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Friday, January 27, 2012

Speaker's $100,000 Campaign Account Up For Grabs; Susana PAC Is Also Flush, And: Mountain Of City Lawsuits Draw More Questions 

$97,000. That's how much cash was in House Speaker Ben Lujan's campaign kitty at the end of last September. But now that he has announced his retirement, he won't be needing it. So where will it go? Probably to a wide array of Dem state House candidates, the Democratic Party and maybe some to charity as well. (In a first draft, we said Speaker Lujan could give campaign funds to his son, Dem Northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, but readers pointed out state campaign money can't be given to federal candidates).

The campaign coffers of State Sen. Rod Adair are also being closely watched. Because of redistricting, the Republican lawmaker will have to face off in the June primary with fellow GOP Senator William Burt. At the end of last September he had only $2,000 in his campaign account. And that could be dangerous if Burt wins the support of some long-standing foes of Adair who are flush with cash. In 2008 those foes put up over $300,000 to take out Roswell State Rep. and Adair buddy Dan Foley. (Aah, the memories...)

Adair has not made a formal declaration of his election intentions. There has been rumbling that he could resign and let Burt have the seat. Burt was appointed by Gov Martinez to fill the seat left vacant when Dianna Duran became secretary of state. Maybe Rod--a political demographer--could go to work for Duran who he has close ties to?

This week Adair came again with his proposal that the Islamic law known as "Shariah" be made unconstitutional in the state. That sounds like someone seeking another term and playing to the nominating wing of the GOP in conservative SE NM. We'll know Adair's plans shortly. Petition signatures for legislative candidates are due March 20.

And legislators have reason to fear retribution from Governor Martinez if they again defy her and refuse to repeal the law allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver's license. Susana PAC, run by her political adviser Jay McCleskey reported at the end of September that it had $300,000 in cash in the bank. Gobs of that money came from the oil and gas industry. The PAC reported spending $250,000. for the time period ending last September. And the spending has continued, The PAC this month put out a piece describing Martinez as a "fighter for New Mexico." That came just in time for the 30 day legislative session. The Susana PAC is in addition to the Guv's campaign account for her re-election in 2014.

No doubt much of that $300K (and more raised since then) will find its way into the districts of Dem legislators that Martinez would like to see retired by the voters this year.

THOSE LAWSUIT PAYOUTS

An Alligator reporting in here this week noted that law firms of prominent ABQ GOP attorney Paul Kennedy have been major recipients of the payouts made in the many police misconduct suits that have been settled by the city. They also reported Kennedy officed with attorney and the city's current Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry who oversees the city attorney's office. Perry was city attorney before becoming CAO. That brought this reader response:

Your report regarding the payout of $2,553,000 in settlements in 24 cases to Kennedy's law firms is alarming and raises the question of preferential treatment being given to a prominent Republican lawyer by the Berry Administration. What was the extent of Rob Perry's business association or friendship with the firm and was this disclosed before the settlements were approved?

The catalyst for the "no settlement policy" implemented by Mayor Chavez in police misconduct cases was a 1998 Police Oversight Task Force Report submitted to the Albuquerque City Council. The report was a review and study of settlements for tort claims in police misconduct and excessive force cases. The report states that the City was consistently paying out an extraordinary amount of money for tort claims involving APD officer misconduct cases and that the payouts were having a significant impact on city spending. Further, based on comparative data to other cities, the report found that Albuquerque was paying ten (10) times more than it should have paid for tort claims.

The report found that the City Attorney was too quick to settle claims involving police misconduct cases. The new City Attorney in 1998 had implemented a new policy, just like Rob Perry now, to settle rather than fight many claims and the prevailing philosophy was to resolve disputes without a trial. A question raised in the report was: Did the city have a reputation on the street as being an easy target for lawsuits? With Mayor Berry's dropping of the no settlement policy and Rob Perry's attitude to settle claims rather than defend, and now $8 million paid out, the answer is yes, the City is an easy mark!

$8 million dollars could have funded another 100 police officers or 75 fire fighters or for that matter make significant repairs to city facilities, buy more books for our libraries, fund zoo exhibits, repair many a pot hole, fund projects to benefit the entire city or for that matter
reduce our taxes
..

TRAIL DUST

On the endorsement front:

The Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) endorsed former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez in his bid to represent New Mexico's First Congressional District.

“Marty brings strong, results-based leadership to the race and a common sense approach toward making decisions that will be fair, competent and based on the principles of what is right,” said Felipe Garcia, Vice President of the APOA


SILENT CHU

We know things look good for Obama here, but when Energy Secretary Steven Chu dropped into town Thursday we expected to hear a bit more cheer leading for the massive federal funding this state depends on from DOE. The following Chu money lines delivered during a tour of Sandia National Labs aren't going to ring many registers here:


Chu declined to address across-the-board federal spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research has estimated that those cuts would cost New Mexico a minimum of 20,000 jobs.

And other estimates put the jobs loss from potential federal spending cuts at 50,000. Maybe the estimates are high, but President Obama needs to know that we don't sneeze at the $2 billion plus Sandia gets each year. Maybe Chu's coolness is the downside of no longer being a "swing" state in a presidential election year. If so, maybe the best thing that can happen is for Obama to get into political trouble here. We bet Secretary Chu's tune would change then.

COMING IN
Montoya
Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya jumps into the race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ Public Regulation Commission seat this weekend, setting up a stimulating primary between her, outgoing State Rep. and attorney Al Park and Cynthia Hall, an attorney for the PRC.

Montoya, addressing the elephant in the room that is Park's $250,000 plus campaign account, says:

She is proud to be a publicly funded candidate. "My top priority is to restore integrity to the office of PRC. As a publicly funded candidate I have received limited but powerful dollars that have come from the hands of the taxpayers I will protect."


Republicans have a shot at this seat which is being vacated by Jason Marks. We'll let you know who gets in from their side of the aisle. The position pays $90,000 a year and is known more for the antics of the individual commissioners than the actual important work of regulating the utility industry and others that the commission is charged with. State Auditor Hector Balderas came this week with yet another damning report of PRC practices.

And then the PRC circus continued with Balderas calling for PRC Chairman Pat Lyons, a Republican, to resign. And then Lyons called on Balderas to resign. And then, Jerome Block, Jr. came in and handed everyone a bunch of downers and they all took a nap (just kidding).

When Susana appointed independent Douglas Howe to fill the northern seat left vacant when Jerome Block, Jr. resigned he did not say whether he would run this year for a full term. He now says he won't. That PRC district is heavy Dem and is expected to stay that way. A number of contenders have already announced.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Democratic consultant and CNN commentator
Donna Brazile is coming to the University of New Mexico to kick off the school's Black History Month. The former campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to speak at the university's annual Black History Month Kick-off Brunch on Jan. 28.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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