“Let’s Do This”: Rap Video calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United decision (VIDEO)

Be sure to tune in this afternoon at 5 PM to hear a live interview with Citizens United “rapper” Sarah Kennedy on your radio dial at KSFR 101FM or livestream here.

A rap video about “Citizens United”? Citizens what?

For your information, two memorials have been introduced in both the New Mexico State Senate and House of Representatives that, if passed, would put New Mexico on record in opposition the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.

That’s the decision which is directly responsible for the rise of the “Super PACs” and the unprecedented avalanche of money that has been pouring into Republican presidential primary campaigns thus far this year – millions from big corporations and a few extremely wealthy individuals.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet. The millions spent in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will soon pale in comparison to the hundreds and hundreds of millions that will be unleashed in this fall’s general election at the federal, state and local levels.

The Super PAC attacks in the Republican primaries prompted Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to declare that Citizens United is “one of the worst decisions I have ever seen.” He predicted “there will be huge scandals associated with this huge flood of money.”

The two New Mexico memorials, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces) and Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Abq), would have each house of the legislature call upon the the Congress to pass, and then send back to the states for ratification, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn Citizens United.

By passing these memorials, New Mexico would join a growing list of communities and states that are debating and passing similar resolutions and ballot referendums, including Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Boulder, CO and Missoula, MT. The Missoula ballot question passed with 75% of the vote.

Results of a poll by Hart Research Associates showed that 79% of voters support passage of a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people, including 42% who would definitely support it. Just 21% are opposed. Large majorities of Democrats (87%), independents (82%), and Republicans (68%) support passage of the amendment.

All of which compelled our very own Sarah Kennedy to produce this rap video in support of New Mexico State Senate Memorial 3. Listen up:

 

 

Duelling Roundhouse Rallies: Occupy and Tea Party at Session’s Opening Day

By Matthew Reichbach

The Tea Party has been a force in politics, especially among conservatives, since it gained prominence in 2009. The New Mexico groups gathered for their third rally at the Roundhouse on Tuesday — but this time, the Tea Party had company.

Occupy groups from around the state gathered on the east side of the Roundhouse — and outnumbered the Tea Party protesters on the opposite side of the Roundhouse.

The two rallies had similarities — crowds of New Mexicans holding signs and cheering on speeches from speakers. But the similarities were superficial.

The Occupy crowd was filled with signs calling for the end of corporate involvement in campaigns and signs in Spanish opposing Martinez’s proposal to repeal drivers license for undocumented immigrants. The Tea Party signs were in support of the drivers license repeal and called for mandatory voter identification at the polls.

What the crowed responded to was different as well. The largest applause line at the Tea Party rally was when Lt. Gov. John Sanchez said, “The first thing we need to do is elect a new President.” At the Occupy rally, a large cheer went up when state Sen. Eric Griego said, “money isn’t speech — we need corporations out.”

Griego also signed the 99 Pledge in front of the crowd.

The Democratic state Senator, who is running for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, said he would support a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen’s United, the controversial Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money in support or opposition to a political candidate.

At the Tea Party rally, Marita K. Noon, head of the energy group CARE, railed against the possible listing of the Sand Dune Lizard as an endangered species. Opposition to the listing of the lizard has become cause célèbre for conservatives, especially Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM).

The Occupy group ultimately received more media attention for an attempted — though unsuccessful — “mic check” of Martinez at the beginning of her State of the State address. The Occupy protesters involved were quickly ushered out of the room.

Odds and Ends

  • The two candidates with major presences at the Tea Party rally were Rick Newton, a Republican running for Congress in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, and Greg Sowards, running for U.S. Senate.
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that there “were no major confrontations between the two groups.”

Is “Wild West” of campaign spending back before it ever left?

By Matthew Reichbach

Before campaign finance reforms were passed in 2009, the Wall Street Journal referred to New Mexico as the “political wild west.” In addition to a non-paid state legislature, no webcasting of legislative proceedings and no independent ethics board, the lack of campaign contribution limits was cited. Now, parts of the landmark contribution limit law that was passed in 2009, and which took effect the day after the 2010 elections, were put on hold by a district court judge.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson’s decision would allow state parties to receive unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. However, candidates themselves and organizations that coordinate with candidates would still only be allowed to receive donations of $5,000 per election from an individual or organization (with primaries counting as separate elections from the general elections).

The preliminary injunction went into effect immediately because the 2012 election cycle is already underway.

“Considering that the 2012 election cycle is in full swing and considering that the desired activities of Plaintiffs involve political free speech and association rights during an election year, this Preliminary Injunction shall remain in effect pending appeal unless stayed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Johnson wrote.

Citizens United lawyer James Bopp Jr. represented the State Republican Party in the lawsuit. As Clearly New Mexico reported at the time:

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, [State Sen. Rod] Adair [R-Roswell], Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

Johnson decided to allow the unlimited contributions because of the controversial, and unpopular, Citizens United Supreme Court decision which allows unlimited funds to be used in aid or against a candidate.

Johnson quoted the decision by the Supreme Court, written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Laws that burden political speech are” accordingly “subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”

Continue reading

State Fair’s Casino Deal Raises Pay-to-Play Concerns (VIDEO)

Neighborhood and community groups are still in a state of shock over last week’s unscheduled vote by the State Fair Commission to approve a 25-year lease arrangement calling for construction of a new $20 million casino smack in the middle of Albuquerque. But it’s what Governor Susana Martinez wanted and so that’s that.

Somehow it seems that a slightly modified equation has simply produced an all-too-familiar result:

New Governor+Old Campaign Donor = Pay-to-Play 2.0

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here! What’s really important is, “What does Sarah Kennedy have to say about all this, huh?” Watch and learn:

Citizens United attorney seeks to overturn N.M. campaign finance reform

By Matthew Reichbach

On Friday, the Republican Party of New Mexico and its allies filed suit in federal court to invalidate the campaign contribution limits law passed by the legislature in 2009. The lawsuit cites the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision giving corporations the right to make unlimited campaign ads—often without disclosing the donors who funded the ads.

James Bopp Jr.

James Bopp Jr., the attorney who brought that Citizens United case, is representing the state GOP in this new lawsuit. Bopp is spearheading a national strategy to end campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Game Plan

In a recent New York Times story, Bopp described the strategy in this way: “We had a 10-year plan to take all this down… And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

According to Bloomberg, “Of 31 lawsuits challenging campaign finance regulations tracked by the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, Bopp filed 21, including a case that led to creation of independent groups that raise unlimited sums of money to run political ads.”

This was before the New Mexico lawsuit.

The New Mexico contribution limits law, which went into effect immediately after the 2010 elections, restricts individuals or entities from donating more than $2,300 to a non-statewide candidate in an election, or $5,000 to a statewide candidate, a political party or political action committee. Primaries and general elections are as treated as separate elections.

The law also bars political parties or PACs from donating more than $5,000 to an individual candidate in any given election.

Prior to passage of the law, New Mexico was one of the five remaining states that had resisted the imposing limits on campaign contributions.

A statement released by the state Republican Party expressed optimism that the suit will overturn the limits law. “We are confident that we will be successful in this case, as cases from around the country have found in favor of protection of freedom of speech, including a recent United States Supreme Court decision.”

If the New Mexico contribution limits should be struck down, what would the future campaign finance landscape look like? Recent actions by plaintiffs’ attorney Bopp may offer a clue to what he might be envisioning.

In May of this year, Bopp filed filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission to form the Republican Super PAC Inc. Dubbed the “Super-Duper PAC” in a Mother Jones story, the PAC’s objective was to recruit candidates who would then be able to solicit unlimited funds for the Super-PAC — which could then spend money promoting that candidate.

The FEC quickly shot that idea down a month later in a unanimous ruling saying that while candidates may ask donors to give to the Super-PAC, they cannot ask for more than $5,000. One FEC commissioner called Bopp’s plan, “a bridge too far.”

But Bopp countered that the FEC’s ruling was “meaningless.”

If Bopp does succeed in bringing down New Mexico’s contribution limits law, it would certainly be an ironic fate for a reform that, when it was passed, garnered broad support from Republicans along with Democrats in the legislature.

Sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman (D-Abq.) in 2009, it passed the state Senate on a 40-1 vote with only Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell), a plaintiff on the today’s suit, the only dissenting vote. The bill then breezed though the House on a 49-17 vote with 8 Republicans in support, including the soon to become Albuquerque Mayor, R.J. Berry.

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, Adair, Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

One lawmaker who  reacted quickly to news of the lawsuit was Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). He tweeted, “Citizens United not enough? GOP lawsuit wants to take NM back to ‘wild west’ days where political parties have no campaign limits . . . Wow.”

Wirth might be referring to a January 2009 Wall Street Journal story that was much commented upon at the time the Feldman bill was being debated.  The story excoriated New Mexico for being one of just a handful of states with no campaign contribution limits. It was entitled, “New Mexico’s Political Wild West.”

 

Complaint Over Gov’s Driver’s License Ads Still Pending

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

By Tracy Dingmann

On Thursday we heard that Secretary of State Dianna Duran found Gov. Susana Martinez did not violate the state Campaign Reporting Act by using money raised for her 2010 gubernatorial campaign to pay for a radio ad that aired in Albuquerque last month.

The radio ad had exhorted New Mexicans to call their legislators and ask them to vote for a bill that would stop the state of New Mexico from issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. It was a favored issue of Martinez’s during the campaign and since taken office as governor on Jan. 1. There has been much speculation about the motives behind her push to get the law passed.

Duran’s ruling was in response to a complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s office by the immigrants rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido. In the ruling, Duran said Martinez’ 2010 campaign committee is now her 2014 reelection campaign committee, and the money used for lobbying ads are legitimate 2014 campaign expenditures. Duran said she would not refer the matter to Attorney General Gary King or the district attorney.

When Duran announced her decision, many were tempted to think it was the end of the matter.

It’s not.

Continue reading

A Follow To Our Small Business Task Force Stories: Tracking The Campaign Donations

By Tracy Dingmann

We at Clearly New Mexico would like to give a hat tip to the Estancia-based blog NM-Central.com, which did some important follow-up to our stories last week on the Governor’s Small Business-Friendly Task Force.

To recap: In one of her first acts as Governor, Susana Martinez froze all pending state regulations and created the task force to, as she said, review whether they would be good for New Mexico businesses.

An Inspection of Public Records request revealed the small business task force in charge of deciding whether to keep or scrap regulations was loaded with lobbyists for big and out-of-state corporations and other representatives from large, in-state businesses – not exactly the “mom and pop” shops Martinez said in her State of the State speech that she wanted to protect.

NM-Central.com tracked the campaign contributions of some of the folks on the task force and turned up some interesting information.

Here’s what they found:

We only looked at one lobbyist. Roxanne Rivera-Wiest is listed as representing the Associated Bulders and Contractors, Inc., New Mexico Chapter. ACBI contributed $17,000 to the Martinez campaign.

Frank Yates, past president of Yates Petroleum – Yates Petroleum is listed as a “top contributor” (number 11) and contributed $56,000 to the Martinez campaign.

Perry Bendicksen, “Albuquerque venture capitalist” – We find little on Perry Bendicksen as a venture capitalist and much on Mr. Bendicksen as an attorney representing venture capitalists for the firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber Shreck, LLP. His page at Brownstein et al. indicates that he is a member of the Board of Directors and Chair-Elect of the Association of Commerce and Industry of New Mexico. He is also the Honorary French Consul for New Mexico, whatever that means. He has represented Gupo Cementos de Chihuahua, the New Mexico State Investment Council, the College of Santa Fe (sale of assets to City of Santa Fe), and others.

Sarah Chavez, listed as Director of Sales and Marketing at El Pinto Foods in Albuquerque – We didn’t find any contribution information. However, “mom and pop” does not describe El Pinto Foods, which (according to their web site) produces 2,000 cases of chile sauce per day. Your editor found it in a grocery store in Sutton, West Virginia a few years ago.

Dale Dekker, listed as Albuquerque architect – Mr. Dekker is one of the principals of Dekker Perich Sabatini, with offices in Albuquerque, NM, Amarillo, TX, and Las Vegas, NV. According to the DPS web site: “Dale serves on the executive board of the Economic Forum, the boards of the NextGen Economy, the Albuquerque Economic Development (AED), the National Board of Directors for the National Association of Industrial and Office Park developers (NAIOP) and was appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to the Construction Industries Commission and the Governor’s Education Progress Agenda Task Force.” Followthemoney.org lists a modest $500 contribution to the Martinez campaign.

Kevin Yearout, listed as Albuquerque mechanical maintenance operator – This one is interesting. Kevin Yearout is listed as having donated $5,000 to the Martinez campaign as an individual. Yearout Mechanical of Albuquerque is listed as having donated $10,000 to the Martinez campaign. Cheryl Yearout donated $2,000, and according to Dexknows.com, there are a Kevin and Cheryl Yearout living at the same address in Albuquerque. Lian Yearout donated $5,000 to the Martinez campaign. We found multiple references online to a “Kevin and Lian Yearout Foundation” in Albuquerque. If these are all related, that amounts to $22,000 from the Yearout network.

Mike Unthank, listed as Independent management consultant in Albuquerque – A Robert Michael Unthank is listed here as being on the Martinez transition team for the General sErvices and Information Technology Committee, and fits the description in the Clearly New Mexico article. Followthemoney.org lists a $250 donation from a Mike Unthank of Albuquerque to the Martinez campaign and a total of $1,150 from Robert Unthank of Albuquerque, bringing the potential grand total to $1,400. Robert Michael Unthank was a registered lobbyist from 2005 to 2009, representing Santa Fe Trust, Inc. and Tetra Corp. Jigsaw.com refers to a Robert Unthank as Human Resources Manager at Tetra Corp in Albuquerque.

Carol Wight, listed as CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association – The NMRA donated $5,000 to the Martinez campaign.

The blog concluded:

Whether any of this seems to represent a “pay to play” situation bears some consideration. Some of it does seem to come rather close. All things considered, it certainly does seem as if “politics as usual” and “business as usual” are close companions in New Mexico, and especially in the Martinez Administration.

NM-Central.com said it used a number of online tracking sites to gather the contribution information, including the excellent site FollowTheMoney.org.

The site breaks down not only individual contributions to candidates but calculates the percentage that each industry – oil and gas, dairy, construction, real estate, unions  – has contributed to each.

So you can do your own sleuthing, here’s a link to the FollowTheMoney.org page for Susana Martinez.

We also wanted to provide a link to the FollowTheMoney.org page for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish, so you could see the differences – and there are significant differences.

Enjoy your sleuthing – and draw your own conclusions!

Environmental Rollback, Gov. Martinez Style

By Tracy Dingmann

“But you knew she was comin’!”

That’s one of my favorite lines from an otherwise forgettable movie by Spike Lee, uttered by a character played by Ruby Dee to her husband when he expresses surprise and walks out after being offended by a dinner guest he invited to his table.

I thought about this line when I heard about the swift actions of new Governor Susana Martinez, who – as promised – has spent her first couple of days in office dismantling or putting on hold a number of key environmental decisions made during the Richardson administration.

Those of us New Mexicans who care about the environment and who know we need to regulate corporations to keep them from befouling our state all knew this was gonna happen, but it still doesn’t ease the offense.

Continue reading

Suck on this New Mexico, it’s Dick Morris of Citizens United on the phone!

“Please stay on the line for an important message from Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

That’s just part of what an untold number of New Mexicans heard in a campaign phone blitz this week.

By all accounts, the call was slickly produced and deployed.

The caller would ask for a specific person in the household. Let’s call her Mrs. Wellington. Once it was confirmed that Mrs. Wellington was indeed on the line, the caller would introduce himself:

“Hello, I’m Gil from Citizens United.”

Oh yes, this is the same Citizens United that won a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision — Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission — which struck down much of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 law along with overturning Teddy Roosevelt era bans on corporate campaign contributions. By conferring on corporations the same rights as an individual (corporate personhood), the decision now allows them to open up their treasuries and completely buy up all television time, thus potentially drowning out drown out everyone else’s voices in political campaigns.

But let’s get to Gil on the phone with Mrs. Wellington. After a brief riff on how President Obama has “taken your health care away from you,” Gil asked Mrs. Wellington to stay on the line to hear an important message from “Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

Then a recording of the Fox News pollster/guru and noted toe sucking fetishist, Dick Morris, commenced.

Continue reading