Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Political Nonprofit Contagion Could Spread; NM GOP Leader Weighs In, Plus: Following Darren And Martin's Money--Again, And: A Letter From Los Lunas 

GOP Chairman Yates
We've been among those pounding the table over nonprofit groups flooding the political system with millions of unaccountable dollars, and today there's another reason to do so. In NM, the nonprofits have been mainly of the liberal variety but now NM Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. is talking out loud about forming nonprofits to combat the libs:

State campaign finance limits will stifle fundraising for Republicans in the coming election, Yates said. So to compete with Democrats, conservatives could form 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) nonprofit, tax-exempt groups, which Democrats have used for fundraising, he said.

"Defensively, the conservatives are going to have to do the same if they cannot work through the Republican Party," Yates said. "Under the new legislation, they will have great difficultly working through the Republican Party because the Republican Party can donate to a candidate no more than $5,000."The nonprofits may raise money without reporting contributions, Yates said.

The progressive nonprofits burst into the headlines and became embroiled in controversy last year when they were active in a number of Dem legislative primaries. One of our Senior Alligators who tracks the nonprofit action provides some refresher info:

..An outfit called the Proteus Fund (out of Amherst, MA), along with the McKay Family Foundation (the Taco Bell heirs), have teamed up with the local likes of the NM Community Foundation and others to recast the political and policy landscape in six states (NM included).

According to a document recently pulled from public view (but which I printed out beforehand), on the Proteus website, groups led by NM consultant Eli Lee have received and spent about $2 million over the last couple years. Their budgets were 650k in '07, and $1.3 million in '08. No word on what they're getting for '09, and we may never know because they don't have to report either sources or expenditures.

The Legislature made a stab at plugging the giant nonprofit hole, but came up short this session. The nonprofits are now in federal court fighting to continue their federally exempt tax status, arguing they are not campaigning but advocating for issues and don't have to tell the public where they get their money or where they spend it. However, many veteran observers say the NM activity in the 2008 was blatantly political. Attorney General King and Sec. of State Herrera both want these groups to register as political committees and report their money.

Will the possible addition of unaccountable funds from conservatives flooding into state campaigns prompt liberals and progressives not affiliated with the nonprofits to take a second look and treat this like the "ethics" issue it is? Or is hidden money acceptable as long as you agree with the goals it is spent on?

If the nonprofit octopus continues to grow tentacles, the US Attorney in NM may soon have some more work.

Darren White
Where is the first round of cash coming from to fund Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's political action committee to repeal the repeal of the NM death penalty? D.C. Alligators send word that Republican White finished his unsuccessful 2008 ABQ congressional race with about $20,500 in cash. They said he could use that money for the state PAC, although if he did it would not be known until first quarter reports are filed later this month. White is not known to have had any formal fund-raising efforts so it's probably a good bet that he tapped his leftover congressional money.

White's repeal committee made a small TV buy to launch the effort, but legal experts say the quest of the Sheriff to get as many as 100,000 petition signatures to place the measure before the public may be for naught. They say the state Constitution prohibits a ballot initiative for public safety measures.


Meanwhile, the man who defeated White for the ABQ congressional seat, Dem Martin Heinrich, has been busy on the fund-raising front. Supporters of Heinrich say they expect him to show some solid numbers in his first federal report since assuming office. The freshman lawmaker is in pretty good shape politically, even if his campaign coffers were not getting stuffed. Usually by this time there are rumblings of possible opponents for a House freshman since they are most vulnerable in their first bid for re-election. But a check with party insiders reveals no names being circulated to challenge Heinrich in either the Dem primary or in the 2010 general. The R's are sure to find a candidate, but who remains a mystery. Not that Heinrich's fund-raisers are overjoyed about that. They would like to be able to raise more money by being able to point to a specific threat to his re-election.

One of our reliables is reporting that Ned Farquhar is being tapped for an Interior Department post. No word on which slot. Farquhar is a former enviornmental advisor to Big Bill. More recently, Farquhar has been on the ABQ staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council, serving as Energy and Climate Advocate for the nonprofit group in nine states in the Interior West. He has also authored a regular environmental column for the op-ed pages of the ABQ Journal.

Late word: Farquhar was named deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, announced Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday. Here is the announcement.

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

News of the Farquhar appointment comes on the heels of the news that Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta is also apparently headed to DC and Interior. Earlier, Mike Connor of Las Cruces was tapped by President Obama to lead the Bureau of Reclamation.

Farquhar's appointment may not go down all that well with industry groups that have tangled with the NRDC, but his political experience with Richardson should help. Most important, New Mexico is starting to build a small corp of appointees in the new administration, vital for the well-being of this federally-dependent state.


Who says the R's, on the defense with shrinking numbers in the Legislature, can't get something passed? ABQ Senator Boitano fought for years and this year finally won the battle to Webcast Senate sessions. And then there was this GOP score as described by Big Bill's office:

Governor Richardson has signed SB 136, Veteran In-State Tuition. The new law allows any veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces--along with their spouse and dependents, no matter where they live--to pay New Mexico resident tuition rates at any certified institution of higher learning or vocational center in New Mexico...B 136 was sponsored by (Republican) Sen. William Payne of Albuquerque...

ABQ's Payne is the R's new Senate Minority Whip and a lawyer who holds the rank of Rear Admiral in the US Navy. Dem Ed Sandoval carried the bill in the House.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A former prosecutor from northern New Mexico has been hired as director of the state bureau of elections. Secretary of State Mary Herrera announced today that A.J. Salazar will assume the post of elections director on April 20th. Salazar will be paid $95,000 a year.


The ABQ Journal's Bruce Daniels--the paper's "News Seeker" was recently listed here as one of the Journal veterans who'd be retiring in a couple of months, but Bruce says while he will be reducing his hours, he will still be on the dawn patrol:

.. I'm actually going to be around a little while longer. I'll still be doing the News Seeker in some fashion or other starting on June 1, but on contract with the Journal, at reduced hours. So I'll still be swiping your stuff at the crack of dawn.

Dawn is a good time to swipe from a Midnight blogger.


A longtime correspondent writes of the recent Valencia County Democratic Party convention:

Greetings and Salutations from the Kingdom of Valencia,

Chairman Moises Griego was re-elected Valencia County Chair unanimously in a rare show of solidarity. The Vice Chair is Michele Mares which is interesting in that she recently left the staff of Light Governor Denish and was picked up by the Secretary of State....Both Denish and (Secretary of State Mary) Herrera were in attendance. Denish and husband Herb stayed for the whole show. Ana Pope was elected to her third term as State Central Committee person. And former State Representative Al Otero postponed an operation to introduce Lt. Governor Denish.

As always, your humble servant....

We lost track of Al Otero who served in the Legislature from the Valley of Bernalillo County from '83 to '88. According to its Web site, Al is now working as a special assistant for the head of the NM Workers Compensation Administration and lives in the Los Lunas area.

Thanks for making us New Mexico's "must-read" Web site. E-mail your news, comments and political happenings.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

website design by limwebdesign