Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Capping The Campaign Cash For All; Senator's Measure Includes Nonprofits, Plus: A Jobs Question On General Mills, And: UNM Regents Circling Wagons? 

Sen. Wilson Beffort
Can Senator Dede get together with Senator Sue? If they could, we'd have a good chance of cleaning up a major source of unregulated cash going into political campaigns in these parts. That being the hundreds of thousands of dollars shoveled in by political nonprofits that claim--without tongue in cheek--that they are actually conducting issue "advocacy" and not targeting candidates when they mail hit pieces. Dede--ABQ Dem State Senator Feldman--has again come up with a measure to limit campaign contributions, but Sue--ABQ GOP Senator Sue Wilson Beffort--goes her one better. Unlike Feldman, she proposes (SB 262) limiting campaign contributions from nonprofits to $2300 per candidate per election. The same amount would apply to statewide candidates and political action committees. She also proposes a donation limit of $1000 for legislative candidates, below the $2300 Feldman is requesting.

Nonprofits, led by political operative Eli Lee, say because they are federally approved they aren't required to disclose where their money comes from or what they spend it on. The Attorney General disagrees and the matter is before the federal courts. Wilson Beffort's contribution limits for nonprofits would not necessarily make them reveal their funding sources but the amount of unaccountable money would diminish tremendously. The big money has been coming in here from "progressive" nonprofits, but conservative nonprofits are also currently free to play with as much money as they want and without meaningful accountability.

Feldman and the progressive coterie in Santa Fe have before them the door of compromise: a contribution cap that includes all players. If they walk through it, we could finally get a major campaign reform bill approved.


David Contarino
Frank Foy is dragging some pretty big reputations through the mud, but they are not the kind of players to take it lying down. Foy, alleging in a lawsuit that the Guv's former chief of staff, Dave Contarino, put on the pressure in a pay to play scheme involving certain state investments, got mucho push back when he made Contarino's name public Monday. It turned into a partisan slugfest featuring Foy attorney--former GOP State Senator Victor Marshall--and the voluble trial lawyer and Democrat Sam Bregman. They loudly jousted on the state's TV sets. You can read all about it here and see the shouting match here. As for Contarino, he called Foy's charge a "flat-out lie" and a "total fairy tale." Fairy tale or not, Tuesday's happening was certainly a circus.


Job one is New Mexico right now is jobs---the loss of them. The problem remains serious. From the Guv:

The Board of Finance...approved a $240,000 emergency loan to the Department of Workforce Solutions. The loan will cover costs of improvements Richardson ordered in response to increased demand from New Mexicans trying to access unemployment benefits in recent weeks.


What did ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez say on the tube the other night about the additional 60 jobs that General Mills says it will create now that the council has approved a big tax break for the company? Did he say that he understands that all the jobs can't go to ABQ residents? Does that mean the General Mills jobs--the high-paying ones in particular--are going to be imported? Is there no requirement that local workers be hired? Not that there's anything wrong with someone from out of town getting a good job here, but we need to get the straight facts on all things economic and business in this environment, especially when we are giving big tax breaks. Speaking of which, how about some breaks from our city council for struggling small businesses here? We're just asking...


We caught a glimpse of northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan on TV talking about the stimulus bill and how much of it would go directly into New Mexico's general fund to help cover the budget shortfalls. We haven't seen anything on the wires about it, so we asked his office for details:

There is a state stabilization fund that will receive an estimated $419 million over the next two fiscal years through the current House plan. Basically, it’s used to prevent cuts in state services.

So that would mean $200 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and another $200 million or so for the one that starts July 1st. If that money makes it to the President's desk, it's going to take a little pressure off of lawmakers as they grapple with big budget shortfalls. But problems have developed for Obama and the stimulus, casting doubt on whether that money will be available to our struggling Santa Fe solons.


University of New Mexico alligators say they see signs of a circling of the wagons by the school's Board of Regents. A committee of the seven member panel will meet Thursday and one agenda item reads: "Approval of Regents Resolution Regarding Leadership of UNM." This appears to be a response to the faculty circulating petitions that call for a no-confidence vote in the university's leadership, including Regents chair Jamie Koch. If so, the resolution is sure to set off more fireworks and more divisiveness at UNM--all of it during a legislative session focused on cutting the state budget.

Our UNM coverage has generated a number of e-mails. Let's check some out.

Anonymous---A word to the UNM President: Sir, do not give a raise to someone involved in a pay-to-play scandal, think before adding another Vice President, and take a play from the Governor's book, cut some administrative salaries--freezing salaries after the pay raises amounts to an empty gesture.

Jacob Salazar-- (UNM Executive Vice-President) David Harris gets a great raise, and they wonder why the morale is so low! Since being hired (President David) Schmidly has been all to willing to play in our little patron system. I seriously hope Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico wake up and smell the frijoles! Kudos to the UNM faculty!


Jeff Armijo is now completely out of politics. In Tuesday's ABQ election, he lost his seat on the CNM board. You'll recall that Jeff was forced to withdraw as the 2006 Dem candidate for State Auditor amid sex misconduct allegations leveled against him by two women. Those charges were all eventually dismissed. Dems replaced Armijo with Hector Balderas who went on to win the position.

Another incumbent, Mary Lee Martin of the ABQ School Board, was also defeated Tuesday, ending a 20 year run on the often controversial board. (Complete election results for CNM and APS are here.)

We ran into Jeff at the coffee shop recently.. We blogged him tough during his political problems, but he was stoic about his fate and not at all bitter. We think his auditor problems probably cost him his CNM seat yesterday. But he comes from a Socorro family that has been playing the game for generations and they will surely play again on the rough and tumble field of La Politica...

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