Mario Burgos » Diane Denish

Posts Tagged ‘Diane Denish’

It’s A Good Question

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I heard Lt. Governor Diane Denish on the campaign trail saying, “Now is not the time to raise taxes.”  All too often politicians say one thing on the campaign trail and do an entirely different thing when they are elected to the office for which they are campaigning.

Looks like we don’t even have to wait to elect the Lt. Governor to see her live up to that long tradition of saying one thing and doing another.  Consider this from a recent press release by GOP candidate for Governor Susana Martinez:

Denish initially claimed to oppose an “across-the-board tax on all food.” That sounded to me like a cleverly-worded statement that left the door open to a “partial” tax increase on “certain” foods (like maybe tortillas, for example, as was proposed during the regular session). So in January,  [http://cts.vresp.com/c/?SusanaMartinezforGov/b794e4993b/c534fc8f02/dc0b33a94e] I called on her to clarify.

Her response? Silence.

Sure enough, as the “partial” reinstatement of the food tax was flying though the legislature and she was presiding over the state Senate, she did nothing.

And just last week, Denish was acting Governor… As acting Governor, she even signed legislation.

So, that raises this question: If Denish is so opposed to the food tax, and she was acting Governor, why didn’t she take the opportunity to show real leadership and VETO the food tax increase?

It’s a good question.

Let’s See the Proof

Monday, March 8th, 2010

The Governor’s office and Lt. Governor Diane Denish appear to be in a he said / she said squabble about the state’s failure to land a Race to the Top education reform grant from the Obama administration:

Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia said that despite Denish’s interest in education, she declined repeated invitations to help develop the proposal.
        

“Her only involvement was to write a letter in support of the state’s proposal, which she praised as being ‘innovative,’” Ray-Garcia said.
        

“Now, for whatever reason, she has decided to attack the hard work of a lot of New Mexicans, including Secretary Garcia and her staff, who dedicated a lot of time and resources into this proposal. It was a strong proposal and Governor Richardson was proud to spend considerable time in Washington D.C. last week lobbying Secretary Duncan on its merits.”

Denish spokesman James Hallinan said Denish was never invited to participate in the grant-writing process. 

Now, I admit to being a bit curious as to whom is telling the truth here. And, as it was pointed out to me by one reader, this should be relatively easy to prove one way or the other. Maybe Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia would like to send us a copy of the emails or memos that were sent to the Lt. Governor inviting her to help develop the proposal, or maybe a copy of one of the written responses where she “declined repeated inivtations.”


Alternately, maybe the Lt. Governor’s spokesman, James Hallinan could send us a copy of the request the Lt. Governor made to actually be involved with the proposal writing. I’m just saying, if one of you is telling the truth, please back it up with a little written evidence.


As a relative tangent, you’ve got to love the fact that teachers’ union representative actually wrote a letter AGAINST the state’s request for $160 million from the feds:

And while the state’s chances probably weren’t helped by a letter from Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein criticizing the state’s application, that likely wasn’t a determining factor. 

It may not have been a determining factor, but I do hope that when we have a second special session this year because revenue is less than projected, our state legislatures take note that the union went out of their way to keep money for education from coming into the state.  Education cuts in the amount of $160 million should absolutely be on the table if a second special session is called.

New Mexico Democrats Have a Problem

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last week, I attended an event that had, among others, Lt. Governor Diane Denish as a speaker. To the delight of myself and the small business audience in attendance, the Lt Governor said, and I paraphrase, “Now is not the time to raise taxes. It is time for the government to do what the private sector has been forced to do and control spending.”

Now considering that Lt. Governor Denish is usually considerably to the left of me, and that her campaign for Governor is well-funded, it can only be concluded that her internal polling is telling her that supporting tax increase, any tax increases, right now would be the equivalent to political suicide.

And, herein lies the problem

More details on tax hikes and spending cuts in a new state budget plan emerged Sunday as New Mexico lawmakers prepared to return to the Capitol today for a special session on the budget.
        

The plan, hammered out behind closed doors by top-ranking House and Senate Democrats, would increase the state’s gross receipts tax, raise the tax on cigarettes and have New Mexico cities reinstate a portion of the gross receipts tax on food items that was repealed six years ago. 

Yup, leave it to the Democrats to propose a slew of new taxes as families are struggling to survive. If these tax increases are passed, they are going to hurt campaign efforts of every Democrat running for office during this election cycle. Mind you, that’s not something that’s particularly upsetting to me, but for a strategic standpoint its interesting to watch how this is playing out. 

As a limited government guy, I wouldn’t mind seeing some taxes cut for a variety of reasons I’ve outlined over the years.  But, in the current economy, I would be willing to settle for no new taxes. The Democrats seem to be operating as though it is business as usual (i.e. let’s find another incremental tax to pass).  But, there is nothing usual about the situation in which we all find ourselves.


Right now, Lt. Governor Denish is trying to emerge from Governor Richardson’s shadow and define herself as a leader in her own right. Of course, taking a stand against new taxes when her Democratic colleagues are pushing for them is setting her up to appear either:


a) Lacking in leadership and the ability to influence policy.


OR


b) Saying what the people want to hear in public and privately supporting the taxation of the masses.

Either way, New Mexico Democrats, from the Lt. Governor on down, have a big problem.

Richardson Approval Numbers in Free Fall

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Teflon Governor is Teflon no more.

We’re going to have our New Mexico poll results out starting tomorrow- perhaps the most interesting thing we found is that Bill Richardson has become one of the least popular Governors in the country, with 63% of voters in the state disapproving of him to only 28% approving. He’s even in negative territory among Democrats at a 42/47 spread.

I’ve always been amazed by Governor Bill Richardson’s early popularity. Despite the rhetoric, the “successes” of this Administration have been nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for days, but you can just hit the appropriate label button below and read it all without me repeating it.

So, what does this all mean for the Democratic hopefuls during this upcoming election year.  Well, right now it looks like Richardson Administration #2, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, is still polling out ahead… barely:

Where New Mexico departs from its regional counterparts is that it still looks favored to vote Democratic in its most significant statewide race this year. Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish leads her top Republican opponent, Pete Domenici Jr., by a 45-40 margin and has leads of 14-18 points over the rest of the GOP field.

Denish is by far the best known of the candidates running, with 41% of voters in the state holding a positive opinion of her to just 34% who see her negatively.

 Keep in mind, the Lt. Governor has been campaigning for this position for going on two years. So, I don’t know that those  numbers are anything to celebrate about – especially, considering Pete Domenici Jr. just got in the race a couple of weeks ago.

It’s going to be very hard for the Lt. Governor to start disengaging herself from the Governor after Denish has been so silent for so long. Only 34% of the voters see her negatively right now, but let’s be realistic.  She has operated in the shadow of Governor for the last eight years. His failed policies are bringing him down very quickly.  It’s not going to be very long before that same problem is encountered by Richardson’s #2. This is particularly true when we consider that the Governor spent so much time out of state during his Presidential dream chasing, that the state was actually being run by Lt. Governor Diane Denish.

Denish-Come-Lately

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Denish-Come-Lately

Noun

Singular
Denish-come-lately
Plural
Denish-come-latelies

Denish-come-lately (plural Denish-come-latelies)

  1. (idiomatic) A newcomer; a novice; an upstart

 Example in Common Usage:

Considering her complicit silence for seven plus years as Lt. Governor and many more years before that as the Chairman of the Democratic Party, many might consider Diane Denish’s election year decision to become an open government advocate something of a Denish-come-lately phenomenon.

It’s been more than half a decade, all of which Lt. Governor Diane Denish has occupied the number two seat in one of the most corrupt and backroom dealing administrations this state has ever seen, since I’ve lamented the fact that how the administration spends taxpayer dollars is done in secrecy.

Now that election season is in full swing, Governor Richardson’s number two is trying to reposition herself as a “Champion of Sunshine.”  Well, she may be able to fool some folks, but come November the voters are not likely to forget that when it came to letting the sun shine in this scandal plagued administration, Lt. Governor Diane Denish her time hiding in the clouds.

Even as recently as a few months ago, when this administration refused to identify those the 59 administration faithful who were supposedly being cut (probably to hide the fact that some were being moved to other positions), the sound of Lt. Governor Denish’s silence was deafening.

Sorry, but being a Denish-Come-Lately to the sunshine brigade is just not going to cut it in November.

Anti-Incumbent Sentiment Confirmed

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

When considering the polling prior to the outcome of the recent Albuquerque mayoral election, I noted that a strong anti-incumbent sentiment was in play:

In 2008, incumbents were swept out of office. Sure, it was a huge Democratic sweep. But, it was just as much an anti-incumbent sweep. People wanted new blood. They voted for “change.”

The Obama administration and the Democrats now in control of the Congress misunderstood this vote for change to mean the country was endorsing a shift to the left and bigger government programs. This wasn’t and isn’t the case at all. The vast majority of Americans are not extremist – neither right nor left. Instead, they are firmly planted in the center.

So, the change they were voting for was against the incumbents, and the direction in which they were taking our country, which ironically enough was towards bigger government programs. Now, it seems to me that the anti-incumbent sentiment has not subsided. It is still alive and well.

My observation regarding the anti-incumbent sentiment seems to be confirmed by a recent Pew Research Group study:

According to the Pew Research Group, the number of people who would like to see their own U.S Representative re-elected has reached a low point — the same type of low point seen in the 1994 and 2006 midterms when the parties in power suffered large losses.

“About half (52 percent) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34 percent say that most members of Congress should be re-elected,” according to Pew. “Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys.”

And, in more bad news for Democrats, Republicans are currently much more enthusiastic about voting in 2010.

I’d argue that these results also apply to the Governor’s office and any swing legislative districts in 2010. Spend time talking to people about politics, and you’ll see its true. Its probably the reason behind State Senator Eichenberg’s recent candid observation:

He wrote that Eichenberg told the crowd at the Southwest Learning Center in Albuquerque that due to Denish’s “complacency or complicity” with the ‘pay-to-play’ atmosphere surrounding the administration of Governor Bill Richardson, and standing quietly behind him,” that he was unwilling to invest a half million dollars in a losing campaign.’

Bralley writes Eichenberg said, “I looked her square in the eye when I said that. I told her I didn’t think she was going to win.”

I’d say the numbers support his assertion.

Siphoning off Money

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’ve noted before in response to some comments that I don’t believe that Lt. Governor Diane Denish is corrupt. However, I do believe that she made a conscious decision during her seven years at Governor Richardson’s side to just go along to get along. She opted to look the other way as corruption flourished and taxpayer funds were misappropriated and mismanaged.

Nothing demonstrates this more than the facts that Jim Scarantino has uncovered by doing a little digging around and then a little more digging around. Now, defenders of Mrs. Denish can call Scarantino names and try to dismiss him as part of some GOP ploy, but it doesn’t change the facts. Facts, I think are captured perfectly by Heather Wilson in a recent note on Facebook:

“I served in Congress when we passed the economic stimulus bill in 2003. The funds we sent to states were to cover essential government services and unfunded federal mandates during a recession. Today’s new revelations suggest that Lieutenant Governor Denish diverted those funds to pay contract staff for activities related to Senator John Kerry’s Presidential campaign.

This is obviously inappropriate. It’s time for the state legislature, federal and state auditors to decide they won’t tolerate this kind of wasteful self-dealing in Santa Fe anymore and initiate an audit. It’s pretty clear Mrs. Denish has a lot of explaining to do.”

Now, fellow blogger Heath Haussaman, for whom I have the utmost respect, has noted that he’s at a loss as to what’s the big deal:

There’s been much ado this week following a report from a new Web site about the way Lt. Gov. Diane Denish spent federal stimulus funds she was given in 2003 by Gov. Bill Richardson.

I’ve been investigating the situation for two days and, frankly, I can’t figure out what all the fuss is about.

And, if you’re focused on the amount of dollars spent five years ago to a contract employee to do PR on some questionable activities, he’s right. I mean in a state where it seems not a month goes by without a news story breaking about millions of taxpayer dollars being stolen, who has time to pay attention much less care to what’s got to be less than $1,000 of misspent money?

Right? Wrong.

See the problem is not whether or not Lt. Governor Denish took $500 from one account when she should of taken from another. Sure, that’s wrong, and she blew it on day one by not taking ownership for the mistake and opting instead to go after the messenger. But, that’s not the bigger issue here.

The bigger issue is the stated purpose of the $225,000 gift handed from Governor Richardson to the Lt. Governor. It was part of a stimulus package in 2003 “to cover essential government services and unfunded federal mandates during a recession.

Hmm, kinda like the situation we find ourselves in now.

I don’t see the Lt. Governor getting run out on a rail for what she did (then again she wouldn’t get very far on the rail). However, I DO think she failed a crucial test. No matter how you slice it, public relations, polling and chauffeuring are not essential government services. For a former Chairman of the Democratic Party, it’s understandable how they may seem like essential political services, but they are not by any measure essential government services.

Now, consider the fact that the stimulus money flowing into New Mexico in 2003 was chump change compared to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here are some 2003 numbers in case you don’t have them handy:

The federal government’s May 2003 stimulus package included $20 billion in fiscal relief for the states. $10 billion was provided through a temporary 15-month increase of 2.95% in each state’s Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP). The other $10 billion was in the form of revenue sharing, i.e., a “no strings attached” block grant to the states based on population. Both of these mechanisms allowed federal fiscal relief to flow to the states very quickly without the need for the establishment of any new programs or the submission and approval of plans for using the money.

That’s right the entire redistribution was $20 billion as opposed to $787 billion now being handed out to states. According to former governor Toney Anaya, this round of stimulus spending is supposed to bring $1.4 billion to New Mexico alone.

And, therein lies what all the fuss is about….

The situation today is by all accounts drastically more dire than it was six years ago. In fact, it is quite possible that this is the worse recession since the Great Depression. Even if those pushing for tax increases get their way, non-essential government services are going to have to be cut.

Lt Governor Diane Denish wants us to elect her to be our next Governor during these difficult times. Yet, when she had a chance once before to use stimulus funds to cover essential government services, she chose instead to waste the funds on PR contracts, chauffeurs and polling.

With schools failing and unemployment rising, can we really afford four more years of leadership committed to siphoning off money from essential government services to fund political fancies?

Shooting the Messenger is a Mistake

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Jim Scarantino broke a story yesterday on the New Mexico Watchdog Website about Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s misuse of federal funds that is getting a lot of attention:

Lt. Governor Diane Denish used $225,000 in federal funds to pay for a driver to shuttle her to meetings and press events, a contractor to take Christmas pictures and write Christmas cards, a lawyer to make hotel reservations, opinion polling and public relations services. The money was given to her for “various projects” by Governor Bill Richardson. The money came from unallocated federal fiscal stimulus funds transferred to the New Mexico treasury under the 2003 Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act.

The fact that yet another misuse of federal funds by this Administration has emerged is not particularly surprising. Actually, it would be surprising to find an administration department or official that was not misusing federal funds. Luckily, we do have the New Mexico Watchdog to look into these inappropriate use of taxpayer money since the the defrauders are seeking to render useless the one state agency that can help uncover other violations of the public trust:

The Legislature and governor reduced the general fund money appropriated to the auditor’s office by 14 percent earlier this year, telling the auditor to replace that money with other cash. Now, bills awaiting action from the governor would cut an additional 4 percent from the auditor’s budget and take $500,000 from the fund the state auditor is required to use to supplement its funding.

The loss of that $500,000 would amount to an 81 percent reduction in the so-called “audit fund” – the very fund the Legislature told the auditor earlier this year to use to make up for the 14 percent reduction in its general fund appropriation.

The sum of those budget reductions would plunge the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) – the agency charged with ensuring that state government isn’t plagued by fraud, waste and abuse — “into a budget crisis,” auditor spokeswoman Caroline Buerkle said.

Oh, I know we’re in a budget crisis. But, that is precisely why we should not be gutting the State Auditor’s office. The one office in state government that has of late actually been looking after the public interest. Want to know who is misspending our money? I’d suggest looking at those who are most eager to see the State Auditor budget cut.

Back to Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s problem. No, the problem is not the misuse of federal funds, the problem is, that in what has become the standard modus operandi of this Administration, Lt. Governor Diane Denish is attacking the messenger instead of owning the mistake and making an amends:

Denish’s office provided records to the Journal late Wednesday. The office also sent a statement from Denish chief of staff Joshua Rosen, saying, “The accusations made by this right-wing organization and advanced by Republican candidates for governor are reckless manipulations of the truth.


Ok, you can call Jim Scarantino a lot of things, but right-wing organization is not one of them:


In 2000, Jim co-chaired the McCain for President effort in New Mexico. In 2004, in protest of the administration of George W. Bush, Jim switched to the Democratic Party. Since then, he has continued to support the person he believes is the best candidate for the office, left the GOP. Jim is currently registered Independent, but reserves the right to register with either party to support the right person in a party primary.

Anti-establishment guy? Yes. Right-wing mouthpiece? Absolutely not. [A disclosure here... I get along well with Jim, but he has oscillated over the years between attacking me and making nice. We are currently in the making nice period.]

And, attacking the messenger instead of taking ownership is not the only mistake being made by Lt. Governor Denish:


Denish’s chief of staff, Joshua Rosen, said all the funds were spent for legitimate purposes. A list of talking points included in documents the office gave The New Mexican said, “The money that was given to this office under the federal act represented less than 1 percent given to the state.”

Talked about your mixed messages. First, they try to pretend there is nothing wrong with the misuse of funds, and then they try and minimize the size of the crime. Sorry folks, that’s just not going to fly. Just because this isn’t as bad as, say the fraud perpetrated by the former Secretary of State, doesn’t mean it isn’t just as wrong.

Lt. Governor Denish had an opportunity here, and she blew it. She could have shown leadership, owned the mistake and made it right. Instead, she did what this Administration always does, try to dodge the bullet and shift blame.

Note to the Democratic Party

Friday, October 30th, 2009

With Heather Wilson’s announcement yesterday that she will not run for Governor in 2010, there is only one thing that is crystal clear about the gubernatorial race… The Democratic Party of New Mexico has a messaging problem:

“Regardless of who emerges from the Republican primary, the lack of experience in their entire slate of Republican candidates should deeply concern New Mexicans,” Geise said. “Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We need a proven leader to help New Mexico families weather these tough times, and none of the Republicans running come close to meeting that challenge.”

What’s the problem with this message you ask? Well, it tries to define Lt. Governor Diane Denish as a proven leader. Of course, the only proven elected leadership Lt. Governor Denish has is as the second highest ranking member of the scandal plagued Richardson Administration. Heck, if you factor in the Governor’s out of state travel schedule, especially in the last four years, you might even argue that she has significant experience as acting Governor of a scandal plagued administration. Problem is you’d be arguing against Lt. Governor Denish herself:

Denish has said, in an attempt to distance herself from the scandal-plagued Richardson administration, “There is only one governor at a time.”

So, which is it? Is she a proven leader, or someone who spent the last seven years failing to prove leadership? Let’s say we give the Lt. Governor the benefit of the doubt and choose the former over the latter. Well, then we have a leader who has proven that she can be at the helm of the most corrupt, financially bankrupt and policy flawed administration in the history of New Mexico.

Our roads are crumbling, our schools are failing and not a week passes without someone tied to the administration getting indicted or resigning in shame. If this is what counts as “proven leadership” in the Democratic Party, then I think you’ll find most New Mexicans have just about had enough with the Denish/Richardson brand of proven leadership.

On the other hand, if we are to accept the Lt. Governor’s claim that the terrible mismanagement of the public trust belongs to Governor Bill Richardson, then she has a failure to prove leadership problem on her hands. See, over the last seven years, Lt. Governor Denish sat side by side with Governor Richardson and told New Mexicans that all was well in the Land of Enchantment. Now, we all know that all was not well. In fact, as we have spiraled further and further into crisis, one thing has becoming increasingly clear there has been a decisive lack of leadership shown within the ranks of the Richardson Administration.

Education Cuts Put in Perspective

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

The education establishment is up in arms and willing to go to any length to fight education cuts during the special session. Admittedly, part of the problem is the way that cuts are proposed. Rather than take responsibility for past irresponsible actions, the Richardson/Denish Administration like to propose “across the board” cuts:


Richardson has proposed a 3.5 percent cut to state agencies and a 1.5 percent cut to public schools, which would amount to about a $40 million reduction in the state budget for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Taking this approach to reigning in a budget gone wild is irresponsible at best. Yet, a recent special audit report released by State Auditor Hector Balderas show just how much waste is in education:


The money involved in the transfer to the discretionary account came from funds meant for technology and transportation, Balderas said. About $3,500 of it came from federal Head Start money, in violation of the federal rules, the audit states.

Among the items allegedly purchased by the northern New Mexico school district through the discretionary account were:
  • More than $2,800 in lobbying expenses.
  • $200 spent on 20 bags of beef jerky for lobbying at the Legislature last March.
  • $742 spent on food at the Bull Ring in Santa Fe for a legislative meeting last February.
  • More than $900 spent on flowers for funerals and other events.
  • Jackets for all district staff for staff appreciation in January 2007 costing $3,299. More jackets for staff and also for legislators in March 2007, costing $290.
  • Gift certificates from Wal-Mart for three retiring employees in May 2006 costing a total of $150.
  • A $302 gift from Zales Outlet for the district’s retiring superintendent in August 2006.
  • Another $1,200 for items for conference rooms from a vendor called “Nambe” in August 2008.
  • For district staff: more than $1,300 for hams in December 2007, more than $1,600 for turkeys in February 2009 and more than $900 for denim shirts in April 2009.
  • And more than $2,400 spent on jackets for district leadership in March 2009.

The audit said that depositing money into the discretionary account resulted in less money available for school district operations. Auditors looked into transactions from the discretionary account from fiscal years 2006 to present.

Consider that’s just one finding, and it accounts for almost 1.5% of the district’s annual budget. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done.