? Heinrich & Lujan Seek Campaign Cash Only Days After Taking Office; Bad Timing? Plus: Blogging The Beard, And: Lots More New Mexico Politics
The timing could have been better--to say the least. Just three days after being sworn in as ABQ's freshman congressman, Martin Heinrich was on the money trail and in the mailboxes seeking big dollars (click on posted images) for his 2010 re-election campaign. And he wasn't alone. Fellow freshman, Northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, was also shaking the cash tree, also announcing just days after he entered Congress that he is holding a Santa Fe fundraiser Jan. 17 at which $1000 individual donations are being elicited and $5000 donations from political action committees.
This, as the state reeled from the "pay to play" story hovering over Big Bill's administration in the form of a federal grand jury investigation. Democrats Heinrich and Lujan, like their veteran colleagues, are now caught up in the eternal money campaign which has caused so much disillusionment with politics. Even Heinrich, who worked for campaign reform when serving as an ABQ city councilor, can't escape the clutches of the system that keeps elected representatives constantly seeking cash.
While Heinrich and Lujan have to do what they have to do, hitting so soon after being sworn in and right in the middle of the traumatic Big Bill news could be viewed as a political blunder. The Heinrich money plea was sent out by Clara Apodaca a former NM first lady who is now executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, and who will host Heinrich's Jan. 25 high-dollar event. A politico who received the solicitation for Heinrich seeking donations up to $4600 reacted:
What's with Clara Apodaca sending out a fund raiser letter for Heinrich for the next campaign...only three days after he was sworn in? That question from anonymous swampland occupants who are tired of fund raisers--at all levels! Maybe the state should make it illegal for ANY fund raisers during the legislative session--not just state offices--but then comes the question of states' rights, feds vs state, etc. Oh what a tangled web!
Another e-mailer who received the invite, a Senior Alligator and Democrat, was even tougher, demonstrating the toxic atmosphere politicians are operating in.
I am a regular contributor to campaigns but I am increasingly disgusted with the need for such donations and then, to hear how the money is used, makes me want to throw-up. Parties, limousines and private jet travel. Pay to play indeed! We pay, they play.
The first veteran politico referenced the ban on campaign contributions to NM legislators while they are in session. There is no such law for Congress which meets year round. Heinrich's fundraiser will take place five days after the start of the 2010 legislative session. Our e-mailer is also right that after the years of fundraising NM went through for the '08 campaign, there is fatigue, not to mention an ailing economy. But you can be sure there are plenty of interests who will open up their wallets--even at this early date.
Still, couldn't Heinrich's and Lujan's political advisers pull the emergency plug on these parties when the news headlines hit over pay to play on January 4?
Heinrich's federal reports show he has less than $10,000 in debt, so there is no apparent urgent need for the extra-early fund-raising, other than the pressure of raising the millions it takes to run a congressional campaign. And speaking of the campaign, hold on to your hats. Heinrich has already announced the opening of his campaign offices:
A campaign office to begin preparations for the 2010 campaign, with Matt Ross, Deputy Finance Director for the 2008 campaign, as the initial staff director, will be opening in downtown Albuquerque in the first part of 2009.
Until there is systemic reform, raising money and conducting politics will take up nearly as much time as a congressman's legislative duties. There was a time when it wasn't so, but that was long ago and far away.
MORE SMOKE; NO FIRE
Bloomberg News, hot on the pay to play allegations that cost Big Bill his Commerce Secretary post, blows some more smoke about state bond deals, but flames are still not engulfing the Guv.
Jennifer Conn, who worked with Congressman Ben Ray Lujan while he was a member of the state Public Regulation Commission, has been named district director for Lujan, overseeing his offices in the state.
Do you think ABQ Democratic State Senator Linda Lopez is still upset with the Governor? If you said yes, you're right. From Santa Fe, this missive from the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee:
Today I conveyed a request to the Governor asking that he reconsider his lack of support for the Senate Rules Committee’s new confirmation process--a process which reflects the deepening sensitivity to ethics and good governmental conduct in the state. Last year the Committee brought greater accountability and credibility to the confirmation procedure, but our efforts were brought to a halt when the Governor ordered the Department of Public Safety to stop making appointee background checks available to the Committee.”
The Lopez blast seems timed to take advantage of any Big Bill weakness caused by the federal grand jury investigation into pay to play. Also, word is strong around the Roundhouse that Linda will vote with the Republicans to keep Senator Tim Jennings as Senate President Pro Tem and not the choice of the Dem caucus--Senator Carlos Cisneros. Lopez defeated a primary opponent last year who she believes was backed by Governor Bill as well as progressive elements of the Dem party who now back Cisneros.
City Councilor Debbie O'Malley made official her mayoral candidacy over the weekend, saying one of her chief goals would be to build a $400 million downtown arena/hotel complex arena. She says the project would stimulate the economy. But, according to insider polling, taxpayers don't want their wallets "stimulated" by the expensive project which as presently proposed would likely mean a tax increase. Voters may be asked to approve the arena deal in a mail-in election this spring, but if the polling has it right, Debbie, Mayor Marty and other arena backers are going to be cheer leading before empty seats.
And Marty is campaigning, too, even though he has not officially announced his candidacy for his third term in a row and fourth overall. From Government Center:
Mayor Chávez will host an Online Town Hall today (Jan. 14) at 5:30 pm. To participate please sign up here.
DUB IS DONE
SE NM State Rep. "Dub" Williams is hanging up his legislative spurs. He announced his retirement Monday and the Otero and Lincoln County commissions will recommend to the governor replacements for the Republican lawmaker who served in the House since 1995.
From Santa Fe, the office of the Governor with the official statement:
“While I understand his decision I am saddened at the news of Dub Williams’ retirement from the state Legislature. Dub is the walking definition of the term “gentleman.” The Legislature will sorely miss his considered engagement and even hand."
Dub is retiring for health reasons.
We wondered Tuesday if Big Bill's beard is back. Indeed it is, reports Bill Dupuy, news director at Santa Fe public radio station KSFR-FM. He sent along an audio clip in which the New Mexican's Steve Terrell asks Bill "if the beard is back." The Guv responds in the affirmative. And the proof is on the gubernatorial cheeks as seen in the photo snapped by the New Mexican and we posted here.
And if that isn't enough proof, former barber Preciliano Martin is one of our blog readers and says:
As a former barber who now wears a beard I am here to tell you he is growing it back. And odds are it is here to stay. Once you wear a beard, it is hard to get rid of. Going without exposes the double chins and jowls that you did not notice before you grew a beard the first time. And if Obama said Bill looked better with it, well there you go.
From the White House to the barber's chair, we cover it all...
HE'S NOT THAT JOSE
From the e-mail bag, comes this from a NM state rep:
Dear Joe, I truly enjoy reading your blog and do so on a regular basis. You can imagine how surprised I was to see that a caption (on Monday's photo caption contest blog) was attributed to me, or rather to someone with my same name. I want to make it perfectly clear, that that "Jose Campos" and I are not one and the same. Thank you,
State Representative Jose Campos,
Thank you, Jose. And good luck during the upcoming legislative session.
SO LONG, NED
Newspaperman Ned Cantwell has been at it for 35 years. His most recent effort is a widely read syndicated humor column on New Mexico politics and people and our often offbeat ways. He e-mails me from Ruidoso to announce it is over:
After 35 years, I want to see what life feels like without a weekly deadline. You'll get there yourself, Joe, trust me. Ned
Thanks, Ned. Here is your final column. As for getting where you are, that time will come for all of us in La Politica. May we go gently and, like you, without regret.
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