Posts Tagged ‘Campaign Contributions’

Remember When We Used to Trust?

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I’ve opted not to take an active role in any campaign this primary season.   This is a departure from years past where I’ve done everything from volunteer, to blog about, or even consultant on one primary campaign or another – not to mention once running as a candidate in a primary. For the most part my decision to stay out of the primaries (although, you can bet I’ll vote) is due to the fact that, with a few exceptions, there are very few candidates running in the Republican primary that I would have a problem supporting in the general election. And, those candidates I would not vote for in the general election have ABSOLUTELY no chance of winning their respective primaries.

With that said, I have to take issue with a recent post put up by fellow blogger Joe Monahan. It’s been awhile since I’ve given Joe a hard time, and his recent innuendos regarding the large  contributions received by Susana Martinez from the Perry’s of Texas definitely warrants criticism:

Those previous Perry donations raised some fuss, but were not as sensitive as they are today because they did not come in a climate filled with news of corruption and alleged corruption–mostly all stemming from campaign contributions.

A Martinez operative points out that Perry does not currently do business in the state. But with the size of this donation, if he did choose to do business here would it buy him access? Or what about his associates who might want to set up shop in New Mexico?

So, first let’s deal with the facts. A very large campaign contribution is made to a candidate by a donor with no business in the state of New Mexico.  A donor who has a significant history of making large contributions to Republicans in previous campaign races in New Mexico without pursuing business in the state.  So, why does an outsider do this?  Well, historically especially while the Democrats have controlled the political reins, it’s because that’s how business is done in the Land of Enchantment.

But, the Perry’s have not given large donations to Democrats in New Mexico to buy political favors when the number of recent indictments has shown those favors were clearly for sale. So, what’s the motivation for the Perry’s to give such a large sum of money to a campaign? Well, this may be hard to understand for people who put their personal self-interests above all else, but looking at the Perry’s contribution history, it’s clear that you have folks who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Or, more specifically, invest in their principles. This is actually pretty common in America.  Every day, all over our great nation, people make donations and contributions to politicians, not-for-profits, religious organizations, etc. without expecting any “payback” in return.  Some of those contributions are very, very large. In fact, the return they expect on their investment is that the receiving party will do what they promised to do.

When it comes to  Republican candidates, this generally means enforce the rule of law, limit the size and reach of government and demand accountability. Every candidate is a person, and every person has flaws or has made mistakes. However, “being for sale” is not a flaw. It’s not a mistake. It’s a felonious act. And, let’s face it, if Susana Martinez was guilty of these type of crimes, she would of long ago been run out of Las Cruces where she has been elected and re-elected as a Republican to be the District Attorney in a county that has a strong Democratic majority.

I long ago said that the pushing of ethical reforms is nothing more than political posturing.  It sounds great on the stump, but means absolutely nothing in practice. Crooks will be crooks regardless of the ethics adopted by others.  Unfortunately, one of the worst legacies of the culture of corruption of the eight long years of the Richardson/Denish Administation is that everyone now assumes the worse. The simple act of stepping up to the plate and giving to people and causes you believe is assumed to have an ulterior motive.

It’s time to get back to a time where we can trust one another. Where we can believe the best, rather than the worst of those we elect to represent us. Where we celebrate the contributions of citizens rather than the farewell parties for criminals.  Everyone is going to be aware of the contribution made by the Perry’s, and that’s how it should be.  If the Perry’s wanted to buy political favors, they wouldn’t have made a single huge contribution that was bound to attract everyone’s attention.  Instead, they would have done it in the manner that has been cultivated into an art form in the Richardson/Denish Administration – less conspicuous bundling of contributions to purchase political favors in return.

Keeping it Simple

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I probably should be writing something about the candidate finance reports filed yesterday, but there really isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been covered by Heath Haussamen and others. General rule of thumb is that up to the point of diminishing returns, which hasn’t been hit yet, he or she with the most money in the bank wins. Comparing Democrat to Republican dollars at this point is premature, but among the primary races (both D and R) those bucks in the bank are going to make all the difference.

This might seem like an overly simplistic analysis, but it’s true nonetheless. Staying with the theme of keeping it simple, enjoy this review of simpler times:

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An Exceptional Excel Worksheet

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

If you didn’t catch Secretary of State Mary Herrera’s column on Heath’s blog, take a moment to read it. It is an attempt by Ms. Herrera to explain how inadequately funded her technical needs are. For example:

Thanks to Sen. Dede Feldman, who reinstated her capital outlay money from prior years, we received a $70,000 appropriation. We used that to create an Excel spread sheet and update the forms for that year for candidates to file their campaign reports. This amount only allowed us to do minor enhancements.

Wow! It took $70,000 to update an Excel spreadsheet, and a couple of forms. I’m really trying to get my head around that one. That must have been one heck of a spreadsheet. I’m kind of thinking that sounds like a pretty nice job for a programmer. A $70,000 salary and you get to focus on updating a few forms and building a spreadsheet. If I had that job, I’m pretty sure my golf score would be much, much lower.

Of course, it gets better. That $70,000 was only the beginning:

The following fiscal year we were appropriated $176,500 for additional enhancements. Rather than spending any more funds on a 14-year-old system that is outdated and that FileOne (the company that makes the software) has advised us they will be doing away with in the next two years, we went to the Legislature to ask for a change in the language that would allow us to use these funds to pursue another option.

The Legislature allowed us to do that effective July 1 of this year.

We are now moving forward on utilizing these funds to purchase the Washington State system. Due to the funds available, we will have an improved system, but not a new system.

Ok, let’s see. That puts us at just under a quarter of a million dollars for a “14-year old system” that still doesn’t work right. But, like a Ginsu knife commercial, wait, there’s more.

You might remember that the previous Secretary of State also spent hundreds of thousands on the broken campaign reporting system. I was so troubled by this ongoing process at the time that I went ahead and built a site that allowed for instant reporting and searchability of campaign contributions and expenses. The total cost: $200 and twenty hours of work.

Unfortunately, I only had two takers, so I’ve long since taken down the website, which had garnered some attention at the time. What’s the point of all this? Well, it’s to make a simple point. The current Secretary of State, like her predecessor, has absolutely no good reason for not having a functional website. Saying that she isn’t spending as much as other states is a cop out too. Just because other states have overpaid for their campaign reporting websites, doesn’t mean that we have to as well.

Heck, the federal government spent over $27 million to redesign a website. For those of you who have no idea whether that’s money well spent. Let me say unequivocally that is the Web 2.0 equivalent to hammers and toilet seats that cost hundreds of dollars. But, maybe Ms. Hererra, would like to use that benchmark to explain away her failures.

Sole Sourcing Off-The-Shelf Lawsuits

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Just when you think the pay-to-play scandals in New Mexico can’t get any worse, they do. Apparently, flowers are not the only things that bloom during the spring season in New Mexico.

Last week brought news that Governor Bill Richardson’s campaign and political action committees received nearly $200,000 from money managers and brokers who were seeking access to the state’s multibillion dollar pension funds.

Okay, I know, old news. But, this same editorial takes a deeper look at the ethically questionable behavior coming out of the Attorney General’s office. Mind you, we were hopeful that when pay-for-access AG Patricia Madrid left office, things would get better. But, it now looks like the players may change, but the game remains the same.

As for Mr. King, he is underselling his political talents. Campaign records show that in the month before his 2006 election, his campaign received $50,000 from Houston lawyer Kenneth Bailey and Mr. Bailey’s previous law firm in two $25,000 installments, one of which came within a week of Election Day.

And, what does $50,000 buy these days?

However, you have to wonder just how vital this particular lawsuit is, since it was marketed to New Mexico and many other state AGs as an off-the-shelf product by the Bailey firm.

It would seem it is the going price to bring win the right to sue in the name of the State. When law firms are able to buy the right to sue companies on behalf of the state in exchange for a political contribution. We’re all in trouble.

Now, in all fairness, some of you may think I’m jumping to conclusions here. These campaign contributions, and the resulting “gift” to the law firm may just be coincidental. For those of you feel this way, I’d suggest you look no further than Attorney General Gary King’s own analysis regarding appearances:

“There’s an old saying that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then its probably a duck,” say AG King. “And I think we know a duck when we see one.”

Well, I guess duck hunting season is starting a little earlier this year..

Bahrain Investors Collect NM Taxpayer Funds

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Some people may be worrying about grand jury investigations, but whatever the grand jury finds is nothing compared to what the Rio Grande Foundation is likely to dig up:

Even some of the [State Investment Council’s (SIC)] smallest acquisitions look questionable. Take for instance, its investment in Small Smiles. The SIC’s 2007 annual report showed an investment of an unstated sum in this New Mexico company. By directly contacting the venture capital firm that handled this investment, the Rio Grande Foundation learned that about $500,000 New Mexico taxpayer dollars have been invested in Small Smiles. The SIC itself had not been able to answer this question.

Contrary to the SIC’s annual report, Small Smiles, is not a New Mexico company. It is a national chain of low-income dental clinics owned by a bank in Bahrain. Furthermore, at the time half a million taxpayers dollars were going to help Arab investors, Small Smiles was being blasted in an Emmy Award winning investigative television series called “Drilling for Dollars.”

Small Smiles clinics in the Washington, D.C. area were exposed for abusing children by strapping them to “papoose boards.” Small Smiles had engaged in unethical billing practices. Parents came forward with complaints of unnecessary dental work being performed on their children without their consent.

Geez, forcing unnecessary procedures on children in order to line their pockets, it doesn’t get more evil than that. As to the use of papoose boards to perform unnecessary dental work, okay, I was wrong it does get more evil.


Mind you, I’m the father of two young boys. My oldest needed to have a dental “appliance ” installed at the age of four to correct a problem. It was not a fun experience for him, but I was there the entire time to hold his hand. I can’t imagine how he would feel about me or the dentist if we had allowed him to be strapped into a papoose board. I’m thoroughly disgusted.

How is it that the SIC has had so many questionable (I’m being kind here) and ill-fated investments? Well, you might remember that it has been standard policy under the Richardson administration to fire those advisors who did not want to issue rubber stamp endorsements of shady (okay, sugar-coating is not really my style) deals that Governor Richardson wanted to see approved.

That’s right, I said, “Deals that Governor Richardson wanted approved.” After all, the Governor is the chairman of the SIC. Now, in light of all of the recent scandals, you may be wondering if the Governor has ever received any campaign contributions from anyone connected to Small Smiles.

Well, I’m glad you asked. As it turns out, the Chairman and CEO of the holding company for Small Smiles is Michael Lindley of Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Lindley did indeed donate a $1,000 to our Governor’s presidential campaign. He also gave a $1,000 to Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s campaign.

Of course, my guess is that our Speaker of the House Ben Lujan solicited the funds on his son’s behalf. After all, other than the imprisoned former State Senator Manny Aragon, the only other elected official to recieve funds cycle after cycle from Small Smiles in New Mexico is Speaker of the House Lujan.

Now, I’m sure none of this is tied to pay-to-play in New Mexico. It’s probably all just some strange coincidence.

Since When is $13,000 Staggering?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

In support of the eco-terrorists favorite candidate, Martin Heinrich, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has launched a radio attack in the 1st Congressional race against the law and order candidate, Darren White (hat tip: Heath Haussaman).

This segment from the radio spot that had me rolling on the floor:

Darren White has raised $13,000 from big oil interests, and he is asking us to believe he is going to solve the energy crunch? Martin Heinrich has a different approach.

Since when is $13,000 considered a staggering amount? A quick review at the FEC site shows that, Sheriff Darren White had raised $906,062.69 through June 30, 2008 – basically 1.4% of his total contributions. Now, in the name of full disclosure, I should point out that I’ve personally given $2,300 to Darren White’s campaign – basically .25% of his total contributions.

Compare my own personal annual gross revenues (in the six figures in a good year) with the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue by the Oil & Gas industry in an average year. So, I guess with all things equal, my contribution is the truly staggering amount.

Now, we know that Martin Heinrich’s “different approach” to the energy crisis involves embracing the advocates of monkeywrenching. And, we know that the oil industry accounts for about 1% of Darren White’s overall fundraising. You tell me which candidate is better suited for Congress.

Martin Heinrich Appeals to EcoTerrorists

Monday, August 11th, 2008

No matter which side you are on with regard to the War on Terror, most everyone can agree that terrorists have no place in a civil society. That’s why I find it very troubling that Martin Heinrich, candidate for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, has a long history of accepting campaign funds from self-described EcoTerrorists.

If you’ve got some time watch this video of Earth First co-founder, Dave Foreman, taken eleven years ago.

EARTH FIRST! The Politics of Radical Environmentalism by Manes 4
http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=22418567,t=1,mt=video

If you don’t have time, then just skip straight to the end around 10:30 in the video. These guys are out scary. Just read, Dave Foreman’s bio at Activistcash:

Biography
A former environmental lobbyist and Sierra Club board member who became disillusioned with the democratic process, Dave Forman founded the notorious “direct action” environmental organization Earth First! Foreman declared that “Earth First! is a warrior society,” and under his leadership the group has engaged in arson, violent assault, and vandalism of all kinds. Foreman is the author of Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching. As the name suggests, the book is an instruction manual for illegal sabotage and how to get away with it. Foreman’s “Confessions of an Eco-Warrior” justifies his life of zealotry by stating: “We humans have become a disease — the Humanpox.”

Foreman pled guilty to conspiracy after he was accused of providing the funds to blow up power lines leading to and from a nuclear power plant. Foreman wrote a check to buy grenades. Foreman left Earth First! in 1989 and founded the Wildlands Project, which seeks to restrict human civilization to limited patches of the Earth and wall off the rest for nature to rule. From 1995 to 1998 he served on the Sierra Club’s board of directors. He is presently the publisher of Wild Earth, the periodical of the Wildlands Project.

Background
Founder, Earth First!; Founder; Wildlands Project; Author, Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching and Confessions of an Eco-Warrior

Everyone knows that Martin Heinrich is an environmentalist, but Earth First! is not just about preserving open space and being ecologically sensitive. These folks, with whom Martin Heinrich has a longstanding relationship, believe that the “human race is a disease” and they advocate terrorists acts against hard-working Americans.

Both Dave Foreman and his wife, Nancy Morton have financially supported Martin Heinrich since his run for the Albuquerque City Council. Nancy Morton has gone on to write him two checks already for his Congressional race.

Lest, you think Ms. Morton is not as radical as her husband watch this video, or better yet, go straight to the three minute mark and watch what happens to mill workers when somebody spikes a tree. Immediately following the mill supervisor’s explanation, Nancy Morton shows little concern for the mill employees, because in her own words they’re “guilty parties in the destruction of the forest.”

EARTH FIRST! The Politics of Radical Environmentalism by Manes 3
http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=22414078,t=1,mt=video
I think Martin Heinrich has some explaining to do. On his website Heinrich ranks “protecting the environment” as one of his top issues. Does he also believe that folks that work in mills are “guilty”? Does he believe hard-working people in the construction industry are guilty? Would he sanction endangering the lives of oil workers who are trying to feed their families?

Just how far is Martin Heinrich willing to go to protect the environment? Apparently far enough to get EcoTerrorists Dave Foreman and Nancy Morton to open their wallets.

Political Mutual Funds

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Due to a lawsuit filed by three ousted Democratic legislators, there has been a lot of attention given recently to the political activity of certain not-for-profits (subscription):

Officials for the Center for Civic Policy said in May they had sent out literature for the Legislative Accountability Project in conjunction with several other nonprofits, including the SouthWest Organizing Project.

They said they sent the materials out as mailers starting after the end of the last legislative session as educational materials for voters based on the legislators’ voting records, not as campaign materials intended to unseat lawmakers.

The mailers, which criticized the losing officials for their voting records and campaign contributors, were stopped more than a month before the primary to avoid the appearance of any partisanship, they said.

“Our organizations have a long and proud history of working for ethics reform, good government, health care and a clean environment,” [
Center for Civic Policy Director Eli Il Yong] Lee said in an e-mail Saturday. “As nonpartisan, not-for-profit organizations, it is our responsibility to educate the public about the votes and contributions of our elected officials.”

Okay, let’s start with the obvious. Eli Lee has been involved in politics for quite some time now as the CEO and President of Soltari, a political consulting firm, with an impressive list of clients who went on to win their elections. Mr. Lee knows what he is doing when it comes to running winning political campaigns.

The problem here is that Mr. Lee is now supposedly running a “nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization,” the Center for Civic Policy, but his actions and his alliances indicate otherwise. First, consider the Center for Civic Policy’s ties to the New Progressive Coalition (NPC). What does the NPC do?

NPC acts as a political giving advisor by providing you with products and services to target your political and charitable time and money more effectively.

Think Charles Schwab for politics.

In other words, NPC raises money to be distributed and used in political campaigns. They try to make “political giving easy and strategic,” and they funnel money to organizations like Center for Civic Policy and Act Blue. Now, the latter, unlike the former, does not try and skirt campaign finance laws. Act Blue is organized as a Federal PAC and like all PACs the contributions to and from the PAC are governed by campaign finance laws and are not tax deductible.

As a former not-for-proift executive, it’s that last part that really irks me. Mr. Lee is conducting political activity, and he is doing it to benefit a certain wing of the Democratic Party – a strictly partisan endeavor. Yet, his donors are able to write off their political contributions as charitable deductions and remain hidden from exposure during the election cycle.

The irony in all this is that Matt Brix, the former Executive Director of Common Cause and champion for campaign reform in New Mexico, is the Executive Director of the Center for Civic Policy. Matt and I have often had dialogue regarding campaign limits. Matt has consistently lobbyied for campaign contribution limits, and my position has always been that they are unneccessary and full and timely discolusre is prefereable.

Not-for profits have no contribution limits nor do they have to disclose donors in a timely manner. If this were a Star Wars movie, I believe Matt would now officially be a member of “the Dark Side.” And, I’m sure someone conviced him it is all in the name of a greater good.

Who Takes Oil and Gas Money?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

So, Jim Baca’s trying to paint a picture of the oil and gas industry and the Republican Party in New Mexico being in bed together:

The biggest contributor to the Republican party in New Mexico is the oil and gas industry. That is a fact. Now, John McCain says that he will rely on the Republican party for most of his fundraising for his presidential campaign. Ergo, the oil and gas industry will be largely funding his campaign, along with Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the rest of the military industrial complex.

First, let me say the obvious. I have no problem with the oil and gas industry. As I’ve pointed out more than once before, New Mexico would be in a pretty sorry state if it wasn’t for this industry. My guess is that a big part of Jim Baca’s problem is that he didn’t get much support from the oil and gas industry when he ran for Land Commissioner. I’ll go out on a limb and guess it has something to do that he likes to make them into a boogey man.

Now, the interesting part…

According to followthemoney.org, the oil and gas industry made a little over $2 million in contributions to candidates in 2006. It’s worth noting that is SIGNIFICANTLY less than the $2.4 million spent by lawyers. Hmm, who do you think those trial lawyers gave their money to? But, I digress.

Taking a look at the list of recipients of oil and gas money yields a very interesting observation. Namely, that there are an awful lot of Democrats on that list receiving an awful ot of money. Just on the first page, you’ll find Governor Bill Richardson, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, Attorney General Gary King and the New Mexico Democratic Party.

Again, I’ve don’t have an problem with the oil and gas industry. In fact, as a small business owner, I recognize the important role they play in keeping my business growing. My problem is that until Jim Baca is ready to call the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and State Democratic Party to task, it is just going to come off as sour grapes.

Democratic Vote Buying

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

There has been a lot of talk both in the local and national news about the Democratic Party’s superdelegate system, and the role they may play in picking the Democratic nominee for President:

First-term Rep. Carol Shea-Porter supports Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though her New Hampshire constituents voted for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“It came to a virtual draw in our state” in last month’s primary, she says of the mismatch in positions. “I think it’s a moot question.”

In her case, perhaps so. But Shea-Porter is not alone, and increasingly in the close Democratic race, the political intentions of delegates picked outside the primaries and caucuses are cause for controversy.

It turns out that one reason that superdelegates are going to vote against their constituents desire is cold, hard cash. It seems being a superdelegate is one way Democrats are able to pad their campaign coffers:

At least two of New Mexico’s Democratic “superdelegates” — party leaders who might end up choosing the nominee for president if the race between U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton remains tight — have received campaign contributions from the candidates.

Obama’s political action committee, Hope Fund, in 2005 made two contributions totaling $4,200 to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s 2006 re-election campaign. Meanwhile, Clinton’s HILLPAC gave $5,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson’s 2006 gubernatorial race.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear about Democrats calling for campaign ethics reform in New Mexico.