Thursday, November 29, 2012

NM Republicans Fall in Line Behind ALEC Leadership

With elections (mostly) decided and the legislative session just around the corner, new and experienced lawmakers alike are preparing to head to the Roundhouse.   They'll begin the hard work of addressing the many pressing issues facing the state.  But legislators will also be courted by big business and big corporations, who see lawmakers as a means to introduce legislation that benefits their bottom line.


This year, the House Republican caucus is welcoming corporations to take the lead in setting the agenda.   At this week's caucus meeting, House Republicans elected members of the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to leadership positions, opening the door for more special-interest corporate influence in New Mexico than ever before.


After ALEC sponsored "Stand Your Ground" laws were used to justify the shooting of Treyvon Martin in Florida and corporately-sponsored voter suppression laws were introduced in Minnesota and Missouri, corporations and legislators across the country began fleeing the organization. 


Here in New Mexico we joined with Color of Change, Common Cause and others in a campaign to educate New Mexicans about ALEC's dangerous influence.  Senator George Munoz quickly joined more than 40 other legislators across the country who dumped ALEC, along with more than 70 big corporations.


But some legislators held firm.  We caught New Mexico ALEC co-chair Rep. Paul Bandy on tape describing how ALEC companies "just send him money," freeing him of having to engage in fundraising from constituents he represents.


This week, House Republicans doubled-down on their connections with ALEC, electing outed ALEC members Rep. Nate Gentry and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado to two of three leadership positions.  Likewise, Rep. Don Bratton was elected to be the caucus leader and though not a publicly identified ALEC member, the listing of donors to his campaigns reads like a membership roster of ALEC corporations.


New legislators, be warned. ALEC is anything but a helpful resource.  Their corporate agenda is hidden behind lavish luxury trips and easy corporate campaign donations. But after the public started watching, companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft, Pepsi and Intuit all thought better of membership.  So did dozens of legislators across the country who join Sen. Munoz in saying "ALEC is wrong for New Mexico."  It is becoming increasingly clear that New Mexicans do not want their lawmakers at the beckon call of a corporate-backed, out-of-state lobbying organization and we'll be on ALEC watch in the Roundhouse once again.


 



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NMFA: Party Rockin on Your Dollar

$100,000 in spending funds extravegant lifestyle for staff


Four star resorts, steak dinners and putt putt all routine expenses for NMFA staff


*Update: (Nov. 29, 2012) We shared our report with KOB-tv and they tracked down former NMFA CEO Rick May to ask about these expenses.  See what he had to say and why KOB is going back to ask more questions.  View the clip at the bottom of the post.


Santa Fe - The New Mexico Finance Authority is arguably the most important state agency you've never heard of.  And, it's a mess.   The NMFA assists government entities, essentially cities and counties, in the planning and financing of infrastructure projects and major purchases.  If your city needs a new water system or fire truck, they likely go to the NMFA for loans to fund those projects, which the NMFA fund through investments and bond sales.  It is essentially a bank for government, leveraging the bargaining power of collected investments to secure low -cost loans to grow New Mexico.


Like a bank, it has staff and a Board of Directors and must undergo annual audits and report its balance sheets. But, unlike your community bank, the NMFA uses taxpayer dollars, meaning the public has a big interest in being sure it operates responsibly.


Earlier this year, it was discovered that the NMFA faked its 2011 audit - essentially cutting and pasting positive findings from its 2010 audit to create a 2011 one - then promoted that audit around to investors as proof that investments in New Mexico were a good bet.  The fake audit, submitted to the Board of Directors from staff, wasn't uncovered until July.  That has a lot of people, from Wall Street to the State Auditor, asking how no one noticed.


The NMFA is supervised by a twelve-member Board of Directors, ten of whom are appointed by the governor.  Those appointees hire a CEO, most recently Rick May who is currently on leave while an investigation is underway, who manages the day-to-day operations and supervises staff. May was formerly a cabinet secretary under Governor Susana Martinez.


Thom Cole of the Albuquerque Journal recently penned a few articles on extra ordinary spending by NMFA staff for items like luxury car leases and extravagant going-away-parties for the CEO who oversaw the fake audit. 


But, ProgressNow New Mexico has undertaken a deep dive into credit cardNMFApartyRockin.jpg purchases by senior NMFA staff before and after the fake audit was discovered and we found an agency run more like a Wall Street billion-dollar hedge fund than a fiscal agency responsible for protecting taxpayer dollars.


While other state agencies cut back on training, travel and office supplies, NMFA staff were dispatched across the country: staying in luxury resorts, eating in five star restaurants, even playing Putt Putt - all on the taxpayer dime. In total, NMFA staff racked up more than 400 transactions on state credit cards totaling almost $100,000 on extravagant travel, lodging, food and luxury expenses in little more than eighteen months (NMFA was averaging more than $5,200 in incidental expenditures per month until July 2012 when the fake audit was uncovered.  Incidental spending essentially stopped when CEO Rick May was placed on leave).


Here's just a snapshot of what we found:


Since January 1, 2011, NMFA spent:


·         $59,391.23 on lodging including four and five star resort hotels in New York, Miami Beach and Washington, DC;


·         $16,192.92 on airfare to travel to Miami Beach, New York City, Boston, Dallas and more;


·         $14,777.57 on meals for staff and guests, often at four and five star restaurants;


·         $6,438.86 on recreation, like Putt Putt, yoga equipment and at golf resorts.


 


Here are just a few of our favorite charges:


·         $29.85 at "Putt-Putt Golf & Game";


·         $74.99 at a Santa Fe brewery tap room;


·         $182.84 on Chinese takeout from Panda Express;


·         $283.00 at an online Yoga equipment store;


·         $361.67 at a four-star Dallas Steakhouse restaurant;


·         $412.41 for luxury Nambe giftware;


·         $850.08 for rental cars;


·         $861.57 for one night at an upscale Las Cruces hotel;


·         $1,009.89 for three nights at a Washington, DC luxury hotel;


·         $1,409.20 for two nights at a suburban Washington, DC luxury resort;


·         $1,646.86 for four nights at a four-star Times Square hotel in New York City;


·         $1822.22 for two nights at a Boston luxury hotel;


And, senior executives of NMFA charged:


·         $6,828.35 at  the Inn & Spa at Loretto, a luxury hotel and spa resort in Santa Fe, the same city where the NMFA is headquartered;


The NMFA needs a real shakeup and it should start by ousting the governor's political appointees who, after inheriting this fleecing of taxpayers, doubled-down on the personal benefits instead of blowing the whistle.   


Governor Martinez endorsed May's bid for position of CEO in August 2011 when the board, led by her appointees, approved his appointment. 


View some of the NMFA's expenses at the bottom of the post.


*Update: (Nov. 29, 2012) We shared our report with KOB-tv and they tracked down former NMFA CEO Rick May to ask about these expenses.  See what he had to say and why KOB is going back to ask more questions.  View the clip here.





 


FinanceAuthorityExpenditures Sheet1



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Protests Come to NM

This holiday weekend, Americans gather to give thanks and reflect on our privilege to live in a country that has so much to appreciate.  And while many of us will never know what it means to truly struggle financially, not all are so fortunate.  Many employees of the country's largest retailer, Walmart, have been stretched so thin they've reached a breaking point.


There is a dark underbelly beneath that iconic yellow smiley-face.  Walmart is America's largest employer and with 39 stores in New Mexico - 9 in the Albuquerque metro area alone, thousands of New Mexicans punch the clock in supercenters and small-town stores alike to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead.  But sadly this huge employer is also one of the worst at fair compensation and benefits for its hard-working employees who keep the discount giant running.  Many struggle paycheck-to-paycheck, live without essential benefits not included in their service-level jobs and have to choose between health insurance for their families and school supplies and clothing.  For years the company has retaliated against those whose backs it is built on by answering their call for fair compensation and job security by firing them, cutting hours, and changing schedules.


It's time to hear their story. This Black Friday, Walmart employees have had enough.  Workers and their families across America will stage protests to illustrate their struggle for a fair shake from the retailer whose ironic slogan "Live Better" seems to only apply to its CEO whose pockets swelled with billions in profits this year. 


We know how important this message is to New Mexicans fighting for equal workers rights.  This Friday we have an opportunity to stand with the workers in person as a solidification of New Mexican's values. This week, we're telling the workers they're not alone: we must let them know the public is behind them in the hard moments and days ahead.


 TELL THE WALMART STRIKERS YOU SUPPORT THEM: BOYCOTT WALMART THIS BLACK FRIDAY.  There are plenty of other retailers offering great bargains not financed at the expense of their staff.  


Even better, show your support for hard-working people everywhere by demanding fairness for the employees of Walmart by standing in protest with employees and advocates!:


Protests are already scheduled at mulitiple Wal-Marts across the Albuquerque area.  See the full list of Albuquerque events here.


Events scheduled (as of Thursday 9am):


Albuquerque


WalMart Supercenter 850, 2701 Carlisle (Carlisle & Menaul NE, just North of I-40) 


WalMart Supercenter 2924, 2250 Coors Blvd NW


WalMart Supercenter 835, 400 Eubank NE


Sam's Club 4703, 10600 Coors Bypass NW (near Cottonwood Mall)


 


Rio Rancho


WalMart Supercenter 1397, 10224 Coors Bypass NW (10:00am)


 


Los Lunas


WalMart Supercenter 3596, 2250 Main St, Los Lunas


 


Santa Fe


WalMart Supercenter 829, 3251 Cerrillos Rd (10:00 am)


 


Gallup


WalMart Supercenter 906, 1650 W Maloney Ave (8:00 am)


 


Farmington


WalMart Supercenter 826, 4600 E. Main St


 


Visit www.forrespect.org to learn more about the ways you can help support the nationwide Black Friday boycott and the efforts to make Walmart work for its people.


Let's make sure the strikers know that the country is behind them. Join us this Friday!


Thanks for all you do to make this movement real.


 


 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Inside the NMGOP's Civil War

The GOP Civil War has apparently begun in New Mexico.  The 2010 gubernatorial primary between former GOP chair Allen Weh and Camp McCleskey's Dona Ana Darling exposed a rift in the state GOP that has yet to heal in a party quickly headed for an "all hands on deck" state convention to select a new state chairman, and possibly new direction.


Martinez won in 2010 and by 2012 McCleskey had set sights on buying a new legislature 2010 voters wouldn't give him.  $3 million later the results are in and most pundits agree the return on investment was pretty low.  And that's given more traditional Republicans the opening they need to refight the 2010 primary.


Add that to the growing list of Martinez administration resignations (to be fair, this happens after a lot of elections), and Martinez and McCleskey have a lot of soul searching to do about the future of the party they are still trying to unite and lead.


Taken a post-election hiatus and missed some of the action?  Here are the top lines:


 



  • McCleskey and his tactics of picking "winners and losers" in a Clovis-area GOP primary set the stage for the general election attacks.  McCleskey's hand-picked candidate Angie Spears lost decidedly after her opponent Pat Woods made McCleskey's meddling the narrative.

  • Over the weekend, former State Party Chair Harvey Yates, Jr. penned an op-ed in the conservative beacon Albuquerque Journal  in which Yates attacks the governor's Reform New Mexico Now PAC, run by McCleskey, for distorting the record in attacks against Republican and Democratic targets.

  •  This week, an email began circulating to Republican opinion leaders saying boldly "It's time to stop Jay McCleskey."  It bluntly blames the McCleskey strategy for GOP losses up and down the ballot saying: Jay McCleskey has hijacked the Republican Party to personally enrich himself, leaving our county offices with nothing but crumbs. The result? A weakened party infrastructure without the means to get out-the-vote.  Ironically, the email was sent from pseudonym "John Freemont," the 1850's-era founder of the modern Republican Party.


 


·         Insiders note that a contingent of GOP leaders embedded themselves with Democrat Mark D'Antonio to oust Martinez protégé Amy Orlando from her Martinez-appointed District Attorney position.   They were successful and this "enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach is likely to continue in the insider game against Martinez.


Throughout the 2012 election cycle, Republican candidates and party officials quietly complained that McCleskey's PAC operations were sucking up all the money they would need for their own races, leaving them at a disadvantage in the home stretch.  McCleskey surprised them all by exceeding even the wildest estimates of fundraising. Now Yates, "John Freemont" and others are now reminding Republicans of the consequence.


Interestingly, media-savvy McCleskey has not taken the chance to find surrogates to respond to these attacks in the papers or by emails.  Without an adequate response, the drum beat against him is growing louder.


At the same time, blogger Joe Monahan reports today on the departure of a number of key Martinez staffers and advisors, all McCleskey minions.  Spokesman Scott Darnell and his wife Alexis, operations manager for the Governor's Office, are both rumored to be out by the end of the year.  Adam Feldman, former GOP state Executive Director and current McCleskey operative is also rumored on his way out of state, though he could still be involved in campaigns in this age of internet and email.  Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangliosi is also departing for a new $125,000 job at UNMH in Albuquerque.  Cangliosi has long been a target of anti-Martinez Republicans.   Some Insiders were quick enough were able to pick up "I Hate Ryan Cangliosi" T-shirts and coffee mugs from an online store just after the 2010 elections.  Cangliosi has since been singled out as the governor's point-of-contact on the Downs deal.


Add that to wide speculation that Chief of Staff Keith Gardner may also be departing.  Gardner became a centerpiece in the Jennings/Pirtle race after a secret recording showed Gardner trash talking his hometown of Roswell and offering political appointments to a friend.  Gardner has also been accused of being heavy handed in his management.  An APS lobbyist recently accused Gardner of grabbing her arm in a Roundhouse hallway during a heated discussion.


Bottom line:  New Mexico's GOP is attacking itself and the loser may ultimately be Martinez. She put all her eggs in the McCleskey basket.  If the anti-McCleskey faction continues this narrative and wins in December, Martinez may be facing a tough two years of attacks from the left and the right. 


 



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Doh! Martinez nixed funds for vote machines to prevent polling place lines

For more than a week, voters in Rio Rancho have railed against election officials in Sandoval County claiming long lines for voters in the heavily Republican area were evidence of voter suppression on Election Day. Republican Governor Susana Martinez herself raced to the scene and was among the first to cry foul while insulating fellow-Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran from blame.


On election night Martinez told KRQE:


"The Secretary of State was able to spend what was necessary to make sure that there were enough machines at every location."  (see clip below, at 0:01:39)





But, that's not true and newly uncovered emails show that Martinez knew it.


During tonight's Sandoval County Commission meeting, Chairman Darryl Madalena read from a portion of a September 18, 2012 email from the Director of the Secretary of State's Elections Bureau showing that the Secretary of State asked Governor Martinez and the Board of Finance (she is its president) for $1.4 million in emergency funds to "meet the requests for an increased number [of ballot on demand systems] for the General... Our request was tabled. The Board did not allocate any additional funding to cover the costs of the Election."


Bobbi Shearer, the director, reminded clerks in the email that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to provide these ballot machines and acknowledges that more had been requested.  Shearer also gives a clearer understanding of the process for ordering voting machines.  The budget for the voting center machines was created in September 2011, two full months before county commissions passed resolutions authorizing vote centers, the trigger that permitted clerks to begin determining the number of machines needed.  After the 2012 June primary election, it is clear that clerks requested more equipment, prompting a budget crisis for the Secretary of State who had already spent election money on non-election day items like voter purge cards and postage.


The request for additional funding to expand the availability of election equipment in the General election, because of an expected increase in the number of voters in some areas, was denied by the governor's own board of finance less than a month before early voting started.   In addition to serving as the board's president, she also appoints all four public members.  The Lieutenant Governor and State Treasurer also sit on the board.


In her email to clerks, Shearer blasts Martinez and the rest of the board saying "the Board does not have an adequate understanding of the election process."


This new email shows that not only was the Secretary of State not able to spend what was necessary to ensure that there were enough machines at every location, but Governor Martinez knew it and she and her hand-picked board denied the funds to run a smooth election.   


Tea Partiers and Republicans have continually gone after Sandoval County's Democratic clerk for long lines on Election Day but this new email shows exactly who is to blame.


Let's hope the Rio Rancho voters who have so loudly demanded that someone be held accountable will now hold Martinez accountable.


 


Sos Bof Email


 


 



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sequestration of New Mexico's Middle Class and Low Income Families














The Sequestration of New Mexico's Middle Class and Low Income Families


Those who have the least will pay the most. 


Unless Congressional Republicans agree to a compromise soon, New Mexico will lose more than $41 million for state-wide federal-funded programs in 2013 alone. This amount is in addition to wide defense cuts from $150 to $500 million.  $41 million is a lot in a state like New Mexico - some 8% of our current federal aid.  What's more, it's drawn from some of the most important programs: education, healthcare, and employment services; essential investments in our quality of life and our children's future.  These losses translate into fewer teachers, decreased job training programs, and less support for those New Mexicans most in need.  It isn't fair and it isn't right.


Due to the inability of Congressional Republicans to make any compromises on tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans last winter, a Sequestration process was outlined and will go into effect in January of 2013.  Sequestration is a process that will result in $109.3 billion nationally in automatic cuts every year until 2021.


The reality of sequestration for New Mexico is that half of its cuts will be coming from non-defense programs, such as education, employment training, and health care related programs like early child hood care and education services for low income families. These are programs that the 2% and Republicans in Congress have no patience for; so they're not standing with the 98% of Americans who rely on these services for their well being.


According to NM Voices, here is what the fiscal cliff cuts mean for New Mexico:


 



  • 127 fewer special education teaching jobs

  • 18,000 fewer disadvantaged students receiving the assistance they need to reach high academic standards

  • 1,083 domestic violence calls will go unanswered at crisis centers funded by federal grants

  • 1,574 fewer teachers will receive education training

  • 23,033 poor women, children and families will receiving less health and nutrition assistance


 


And taxes on New Mexico's middle-class families will increase, on average, by $2,500 per year for a family making just $50,000 a year.


New Mexico's Congressional delegation has fought hard to put the middle class first. Well, most of our delegation.


Congressman Steve Pearce is the lone Representative from New Mexico who has not only vowed to stand in the way of the expiration of the Bush-Era tax breaks for the wealthiest 2%, but he's gone as far as signing on to Grover Norquist's infamous "Tax Payer Protection Pledge."  Now Steve Pearce and his Republican counterparts in Washington are holding essential tax breaks for 98% of Americans hostage, calling for an extension of breaks for the very wealthy that we don't need and can't afford.


What Congressman Steve Pearce and his fellow Republicans seem to misunderstand is that last week the American people decided to take the necessary steps to heal our economy. This means everyone paying their fair share; that includes millionaires, billionaires, and many of Mr. Pearce's oil patch tycoon friends.


Take Action!  Tell Congressman Pearce to take a stand for our middle class and low income families, and allow the Bush-Era breaks for the wealthiest 2% expire, and to extend breaks for those who need it.  It's right for America and it's right for New Mexico.




Click here to call Congressman Pearce and tell him to stop pushing New Mexico over the fiscal cliff!




The 2%  paid their fair share when President Clinton was in office and they didn't drop into the middle class or come close to being in poverty. Do not sequestrate New Mexico's middle class and low income families to save tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, do the right thing for 98% of Americans!


*You may also want to remind Congressman Steve Pearce about something President Obama pointed out a few months ago, no one is asking any American to pay more than the Bush Era Taxes on the first $250,000 they make, just to pay their fair share of taxes on income after $250,000. It's the right thing to do, and when the wealthiest 2% paid their fair share in the 90's our economy was at its strongest. Stand up for New Mexico's middle class and low income families!  



 


Our Friends at New Voices for Children's Fiscal Policy Project outlined the impact of the fiscal cliff on New Mexico.


Check out their full report here


 


FiscalCliffGraph2NMVoices.jpg


  



 


 



Friday, November 2, 2012

What's Lisa Torraco Hiding?



What's Lisa Torraco Hiding?


Finance reports show just $100 in spending, but campaign literature tells a much different story


Albuquerque - State Senate Candidate Lisa Torraco reports raising more than $37,000 since the June Republican primary.  By now, most voters in her district have probably heard of Torraco, in part because of mailers she sent from her own campaign.


But those mailers don't appear on any of her finance reports, including the most recent when Torraco reports expenses of just $114, including wire transfer fees but no expenses out of her account to correspond with those transfers.


Voters in SD18 received at least two mailers from Torraco's campaign during the last reporting period (all of October).  One, we call "Bambi," landed in voter mailboxes last week.   Voters tell us another piece also recently landed (if you have a copy, feel free to forward it along).


Bambi Mailer.jpg


While it is clear that Torraco is engaging in direct mail activities in her campaign, she doesn't report any mail expenses on any of her general election reports.


More interesting, Torraco's latest report shows two $30 fees for "Wire Transfer," occurring on October 26 & 29, but no corresponding expenses to show how much money was wired and to whom.  Wire transfers occur on the same day, so any expenditure associated with those fees should have been reported.  What's Lisa Torraco hiding?


Because Torraco didn't disclose the expenses, it is impossible to tell exactly who produced and mailed these mailers on behalf of her campaign.  But, astute political watchers will note that the bulk mail permit and type-font on the ExpensesWireTransfer.jpgreturn address are identical to ones used by Reform New Mexico Now PAC and the campaign of Senator John Ryan. Both are currently under investigation by the Secretary of State for improper coordination because of mailers. 


 



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finance Report: Candidate gets no support from voters, but big money from special interests

Republican House candidate Chris Saucedo raised more than $29,000 over the last month, but 99% came from lobbyists and special interests and not a single penny came from constituents or voters in his district.


Of the $29,200 Saucedo raised in the October reporting period, he received just Saucedo.jpgtwo individual donations and neither donor lives in his district. Those donations account for just 1% of all they money raised. According to his report, Saucedo received $250 from contractor Michael Rich (lives in House District 31) and $100 from Michelle Henrie (lives in 11), a lawyer and former lobbyist herself.


To look at his finance reports, voters should wonder if Chris Saucedo is spending a little too much time in the company of special interests instead of with the voters who he should actually be representing.


In May, ProgressNowNM reported on nine New Mexico legislators whose campaigns were 100% financed by lobbyists and special interests. KOB-TV followed our report and asked some of those elected officials about their too-cozy relationship with big business.


We previously reported that Saucedo received some hefty boosts from Governor Martinez in the days leading up to his candidacy announcement.  Saucedo was awarded a $1,000,000 contract from the state and appointed to the board of the National Hispanic Cultural Center just days before the nominating period began.


In the post-Citizens United world, candiates and campaigns find it hard to avoid taking some donations from businesses and lobbyists, but rarely do campaigns fail to solicit support from potential constituents and individuals.