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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Thursday Blog: Di's Latest Dough, Patsy Talks Comeback, Harry Reid To ABQ; Double-Dipper E-Mail, And: Our Coke Contest Winner And Even More Stuff 

Diane Denish came with another strong campaign finance report Wednesday, reminding any potential Dem challengers (Hello, Michael Sanchez) for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The news that the lieutenant governor raised $512,000 in the second quarter will also be heard loudly by Heather Wilson, the remaining heavyweight R on the sidelines who insiders see as having the best chance of derailing the Denish express. Wilson has not yet ruled out a run. Five other R's have either formed a committee or expressed serious interest. With this report, Denish has laid down a marker for them when they come with the first required finance reports in October. Denish has been releasing her reports more frequently than the loose state laws require. Dems say its an example her R' challengers should also adopt as the campaign season heats up. The AP's Barry Massey goes long and deep on the numbers. Denish's full report is posted on her Web site. Scroll down the page.

ABQ Dem Martin Heinrich came with his federal finance report Wed. and he flexed some financial muscle, showing he raised $332,000 in the second quarter and now has $474,000 in cash on hand. You've got to like his position and wonder if the national R's will come with money to match him. They need to keep their powder dry for that big southern US House face-off between Rep. Teague and GOP challenger Pearce.

Denish appears to be making a conscious decision to not to go for outlandish sized contributions. She did not take any over $10,000. There are no limits on donations--those don't take effect until 2011--but the $50,000 and $75,000 donations that drew so much attention (and trouble) for Governor Bill could also spell trouble for Di in a recessionary environment. Such largesse would not only raise suspicions of pay to play, but also appear out of kilter with the stark economic reality many voters face.

Di spent around $240,000 in the April quarter, netting her about $260,000. She said she started the quarter with $1.6 million cash on hand. That cash is now $1.9 million. While she is raising considerable funds, she is also now in a heavier spending cycle. Since she started raising money for the Guv's race, Denish has brought in a total of $2.215 million from about 3,000 donors. Only her most fierce detractors would naysay that performance.

ETHICS EYE

In past finance reports, Denish has listed her paid campaign staffers and the amounts of their salaries. Here's an example from a past report she filed with the Sec. of State. But in this most recent report no staffers or salaries are listed. All payroll is now administered by "The Payroll Company" a firm that specializes in such matters. We asked the campaign why the switch? A spokesman said state law does not require such disclosure, only federal law, but, he added, if the GOP Guv candidates release the names and salaries of their staffers, the Denish campaign will do the same. After we asked, the campaign did release the names of the current staffers, but not their salaries. They are:

Robert Lara, Megan Dawson, Andrew Marshal, J. R. Starrett, Tomas Talamante, Joe Casados and Steve Fitzer.

As for the state law not requiring the salary info, it is another example of the state's disclosure laws falling behind those on the books elsewhere. But you already knew that.

Perhaps the issue is a bit subterranean but the onus is on Denish and the Dems to go the extra mile on the transparency front. By voluntarily releasing more frequent campaign reports, she has done so and won deserved credit. Considering that the myriad of current pay to play investigations involve campaign fund-raising and campaign personnel, full disclosure in this particular election cycle would seem more than prudent and a point of more than idle interest to the public.

GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh said he will release on his October money report the names and salaries of his campaign staff.

We are not using a payroll company. We are just getting started, so we don't have a lot to report, but I have no problem disclosing who is working for us and what they are getting paid.

We would expect the other GOP Guv candidates to go with Weh on this one and that Denish would then follow suit. The candidates and those who work in the campaigns ought to know that this information is going to be in the public arena. If not, they don't belong in the arena.

PATSY FOR LAND COMMISSIONER?

Did we just hear someone say: "Whatever happened to Patsy Madrid?" Well, she is still alive and well. And guess what? She's entertaining a re-entry into the bright lights of La Politica by weighing a run for---drumroll, please---the Democratic nomination for State Land Commissioner. Several of her friends passed the word to us. We haven't spoken to the former two-term attorney general, but it wouldn't surprise us if she tossed her hat in the ring. There was much talk about her running for governor, but her 2006 ABQ congressional defeat took the bloom off of that rose.

Years ago Patsy battled with Diane Denish for the Dem Light Guv nod. If she won the land office primary she would finally be running with Di, not against her. But what, you ask, about former Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. who is already off and running for the nomination. Poor Ray. He was bushwhacked by Jim Baca for the 2006 Dem land nod when the Spanish North came thru for Jim. He went on to lose the general election to Republican Pat Lyons. It looked as if the coast was all clear for Ray this time, and it still may be--if he can get Patsy on the horn and talk her down. But with Madrid's political pedigree, that may be like asking the bee to stay away from the honey. Oh yeah, stay tuned.

BREAKING POLITICAL NEWS
Sen. Reid
These Alligators are keeping us busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Now they break the exclusive news that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be in ABQ August 12 for a fund-raising lunch. And he won't be raising money for New Mexico candidates. Harry is locked in a tight battle of his own as he seeks re-election to his Nevada seat. The lunch at ABQ's Embassy Suites will be hosted by NM US Senators Bingaman and Udall with a suggested donation of $500. That really doesn't sound that high for a sitting majority leader, does it? Sign of the times.

With Di and the Guv gang out there sucking up all the money they can and the recession shutting the purses, Harry better get into our town pronto if he wants to score his share. And Harry, while you're here don't forget that funding for Sandia and Los Alamos. And also the Tacos, and also the...well, you get the idea. Heck, we ran a nice pic of you, didn't we?

Thanks to one of our Senior Alligators for that late-night breaker. So what if we had to delay watching re-runs of Boston Legal.

DOUBLE-DIPPERS SPIKE E-MAIL

Maybe we should hire on Larry Barker because his KRQE-TV news report on double-dipping that we posted here yesterday drew a bunch of comments. Double-dippers are state employees who briefly retire from their jobs, start collecting retirement checks only to get rehired to their government jobs and then collect both a retirement and a regular paycheck. The Governor vetoed a bill to stop the practice. We blogged that it hurts the retirement fund for state employees--PERA. But the e-mail had different takes. Doug Crandall wrote:

The major misconception is that the return to work employees hurt the fund. From everything I know, that is simply untrue and, in fact, totally counterintuitive. The salary of the return to work employee is charged with both the full employee and employer contribution, just like a regular employee. The difference is that both contributions remain with the PERA or ERA fund forever, subsidizing the retirement plan, not draining it.

But according to Dem State Rep. Lucky Varela in the
New Mexican, the double-dippers do pose a risk to PERA:

Double-dippers no longer have to contribute to PERA, which has solvency problems and has lost millions of dollars from its investments, he said.


The KRQE news report said Attorney General King would investigative the double-dipping, but Arcy Baca was not impressed:

What credibility does Gary King have? He was behind the Governor vetoing the bill to put a stop to the double dippers. If you remember, he stated it was because of a friend or family friend that he took the position.

EVEN MORE DOUBLE DIPPING


Syndicated columnist Jay Miller came with this:

If the Guv wouldn't have vetoed the legislation (on advice from the AG) this wouldn't be happening...Cities throughout the state are doing this... Temp agencies are lining their pockets on the deal too by placing these folks on contract enabling them to have no break in service. Even the small towns are doing it, saying that they have no other way to fill those positions. This cries out for another legislative effort to tighten the screws even more than the vetoed legislation did...


We're crying out with you, Jay.

"Retired" government workers drawing large retirement checks along with government salaries often pushes their total take to over $150,000 a year. Clearly, that is not what taxpayers intended. The other obvious argument is that these double dippers stay around forever, preventing new blood from coming into government. Our final e-mail on the subject makes the point:

Joe, this double dipping is another way the baby boomers continue to take more than their share. When they retire and go back to the same job, they fill a job that should be going to a younger generation. It seems appropriate only when no one else has the skills to fill the job or the retiree comes back to train someone...

SUSANA AND THE TUBE

We blogged Wednesday that we don't recall seeing Dona Ana County District Attorney and soon to be 2010 GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez on ABQ TV, despite being DA since 1997. But the media mavens with long memories say that's not so. While Martinez has hardly been a regular presence and certainly not in recent years, she has made some news here--long ago. Bruce Daniels of the ABQ Journal notes:

Martinez and her prosecutors were all over Albuquerque television and the papers when she prosecuted Jesse Avalos Jr. and Jason Desnoyers for the 1998 rape, beating and murder of NMSU freshman Carly Martinez (no relation) in a trial that was moved to Albuquerque on a change of venue from Las Cruces.

And former TV reporter and ABQ Metro Court spokeswoman Janet Blair reminds us:

I covered Martinez here in ABQ back in around 2004 when she successfully prosecuted five defendants at once in the hideous death of Baby Briana. The trial was moved here on a change of venue due to too much publicity in LC. She was on the air daily in connection with that trial for a period of maybe ten days or two weeks. Still pretty minimal exposure in this market.

Maybe we didn't recall Susana being on ABQ TV because it has been so long. Still, our point stands. She comes to the race with little statewide name ID. Not that she can't change that.

Another e-mailer, GOP D.C. political consultant Joshua Baca, says he often disagrees with us, but not on the Martinez analysis:

...You are dead on about your analysis of Susana Martinez. Impressive lady--I agree. Game changer? Definitely not..When I read the headline on the NM Independent of "Game Changer" and before reading the full article, I thought "Wow! Is Pete Domenici coming out of retirement to run for Gov?"

No, Pete is not running, but the R's would draft him if they could.

EVEN MORE E-MAIL BLOGGING

Even more e-mail action on this mid-July day as your blog reaches far and wide. One of our sources said here Wednesday the Secretary of State's office launched an investigation of its Web employee, Brad Allen, because he refused to release certain passwords. Allen denies that is the case:

The Secretary of State's office has never informed me as to what I am being investigated for nor have they informed me as to who is conducting the investigation. I provided the SOS office with every password they requested. The SOS has five other IT Staff members all of whom should have had there own Administrative Accounts (passwords).

Brad is on paid administrative leave while the "unknown" investigation goes on:

I call into the office every work day morning at 8:30 AM.


We'll see who has the story right when it all plays out, but right now no one is talking on the record. It all seems sort of Kafkaesque. There is an investigation going on, but no one will say what is being investigated.

AND THE WINNER IS.....

We may have ventured too deeply into obscure corners when coming up with two questions for our free Coca-Cola contest. But it seems nothing is that obscure for our readers, many of whom live and breathe La Politica.

Liz Gallegos of ABQ came with the fifth correct answer to the questions: Who was chief of staff to NM Governor Toney Anaya ('83-'87) and who was the newspaper editor who dubbed a famous group of early 1970's liberal state representatives "The Mama Lucy Gang?" The answers are Shirley Scarfiotti and Mark Acuff, the editor of the New Mexico Independent--a sharply edited weekly paper of New Mexico politics and opinion. It was the Acuff answer that tripped up many of the entrants. Mark is now deceased, but old timers like former State Sen. Tom Rutherford and TV news anchor Rodger Beimer were quick to recall him.

As for Liz, how did she know the answers, considering they could not be found by a quick Google, but required personal knowledge? Her background was key:

I am a lifelong ABQ resident and lifelong Democrat and was an aide to Governors Apodaca and King (Constituent Services), an aide to Senator Jeff Bingaman and an aide to then State Corporation Commissioner Gloria Tristani . I ran for Secretary of State in 1998 and served two years as President of the Democratic Women of Bernalillo County. I currently serve as a precinct chair...I am now employed with the federal government at USDA-Rural Development. Over the years I have worked on numerous campaigns and also ran several campaign offices.

Pretty impressive background. With readers like Liz, maybe we should worry about making the contest questions even more obscure, not less.

Liz wins a free six month supply of Coca-Cola products. For you bean counters, that's eight cases of 12 ounce cans of the winner's choice of Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Coke Zero or Sprite. Says Coke Vice-President Edward Lopez:

Congratulations to Liz. Sounds like even the old timers had to think about these questions. All we ask the winner is that they please recycle the containers when they're doneā€¦just like the people in the Coke advertisement your site links to.

We'll soon have another free Coke contest for you as we do our best to help you beat the summer heat. As for the blogging, how the heck did we allow ourselves to go this long on a beautiful summer's day. Is it Friday yet? Somebody hand me an eight iron....

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