Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Question That Still Dangles: Did Martinez Campaign Use Federal Database To Run License Checks On Political Foes? New Report Says Emails Erased And Hard Drives Wiped; We Explore, Also: More Yates Vs. McCleskey 

Martinez & Orlando
A TV news report about how computer hard drives and emails have been destroyed at the Dona Ana County district attorney's office may have left some viewers baffled. KOB-TV reported this week on the investigation of the missing information by the current district attorney, Mark D'Antonio, saying:

The investigation stems from IPRA requests made by former KOB investigative reporter Gadi Schwartz for copies of emails sent and received by former undercover officer and DA's Office Chief Investigator and IT Supervisor Kip Scarborogh during the first six months of 2010. Schwartz also had requested all names entered into the National Crime Information Center by Scarborough from December 2009 to December 2012.

Curiously, the TV report did not spell out why reporter Schwartz wanted names entered into the NCIC computer which is used by law enforcement to check out the backgrounds of suspects.

We can tell you that Schwartz and the state Democratic Party wanted those records to determine if political opponents of Susana Martinez were having their backgrounds checked--illegally--by the Dona Ana County DA's office. That office was headed by Martinez until she became Governor in January of 2011. When Martinez resigned as DA and became Governor she named Amy Orlando as her replacement.

The national publication Mother Jones magazine reported on the allegation in April:

A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.

And Mother Jones followed up this week with a blog on D'Antonio's report--which was not a criminal investigation.

In June in an interview with NM Politics with Joe Monahan, former Gov. Bill Richardson went public with the allegation that Martinez's DA office used NCIC to check out political foes while she was running for governor. That was picked up by the Santa Fe Reporter:

SFR asked Martinez’ top political advisor Jay McCleskey about it. In a series of emails, he never addressed the allegation directly and refused to comment on the record. That changed, following comments made by Gov. Bill Richardson, who addressed the license plate allegation for political blogger Joe Monahan. . .  

McCleskey wrote to SFR that “the allegation is nonsensical and false,” yet he repeatedly refused to answer the direct question, “Did Susana Martinez’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign, or anyone on its behalf, use any government resource to run a license plate number?. . . SFR has for a year sought records about vehicle queries run through the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database by Martinez’ DA office in 2010. Using that database for political research is illegal. The state’s Department of Public Safety, a Martinez agency, says it destroyed records that reveal use of the database during that time.

KOB settled for a statement from former DA Orlando who is now working as an attorney for the Martinez administration. She said of the missing emails and hard drives requested by investigative reporter Schwartz and the Dems:

My office fully complied with public records requests and laws and that's why (current DA Mark D'Antonio) left with nothing but baseless innuendos and black-helicopter conspiracy theories."

Democrat D'Antonio defeated Orlando when she sought election as DA after being appointed.

It is an interesting development to learn of the erased emails and hard drives. But the real story here is whether someone broke the law by using a federal government database to investigate political enemies and if they did, who ordered them to do it? And whether those emails and NCIC entries would divulge the truth.


The state Democratic Party came with this:

What happened to these e mails? Was Governor Martinez aware? What public resources were used to bolster Martinez's 2010 campaign? These questions go well beyond politics –now it's a matter for law enforcement professionals. If public records were destroyed to help Governor Martinez, the people of New Mexico deserve to know. We call for Governor Martinez, her former staff and allies to come clean and explain what happened.

Conceivably, the US Attorney could take an interest in looking at whether the NCIC--National Crime Information center--database was used for political purposes and what the Governor and Orlando knew about it. But this isn't Watergate where there were tapes. The evidence, if that's what it was, apparently has been destroyed.

The Las Cruces Sun-News also did not address the license plate allegation in its report on the investigation, but it did come with this excerpt from the report on Schwartz's request for email records:

The reporter's public information request sought emails of then-District Attorney Susana Martinez, then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Orlando and senior investigator Aaron "Kip" Scarborough between Aug. I to Dec. 1, 2010, as well as correspondence to or from employees of the District Attorney's Office relating to the Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign between July 2009 and December 2010, and email and written correspondence from employees of the Third Judicial District Attomey's Office that mentioned the name "Diane Denish," "Denish" or "license plate."

Schwartz is now a general assignment reporter at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. The full report by D'Antonio's office can be read here.

And there's more. The liberal advocacy group ProgressNowNM says it has obtained some of the missing emails from the district attorney's office that were archived by other state agencies. The group says:

. . . Among the emails captured by off-site servers are discussions between Orlando, the office’s top prosecutor, and the (Martinz political adviser) Jay McCleskey, about an active voter fraud registration investigation naming Republican Party officials as official targets just weeks before the November 2010 elections. The emails show that Orlando sent McCleskey the entire confidential law enforcement file, including the names of targets, witness statements and copies of evidence, before investigators had begun to investigate the case. Upon finding the emails in August, ProgressNowNM alerted the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. The office recently confirmed to us that the matter has been assigned to an investigator.

McCleskey responded:

When someone falsely claimed that the District Attorney’s Office had declined to investigate a voter registration fraud case, we simply requested the public records proving that the case had been referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency and those same documents were provided to the media.


The feud between former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates and Governor Martinez's hyper-controversial political adviser Jay McCleskey keeps a blogger busy. Now Jay is responding to Yates' blast at him in an op-ed piece carried in southern newspapers. Yates said anyone who criticizes Martinez gets labeled "sexist" or "racist" by McCleskey and that the media has been intimidated by him. McCleksey fires back telling the New Mexican:

The ramblings of a bitter man who is accustomed to buying influence and power with donations, and in this case, he found sharp rebuke from an Administration committed to cleaning up the good old boys club. I’m flattered that Harvey Yates is still thinking about me — I’d forgotten about him. P.S. I wish him and Tim Jennings the best.

So what do you have to say to that, Harvey? Not that we want this war to continue. Of course not.

That zinger about Tim Jennings comes because Yates supported the former Dem state Senator in 2012 when McCleskey's forces ousted the Roswell area lawmaker.

As for being bitter that's a trait both of our warriors may share. McCleskey once said of former ABQ state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, "I hate that bitch." More recently he dubbed a group of anti-abortion demonstrators protesting near his home "pieces of shit." And that's just a few of his not so greatest hits. Maybe someday we'll get them all in a book. They can call it "Talk Dirty To Me."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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