Swickard column: The dog days of elections

Michael & Conrad
© 2012 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   My dog Conrad was amused by the story this week of an Albuquerque man who registered his dog to vote and promptly got a voter card for the dog in the mail. He wanted to show that a New Mexico voter card was easy to get even for those who are not legitimate. He has been proven right and has gotten the attention not only of the State of New Mexico law enforcement authorities but also the “dog set to vote” story went national.  These dog days of the election process are quite interesting because it would seem that getting a false voter card was easy. This is despite the fact that I have been told many times the registration process insures only legitimate voters are on the rolls. Read column


Hayes Column: New developments in the New Mexico Senate race.

Candidate Heather Wilson
From the Weekly Standard - by Stephen F. Hayes - Republican hopes of winning the Senate in 2012 took a major hit Tuesday when Maine senator Olympia Snowe announced her retirement. The late notice gave Republicans in the state, as well as those in Washington, D.C., little time to recruit a viable candidate and build an organization that might allow them to hold the seat in November. The unexpected retirement takes a nearly certain Republican seat and makes it a likely Democratic one. Snowe’s departure will increase the attention on another Republican woman—a considerably more conservative one—whose race for the Senate could well determine which party holds a majority at the beginning of 2013—Heather Wilson. The former New Mexico congresswoman was considered a rising star in the Republican party in 2008. A self-described commonsense conservative, her possible ascension that year to the Senate would have made her the first female from that state to serve in the upper chamber of Congress.  She never got the opportunity.  Wilson lost in a tough Republican primary to Representative Steve Pearce, who ran to her right on, well, pretty much everything. It was a primary that seemed designed to test the Buckley Rule: William F. Buckley’s admonition that conservatives ought to vote for the most electable conservative candidate in a given race. Wilson had the endorsements of many in the New Mexico Republican establishment, including retiring senator Pete Domenici, and her supporters argued that Pearce was too conservative to be elected statewide in a purplish-blue state. But intensity matters, and Pearce had the enthusiastic support of the growing conservative movement in the state and national backing from the Club for Growth. In June, Pearce held off a late surge from Wilson to win the primary 51 percent – 49 percent. Five months later he was trounced by Tom Udall, 61-38, a margin even larger than Barack Obama’s 57-42 defeat of John McCain in the state.  Wilson is running again this year, trying to replace retiring Democratic senator Jeff Bingaman. But the odds that she will face a serious challenge from the right seem to be diminishing every day. Earlier this month, Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez, who had been endorsed by Senator Rand Paul, dropped out of the race. Wilson’s remaining opponent in the Republican primary, businessman Greg Sowards, has been endorsed by former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and has indicated some willingness to spend his own money to win.  Sowards speaks the language of the Tea Party, with regular campaign references to the Constitution, the Framers, the overreach of the federal government, and the corruption of runaway spending.  Read more


One Final Government Intervention Swan Song for Departing Senator Bingaman

Jeff Bingaman
Bloomberg - Natural gas, which already is edging aside coal in American electricity generation, would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a clean-energy mandate for utilities under consideration in Congress this year.
Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a measure March 1 to force electricity companies to use an increasing share of energy produced from “clean” sources over the next two decades.
The bill reshapes the energy debate by calling for sources that emit less carbon than coal, a definition that includes natural gas, instead of focusing on zero-emission renewable sources such as wind and solar, both critics and supporters say. While the proposal faces long odds of getting enacted this year, Bingaman’s plan may gain a powerful ally -- and new opposition from environmental groups.
“The obvious goal is to expand it beyond renewables in order to get enough votes,” said Dan Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research in Washington, a group critical of the legislation. “By including natural gas, it’s a way to broaden support.”
Bingaman’s clean-energy mandate may benefit companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) of Irving, Texas and Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), the two largest producers of natural gas in the U.S.  Read full story here: News New Mexico


Martinez Signs Bill Providing Relief to Business

Susana Martinez
ALBUQUERQUE – Today, at a lunch meeting with over 200 small business owners and leaders, Governor Susana Martinez signed SB 32 into law, which provides $81 million worth of temporary tax relief to small businesses throughout New Mexico in 2012.
"As New Mexico job creators are working to get our economy back on track and hire new workers, it's vital that we provide this temporary tax relief to ensure that we're not putting barriers in the way of job creation," said Governor Martinez. "Working in a bipartisan fashion with Sen. John Arthur Smith and others, I am encouraged that we passed a significant amount of tax reform and tax relief for small businesses during this past session.”
Last month, the Governor signed legislation that will provide significant tax relief to the state’s construction and manufacturing sectors by curbing the practice of “pyramiding” – the double- and triple-taxation of certain goods and services that contribute to a final product. The legislature also approved the Governor’s proposal to provide a tax credit of up to $1,000 to New Mexico businesses when they hire a veteran who has returned from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. All proposals enjoyed broad bi-partisan support.
New Mexico businesses had been facing a substantial rate increase (to a level 3 rate schedule) as a result of unemployment legislation passed by the House and Senate during the 2011 legislation session that was upheld by the Supreme Court. SB 32 prevents this burden from being imposed on New Mexico job creators this year (maintaining a level 1 rate schedule in 2012 and moving to a level 2 rate schedule in 2013), providing $81 million in temporary tax relief in 2012 and additional relief in 2013. During this time period, the unemployment council provided for in state law and activated by Governor Martinez through an executive order in November 2011 will work to craft recommendations that ensure the fund’s long-term stability and solvency through a more equitable, predictable rate schedule by which businesses contribute to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.
Governor Martinez's goal is for future fluctuations in the fund to be determined by actuarial and economic conditions - not the votes of politicians in Santa Fe, and for rate changes to be gradual and guided by experts on the unemployment council so that the fund truly operates as an insurance mechanism for businesses.


Thomas Molitor the New "Watchdog"

Thomas Molitor
(Albuquerque) The Rio Grande Foundation has hired Thomas Molitor as the new, New Mexico Watchdog. Molitor is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, School of Economics. He spent 15 years in the corporate communications field where he occupied senior management roles for agencies inside the four largest communications holding companies worldwide – Omnicom, WPP, Publicis and Interpublic. Living in Silicon Valley at the time, Thomas moved over to the world of venture capital for 10 years, having helped found three internet startup companies.
Since moving to New Mexico in 2005, Thomas has made economics, government affairs and politics a full-time obsession. He ran for the New Mexico state legislature, became a regular columnist for two years on NMPolitics.Net, wrote op-ep pieces that have appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal and American Action Forum.
Paul Gessing
Thomas believes there is a modern day citizen journalist reformation emerging – an Internet Reformation. It is led by the Internet making everything in life more transparent, most importantly government affairs and how taxpayers’ money is being spent.
Prior to joining New Mexico Watchdog as a reporter, Thomas was an adjunct scholar at the Rio Grande Foundation.
Said Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “Molitor will be a great addition to watchdog journalism in New Mexico. In recent years, we have made great strides in making government in the Land of Enchantment more accountable and transparent. Thomas Molitor will be working full-time (and more) to expand upon those successes.” Molitor’s work, including the latest update on the “Earthstone” saga at the State Investment Council, will be available at: http://newmexico.watchdog.org/.

Earthstone to Bill

Bill Richardson
NMWatchdog - Boy, things have changed since the last time Watchdog took a look at the State Investment Council’s direct investment in a company named EarthStone International in which former Watchdog reporter Jim Scarantino wrote the story here in a three-part investigation in 2009.

Since Mr. Scarantino last visited the EarthStone story over two years ago, I thought it timely to update the story as your new Watchdog reporter and see how the company is doing and to see if the people of New Mexico have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any of their money back.
First off, to flashback to Scarantino’s discoveries, let’s start from the incestuous beginning. Andrew Ungerleider and Gay Dillingham, the entrepreneur husband and wife team behind the EarthStone idea, approached the SIC to invest in their company. This, I might add, was after the New Mexico Angels, a group of early-stage individual investors turned down Mr. Ungerleider and Ms. Dillingham’s idea as unworthy of investment. Read full story here: News New Mexico

High gas prices: bad for America, good for an election

Marita Noon
I don’t need to use a lot of space telling you why high gas prices are bad for America, but I contend that they are good for an election. Until the current precipitous price increases, energy seemed absent from the overall debate. Now the GOP candidates are all talking about how they would maximize American resources to bring down the price of gas and, rightly so, putting President Obama on the defense. Press Secretary Jay Carney has recently repeated that there is nothing the White House can do. President Obama uses the high prices as an excuse to keep throwing good money after bad to develop “alternatives” like the now fabled Solyndra and this week’s Abound Solar announced lay-offs and delays—even though solar energy, if it ever became viable, has virtually nothing to do with transportation. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is now having to defend his comment in response to a question regarding whether or not the Administration’s goal is to lower gasoline prices: “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil.”
Jay Carney
While it might appear that the White House was broadsided by the energy conversation, President Obama is very well aware of the importance of energy in the 2012 election cycle.
Back in November when President Obama announced he’d delay the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline for more than a year, until after the elections, Republicans were outraged. The pipeline represents up to 20,000 direct jobs and untold thousands of follow-on jobs in hotels, restaurants, retail, and more. In an attempt to force the issue, Republicans inserted a Keystone decision into December’s payroll tax-cut extension bill. Weeks before an end-of-February answer was needed, President Obama handed the Republicans the makings of a campaign commercial. He claims to support job creation, yet here, with no government funds involved, were thousands of jobs—and he killed the project! Does he really care about out-of-work Americans and the economic boost those jobs would provide? Read rest of the column here: News New Mexico


Obama Opens Third Campaign Office in N.M.

From newswest9.com -The Obama campaign has opened a third office in New Mexico. Volunteers, supporters, state lawmakers and Democratic Party officials from southern New Mexico were on hand Sunday to open the office in Las Cruces. The campaign says the opening demonstrates its commitment to New Mexico for the 2012 election cycle. The campaign already has offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, with more scheduled to open in the coming weeks. The campaign says the new office will serve as an important hub for election activities throughout southern New Mexico. New Mexico is 1 of several Western states that both Republicans and Democrats are focused on winning in November.

Sunland Park employee arrested on false voting charges

NMPoliticsDA wants to prosecute those ‘who are soliciting the public to violate the election laws,’ so she’s offering amnesty to people who were ‘influenced to participate in the Sunland Park election for illicit purposes’ if they cooperate with investigators. The director of Sunland Park’s senior center was arrested today on felony charges alleging she influenced two El Paso residents to illegally vote for Daniel Salinas in the March 6 mayoral election. Silvia Gomez, who is also a former Sunland Park city councilor, faces two charges of false voting and two charges of conspiracy to commit false voting. Each is a fourth-degree felony, and she faces a maximum of six years in prison if convicted on all charges. She’s being held at the Doña Ana County Detention Center on a $50,000 surety bond. Read More News New Mexico


Fischmann: "Last Two Sessions Highly Partisan"

Steve Fischmann
Dona Ana County Senator Steve Fischmann has decided to not seek re-election. He released the following statement late Sunday:
"This is to announce that I will not be running for a second term in the New Mexico State Senate. I am making this decision for a combination of family reasons and the desire to pursue other endeavors where I can better focus my energies and have a greater impact. The highly partisan, and I believe, unproductive nature of the past two legislative sessions played a significant role in my decision. I plan to remain active in public service both through my involvement in the Children's Reading Foundation and public issues advocacy. My term in the Senate has been a terrific experience and I want to thank all of the supporters and colleagues who helped me along the way."


Man who registered dog to vote married to Wilson staffer

From NMPolitics.net - It turns out the man who appeared on TV Wednesday – without identifying himself – to say he’d registered his dog to vote is the husband of a staffer on Republican Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign. The problem for the man, the TV station that granted him anonymity, and Wilson’s campaign? Registering your dog to vote is a felony, and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department is now looking into the situation. Thomas Tolbert, the husband of Wilson staffer Heather Wade, sent this statement to NMPolitics.net: “I made a mistake and I want to apologize to Bernalillo County Clerk, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, my wife, who was not aware of my actions, and the public. I will take full responsibility for my actions.” Read more