Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Park's Place: Big State Paydays For His Law Firm Surfaces As Issue In PRC Race, Plus: Susana's Immigration Switch; Another Theory, And: Sowards Goes Sour, But On The Cheap 

Al Park
How much? Try $602,000. That's how much the law firm of Dem Public Regulation Commission candidate and ABQ State Representative Al Park has taken in during the last ten months under a contract it was awarded by the Republican administration of Susana Martinez. That's going to raise some eyebrows as Park faces off for the nomination for the ABQ area PRC seat with Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya and Cynthia Hall, an attorney who once worked for the PRC.

Park's three person law firm--Park &Anderson--was awarded the contract by the state Risk Management Division of the General Services Department to defend the state in such matters as wrongful terminations.

Candidate Montoya sent the payment info without comment. Park did not respond to an email request for comment. The records of the monthly payments the firm received are posted here.

The law firm's web site says it "offers litigation services to businesses, individuals, and governmental entities. Park & Anderson, LLC specializes in governmental liability, civil rights, employment litigation, personal injury, wrongful death..."

Park could argue that he is simply making a living and that having a big contract with the state does not present a conflict. But a question still lurks--would Park be pressured to vote the Martinez administration line if he won a spot on the PRC because of the financial importance the administration has become to his firm? Commissioners already make $90,000 a year so there also could be calls for Park to drop his contractual relationship with the state.

Park was elected to the House from ABQ's SE Heights in 2000 and is now the outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. For many years, he carved out a reputation as a liberal lawmaker, but that has changed in recent sessions with Park taking more conservative stances. The most glaring example of that was his vote in favor of repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants--one of the Guv's premier issues. Park's unexpected support was a major coup for her.

The $602,000 Park's firm has collected is for the ten month period beginning in July 2011. Most state contracts run for a year, making the end date for this one June 30, 2012, with two more months of billing remaining.

Montoya did not send the law firm's contract, only the amounts paid which she received from risk management. The Division Director of Risk Management is attorney Jay Hone, the husband of GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson.

Park has formed a number of close relationships with Republicans while serving in the House, including with Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner, a former state representative from Roswell.

Park is also close friend and ally of Dem State Rep. Kenny Martinez of Grants who is widely expected to become the next Speaker of the House in 2013.

Park began his PRC campaign with over $250,000 in his kitty, believed to be the largest such fund among the 112 representatives and senators. Much of it was amassed several years ago when Park was mulling a run for the Dem nomination for attorney general. He decided against that bid, but the money remained. Park's foes say some of that cash came from industries that are regulated by the PRC and therefore violate campaign law. But Park says the contributions are allowed because they came from years past. He adds that his record shows he would not be influenced by campaign contributions.

Park's recent report shows he has already spent some $113,000 on the PRC race. That has become a point of contention in the campaign. Montoya and Hall are both taking public financing which limits their spending to $30,000 each. But Park, who has long supported public financing, opted out of it for the PRC run. That has some liberals upset. It's conceivable that Montoya and Hall will get some matching funds because of Park's heavy spending, but not likely, say the campaigns.

Even though he has spent very heavily, Park is still working to put the race away. He recently attacked Montoya for not filing her campaign finance report on time and also charged that she is avoiding public forums. Montoya's campaign released a statement from the Secretary of State that said she had filed her report on time, but it was technical problems at the SOS office that prevented it from being viewed.

That Park is landing some blows speaks to the dynamics of the race. As the lone Hispanic candidate in a Dem primary and one with a previous base of support, Montoya--even under-financed--is a threat to Park. He could lose Hispanics and also split Anglo votes with Cynthia Hall. But with even more Park spending expected in the final days, he remains the favorite to take the nomination.

The winner of the June 5 primary will face Republican attorney Chris Ocksrider  in November.

Montoya has had to deal with charges that she is not up to snuff on the issues facing the PRC. The paper also did a report on how much influence Dem State Senator Tim Eichenberg has over Montoya. Both said he has no undue influence in office policy,

The PRC has been an ethical black hole since its inception in the late 90's. Scandal after scandal has bedeviled the five member panel that regulates the state's utility and trucking industry, among many others. It has gotten so bad that this year voters will be asked to approve several constitutional amendments. One would have the Legislature approve qualification standards for commissioners. The others would dilute the authority of the commission. All of this is why the large contract Park's law firm has with the state is newsworthy.


Alligator analysis continues on just why Governor Susana split with GOP prez hopeful Romney on immigration. We blogged that she was reading the tea leaves for her own political future. But another theory we get is that Susana has been tapped to help Romney.

"Susana has always been in lockstep with the Republican National Committee. Her chastisement of Romney seems planned to pave the way for him to switch his position on immigration which is killing him among Hispanics. Susana loosening up may, as you say, help her own political fortunes but her primary consideration in making the statement was not to separate herself from Romney, but to give him cover."

Okay, time will tell, although it is true that Martinez has rarely--if ever--parted ways with her Republican brethren in DC.

While Martinez may be softening her national profile on immigration, what about in her own backyard? Her campaign team is using the repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants as a centerpiece issue. And she isn't saying she won't pursue the matter in the 2013 legislative session, even though she is 0 for 3 on the matter.


Come on, Greg Sowards. Show us the money. The Las Cruces long shot for the GOP US Senate nod has just dumped a nasty mailer (click to enlarge) about rival Heather Wilson, but has barely put a dent in the $1.1 million he has personally donated to his campaign.

We called Greg's bluff earlier this year when he dismissed his campaign staff. We asked then if this was a prelude to a no-show campaign. It appears it is as he has yet to go up on TV and is doing some sniping in the mail. What? Are his grandchildren telling him not to spend their inheritance?

Sowards could have been a contender in a year when the GOP is as conservative as it's ever going to be, but both he and John Sanchez, who dropped his candidacy earlier, appeared half-hearted in their bids.


In a first draft Monday we incorrectly stated that SusanaPAC made a campaign contribution to Republican Rob Doughty, who is seeking the GOP state senate nomination for an ABQ NE Heights seat. He faces opponents Mark Moores and Nancy Cooper.

But our central point about this race remains--The Governor and her chief political advisor Jay McCleskey are behind Doughty. He is a trial attorney who was appointed to the racing commission by the Governor and is the panel's chairman, His campaign is being managed by Red Tag Strategies. That group is led by Adam Feldman, a former executive director of the NM GOP who served as  director of boards and commissions. His ties to the Guv's political machine are broad and deep. Doughty has posted a photo of himself and the Governor on his web site. We're told by our GOP sources that it was taken several days before Doughty announced his candidacy.

Again, this is a race to watch election night because Martinez has made it a test of her political muscle. Moores is the chief threat to Doughty to take the nomination for the seat which was vacated by Kent Cravens. There's little doubt that Moores would be more independent of the Guv than Doughty.

The seat is currently held by appointed Dem Senator Lisa Curtis who the GOP winner will face in the Fall. The district is heavy R.

Mark Fleisher & Ida Lechuga-Tena
Veteran Dem consultant Mark Fleisher dons his special eye wear to view the solar eclipse Sunday night at the political viewing party he hosted at ABQ's Four Hills Country Club. Idalia Lechuga-Tena, the editor of the Spanish language newspaper, Más New Mexico, prepares to join Mark in the viewing of the four minute spectacle.

Fleisher, a former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, grew up in Four Hills, as did former Mayor and Dem congressional candidate Marty Chavez, who was also on hand for the event. He joined Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, former Attorney General Patricia Madrid and husband Mike Messina, attorney Sam Bregman, State Rep. Patty Lundstrom and many others.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's political community? Advertise here. Email us for details.

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