Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Political Nonprofit Contagion Could Spread; NM GOP Leader Weighs In, Plus: Following Darren And Martin's Money--Again, And: A Letter From Los Lunas 

GOP Chairman Yates
We've been among those pounding the table over nonprofit groups flooding the political system with millions of unaccountable dollars, and today there's another reason to do so. In NM, the nonprofits have been mainly of the liberal variety but now NM Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. is talking out loud about forming nonprofits to combat the libs:

State campaign finance limits will stifle fundraising for Republicans in the coming election, Yates said. So to compete with Democrats, conservatives could form 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) nonprofit, tax-exempt groups, which Democrats have used for fundraising, he said.

"Defensively, the conservatives are going to have to do the same if they cannot work through the Republican Party," Yates said. "Under the new legislation, they will have great difficultly working through the Republican Party because the Republican Party can donate to a candidate no more than $5,000."The nonprofits may raise money without reporting contributions, Yates said.

The progressive nonprofits burst into the headlines and became embroiled in controversy last year when they were active in a number of Dem legislative primaries. One of our Senior Alligators who tracks the nonprofit action provides some refresher info:

..An outfit called the Proteus Fund (out of Amherst, MA), along with the McKay Family Foundation (the Taco Bell heirs), have teamed up with the local likes of the NM Community Foundation and others to recast the political and policy landscape in six states (NM included).

According to a document recently pulled from public view (but which I printed out beforehand), on the Proteus website, groups led by NM consultant Eli Lee have received and spent about $2 million over the last couple years. Their budgets were 650k in '07, and $1.3 million in '08. No word on what they're getting for '09, and we may never know because they don't have to report either sources or expenditures.

The Legislature made a stab at plugging the giant nonprofit hole, but came up short this session. The nonprofits are now in federal court fighting to continue their federally exempt tax status, arguing they are not campaigning but advocating for issues and don't have to tell the public where they get their money or where they spend it. However, many veteran observers say the NM activity in the 2008 was blatantly political. Attorney General King and Sec. of State Herrera both want these groups to register as political committees and report their money.

Will the possible addition of unaccountable funds from conservatives flooding into state campaigns prompt liberals and progressives not affiliated with the nonprofits to take a second look and treat this like the "ethics" issue it is? Or is hidden money acceptable as long as you agree with the goals it is spent on?

If the nonprofit octopus continues to grow tentacles, the US Attorney in NM may soon have some more work.

Darren White
Where is the first round of cash coming from to fund Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's political action committee to repeal the repeal of the NM death penalty? D.C. Alligators send word that Republican White finished his unsuccessful 2008 ABQ congressional race with about $20,500 in cash. They said he could use that money for the state PAC, although if he did it would not be known until first quarter reports are filed later this month. White is not known to have had any formal fund-raising efforts so it's probably a good bet that he tapped his leftover congressional money.

White's repeal committee made a small TV buy to launch the effort, but legal experts say the quest of the Sheriff to get as many as 100,000 petition signatures to place the measure before the public may be for naught. They say the state Constitution prohibits a ballot initiative for public safety measures.


Meanwhile, the man who defeated White for the ABQ congressional seat, Dem Martin Heinrich, has been busy on the fund-raising front. Supporters of Heinrich say they expect him to show some solid numbers in his first federal report since assuming office. The freshman lawmaker is in pretty good shape politically, even if his campaign coffers were not getting stuffed. Usually by this time there are rumblings of possible opponents for a House freshman since they are most vulnerable in their first bid for re-election. But a check with party insiders reveals no names being circulated to challenge Heinrich in either the Dem primary or in the 2010 general. The R's are sure to find a candidate, but who remains a mystery. Not that Heinrich's fund-raisers are overjoyed about that. They would like to be able to raise more money by being able to point to a specific threat to his re-election.

One of our reliables is reporting that Ned Farquhar is being tapped for an Interior Department post. No word on which slot. Farquhar is a former enviornmental advisor to Big Bill. More recently, Farquhar has been on the ABQ staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council, serving as Energy and Climate Advocate for the nonprofit group in nine states in the Interior West. He has also authored a regular environmental column for the op-ed pages of the ABQ Journal.

Late word: Farquhar was named deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, announced Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday. Here is the announcement.

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

News of the Farquhar appointment comes on the heels of the news that Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta is also apparently headed to DC and Interior. Earlier, Mike Connor of Las Cruces was tapped by President Obama to lead the Bureau of Reclamation.

Farquhar's appointment may not go down all that well with industry groups that have tangled with the NRDC, but his political experience with Richardson should help. Most important, New Mexico is starting to build a small corp of appointees in the new administration, vital for the well-being of this federally-dependent state.


Who says the R's, on the defense with shrinking numbers in the Legislature, can't get something passed? ABQ Senator Boitano fought for years and this year finally won the battle to Webcast Senate sessions. And then there was this GOP score as described by Big Bill's office:

Governor Richardson has signed SB 136, Veteran In-State Tuition. The new law allows any veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces--along with their spouse and dependents, no matter where they live--to pay New Mexico resident tuition rates at any certified institution of higher learning or vocational center in New Mexico...B 136 was sponsored by (Republican) Sen. William Payne of Albuquerque...

ABQ's Payne is the R's new Senate Minority Whip and a lawyer who holds the rank of Rear Admiral in the US Navy. Dem Ed Sandoval carried the bill in the House.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A former prosecutor from northern New Mexico has been hired as director of the state bureau of elections. Secretary of State Mary Herrera announced today that A.J. Salazar will assume the post of elections director on April 20th. Salazar will be paid $95,000 a year.


The ABQ Journal's Bruce Daniels--the paper's "News Seeker" was recently listed here as one of the Journal veterans who'd be retiring in a couple of months, but Bruce says while he will be reducing his hours, he will still be on the dawn patrol:

.. I'm actually going to be around a little while longer. I'll still be doing the News Seeker in some fashion or other starting on June 1, but on contract with the Journal, at reduced hours. So I'll still be swiping your stuff at the crack of dawn.

Dawn is a good time to swipe from a Midnight blogger.


A longtime correspondent writes of the recent Valencia County Democratic Party convention:

Greetings and Salutations from the Kingdom of Valencia,

Chairman Moises Griego was re-elected Valencia County Chair unanimously in a rare show of solidarity. The Vice Chair is Michele Mares which is interesting in that she recently left the staff of Light Governor Denish and was picked up by the Secretary of State....Both Denish and (Secretary of State Mary) Herrera were in attendance. Denish and husband Herb stayed for the whole show. Ana Pope was elected to her third term as State Central Committee person. And former State Representative Al Otero postponed an operation to introduce Lt. Governor Denish.

As always, your humble servant....

We lost track of Al Otero who served in the Legislature from the Valley of Bernalillo County from '83 to '88. According to its Web site, Al is now working as a special assistant for the head of the NM Workers Compensation Administration and lives in the Los Lunas area.

Thanks for making us New Mexico's "must-read" Web site. E-mail your news, comments and political happenings.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dem Battle For Sec. Of State May Be Coming, Plus: More Play For Commission Seat, And: NM R's Ponder Future, Also: Where Will New NM Jobs Come From? 

Valerie vs. Mary?
The 2010 political landscape continues to take shape with another statewide office possibly headed toward a heated Democratic primary contest. We told you about the developing face-off for the Dem nod for Land Commissioner featuring Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya and former Land Commissioner Ray Powell. Now, Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza appears to be inching closer to taking on incumbent Secretary of State Mary Herrera in what would be another closely watched showdown. Espinoza toyed with a run in 2006 when Herrera, then Bernalillo County Clerk, ascended to the SOS office. But this time around she appears more determined, telling us in a recent email:

I am heavily considering and confident that I’d have a shot...I have gained much support from those who deal with the office on a professional level. I’m so tempted based on the need to make that office function. I will decide before June.

Espinoza, serving her second four year term as Santa Fe clerk, had a grandfather who was a State Senator. She grew up in the heart of the north--in Española--where her family had a gas station across the street from the restaurant owned by the famous politico Emilio Naranjo. Espinoza worked at Los Alamos Labs for 20 years and for five years in the Secretary of State's Office under Shirley Hooper.

An Herrera-Espinoza primary could be competitive, despite Mary's incumbency. Valerie could poll well with Northern Dems and Mary is well-known in Bernalillo County. The south could be up for grabs. Of course, another contender could get in and change that calculus, or Espinoza, who has proven to be an adept fund-raiser, could forgo a run.

Herrera has had a relatively placid term, but Espinoza's supporters claim she has done nothing memorable. The press has been impatient with the SOS for not getting the office's Web site up to snuff when it comes to candidate financial reports. But Herrera was recently named president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, is well-liked in the party and has a strong ethical reputation.


It's interesting to see possible primary battles develop for SOS and Land Commissioner while we still await word on who--if anyone of stature--will definitely challenge Lt. Governor Diane Denish for the Dem Guv nomination. Insiders still say State Senate Leader Michael Sanchez is unlikely to go and Attorney General Gary King does not seem excited by the prospect. That could leave only actor Val Kilmer standing between Denish and the Democratic nomination. The way this state has been trending, it is going to a nomination worth its weight in gold.

Fresh stuff for you on that behind-the-scenes play for the Bernalillo County Commission seat held by Deanna Archuleta and who insiders say is headed for a job in the Obama Interior Department, perhaps as soon as this month. Lawyer and ABQ School Board member Marty Esquivel has been on the short list to win appointment to the seat by Big Bill if and when Deanna vacates, but Marty checks in with the news that he not playing:

Thanks for the mention in your fine blog...Wanted to let you know I took myself out of the running for the county commission spot. It was a great opportunity, but just is not the right fit for me, my family or my law practice at this time. I’ll continue on the school board as president and as coach of my son’s little league team. I’m not sure which one will kill me first.

Thanks for that compliment, Marty. Of course, it has nothing to do with us pushing you to run for Congress a couple of years ago. And before the R's grumble, we feel the same about R Jon Barela when it comes to giving the system fresh blood--or an enema--whichever medical procedure you find most appropriate. Anyway, back to the action already....

Downtown insiders now say they see former commissioner Lenton Malry as a leading prospect to win the appointment. Lenton was the first African-American to serve in the NM Legislature and was previously elected to the Archuleta seat in the ABQ SE Heights area. He has been working for the county as a neighborhood coordinator and recently went part-time. (He has also been an Election Night fixture on KANW-89.1 FM with yours truly since 1988.) One question: If Malry, 68, does secure the Guv's appointment, will he be a placeholder or run for a four year term in 2010?

Former county commissioner, lawyer and lobbyist Tom Rutherford has also been mentioned as a possible and Danny Hernandez, a member of the AMAFCA flood control board, called in to let us know he's interested. As for Deanna, she's not saying what the future holds, but she was spotted at Walgreen's---picking up a prescription for Potomac Fever.


A bit of drama livened up an otherwise routine meeting Saturday of the Bernalillo County GOP. A defense contractor physicist, Charlie Tipton, was elected as the new county chairman after defeating two other contenders. Michael Meyer, an investment advisor, was expected to run and win, but dropped out. One of those defeated was Tito Madrid, a former field operative for ex-ABQ US Rep. Heather Wilson. A Wilson supporter says it was not a rejection of Heather because she was not urging delegates to support Madrid.

Also on hand for the session was ex-US Rep. Steve Pearce, and one of our Alligators reported:

I saw the two of them (Steve and Heather) talking cordially which tells me that they will not be running against each other.

Well, at this stage of their careers these two old pros could manage to act cordial while locked in a room with deadly tarantulas, but it does seem unlikely that we will have a rematch of the '08 US Senate primary in which the duo faced off and Steve won. Wilson is still on the fence on whether to make the move for the GOP Guv nod. Pearce continues to eye a possible run for his former southern congressional seat, or perhaps a run at Governor--if Heather stays on the sidelines.


Informed observers say NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates seems to want to keep the party on the right, believing that the GOP was not conservative enough in '08, causing its historic NM defeat. Others strongly disagree, saying the party needs to push to the middle as it did in the past when the term "moderate Republican" was not an anachronism. They argue that bedrock conservatism has seen its peak for now, and was never that defining in moderate New Mexico. Still, few were willing to step forward and lead the troubled party. Yates was and it is his ball to run with.

If Yates goes too far right some GOP analysts believe there could be yet another day of reckoning in 2010. If so, the optimists among them see the small party finally building a coalition from the center that could bring back some semblance of power.

All of this is music to the ears of the Dems who now have more control than perhaps anytime in the post WWII era. The state's entire congressional delegation, the governorship, the two chambers of the Legislature, all statewide executive offices, excepting one, and the vast majority of the 33 counties are all under the Democratic banner.

Republicans may be shut out, but not conservatives and the few moderate R's that populate the area. Like the old days when the Dems dominated and the R's were on the mat, there is a conservative-moderate Dem faction to check the liberals from going too far. That was amply demonstrated in January with the election of Roswell Sen. Tim Jennings as President Pro Tem.


Will Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White seek the GOP nod for Lt. Governor in 2010 or some other office? It seems he wants to try to extend his political career, despite the waxing he received in last year's ABQ congressional race. White has formed a political action committee to repeal the repeal of the death penalty recently signed into law by Big Bill. The PAC has started a Web site and cut a TV commercial. It will be interesting to see how much the PAC has raised and from whom. It will also be interesting to see if White's drive to get tens of thousands of signatures to place the repeal on the NM election ballot is more than grandstanding.

The sheriff has been consistent in his support of the death penalty, arguing that not having it endangers lawmen. It's a powerful argument, but noted defense attorney Ray Twohig blogged in here recently that his reading of the NM Constitution tells him placing a public safety measure like a repeal of the death penalty on the ballot is not an option. Do other lawyers disagree? Let us know.


There is no other number with more impact on the well-being of the USA than the unemployment number. A man or a woman without a job--without a purpose--can turn into an unguided missile. First, in Binghamton. Now in Pittsburgh.

What may be most worrisome about the thousands of jobs being lost in our state--besides the severe human toll--is how we are going to put those people back to work.

We can see the miners reclaiming their jobs when the commodities cycle turns back up, but Eclipse Aviation will not be back in business. Thornburg Mortgage in Santa Fe--where 130 were laid off Friday--is gone for good. We won't be needing new mortgage companies anytime soon. Intel has shrunk its work force by 40 percent at its Rio Rancho facility and we don't see them adding workers. Efficiency will see to that. Zangara Dodge shut down. Will another car outfit open to replace it? Don't count on it.

It will be New Mexico's small businesses that will have to recharge the state's private sector. The hope for "green" jobs that is being espoused by President Obama and NM's Congressmen is understandable. But is there a plan, not just scatter shot one-time stimulus money being pumped into various government entities? How many of these jobs can we expect to create? Over what period of time? Will they form a permanent backbone for our economy, or just give a temporary lift? And what exactly is a green job? Have fun when you Google that.

For now, the relative stability of the state's government sector is holding up the economy, but there is very real pain here--as there is in Binghamton and Pittsburgh. Too many politicians and policy makers here seem to be dismissing the need for a new economic development paradigm by dismissing the recession as "being worse elsewhere." That's a campaign slogan, not a plan.

Where do ABQ's mayoral candidates see us headed? What about Big Bill and his policy makers? And when will we see Lt. Governor Denish, the leading candidate to replace Richardson, start to address this issue? There are plenty of people waiting to hear---too many of them without anything else to do.


We just plain forgot. That's our explanation for not pointing out Friday that it is Roswell GOP State Rep. Dennis Kintigh who has been giving Big Bill such a hard time over the generous tax credits extended to the film industry. We blogged how actor Denzel Washington made a $50,000 donation to the Roswell Boys and Girls Club and garnered deserved PR for doing so. But as with just about everything in our Land of Enchantment, there is the political angle. In this case it is that Kintigh proposal (beaten back in the Legislature) to repeal those tax incentives. From a KRQE-TV news report:

Then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, signed the credits into law in 2002 after they were approved by the Legislature. Over the years, they've grown from 15 percent of certain expenses to 25 percent and will total an estimated $55 million this year and $60 million in 2010. Kintigh argued that asking New Mexicans to tighten their belts and then turning around to give the film industry millions in tax credits isn't fair.

While it's not exactly Denzel vs. Dennis in Roswell, there are overtones. Not that Dennis is intimidated by big money. Roswell oilman Mark Murphy and his family spent an incredible $340,000 on Kintigh's campaign to oust Rep.Dan Foley in a 2008 GOP primary fight that now belongs to the ages. Come to think of it, that might be a plot line for a movie--starring Denzel Washington?


After having some fun toying with the press, Big Bill quietly announced Sunday he has signed the bill that opens to the public conference committees of the Legislature. Those are the meetings between Senate and House members where differences over legislation are hammered out. The press has lobbied for years that they be opened up and the bill this year finally made it to the Guv's desk. He tortured the scribes by saying he might not sign their coveted measure, but he did. Will the meetings really open the public to more of what the Legislature does, or will the deal-making simply move to the restrooms? We'll see...

Greg Lennes has those bottom lines from Las Cruces as he comes with this riff on actor and potential 2010 Dem Guv candidate Val Kilmer:

It is no "Top Secret" that Val Kilmer is interested in being "Top Gun" in New Mexico. Although he is not a "Real Genius", is "Missing" political experience, and is not a "Saint," he will bring some "Heat" into the gubernatorial race. Of course, his "Tombstone" will read "Batman Forever."

Thanks for the chuckle, Greg. Hope it's contagious...

E-mail your news and comments.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, April 03, 2009

Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Val: No Longer "Hot"? And: Bill Imitator Sanz Shrinks, Plus: Denzel Dazzles Roswell 

It doesn't get worse than this for Hollywood actor and possible 2010 Dem NM Guv nominee-. The gossip columns say he is no longer "hot" and are even running a series of photos---like the one posted here--to make their point. Says the X17 site: "

Val Kilmer used to be hot...these days...not so much.

Looks like it will have to be the health spa first and the campaign trail second for Val.


No one knows better the struggle to shed pounds in preparation for the bright lights of La Politica than Big Bill. His sometimes ample waistline even inspired Horatio Sanz, one of America's top comedic actors, to have some fun at the Guv's expense on Saturday Night Live. But Horatio may have bitten off more than he can chew, or maybe these days he's not biting off enough. Sanz has shrunk several belt sizes and star watchers wonder if his penchant for imitating Bill has gone with his girth. Will Sanz ever be able to imitate Richardson again?


And yet more movie star stuff. Here's a cool pic from the Roswell Daily Record showing actor Denzel Washington handing out $50,000 to keep the Roswell Boys and Girls Club up and running in the SE NM city. The club was running out of funding.

See, Val. You don't have to be Governor to help out the state. You can just get that healthy checkbook out. But if you insist on running, how about Denzel as Lt. Governor? That guy's got style...


Here's one you are going to want to check out if you've been following the turmoil at the University of New Mexico. "Inside Higher Ed" goes long and deep. One of the money quotes from UNM President Schmidly:

I’m not going anywhere. The faculty vote [of no confidence} is the faculty vote. I acknowledge it. I pledge to work hard to improve. I’ve been a president or a CEO of higher education institutions since 1992 and so I’m experienced enough to know these kinds of things happen. But I moved to New Mexico for a reason. I was recruited here for a reason and it was to provide stability of leadership and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

This is the first article we've seen that puts in one place most of the gripes and possible solutions to what ails the state's largest university, including the troubled math and chemistry departments and the top heavy administrative structure. They don't, however, get into the politics and policies much of the UNM Board of Regents. There's plenty of material there for another in-depth piece.

Whitney Potter
One of ABQ US Rep. Martin Heinrich's top aides will get some relief. Lawyer John Blair has been wearing two hats as Heinrich's legislative and communications director. He will keep both titles, but the office has added a press secretary. Whitney Potter comes aboard from the American Civil Liberties Union of NM and will be based in ABQ while Blair remains in D.C.

We wondered how long it would be before Heinrich brought a press aide aboard. We thought former Senator Domenici sent out a a lot of news releases, but the new members of our congressional delegation seem to hit with them every hour. There's a lot of freshman energy there, and that can't hurt.

Potter is a UNM grad. She also attended the elite Blair Academy--not run by John Blair.


Thanks to readers of the Alibi for naming us to their list of favorite blogs. We are in good company with Duke City Fix.


More departures from the ABQ Journal as the state's largest newspaper wrestles with a rapidly changing economic and media environment. Politics reporter Jeff Jones is leaving the paper to become a cop. ABQ Journal "Newseeker" editor Bruce Daniels is retiring as is longtime editorial page editor Steve Mills and editorial page writer Tom Harmon, another longtime Journal fixture. The changes come after seven Journal newsroom employees were let go in early January. No word on who will replace the veterans who are retiring. If there are replacements it would seem they would come aboard at much lower salaries than these longtime scribes. 

We didn't see reporter and blog needler Leslie Linthicum's name on the departure list. That's good. We'd hate to lose our new-found sparring partner. We'll miss Bruce who cheerily dubbed us "genetically conspiratorial," a tag we couldn't argue with. He is prolific, a personable writer and a gentleman. Enjoy the show from the sidelines, Bruce. 


Newcomers and old timers will both enjoy perusing the latest list of members of the NM Democratic Party State Central Committee from Bernalillo County. Many of the names bring back memories of past political battles. Former ABQ area State Rep. Delano Garcia is still playing the game? How about that...

E-mail your news and comments.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Changes Afoot For Bernalillo County Commission; Guv Figures In, Plus: Job Stats Debate Continues, And: Age Of The Alligator; The Press Frets 

Archuleta & Brasher
If all the cards were to fall into place we might have to rename the Bernalillo County Commission the Big Bill Commission. That's because the seats of three members of the five member panel are in political play. We won't know for sure what will happen until the October 6th city election, but here's the scenario that has has them chattering downtown.

Dem Commissioner Alan Armijo has announced he will try to get back on the ABQ City Council by challenging incumbent Ike Benton; GOP County Commissioner Michael Brasher broke the news to us this week that he is very likely to seek the far NE Heights council seat held by Republican Don Harris and which Brasher held before going on the commission; Dem County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, who served on the Obama transition team for the Department of Interior, is in line for a job at Interior which will have her leaving the commission. The exact position has not been announced, but we're told it would not require US Senate confirmation. Archuleta is also chair of the ABQ Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Board so her departure would also cause a shift there.

If Brasher and Armijo were to win election to the council, they would leave the commission in December. Archuleta could get tapped for a DC job at any time. That's where Big Bill comes in. He gets to fill any vacancies created by this trio, all of whose terms run until the end of 2010. If all three were to go, we would get a commission majority appointed by the Guv.

But hold on. Insiders are not giving away these elections. They see Harris and Benton as formidable incumbents and say Armijo and Brasher will have their hands full.

As for Archuleta, insiders see ABQ School Board member and attorney Marty Esquivel as a possible replacement for her ABQ SE Heights seat. Tom Rutherford and Lenton Malry, who both represented the area on the commission in years past, are also interested, but Esquivel is a newer face without past political baggage that could give him the edge. Also, the seat is being vacated by a Hispanic and there will be pressure to name another to the vacancy. We have word that a behind-the-scenes struggle is already underway to stop Rutherford who has lobbying ties to Big Bill.

Archuleta is regional manager of the Wilderness Society who is serving her second four year term on the commission. The other two commissioners--who are staying put--are Republican Michael Wiener of the NE Heights and Art De La Cruz of the South Valley.

Armijo and Brasher have been in local government office since the 80's and are serving their second four year terms on the commission. By law they can't seek another. Will their long pasts be a plus or a minus in the coming campaigns? Whatever the case, political wannabe's are advised to polish up their resumes for Big Bill. The odds may be long that we will have a trifecta of three commissioners departing, but strange things have been known to happen at the racetrack of La Politica.


What's the reaction of Hewlett-Packard now that the Legislature has trimmed from $12 million to $6 million the capital outlay money to help the computer giant build a Rio Rancho Customer Center?

"We understand the Legislature's decision. We remain committed to Rio Rancho and will continue to work with local and state officials to determine next steps," an HP spokesman said in an e-mail statement.

We thought the HP proposal would meet with resistance when we blogged the company had $10 billion in cash in the bank (now $11 billion) and the state's budget for construction projects had shrunk dramatically.

Rio Rancho Mayor Swisstack says he will continue to push for the other $6 million for HP, perhaps at a special session of the Legislature that may be called later thus year. But why? Well-off HP says it can live with the $6 million. Legislators from rural NM whose capital outlay has been crimped are sure also to wonder why.

HP has pledged to employ 1,350 people at the support center by 2013. Rio Rancho and the state have pledged more than $50 million in incentives. That's a lot of money for these jobs and will take years of payroll taxes to get back. The $6 million will go toward fixing up the interior of the 218,000-square-foot HP center.


Reaction to our Wednesday blog quoting Dr. Lee Reynis, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UNM. She says the state's official unemployment rate is an "statistical artifact" and that the jobless rate is actually significantly higher than the current 5.4% rate being reported. Dr. Brent Eastwood, a political economist who works at ABQ's DW Turner, came with this:

Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallies total non-farm payroll numbers. This is one of the best statistics we have to count employment. Remember this does not count the number of unemployed persons. This just counts the number of people who are on payroll. To get a clear picture, one must look at those seeking unemployment benefits as well.

From Feb. 08 to Feb. ’09, New Mexico had a net loss of 10,100 jobs. I compared New Mexico to a few other rural, low population states during the same time frame.

West Virginia lost 13,500 jobs; Wyoming gained 4,700 jobs; South Dakota lost 3,200 jobs; North Dakota gained 800 jobs;Vermont lost 12,700 jobs; New Hampshire lost 9,000 jobs; Nebraska lost 11,600 jobs; Iowa lost 22,400 jobs; Arkansas lost 28,200 jobs.

So if you look at this sample of small, rural states, New Mexico is about in the middle in terms of job losses for non-farm payroll over the last year. We have experienced some pain, but not as bad as others in our peer group.

We don't disagree with Dr. Eastwood, but we would like to look at this through a different lens. For the purposes of our discussion, how about if we completely exclude government employment from the labor pool, jobs that are not (currently) subject to layoffs and have actually been growing. That being done, what is the rate of job loss in our state's "private sector" compared to the private sectors of the state's Dr. Eastwood compared us to?

We don't know if our private sector is suffering the same, worse or less than others, but with the politicians telling us that things here are not as bad as elsewhere, we sure would like to know.


And the state Workforce Solutions Dept. came with this statement in response to the Reynis blog, indicating they agree with her:

The BLS methodology is designed to explain movements in the nation's unemployment numbers. The input is the data collected from the monthly Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau...The model requires that the sum of all states must approximately equal the national number. Some inconsistencies occur, especially in states with smaller populations like New Mexico, since the monthly numbers are based upon survey data as opposed to a complete count. The BLS is aware of the concerns of states.. NMDWS economists believe the state's job market is hurting to an extent that is not yet fully reflected in the unemployment numbers...

In other words, more pain before we see any pleasure. But hey, "we're better off here than elsewhere." We're sure the unemployed thousands here are overjoyed to learn that someone in Phoenix is suffering more than them.


KRQE-TV picked up on our Reynis blog, giving their viewers reports of the Reynis comments on the station's 5:30 and 10 p.m. news.


Huge gobs of federal money are coming into the state--on top of the usual mega-dose of federal funding. It's all aimed at jump-starting the economy out of recession, and no one knows if it will work. From the NM Congressional delegation:

...$512,362,810 in emergency education funding has been released for schools in New Mexico to help save education-related jobs and maintain programs for low-income students and students with disabilities. For example, New Mexico schools will immediately receive $80,803,396 in Title I funds and $97,451,822 in IDEA funds. Here is a
complete list of funds for New Mexico.


The ABQ Journal continues to fret--this time on their Web site in a homemade video from columnist Leslie Linthicum--about your blog's use of anonymous sources--in other words--the Alligators. We wonder why they are so worried about it when for all these years the newspaper has taken this blog's anonymous sourcing and used it to produce dozens of news stories. That's what we call rock-solid sourcing. The Alligators, however, say they don't have bruised egos over not getting recognition. They're simply pleased to be able to improve the coverage and understanding of New Mexico politics for ABQ Journal subscribers.

However, the Alligators don't understand why the dead-tree editors refuse to mention in their printed editons that the Gators can be found at www.joemonahan.com. Its been noted by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly, the BBC, PBS NewsHour, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe Reporter, Real Clear Politics, National Public Radio, NM Independent, the Alibi, KOB-TV, KRQE-TV, KASA-TV, KOB Radio, KSFR-FM Radio, C-SPAN, Voice of America and the Las Cruces Sun-News, among many others. Don't Leslie and her editors at Journal Center read or listen to that stuff?

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I'm Joe Monahan. E-mail your news, comments and other grist for the mill.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Funny Numbers: Top State Economist Says NM Jobless Stats Are An "Artifact," Rate Is Higher, Plus: More From The NM Biz Beat As Slump Grinds On 

Dr. Lee Reynis
One of the state's top economists is boldly knocking down the Sunshine Crowd, revealing in detail why the New Mexico unemployment rate is actually much higher than the reported numbers. After spotting a snippet buried deep in a newspaper article that said she was questioning the state figures but did not explain why, we asked Dr. Lee Reynis, longtime director of the University of New Mexico's Institute of Applied Research Services and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, to explain her stance. Her response is a real eye-opener for the politicos who argue "it is not as bad here as elsewhere" and for the NM media as it goes about reporting the latest business news.

Historically, NM's rate of unemployment has been significantly higher than the US average, although it was occasionally and usually briefly, as in the aftermath of the 90-91 recession, at or slightly below the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics made a change in methodology sometime around 2005 forcing us to conform to a regional control total and, since around 2007, has been requiring that the NM Dept. of Workforce Solutions use their control totals. With these changes, NM's rates have been extremely low.

Today the US unemployment rate is 8.1% versus NM's rate of 5.4%. We believe that the low New Mexico unemployment rate is a statistical artifact. As corroborating evidence, look at the rate of unemployment claims (compared) to the number counted as unemployed. Today (the claims) are much, much higher than in the past.

No one really noticed the change in how we tote up the jobless rate until now because the economy was booming three years ago. In fact, we recall commenting a while back how it was gratifying to see single digit unemployment rates in some of the northern counties that for decades have had double digit rates. Looks like we weren't getting the full story.

In a September 28th ABQ Journal piece, Dr. Reynis questioned the state jobless count because it excluded people who are no longer looking for work and skews the rate downward, but now she has gone deeper, raising a significant public policy issue.


If Reynis is right--which seems to be the case since state labor officials have opted not to comment on her stance--state policy makers, the NM Congressional delegation and Legislature are not getting the full picture.

A question the media may want to explore: Can the state Workforce Solutions Department give us the true rate of unemployment by not using the methodology that Reynis says is skewing the numbers? Give us two sets of numbers, if they must?

For our Congressional delegation: Does an erroneous reported lower unemployment rate effect the federal assistance we are eligible to receive to alleviate the impact of lost jobs? If so, what should we do about it?

For policy makers: If you don't know the extent of the problem, how can you get to the solution? Should we be focusing on weekly jobless claims at the state level, and not the "seasonally adjusted unemployment rate" to give us the real picture of where we stand?

All of us know this downturn has a different feel to it than past recessions. We hear of friends and neighbors being laid off or moving on, of some of our favorite corner stores closing up or cutting back hours. We know about the mass layoffs at Eclipse, Intel and in the copper mines of Grant County. And we see the huge declines in tax collections that are now threatening even those sacrosanct government jobs. And we know the bear market in oil and gas prices is costing the state not only millions in revenue, but lost jobs in those industries.

The Reynis analysis pokes a hole in the Polyannish economic scenarios that hold sway over the public dialogue in New Mexico, no matter the current trend. Because we depend (and enjoy) the bevy of government jobs that are the backbone of the state's economy, what is happening in the "real" economy seems to get downplayed or, as we noted earlier, dismissed with a wave of the hand that things here are better than in Outer Mongolia, so enjoy your enchiladas and don't worry.

New Mexico policy makers need a new paradigm to build a diversified economy (not just government jobs and energy revenues), but first they need the truth. By stripping bare "a statistical artifact" Reynis is showing the way.


If government starts laying off workers or instituting furloughs, it is going to shell-shock this state where those jobs have nearly always been a pocket of safety. From the city of Santa Fe comes word that this Holy Grail may soon be defiled:

Budget balancing actions involving city employees are still being negotiated with unions, city manager Galen Buller and finance director David Millican said. Possible actions on that front include pay reductions, reduced work schedules and furloughs.

In early March, ABQ City Council budget chair Ken Sanchez warned of a deficit of $40 million for the budget year starting July 1st. You can bet that Mayor Chavez--up for re-election in October--is going to go all out to avoid laying off employees--at least until after the Oct. 6 election. (Chavez sends his proposed budget to the City Council today. It calls for not filling vacant position and cutting construction projects, but no layoffs).


The Wall Street Journal takes note this week of the sky-high compensation going on at the University of New Mexico and one of the reasons UNM President Schmidly was given a vote of no-confidence by the faculty.

A recent university report showed budgeted salaries -- excluding other perks -- for senior executives increased 71% to more than $9.8 million between 2002 and 2008. (Mr. Schmidly took the reins in 2007.)

The paper's take on UNM came in a report that began:

The furor over big bonuses at American International Group Inc. and other Wall Street firms is prompting nonprofit organizations to brace for more scrutiny of their executive pay practices.

And now layoffs at UNM Press


Jim Baca was mayor of ABQ from 1997 to 2001. We had it as four years earlier in our early draft....GOP mayoral hopeful RJ Berry offically qualified for public financing Tuesday. Berry, Mayor Chavez and Dem Richard Romero will receive $328,000 for their campaigns this Friday. We covered the mayor's race extensively on the Tuesday blog.

Jay Leno: "According to the government, GM's Rick Wagoner was forced to resign because of poor performance. That's embarrassing." You run "an organization that loses billions of dollars and then get fired by a guy who heads up an organization that loses trillions of dollars."

E-mail your news and comments.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign