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Friday, June 01, 2018

MLG Reverses And Releases Tax Returns While Delta Imbroglio Bubbles; Will Pearce Follow Suit? Big Oil Super PACS Fight To Save Muñoz And Battle Enviro Candidates Statewide  

The dam broke Thursday on whether New Mexico gubernatorial candidates should release their tax returns.

Following closely on the heels of her Dem Guv rival Jeff Apodaca and under the gun for her dealings with her former health care consulting firm, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham released five years of personal income tax returns. And she challenged Republican Guv candidate Steve Pearce to do the same. Her returns are here.

The issue was first raised this cycle by the New Mexican which asked the Guv candidates for their returns. MLG and Pearce refused. Joe Cervantes gave a partial return. Jeff Apodaca was the only one to release his full return.

The AP reports that Pearce told a radio audience Wednesday that if MLG released her return, he would do the same. If he does we would appear to be entering a new era in which the tax returns of candidates for major offices such as Governor and Senator will be expected to be made public.

Pearce is a multi-millionaire with varied business interests, particularly in energy, so his returns will be complicated. Not so for MLG.

Her income for 2017, for example, topped out at $195,000, including $52,000 from the now controversial Delta Consulting group she co-owned up until six months ago with State Rep. Debbie Armstrong. She paid $35,500 in income tax.

The other years she released were similar in income, with Delta contributing around $375,000 to her bottom line over five years. As a congresswoman she is currently paid $174,000 a year.

The release of her returns came in the aftermath of a blistering article in the Politico Wednesday that raised questions about the ethics of MLG receiving money from Delta while she was voting on federal health policy.

And the very purpose of the company was also called into question by her Dem gubernatorial rivals Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes who said it was unnecessary in the wake of Obamacare but that Lujan Grisham had used her political influence to win the contract for the NM high-risk insurance pool. Her campaign responded:

Her small business did not make millions of dollars or anything close to that. She worked to help those who had been denied health care coverage and make sure they were able to access the care they need – including patients with cancer or HIV that were fighting for their lives. . . 
Pearce

The NM Medical Insurance Pool was created to provide subsidized health coverage as a last resort for those who have high risk health conditions, and is funded by a premium paid by insurers in the state, not by state funding. These members are considered the sickest of the sick, and do not have access to health insurance coverage even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. 

APO ATTACKS

Apodaca
Apodaca, trailing badly in the polls, was especially relentless in his criticism of Lujan Grisham, over Delta, accusing her of committing a fraud and even calling for her to drop out of the Dem Guv chase.

It's time our politicians stop profiting off the backs of New Mexicans

But it was all eyes on Pearce as the MLG ship was rocked by the final hours storm. Pointedly, he retweeted the Politico article to his followers. And one of our Senior Alligators speculated:

Joe you have to remember Pearce is considered a major, legitimate player in DC. I believe he planted that Politico article. The GOP thinks he's one of the better candidates in their pool. 

That Pearce has come to play there can be no doubt, but MLG showed decent crisis management skills as the incident threatened to derail her momentum going into next Tuesday's primary. Her turnabout on releasing her returns had her back on the high ground.

The story may still dampen enthusiasm for her but the main event is yet to be seen. If, as expected, both she and Pearce are nominated, we will see an all out assault over Delta from Pearce and a fierce response and counterattack coming from her.

SUPER PAC PLAYGROUND

Environmental groups, especially the political arm of Conservation Voters NM, have dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertising for their favorite green candidates. Now they are getting some big time competition from big oil which is raising eyebrows over who they are backing.

In the latest state finance reports released Wednesday the Super PAC NM Strong reports receiving $224,000 from oil giant Chevron and $50,000 from wealthy Artesia oilman Mack Chase. And who is getting the benefit of that cash? It's a trio of conservative Democrats: land commissioner hopeful George Muñoz and northern Dem State Reps. Debbie Rodella and Carl Trujillo, all of whom face stiff primary challenges.

The PAC has bought over $70,000 in TV time for Munoz, spent $7,500 to support Rodella in the mail and $6,400 went to Trujillo, who is locked in a brutal primary battle with challenger Andrea Romero.

Munoz
Jay McCleskey, the controversial head of Governor Martinez's political machine is  consulting for the PNM Super PAC, New Mexicans For Progress, which paid him $175,000 in the recent reporting period for "professional services." That PAC is trying to defeat liberal Dem Steve Fischmann who is challenging Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones for a southern PRC seat. They have a bunch of legislative races targeted as well.

Then there's the NM Prosperity Super PAC funded by Mack Energy in Artesia. McCleskey is also consulting that group which is spending to support George Muñoz.

Staying on the Super PAC beat, the Forward Not Back group, funded by hedge fund billionaires and supporting Damon Martinez for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat, has flooded the mailboxes of likely Dem primary voters in the final stretch. At least three mailers have dropped, one of which calls Martinez a "progressive fighter not a politician."

LIGHT GUV

We haven't heard much from Dem Lt Governor hopeful and Dona Ana County commissioner Billy Garrett but in the final days he's making a TV push in hopes of catching rivals Howie Morales and Rick Miera. Garrett's campaign says:

Garrett grew up in Las Cruces and graduated from Las Cruces High School. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture and a graduate degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University. In 1983 Garrett began a 26-year career as an architect and manager with the National Park Service.

He was first elected to the commission in 2010.

ELECTION EVE SPECIAL 

Join us Monday at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM for our Election Eve Special. We'll have late breaking campaign news and some fun predictions for Election Night. Our Election Night coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. on KANW and kanw.com

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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