Posts Tagged ‘Public Financing of Campaigns’

Public Financing Makes for Quiet Campaigns

Monday, July 20th, 2009

With all three Albuquerque mayoral candidates having expended between 10% – 20% of their taxpayer funded campaign dollars so far, one thing is very clear. It’s an awfully quiet campaign. This works in the incumbent’s favor. Everyone knows I really dislike taxpayer funded campaigns, because I believe they hurt, rather than help the process.

The irony here is that the advocates of these taxpayer funded campaigns argue that they enable people who would not otherwise be able to run the opportunity to seek elected office. Of course, the three people who are running on the taxpayer dollar have all been successful at getting elected in the past through voluntary contributions as opposed to forced taxpayer support. So, that argument doesn’t really hold much water.

Worse yet, the incumbent has been able to leverage his position as mayor to basically ignore the race until the final two months and focus on generating positive press through city staffers. With government budgets being tighter, maybe we can eliminate all taxpayer funded campaigns as one measure of belt tightening.

Mayor Chavez Buys Votes for $1.3 Million

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I’ve long been an opponent of publicly funded campaigns, and it appears that the mayoral campaign currently underway is the perfect case study of why using our tax dollars to elect politicians is a lousy idea.

First, let’s consider how Albuquerque’s incumbent Mayor Marty Chavez was able to get on the ballot:

The confirmed city employees constitute 42 percent of the volunteer base used to collect the qualifying donations, making Fleisher correct in that respect. But those employees collected more than their share of the contributions. The review shows that 152 of the 295 books, or 52 percent, were used by city employees to qualify the mayor for public financing.

For example, the city’s employee relations manager, Lawrence Torres — who is the administration’s liaison with the city’s unionized workers — collected 10 books for the mayor, which was the largest group of books collected by one individual. Torres confirmed he collected the contributions, but declined to discuss how he did it, or why he participated in the drive.

Along with Torres, many of the city’s department directors — who are appointed by the mayor — collected contributions, as did many of their department managers plus the mayor’s own staff.

In other words, there is nothing grassroots about the whole taxpayer funded campaign program. The biggest beneficiaries are those already in office. Of course, getting your appointees to collect the signatures and money you need to get on the ballot and rake in the taxpayer money is only the beginning of the story.

Next comes the actual execution of the campaign. This is where you have to convince people to vote for you. Of course, once again, the incumbent in this case, Mayor Marty Chavez, has a great strategy. Try and buy the votes of a large voting block:

Mayor Martin Chávez says the city’s blue-collar, clerical, security and transit employees won’t have to wait an extra six months for their annual pay raises.

Chávez said his budget office had found about $1.3 million that isn’t needed in a workman’s compensation fund. That will allow the city to provide pay raises to more of its employees on July 1, the mayor said. The raises are expected to be about 3 percent.

That’s amazing! Mayor Chavez found $1.3 million to pass out as raises. Somebody please explain to me how that happens. Last I checked the City of Albuquerque was looking at huge budget shortfalls:

Albuquerque faces a $20 million budget shortfall because of the worsening economy, and city officials are trying bridge the budget gap without laying off city workers.

In fact, the $20 million budget shortfall is just the beginning. It has been estimated that this amount will grow even larger next year. Yet, the Mayor is handing out raises. There is only one motivation to do this – buying votes!

Indictments are a Distraction

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By now you know that PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. has been indicted. How Jerome Block, Jr. ever got elected is still a mystery to me. Everything in this guy’s recent past seemed to indicate this outcome. But, I have to admit that I find this to be a sad statement on New Mexico’s tolerance of illegal behavior among elected officials:

PRC chairman Sandy Jones said it was too early to say whether Block should consider resigning or recusing himself from votes on the commission. Jones said Block had “hit the ground running” and shown commitment to the job since taking office Jan. 1.

“I’m confident right now he’s doing what he needs to do,” said Jones, even as he acknowledged that the indictments were a distraction.

Only in New Mexico politics could an indictment be considered nothing more than a “distraction.”

Maybe I was Wrong

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

All this time I’ve been against taxpayer funded campaigns. But, I’m now man enough to admit I may have been wrong. I just didn’t understand how these funds could be used:

Here’s to public financing.

City Hall is lifting a ban on using public campaign funds to purchase alcohol.

City Clerk Randy Autio and others in the administration determined last month that the alcohol prohibition is illegal, based on language in the voter-approved “Open and Ethical Elections Code.” The code makes no mention of alcohol, Autio said, and the city cannot enact a ban without authority to do so.

Ok, the way I understand it, we just need to collect about $5 per person from 3,500 (that works out to $17,500), and the the people of Albuquerque will fork over:

Under public financing this year, mayoral candidates are expected to receive about $328,000 to spend on their campaigns.

Dang, consider me converted. This taxpayer funded party idea sounds good to me. Let’s find someone to run for Mayor and throw one killer party! My 40th is in April, and money is a little tight this year to throw a big bash campaign rally, but I think I just found the solution.

Block Gives Our Money to Hillary

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

It’s official, Jerome Block, Jr. is the poster child for all of us against taxpayer financing of campaigns:

In his latest campaign-finance report, Jerome Block Jr. gave $700 to Hillary Clinton, well after the former first lady had given up her run for president.

The contribution, made with public campaign funds, is dated Aug. 25, a week after Gov. Bill Richardson hosted fundraisers in New Mexico to help Clinton get rid of her multimillion-dollar campaign debt.

A section of the Voter Action Act, which funds Public Regulation Commission campaigns, says, “All money distributed to a certified candidate shall be used for that candidate’s campaign-related purposes in the election cycle in which the money was distributed.”

Mind you, this is the guy who has:

  1. already admitted to campaign fraud.
  2. a troubled legal history.
  3. made a potentially illegal payment to an Attorney General employee.

Where’s the outrage from all of those pushing ethics reform session after session? As if to add insult to injury, on top of everything else listed above, Block is dining at Twin Peaks on our dime.

Who Would Vote for Jerome Block Jr?

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Looks like Attorney General Gary King is going to move forward with an investigation into Jerome Block Jr’s dishonest use of public financing funds (subscription):

Attorney General Gary King said investigating a Public Regulation Commission candidate who has acknowledged lying about an expenditure he made with public funds is a “front-burner” issue for his office.

But King said he’s not sure when a decision will be made about whether to pursue charges against Jerome Block Jr., the Democratic nominee for a PRC seat in northern New Mexico’s District 3.

Block in a campaign finance report said he paid $2,500 to a band — whose members include the San Miguel County clerk — for a performance at a May campaign rally.

When news organizations questioned the expenditure, Block repeatedly insisted the performance had occurred. He admitted this week that he had lied, saying he had wanted to avoid further publicity and was unsure how to reflect a refund.

I had wondered late last month when heads would begin to roll this election cycle for the “questionable” (read: illegal) campaign activities. My only concern is here is that the Attorney General is making this a “front burner” issue. I’m not sure how “front burner” compares to “top priority,” but if they’re equal Jerome Block, Jr, may well have collected $180,000 in salary before the investigation is complete.

How do I figure that? Simple. Investigating the Housing Authority fraud was a top priority for this Attorney General, and that investigation started 24 months ago without anyone being indicted to date.

Now, of course, there is one way to make sure that Mr. Block, Jr. doesn’t get to collect that cushy salary – don’t elect him. Obviously, I’m not in his district, so I don’t really have a vote here, but considering the facts to date. I can’t imagine how anyone in their right mind would vote to elect this guy. It looks like his troubled legal history is not even close to behind him.

As a closing note, please remember this guy is running on our dime. This is a publicly financed campaign. Those who argue for public financing of campaigns love to say that one of the reasons for having them is to encourage those who might not otherwise be able to run be given a chance. With candidates like Jeorme Block, Jr., I’m inclined to think we might all be better off if certain types of candidates couldn’t run.

If proponents of publicly funded campaigns are going to keep ramming this thing down our throat. Could they at least change the law, so that anyone with a criminal record is prohibited from getting publicly funded. Is that too much to ask?

Maybe a Write-in PRC Candidate for District 3?

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Jerome Block, Sr., the father of the Democratic PRC candidate for District 3, sent myself and two others a note last Thursday with a simple question:

Now that you have reported extensively about the grave crime of peeing in the bushes, when will you report about the candidate who beats women?!

It’s definitely a fair question. Of course, contrary to popular belief lately, I don’t actually report things. Instead, I tend to opine on things reported. The good news for Mr. Block, Sr. is that “the candidate who beats women” (as he put it) was reported on by one of my favorite political reporters, Mr. Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican:

And Lass apparently won’t be making an issue of Block’s past legal skirmishes. He told The New Mexican this week that he thinks it’s “odd” Block doesn’t remember his disorderly conduct violation. “I actually consider this a bit of a distraction from the main campaign that I plan on running, talking about how important the PRC is and how we need an advocate for the people,” Lass said.

Lass, in a 2004 interview when he was running for a state Senate seat, admitted he’d been arrested in 1999 on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery in a fight with his girlfriend. He said the charge was dropped after he successfully completed the Municipal Court domestic-violence program, which he said involved anger-management classes.

But at least he remembered it.

Mr. Block Sr., a seasoned politician in his own right, should have told his son that pretending something didn’t happen doesn’t make it go away. Block Jr.’s problem is less about committing “the grave crime of peeing in the bushes,” and more about his unwillingness to come clean with that and other details. What could have been written off as juvenile stupidity has instead turned into a questionable character trait of an adult – namely, the ability to come clean with the truth.

As to Mr. Lass, well, he has come clean; however, that does little in my eyes to make him electable. I said the first time I wrote about Mr. Block Jr.’s problems that his opponent deserved a second look. Now, after a second look at both candidates, I’d suggest that the citizens of PRC District 3 might want to encourage a write-in candidate for the $90,000 a year job. On the upside, if the candidate does not have any past criminal charges, he or she would already have a leg up on the competition.

I don’t know what it is about the PRC, but for such a small group, they sure do attract individuals who seem to have more than their fair share of legal troubles – from misdemeanor battery charges to peeing in the bushes to sexual harassment to possession of marijuana.

Geez, what a bunch. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the PRC is one of those elected positions that the candidates get to run for on the taxpayers’ dime. Yup, there is no doubt about it. Taxpayer funded elections sure are bringing us a higher caliber of candidate.

Where’s the Public Outcry?

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Legislative session after legislative session in New Mexico we’ve had to endure the demands from the left to “reform” our election system by instituting public funding of elections. Yet, when the presumptive “champion for change” of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama opts out of public funding for his presidential race, the left is eerily silent:

Obama broke a previous pledge last week and announced that he would opt out of the public-financing system for presidential candidates. On a practical level, it wasn’t surprising: The Democrat has displayed a rare ability to raise huge amounts of money from average Americans, and that would have been hindered by accepting public financing.

But reducing the influence of money in politics is central to Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In” slogan and the message of his presidential campaign. It’s true that his campaign has found a different way to raise money, but the reality is that he pledged to use the public financing system in the general election if his opponent also agreed — which McCain has done.

Now Obama, the candidate who asks Americans to be idealists and believe change is possible, is instead acting like a realist by deciding to break a promise because doing so will increase his chances of being elected.

So, how about it my friends on the left? Are you going to call on Senator Obama to opt in for public funding? If you don’t, that’s okay. I understand that winning is more important than pushing for public funding. Just do me a favor, okay? Don’t get back on your high horse when the November election is over.

Public Funding Epilogue

Friday, October 12th, 2007

I meant to write about this earlier in the week, but it got lost in the election hoopla. There was a little article in the Albuquerque Tribune, which makes the perfect case against public funding:

Garduño is advocating an earlier reporting period, because any extra money distributed to a publicly financed candidate after the last reporting period would be given too late to make a difference.

That happened in one case this year, when incumbent City Councilor Debbie O’Malley – who was victorious in her District 2 re-election bid – received about $1,600 on Election Day.

“You can’t do anything with it. You can’t, like, put a piece of mail out,” O’Malley said. “We ran out of food (on Election Day), and we got some more for our celebration party. I ended up giving some of my people some extra money for helping out.”

Gee whiz, Councilor O’Malley, did you ever think about maybe just returning the taxpayer’s money since it couldn’t be used for campaign purposes? No, I guess not. Why should you, right? Instead, you spent it on food and handed it out as party favors. Yup, I’m sure that was in the public’s best interest.

Spending Taxpayer Funds

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Yesterday, the NM GOP put out a press release addressing the questionable ways some Democratic candidates have already begun to spend their taxpayer funded jackpots campaigns:

Recently filed campaign reports by candidates for the Albuquerque City Council paint a clear and convincing case against public financing for political campaigns. Joan Griffin, a candidate for City Council District 6, received $23,440 in taxpayer funds for her campaign, and in the past reporting period, doled out $400 to the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Paulette De’Pascal, a candidate for City Council District 4, received $31,692 in taxpayer funds for her campaign, and she also gave $400 to the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

“I wonder how many Albuquerque taxpayers know that they just handed over $800 to the Democrat Party,” remarked NM GOP Executive Director, Adam Feldman. “Ordinarily, such an expense wouldn’t even receive notice because, as it should be, when a candidate raises their own money, they are able to spend it on whatever campaign activities are necessary. But in this case, taxpayer dollars are being doled out to a political party, supposedly for a registered voters list that could have more easily been purchased at the city clerk’s office. What would prevent either candidate from dropping all of their money into the state Democrat Party?”

And in De’Pascal’s case, taxpayer funded campaign dollars have also been wisely used at Starbucks. After all, there is no better way to ensure campaign success then to enjoy a publicly funded iced venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream and a double shot of expresso. It provides that competitive advantage every candidate needs.

Now if these taxpayer exploiting candidates are successful at winning a council seat, they’re sure to follow in the footsteps of their mentor and continue spending taxpayer money with reckless abandonment in the pursuit of a better political image:

But the question – when is a public service announcement a campaign ad – hasn’t been answered.

It usually comes up during election season. It’s back again sooner, in my mind at least, with the upcoming broadcast of a television special “Shaping the Future: Albuquerque’s Economic Success.” Mayor Martin Chavez provides voice-over and is featured prominently.

The city – you – spent $36,000 to produce the video. It will set us back another $20,000 to broadcast it five times on the four New Mexico TV stations before the end of July. (Considering the video is 30 minutes long, that’s actually cheap compared to what it costs to air TV ads during election season.)

But before you judge, listen to the idea: The video is meant to reach out and let community members and business leaders know about economic development in the Duke City.

Hmm, that’s an interesting spin… As a community member and burgeoning business leader, I’ve attended no less than three luncheons in the last six weeks that have educated me on the economic development in the Duke City – one by Albuquerque Economic Development, one by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and another by NAIOP.

I wonder what the Mayor is going to tell me in his taxpayer funded campaign commercial television special that I don’t already know?