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Monday, December 02, 2013

Guv's Office Blasts Tough National Journal Article On Her And McCleskey As "Tabloid"; Accuses Publication Of Being "Sexist" And Racist; We Take A Deeper Look, Plus: Fight On The Right; Martinez Decision To Steer Clear Of ABQ Abortion Election Is Defended 

What we and many of our readers have described as "breakthrough" reporting from the National Journal on the Martinez administration is being dismissed by the Governor's office as nothing more than "a tabloid piece. . . .an effort to push the offensive and sexist narrative that the first Hispanic female Governor in the country can't think for herself."

Let's take a deeper look.....

Well, the National Journal is not the National Enquirer. The lengthy piece describing the inordinate power Martinez has ceded to her political adviser Jay McCleskey and raising questions about how he may have misused that power is going to be the starting point for the national media if and when Martinez attempts to become a serious national political player--not just a symbol who raises millions of dollars because of her status of being the first Hispanic female Governor.

She may believe the revealing 5,400 word article is "tabloid" but one supposes Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle--other would-be vice-presidents who were also called to account--had similar feelings about similar articles about them.

No doubt the Guv was hoping that the mostly friendly local media would keep the National Journal article under wraps, but those days are gone.

The piece went viral on the net in New Mexico and in political circles around the nation, forcing the Martinez-supportive ABQ Journal to take a look. However,  it did not do so in a news story--but in an opinion column, sending the signal that for the local paper there wasn't any hard news in the piece.

In dismissing the notion that there was no news here, the paper's columnist said that when last year the paper asked Martinez about McCleskey's power "she bristled at the notion that he is running the state."

THE DIFFERENCE

The difference between the National Journal and the ABQ Journal is that the DC-based publication did not take Martinez's denial of McCleskey's shadow governor status at face value. They investigated and came up with new information, including about possible bid-rigging on the controversial Downs at ABQ racino lease.

The article also noted how most, if not all. of the Governor's political hires are close associates of McCleskey's and how McCleskey was said by a former Martinez fund-raiser to have set up shop in a small room right next to Susana's office. And there was much, much more--including new campaign finance information that raised numerous questions.

For the first time the mainstream media--via the National Journal--seriously raised the question of whether a private political operative is basically running the executive branch of the New Mexican government and backed it up by with evidence warranting continued investigation and journalistic inquiry.

As for that implied diss by the ABQ Journal that the National Journal used anonymous sources, what are they supposed to do when the political community ripples with fear at the mention of McCleskey's name because they justifiably fear retribution?

Also, the author of the article, Daniel Libit, pushed back against the Governor's office which claimed that "the former top aide" quoted four times for the story was Jamie Estrada, the short-lived campaign manager for Susana who has been indicted on felony charges for intercepting emails from Martinez's campaign account. Libit says Estrada was not the top aide quoted.

The last thing the ABQ Journal needs to do, as one of our Legal Beagles put it, is to "act like a sore loser."

How many sources does the Journal suspect it can get to go on the record if  it took the bold path and asked controversial questions about McCleskey and a shadow government? Will they try?

In this day and age no one entity controls the flow of information. The full story will continue to come out--perhaps slower around here--but come out it will.

UNANSWERED QUESTION

McCleskey
It was interesting to note the response of the Governor's campaign to the request by Dem Guv hopeful and state Senator Howie Morales for any and all emails and any other communications McCleskey has had with 14 state agencies and divisions.

Morales has filed that request under the Inspection of Public Records (IPRA). The Guv's campaign spokesman Danny Diaz had this retort:

The governor's office has been crystal clear that Jay McCleskey is an important member of the political team, is not paid with tax dollars and never had an office in the Roundhouse,"

But what of McCleskey's influence on official government policy? How engaged is the "political team" in that? Are there any emails or other communications from Jay to government agencies, Danny?

Since you and your boss have pledged the most transparent administration ever, why not just disclose any emails or other communications, or are there none? Can you be "crystal clear" about that?

It's not as if McCleskey is a government employee subject to transparency. His consulting firm can have any number of clients the public doesn't know about. Do they get a seat at the table of government by virtue of being clients of the "Shadow Governor?" That's a question not an accusation, one that begs for further examination.

It could be many months before Morales' IPRA request gets any attention, if history is any guide.

SUSANA AND SEXISM

It's annoying to see the Governor's spokesman assert that tough and fair reporting on the administration from a respected national publication without any apparent axe to grind is driven by sexism and racism and intentionally designed to make her look as though she can't think for herself.

The Governor and McCleskey have a deeply disturbing habit of  dismissing journalists, bloggers or nearly anyone (i.e. school teachers, legislators) who disagree with them as being driven by sinister motives and then attempting to discredit them by attacking their character and motives. Nixonian? You decide.

They may be biting off more than they can chew when they dish their dirt in DC to national media, but one supposes with the millions of dollars they have stashed away in their campaign accounts, a certain arrogance and invincibility surrounds their cocoon (as well as some fear).

If the Governor seriously believes she is a victim of sexism (and racism) and as a result is being wrongfully portrayed as some kind of airhead, why doesn't she stand for critical, no-holds-barred interviews? For example, why not sit down and show her stuff in a statewide TV interview with "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan." Or NBC"s "Meet the Press" for that matter.

The problem is this Governor has wanted to pose as a national political figure, raise millions of dollars for herself and her party but not pay the price of scrutiny. Instead she deflects comprehensive reporting and questioning by suiting up in the convenient armor of sexism and racism.

That does put an Anglo dominated media in a blatantly unfair position but if the Governor thinks it is going to hold the dogs at bay, she's wrong.

Perhaps in response to her charges the national media will continue to turn their sights on McCleskey--who is neither Hispanic or female--but who does appear to be the quasi-Governor.

DUFFY'S DANCE

McCleskey trotted out former state deputy finance director Duffy Rodriguez--a Democrat--who worked for the Martinez administration--to try to debunk the reports that he is essentially running the executive branch. In an ABQ Journal op-ed piece, Rodriguez claims that other governors and presidents have had advisers akin to McCleksey. Yes, they have had advisers with lots of muscles--but in just about all the cases they are on the government payroll and subjected to transparency requirements. Think Dave Contarino, chief of staff and political adviser to Governor Richardson.

Then there was Duffy telling us that State Senator John Arthur Smith--one of the Senate's "Martinez Democrats" will vouch for Susana's intellectual agility on tax policy. As one of our readers put it, "I find it ironic that Duffy--who says Susana's critics are not giving her enough credit (because Duffy thinks Susana is strong and independent of McCleskey) feels the need to use a man to support her claims."

Rodriguez pointed to the disgruntled sources as guilty of sexism--not at the National Journal--which the Governor's office included in their indictment.

Political insiders are not unaware of Duffy's dancing with Jay and the gang. She left the administration a year ago. Here's some of what was reported at the time:

. . . .She also knew how to exercise her influence. Last November, Rodriguez sent an email from her Yahoo account to the private email accounts of Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, and Jay McCleskey, the governor’s political adviser, who is not a government employee. The email made references to New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera and an “Abbey”—most likely Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey. “She hates me but that’s OK,” Rodriguez wrote of Skandera. “I made it clear my whole end game was to protect the Governor on all this kind of stuff and let the Governor propose what she wants and the way she wants and not have it dictated by Abbey et. al.”

So Duffy claims in a public opinion piece that Jay is just a run-of-the-mill adviser, yet she plays footsie with him about government policy on back channel email accounts?

 Duffy, like my friend Alley the Alligator says, "We heard you the first time."

FIGHT ON THE RIGHT

We noted last week the concern expressed by ABQ Pastor Dewey Moede about Governor Martinez's decision not to take a public stand on the recent ABQ election calling for a ban on late-term abortions. That anti-abortion referendum failed.

Moede's criticism of Martinez is answered by Martinez supporter and blog reader Kimothy Sparks:

Bashing Governor Martinez for not sticking her neck out in support of the ABQ abortion ban? Really? We anti-abortion supporters were (vastly) outspent and you want her to stick her political neck out on an issue, where the Bible thumpers refused to divert their “tithes and offerings” toward saving unborn human life?

. . . .I applaud Gov. Martinez for recognizing the political quagmire that abortion and same-sex marriage is and avoiding them like leprosy. By doing so, she may have extended her service as Governor of NM for four more years and maybe a shot at defeating such diabolical liberals as Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.

ART ORTEGA

Art Ortega loved radio and Albuquerque. We're not sure in what order because he did a great deal for both. His passing as the result of a heart attack Thanksgiving morning had both newcomers and old-timers coming out of  the woodwork to praise his lifelong dedication to broadcasting and his community.

Retired talk radio pioneer Mike Santullo, who worked with Ortega at KKOB-AM radio, said: "Art was the consummate radio professional. He was "old school" radio and a guy who literally lived and breathed radio. He was involved in every aspect of the business from air talent to advertising to programming."

Radio talker Jim Villanucci, a top ABQ talent who left KKOB this year for Oregon, remarked:

"He was a great mentor, he got me out of some tough spots. One of the funniest people I ever knew. A huge heart and one of the first people to call me when I was going through a tough time. 

Art held forth at 50,000 watt 770 KKOB-AM when that station was the unquestioned radio powerhouse. He was well-known in the political community for handling the station's political ads. He worked along side his wife Lynda, who also has had a long radio career. Ortega's father--Arturo Ortega-- -was a founder of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Art Ortega was 67. Services are pending, with updated information here.

ROUND THE ROUNDABOUT

It's back/ The roaring controversy over the proposed roundabout for the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria NW is taken up yet again tonight by the ABQ city council. This is the new council, however, and one now controlled by Dems, not R's. Area resident, roundabout opponent and journalist Dan Vukelich says:

The Rio Grande roundabout debacle in my neighborhood is back before the City Council, possibly for the last time before asphalt starts being torn up to build it. The rationale is as specious as it was months ago. Many in the news media have seen the whole roundabout story as a pissing match among the members of the entitled North Valley elite. Maybe that's true, but it spells bad news ahead for how we justify spending taxpayer dollars. Sadly, this may be enough to drive me back into news and covering politics.

Come on back in, Dan. The water's fine...

THE BOTTOM LINES

A reader writes:

Joe, The altered audit report received by State Auditor Hector Balderas came from the New Mexico Human Services Department, not the federal "Health and Human Services Department" as you stated in your blog. The two agencies are often confused.

Yes, we did confuse them and have corrected the error. Also, we misspelled Pastor Dewey Moede's last name on the Friday blog. That has also been corrected.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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