Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Santa Fe Game: Old Players Embraced By New Ones, Plus: Recession? Not In PR Hog Heaven; It's "PIO's Gone Wild!" 

The names change but the game remains the same. Take, for example, those eight new state GOP House members elected Nov. 2. A list of co-hosts for the Dec. 13 fundraiser being held for ABQ Republican Nate Gentry, one of those eight freshmen, shows that he has signed up just about every heavy-hitting lobbyist in the state--many of them Dems.

Vanessa Alarid, John Anderson, Leo Baca, Bowles & Crow, J.D. Bullington, Karin Foster, Bob Gallagher, Art Hull, Butch Maki. Randy Marshall, Bobby McBride, Beverlee McClure, Natasha Ning, Fred O’Cheskey, Luke Otero, Tom Rutherford, Drew Setter, Dan Silva, Domonic Silva, John Lee Thompson, Randy Traynor & Debbie Maestas-Traynor, T.J. Trujillo, Dan Weaks & Marla Shoats,Virtue Najjar & Brown, P.C.

Ticks for the party are going for up to $500.

Republican or Democrat, they all drink from the same punch bowl in Santa Fe. Don't spill any on your tie, Nate.


$87,000, $90,000 $107,000. Those are some of the stunning annual salaries for local press flacks. And as this recession drags on the numbers are starting to draw critical notice.

$87,000 is what Liz Hamm, the newly installed press aide to Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver pulls down. There wasn't even a PIO position for the county clerk until Liz, the former Bernalillo County PIO, was "gifted" to Maggie after insiders tell us the County Commission wanted a change in its image making. Also, the last we looked the county clerk makes about $65,000 a year. You mean the PIO makes over $20,000 more than her boss? What's wrong with that picture? Who's in charge, Maggie? You or Liz?

The $90,000 is for Tia Bland, the new PIO for Bernalillo County. She came from the state Department of Corrections to replace Liz. She was making $70,000 at the state and faced firing when Susana took over as Guv. Now she gets $20,000 more? This is way over-the-top. Where's Democratic County Commissioner Maggie "Ms. Ethics" Hart Stebbins? Taken hostage by Commission Chair Art De La Cruz?

The $107,000 is for Monica Armenta, director of communications for the beleaguered ABQ Public Schools. This out of the ballpark paycheck has been criticized so much, we'll let it speak for itself.

And add to the highly overpaid list lawyer Lisa Torraco who is going to pull down $90,000 a year for answering reporters questions and providing legal advice at crime scenes at the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.


Meanwhile, the PIO under ABQ Mayor Berry makes $73,000, a nice salary by any standard around here. So why is the county, the sheriff and APS overpaying, or even creating unneeded PIO positions in the middle of a devastating economic downturn?

The county is financed mainly by property taxes as opposed to the less reliable and more economically sensitive gross receipts tax. They treat it like play money.

There is a perverse angle as well. The ABQ Journal did a heckuva job the past year uncovering a wide range of screw-ups, wrongdoing and general incompetence at the county. Because of that press pummelling the county is also looking--incredibly--at approving $50,000 in outisde PR contracts in addition to their overpaid PIO's. This to buff up the county's sleazy image. Talk about unintended consequences.

More now on the $90,000 PIO salary for attorney Lisa Torraco with Republican Sheriff Dan Houston. This is happening while law enforcement complains of the budget squeeze. And it is from a Republican--the party that claims to be fiscally conservative. The sheriff makes $68,000 a year. Torraco will take home 33 percent more than her boss. Well, as we said at the top of the blog today, the politicos from both parties are drinking from the same punch bowl, spiked with taxpayer coins.

Republican Torraco ran against Democratic District Attorney Kari Brandenburg in 2008 and lost. Brandenburg is weighing another run in 2012. Will Torraco use her new position to build up name ID in the media and then make another run against Kari? Will taxpayers be indirectly subsidizing her campaign? Stay tuned.


One can only assume (and hope) that Governor-elect Martinez is watching this gold-plated playpen. With this kind of money being thrown around, she is going to have the high hand when it comes to cutting state money flowing to Bernalillo County, the sheriff's department as well as to the administrative section of APS.

Is someone saving all these news articles for her when she meets with APS Superintendent Brooks, the Bernalillo County commissioners and the county sheriff? Will she pull them out when they tell her with straight faces that there is nowhere for them to cut their budgets?


Numbers from the weekend GOP convention have been released showing fomer Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman won the GOP chairmanship with 64% of the vote to attorney Nina Martinez's 36 percent. Monty had 188 votes to Nina's 106. Mark Van Dyke, chairman of the Republican Party of Doña Ana County, released those numbers to the press.

After the state party did not release specific results, we blogged how the rumor mill went into action and pegged Newman's total at 58 percent. In the past, the party has released its election results.

Governor-elect Martinez backed Newman. She got a win, but not an overwhelming one.


Breaking: Richardson going to N. Korea.

Big Bill says he isn't interested in that big lobbying job for the motion picture association, so the speculation continues on his plans for his post-gubernatorial life. The latest taking a stab at that is the Washington Post:

We're hearing Richardson has signed up with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which will probably enable him to put some fine bread on the table. In addition, he's going to set up a center in Santa Fe to focus on ways to rescue people being held hostage by bad guys and on initiating dialogue with rogue regimes.

The paper also says Bill may be headed back to North Korea soon.


In a first draft about Senator Bingaman running again in 2012, we blogged that it is best to remain "a candidate" for as long as possible. We meant to say it is best to stay a "non-candidate" for as long as possible...

Reader Geoff Rodgers eyes one of our typos and comes with this:

Really, did you mean to say "...but the majority Dems RETAIL all committee chairmanships." I guess pay to play is rampant everywhere.

And reader Meg Meister has a quick English lesson:

The past tense of “shrink” is “shrank.” It’s the past participle that is “shrunk,” as in “I have shrunk the budget.” But for purposes of “City government's workforce shrunk by 3 percent in the past year,” in your December 6 blog, it should be “shrank.”

Thanks, Meg. We will not shrink from our duty to note the occasional error of our ways...

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