Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is She Having Fun Yet? Rivalry For Dem Chair Tests Di; It's A "Northern Thing"; Plus: Don't Show Us The Money--Court Rules On Nonprofits 

Javier Gonzales & Denish
All we can say for Diane Denish is we hope she's having fun. She doesn't need the money, she has her health and is at an age where most of her contemporaries are comfortably touring London in one of those double-decker buses or buying summer furniture for their Angel Fire cabins. But here she is, the Lieutenant Governor hoping to become Guv, facing a task more suited for a lion tamer or an alligator wrestler. We speak of the mostly behind-the-scenes contest for the chairmanship of the NM Democratic Party that has popped up in the wake of the news that Chair Brian Colon intends to step down and run for lt. guv.

It's just what Di needed--a rivalry for the post between two Hispanic men from Santa Fe County--David Montoya, biz consultant and now Sandoval Democratic Party chairman and Javier Gonzales, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner, who, like Montoya, is a biz consultant and is now a member of the NMSU Board of Regents.

What's the problem, you ask? Mediating this one should be child's play for an Anglo gal from Hobbs. Very funny. Although we hear the public schools in Little Texas are pretty darn good, we understand they do not have classes in the art of the Movida, settling disputes among families whose blood lines go back four centuries or how to grasp that what you have been told is not necessarily what you heard. In fact, the only "school" for that stuff may be in a secret Morada in a cave in Mora County.


Di's previous adventures along the ancient paths of La Politica should help keep her on course over the next several days during which the chair issue is likely to be settled. After all, she still carries scars from long ago battles with Stephanie Gonzales, Patricia Madrid and Linda Lopez. Now she must be wondering if the guys of El Norteño are going to inflict a few cuts. Not if she can help it. (And if you don't recognize the names of those Di gal pals, we suggest you start out on the junior blogs and work you're way up to here).

From the chatter we could pick up, Denish may have been a bit blindsided by the Colon resignation news, but she was not about to immediately shove a chairman down anyone's throat. That went out of style when Obama came in. But letting the dogs out and letting them fight it out for a couple of weeks before the meeting where the Dem Party Central Committee will pick a new chair is an equally unappealing option.

That was the backdrop Monday as insiders reported Di took a meeting with Montoya and we presume did the same with Javier or moved to set one up. The best option for her is that someone starts blinking--really fast and really quick. Meanwhile, one expects Di is dialing across the Democratic spectrum, seeking advice to decide which way she will quietly, but firmly tilt.


Gonzales has played with the notion of running for a variety of elective offices--Congress and Lieutenant Governor for two--but playing and being a player are two different things. Is he just playing again?

Montoya got ahead of the curve by campaigning among party regulars for the chair job well in advance of the news of Colon's planned resignation. Did he get too far ahead of where Di wanted? Is it his turn to blink?

There are other possibles making noise over this thing, but it's like the children's table at Thanksgiving. Let the adults talk.

And, no, we didn't forget about everyone's favorite elephant in the room. All of this is happening under the watchful eye of Big Bill who just happens to still be Governor, even if Greg Fouratt may have different ideas.

Bill has closer ties to Gonzales than Montoya, but both potential chairs have warm ties to state House Speaker Lujan who is an important ally of Bill's and whose son, Ben Ray, happens to be the Northern congressman. Okay, we won't sugarcoat it. When Bill became Secretary of Energy, David's mom, who worked for Bill's predecessor, Federico Pena, was swept out of a job.

What can we say? It's a northern thing. A gringo from Pennsylvania can explain--and understand--only so much.


We don't think we'll be seeing a billboard announcing a 15 round bout of "Montoya vs. Gonzales" at Isleta Casino. The two are known as friends and the peace could be made before the two go to the mattresses. But no matter how the issue of a new chair is settled, it will reflect more on the woman who would be Governor than on who grabs the gavel from the hands of Brian Colon. And guess what? If everything goes perfect, she gets absolutely no credit. But if one thing goes wrong? Well, you know the answer to that.

Politics this complicated is enough to send anyone retreating to that Angel Fire cabin. But retreat is not an option when seeking the rewards available only to those who stake claim to the title of Governor of New Mexico.

'08 Hit Lit (click to enlarge)
The genie out of the bottle known as unaccountable campaign spending by IRS protected nonprofits apparently is going to stay out of the bottle until we get the Congress and/or the Legislature to do something. That appears to be the bottom line of a federal court ruling Monday that said the progressive nonprofits that mailed out what appeared to be campaign lit against incumbent legislators in the 2008 election do not have to register with the state as political committees. That would mean they would have to tell us who is giving them their donations and exactly how they are spending the money. In other words, we appear to be getting quasi-political parties in America that are going to operate without any transparency. The irony that this secrecy was started by primarily progressive groups is lost on no one. They argue what critics see as campaign lit is actually educational material.

But it is not only progressive nonprofits led by consultant Eli Lee fostering secrecy. Recently, the conservative-oriented Southwest Citizens Coalition, headed up by Farmington's Allen McCulloch, hit with radio attack ads against Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague. Like their liberal counterparts, they say they will not disclose who gives them their money.

The lit sent out by the nonprofits in 2008 struck us as blatant electioneering and clearly intended to circumvent disclosure laws and take advantage of IRS rules exempting the public reporting of donors and expenditures. Attorney General King urged the Secretary of State to demand that the nonprofits file disclosure reports like other committees. She did. The nonprofits sued and Monday they won. (Complete court ruling here.)

But look who has just hopped on the disclosure bandwagon--or at least put one leg in it. Why, it's that original progressive, former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca:

It probably would not hurt to know where some of this money comes from. What is wrong with a little sunshine?

Welcome aboard, Jim. We've been waiting for you. Now if you could just convince your young political progeny to join you.

Federal Judge Judith Herrera, (a Republican appointed by President Bush), assessed the mailings at issue in this specific case and ruled they did not fall under the state's reporting requirement. She did, however, leave the door open a crack for future challenges to what we term "political nonprofits:"

The...organizations’ broader reasons for existence are not relevant to this determination, as (the Secretary of State) has admitted that she did not classify them as political committees for any reason other than the mailings. In granting summary judgment to (the nonprofits) , the Court is not saying that there are no circumstances under which (the nonprofits) could qualify as political committees, only that the reason advanced by (the SOS) for her classification is invalid...

The progressive nonprofits are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars--if not millions of undisclosed dollars--and their conservative brethren will now likely do the same.

If Judge Herrera were asked to rule on hypocrisy, she could have thrown the book at the lot of them.


From reader Jose Campos:

Joe, (Dem Party Chairman) Brian Colon was raised in Bosque Farms, not Belen (as we blogged Monday), and graduated from Los Lunas High School.

Colon was born in New York....

Auditor Balderas
Colon helped engineer the election of fellow attorney Hector Balderas as state auditor in 2006. It was no surprise then that Hector immediately announced he would seek re-election as auditor in 2010 as soon as Brian let word leak that he was resigning as Dem chair and going for Light Guv.

Hector's name has been bandied about for a variety of political offices, but he came in after the epic 2005 Treasurer scandal. Expectations are high for reform. Now that he has his immediate political future settled, he should have more focus. Maybe that nasty squabble he has been having with Attorney General King can also be settled.

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