Saturday, November 1, 2008

McCain Jokes with Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.

Republican John McCain poked fun at his presidential campaign's financial shortcomings and his reputation as a political maverick in an appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

On election eve (Monday) McCain will make a quick stop in Roswell, NM around 3pm.

The presidential hopeful made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the show, with Tina Fey reprising her memorable impersonation of McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain, who is trailing Democrat Barack Obama in most battleground state polls, also appeared during the show's "Weekend Update" newscast to announce he would pursue a new campaign strategy in the closing days of the campaign.

"I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That's where I'd do whatever anybody tells me," McCain said.

And if that didn't work, "I'd go to the double maverick. I'd just go totally berserk and freak everybody out," the Arizona senator quipped.

Earlier in the show, McCain and Fey, portraying Palin, said they couldn't afford a half-hour campaign commercial on network television like Democrat Barack Obama aired earlier this week. They said they'd sell campaign products on the QVC shopping channel instead.

Among other things, McCain advertised a set of knives to cut through pork in Washington. His wife, Cindy McCain, briefly appeared to advertise "McCain Fine-Gold" jewelry, a play on the campaign finance law McCain authored with Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Fey, as Palin, advertised a set of "Joe" dolls commemorating Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack and her Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

The pretend Palin also pulled out T-shirts saying "Palin 2012" and said she wouldn't be returning to Alaska after the election.

"I'm either running in four years or I'm going to be a white Oprah," she said.

UPDATED: You have to hear this prank call a couple of radio DJ's made on Sarah Palin. Hat tip to Democracy for New Mexico.

YouTube has most of John McCain's past Saturday Night Live appearances post online.

Mitt Romney Says McCain-Palin Picking up Undecided Voters.

I partially failed as a backback journalist today. While I had a busy schedule of interviews planned, I didn't shoot any photos. So, I don't have an original pic for this post, but all is not lost. We've got another original newsmaker podcast from our interview with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

On Saturday Romney spoke with John McCain supporters in three cities, Farmington, Albuquerque and Las Cruces. I caught up with him this afternoon at the University Hilton just before 2pm.

We talked about agricultural policy differences between the candidates, the new farm bill, "spreading the wealth", independent voters and McCain's humor, after all he's appearing on S-N-L in just a few hours.

Romney thinks the Republicans are picking a majority of undecided voters at the end of this long campaign and that the polls are tightening.

Other's, like LP at NMFBIHOP are NOT so sure of that. LP reports Obama still has a 7 percent spread in New Mexico.

Romney who also spent time in Farmington and Las Cruces today also talked to NM Independent's Heath Haussaman by telephone.

He told Haussaman: I think we’ve got a real shot here,” Romney said. “Two weeks ago it looked impossible, but the polls that we’re seeing now, the people we’re speaking with, the sentiment we’re seeing, suggests that this is winnable.

After the interview Haussaman posted this online commentary.

Also, if you missed my September interview with Gov. Romney you can hear it here.

Longest Campaign Weekend of the Year

From our friends at the NewMexiKen blog:

God may have given us the 24 hour day, but it took humans to create something even better.

The 25 hour day. Enjoy the longest two-day weekend of the year.

[Not valid in Arizona or Hawaii.]

Remember to set your clocks back one hour tonight.

Uh Oh. Here we go again: Problems with Absentee Ballots.

Updated - Sunday 3:35pm

Steve Pearce's U.S. Senate campaign is upset and is calling for the removal of Michael Jimenez as the Director of Board of Elections in Dona Ana County.

Between 3,000 to 5,000 Dona Ana County voters who were supposed to have gotten their absentee ballots within 24 hours of making the request instead had them mailed to them at the last minute Friday night. Elections officials admitted to not observing state law when it came to getting the absentee ballots out in time. The problem was discovered when the wife of a candidate in Dona Ana County asked why some of their constituents had not gotten their absentee ballots yet, just days before the election.

"This is beyond unacceptable," said Congressman Steve Pearce. "Thousands of New Mexicans will not be able to vote as a result of this action. It should be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable."

"The director of the Bureau of Elections [Dona Ana County] should lose his job and we should install someone who can oversee this election fairly and competently," he added.

"None of it passes the smell test and New Mexicans are tired of it," said Pearce. "If they're not trying to install officials with serious conflicts of interest, they are doing what they can to suppress votes. It's shameful and there should be a broad investigation into these kinds of tactics."

Governor Bill Richardson Gives us "The Word."

After voting in Santa Fe on Thursday, Governor Bill Richardson is back on the road campaigning for Barack Obama.

Traveling in Nevada today, Gov. Richardson called us just after noon. It's the last day of early voting in New Mexico and he's urging voters to get to the polls today. Richardson, who believes the Presidential race is tightening, says no one should be taking anything for granted.

He also said he's confident NM Secretary of State Mary Herrera, and all 33 county clerks are ready for a big turnout on Tuesday.

We asked him about his gaffe on KOA radio in Denver yesterday and he simply says that while he was campaigning in Charlottesville, Virginia (read more about his travel schedule here) when, "I just made a mistake. I've said before that anyone making under $250,000 a year would get a tax cut." He said, he expected the Republicans to jump on it, but that it's ridiculous and a last ditch effort."

Richardson, who announced his own presidential campaign on May 21st in Los Angeles, California, agreed with us that presidential campaigns in the United States are too long. He recommends the country set a time-limit, similar to most European countries and address public financing.

We wanted to get some insight into Barack Obama the man. Governor Richardson told us, "he has sound values and listens to everyone, including the student and even the janitor backstage at a debate. He's really brilliant. Kind of a quiet elegance."

Meanwhile, the governor is also urging voters in three counties, Bernalillo, Valencia and Sandoval, to support the Regional Transit Tax Measure and a constitutional amendment giving power to the governor to appoint a replacement Lt. Governor. Currently the state's constitution is silent on the issue. It may be needed by January if Richardson accepts a cabinet role in a Barack Obama administration.

He told me he's having fun on the campaign trail, but that he and Senator Barack Obama have not addressed a role for him in a possible democratic administration.

"I anticipate being governor for two more years," Richardson said. "I love my job, but you never preclude anything."

Richardson believes Obama will be successful in the West, despite new attacks by Republicans who are challenging Obama's agriculture positions in Iowa and other rural states.

During a conference call on Friday Republican Iowa Senator Sen. Grassley said, "Obama doesn't have a very good foundation. It's ludicrous to blame farmers for obesity and pollution."

Richardson says the attacks are a last ditch effort by the GOP who he says "sense the election is slipping away from them."

"I've run two state-wide campaigns and understand rural New Mexican farmers," said Richardson. "Obama understands the family farmer, advocates family farm subsidies, and supports conservation measures in the new farm bill."

Richardson also told us he's preparing for next year's legislature and says recent revenue shortfalls are a setback, and that they're taking some steps to curb spending now.

The governor said, "I'm still determined to offer health care solutions to every New Mexicans."

Despite a 7th trip to the state by John McCain tomorrow in Roswell, the governor says he doesn't expect another visit by Obama.

Hmm.. Perhaps the Illinois Senator will take us up on our offer of a brief 5-minute telephone interview.

Photos by: MG Bralley

Pouncing on Criminals: District Attorney Kari Brandenburg Makes A Compelling Argument for a 3rd Term.

The 2nd Judicial District Attorney, Democrat Kari Brandenburg, sailed to election victories in 2000 and 2004. This year, despite a coordinated attack by a serious Republican opponent, Brandenburg is making the case for re-election.

The District Attorney told us her office seeks justice and applies the law equally to everyone while developing partnerships with law enforcement, the courts, and attorneys.

Brandenburg has received the endorsement of all the top law enforcement associations, including the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputies Association, The Chicano Police Officer's Association and the APOA.

Take a moment to listen to her speak about her qualifications, program successes and goals for a third term here.

During the interview, Brandenburg explains her Early Case Resolution program and how it is holding criminals immediately accountable, the mether initiative, and her office's felony DWI conviction rate. Brandenburg says she's got a 95% conviction rate in Felony DWI cases and the lowest dismissal rate in the state.

Brandenburg, who supports the death penalty, also talks about her victory, earlier this year, in district court, against the Capital Jury Project. That group tried to get the death penalty thrown out of consideration in accused deputy killer Michael Paul Astoraga's case. The matter is now being appealed to the state's Supreme Court.

Since becoming district attorney in Bernalillo County Brandenburg says she's developed programs and partnership with law enforcement agencies including an Auto Theft Task Force. the courts and defense attorneys. She's proud of the $6.2 million in grant money awarded to her office, but say's if she's re-elected she'll go back to Santa Fe in January (during the legislature) to get even more resources for her busy office.

Brandenburg also tells us why she believes her office, and the court, made the right decision in offering a controversial plea deal to former Marine Elton John Richard.

Finally Brandenburg speaks out on the alleged voter registration fraud and her involvement in referring some cases directly to former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama on Halloween: Yes We Carve!

Click the Logo for
Great Shots of Creative
Pumpkin Carving.

If Senator Barack Obama's
earns the confidence of voter's on Tuesday
and heads to Washington as the 44th President,
he seriously needs to take his
creative advertising team with him.


If they can
solve the country's
problems with the same
ingenuity as they've demonstrated with
targeted media buys like the one above,
then I believe the country's
future is bright.

Bruce Springsteen Offers Fans a Halloween Treat.

The rocker has posted a free download of a new song, ``A Night With the Jersey Devil,'' on his website. The song has a blues beat, and Springsteen sings about 16 witches casting 16 spells.

Springsteen writes:

If you grew up in central or south Jersey you grew up with the 'Jersey Devil.' Here's a little musical Halloween treat. Have fun!

There's also a video showing Springsteen as the legendary Jersey Devil. Earlier this week, Springsteen announced that he and his wife would not hold their annual elaborate Halloween display at their Rumson mansion. The couple said they were worried about people's safety because the event attracted too many visitors.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do Darren White's Deputies Threaten Ballot Box Integrity on Election Day? Sheriff Demands Apology for Accusations.

Darren White says Martin Heinrich's campaign owes Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputies an apology after the Democratic Congressional Candidate raised some serious questions regarding their election day integrity on KOB TV's Eyewitness News 4. See the report here.

We just received a copy of this letter from Darren White to Martin Heinrich:

Mr. Heinrich,

On Wednesday, October 29, 2008, your campaign laid out a very public charge on KOB-TV that you do not trust the deputies of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department to uphold Election Day ballot integrity, protection and security.

Your cheap political smears, claiming our deputies cannot be trusted, attack every law enforcement officer in the State of New Mexico, and I call on you to personally issue an apology to the deputies of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.

Also, your campaign operative, Jason Burke, should be informed that the deputies serve the citizens of this county, first and foremost. Just like the employees of the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office, who are dedicated professionals, they would never compromise an election because their boss’ name is on the ballot.

And for the record, the officers of the New Mexico State Police despise being referred to as “troopers.”

Martin, desperate political attacks against law enforcement officers is repugnant and unbecoming for someone who portends to represent the people of this community in Congress with dignity.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department has always provided Election Day security with unquestioned commitment to the process. The department provides ballot protection so the system is just and fair for everyone involved – Democrats and Republicans, incumbents and challengers. In no way will this election be decided by the deputies.

The deputies and other law enforcement officers of this community put their lives on the line every single day for our citizens. It is a disgrace that you would raise public suspicions about their integrity, honesty and professionalism, for the sake of a political stunt – a week before Election Day.

On the one hand you defend the actions of a convicted eco-terrorist, while on the other hand you question the integrity of our police officers. I believe this is a revealing look into your thinking and why so many believe you are the most extreme candidate ever nominated in this district.

Again, I call on you to personally and publically apologize to the law enforcement community of New Mexico. The comments of Jason Burke, acting as your representative, were out of line and downright false and represent the worst kind of politics and outside interference in New Mexico’s election process.

You should know better, Martin. This is no way for you to conduct a campaign for Congress on the backs of dedicated civil servants and law enforcement officers.


Darren White


County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver says anyone from either political party is allowed to observed the transfer of ballots to her election warehouse.

U.S. Senate Candidates Make Final Appeals. Udall Says No Golden Parachutes With Taxpayer Money.

Photo: MG Bralley

Well, the two candidates for U.S Senate in New Mexico are making their closing arguments and final appeal to voters. Today Democrat Tom Udall released his final ad. The gals at Democracy for New Mexico posted the video of his television spot here.

Republican Steve Pearce, who wants to replace six-termer Pete Domenici (who I'm writing a an article for ABQ the Magazine) talked to morning host Bob Clark at 770KKOB on Monday. You can listen to the interview (without commericials) on line here.

Meanwhile, in response to news reports that six major financial institutions receiving “bailout” funds from the federal government may pay their executives billions of dollars in bonuses, U.S. Representative Tom Udall, D-N.M., sent the following letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson:
Dear Secretary Paulson:

I am writing today to express my ongoing concerns about compensation for executives whose financial institutions are receiving taxpayer dollars through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA).

As part of the EESA, the Treasury Department announced its plans to invest $125 billion in nine of our nation's largest banks. I have been extremely troubled by recent news reports that these institutions have spent or reserved over $100 billion for employee compensation and bonuses this year. This is nearly the same amount that they spent last year. Institutions receiving billions in taxpayer dollars should not be spending excessive amounts on bonuses.

I understand that you have worked to establish some compensation standards for some of the companies receiving federal assistance. I am requesting that you continue to work vigilantly on this issue and create further restrictions on compensation for those companies that continue to receive the EESA taxpayer-funded assistance.

Additionally, recent news reports have suggested that banks receiving money from the Treasury are not planning to use that money to extend loans, which is critical to freeing up credit and getting our economy moving again. It seems that financial institutions feel that they can afford to pay their executives exorbitant bonuses, but they cannot find the resources to provide credit to America's businesses in order to rebuild our economy. I urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are used to fix the American economy, not spent on massive bonuses for corporate executives.

I voted against the EESA because I felt that this $700 billion package did too little to protect taxpayers, too little to support homeowners, and nothing to prevent Wall Street from repeating the mistakes that got us into this crisis. One of my biggest concerns—which was shared by the thousands of my constituents who contacted me—was that the bailout package failed to ensure that executives who ran their companies into the ground would not receive millions in taxpayer-funded compensation. My constituents do not want their tax dollars being used to line the pockets of failed corporate executives. At a time when New Mexico's middle class is struggling, taxpayers should not be forced to spend their hard-earned money providing unearned compensation for some of America's wealthiest citizens.

If financial institutions have their way, the executives who made the bad decisions that led to this crisis will be rewarded. Despite ruining their businesses, they will be given more money in a day than most Americans will save in a lifetime. Even worse, this injustice will have been paid for with taxpayer dollars. My constituents know that this is unfair and unhelpful. I know that it will only encourage corporate executives to make more unwise and reckless decisions in the future. Please act swiftly to protect our tax dollars and our economy.

Again, I ask you do everything in your power to address this troubling situation. I look forward to working with you in the future and to your response.


Tom Udall

Member of Congress


Congressman Steve Pearce received an award for supporting pro-growth, pro-worker policies in Congress. The National Association of Manufacturers presented Pearce with the "Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence" which goes to members of Congress who score at least a 70% on NAM's Key Vote Score Card. Pearce scored 95% by NAM's evaluation.

"Rebuilding our manufacturing base is going to be a key component of getting our economy back on track," said Pearce, a former small businessman. "It's the way we create wealth and good paying jobs for New Mexico and the country."

Key votes included expanding access to America's energy resources offshore, certain free trade agreements, protections for intellectual property and workers' rights.

"The best way to create jobs is to lower taxes for individuals and businesses," said Pearce. "I am proud to support the pro-growth policies that will help our economy and enable New Mexico families to get ahead."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Secretary of State Issues Instruction to County Clerks to Let Absentee Voters Vote at Early Vote Sites

Carter Bundy just forwarded this to us:

If Voters Haven’t Received Absentee Ballots Yet, Now They Can Go Vote Early.

Election Protection is pleased to announce that Secretary of State Mary Herrera has issued an instruction to county clerks requiring them to allow people who requested but have not received their absentee vote-by-mail ballots to vote in person at early voting locations, including at county clerks’ offices around the state.

Due to the incredibly high number of requests for vote-by-mail ballots, some clerks have been working around the clock to send out ballots, but either through that process or issues with mail, some voters still do not have their ballots.

New Mexico Federation of Labor President Christine Trujillo said “We want to ensure that every registered voter in New Mexico has the chance to vote this year. This instruction addresses an issue that has been a significant problem in a few pockets of the state.”

Election Protection has established a hotline in English (866-OUR-VOTE, which is 866-687-8683) and in Spanish (888-VE-Y-VOTA, which is 888-839-8682) for voters experiencing any problems voting, either at early sites, by mail, or on Election Day. Voters regardless of party registration are encouraged to use this number if they have any questions about voting.

Here is the text of the instruction directly from the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections Director Gerald Gonzales:

It has been called to our attention that additional guidance is needed regarding voters who requested and were mailed an absentee ballot and having never received it, wish to vote at an early voting site.

We view the goal of the Election Code as being to enfranchise voters, and as such, conclude that a voter should be allowed to ask for a replacement absentee ballot during a flexible time period and at any authorized voting location. The additional guidance for this purpose is as follows:

Voters who have applied for an absentee ballot and to whom an absentee ballot has been mailed but who have not yet received it, shall be allowed to vote at any early voting site in the following manner:

* The voter must execute, in the County Clerk’s office, or at the alternate voting site, an affidavit stating the voter has not received nor voted the voter’s mail-in absentee ballot.
* The County Clerk or designee verifies with the absentee ballot registry at the time the affidavit is submitted that the voter was sent an absentee ballot and that it has not been received by the County Clerk’s office.
* A poll official shall then invalidate the original mailed ballot on the I Power system by reflecting it as spoiled.
* The voter will then be treated as an early voter. An absentee ballot application will be given to the voter to complete, followed by a “replacement absentee ballot” which for this purpose will be an early voting ballot like that issued to any other early voter. Once the voter has completed the ballot it will be fed through the tabulator like all other early voters’ ballots.
* The entry previously made in I Power to spoil the original mail-in ballot will assure that a voter will not be able to vote more than once through this process. If the lost mail-in ballot is subsequently received by the County Clerk, the I Power system will reveal that the voter has already voted early in person. This mail-in ballot shall not be counted and shall be handled by the County Clerk in accordance with the federal election retention schedule—i.e. retained for 22 months.
* All affidavits shall also be retained by the County Clerk in accordance with the federal election retention schedule.”

Election Protection is a non-partisan coalition comprised of diverse groups including Common Cause, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights,the National Congress of American Indians, and the New Mexico Federation of Labor, whose goal is to ensure that legitimate voters of any political persuasion have the ability to cast their votes and have them counted.

Wassup 2008: Better Politcal Satire

Its been eight long years since the boys said wassup to each other. Even with the effects of a down economy and imminent change in the White House, the boys are still able to come together and stay...

Albuquerque Veteran Attempts Political Satire.

The CzarKing, a former U.S. Army soldier, called Jim Villanucci's talk show on 770KKOB this afternoon to promote her video. She says this is her first political satire.

CzarKing says "if Obama wins, I will support him and my country 100%.I am and always have been a proud American."

Interesting Political Photo Snapshot.

Report: Eclipse Aviation Will Cease Production

The NM Business Weekly is reporting Forecast International Inc. will release a new report in December that predicts Eclipse Aviation will cease production of its very light jets in 2009.

Albuquerque-based Eclipse will not attract the new investment it needs to continue making the Eclipse 500 jet beyond the first quarter of 2009, said Douglas Royce, an aircraft analyst with Forecast, a Connecticut-based market research firm.

“Eclipse continues to produce aircraft at a low rate as it seeks to preserve cash,” Royce said. “We have forecast production of 162 Eclipse 500s during 2008. We believe that the company will be able to push production out into early 2009 but will be forced to cease production within the first quarter.”

Alana McCarraher, Eclipse spokeswoman, said the company has no comment on the Forecast report.

Forecast pointed to Eclipse’s inability to ramp up assembly in the last two years as the biggest factor now dragging down company finances.

From the start, Eclipse’s business plan depended on a high-volume production strategy. By modeling its assembly line on the automotive industry and relying on economies of scale, Eclipse expected to maintain a low-priced jet that could undercut competition in the emerging very-light-jet (VLJ) industry.

But the needed production ramp up never occurred and the Eclipse 500 price tag has climbed from $1.52 million in May 2008 to $2.15 million now.

Complicating the company’s finances, Eclipse must still deliver aircraft at the earlier, lower price to customers who executed an aircraft purchase agreement with a 60 percent deposit. That means each aircraft delivered under the old price is delivered at a loss, and the company does not have the financial resources to absorb those losses and survive, Royce said.

Eclipse lost its largest customer in September when Florida-based DayJet Corp. — an air taxi service that based its business on low-priced Eclipse jets — shut its doors. That cut Eclipse’s order backlog substantially.

With more VLJ companies now entering the market, Eclipse would lose more of its order backlog if it raises prices any higher, Royce said.

Eclipse is currently seeking another $300 million equity investment to restructure operations and reach profitability, but the company will be hard pressed to find that funding given the current global financial crisis.

“Under the circumstances, Forecast International believes that securing new funding, while still possible, is unlikely,” Royce said. “Forecast International has cut its forecast for the Eclipse 500 accordingly.”

Based in Newton, Conn., Forecast International specializes in long-range industry forecasts and market analysis for aerospace, defense, power systems and military electronics.

Cummins Taking Low Road in Campaign Against PRC Chairman Marks.

Yesterday, Tim Cummins’ PRC campaign released a press release and an advertising campaign portraying incumbent Commissioner Jason Marks as a supporter and enabler of disgraced former Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna. After asking Jason Marks to respond we learned the real story.

It is apparent Cummin's charges are half-cocked. The real story shows that Marks took a leadership role in ending Serna’s troubled career in government and cleaning up the PRC’s insurance division. Marks says:
The bottom line is that I did a lot about Eric Serna's corruption, more than anyone else in state government either before or since. (Despite active investigations under 2 AGs and the US Attorney for the past 2.5 years, there has never been an indictment or any report released.)
We just received this information rebuting Cummins' ridiculous news release and attack ads.

Eric Serna served 18 years as a member of the State Corporations Commission (a predecessor to the PRC), during which time he was accused multiple times of misconduct. In 2001, PRC Commissioners appointed Serna to be Superintendent of Insurance.

Marks pushed the investigations that led Serna losing his job. In February 2005, just six weeks after joining the PRC, Marks put a stop to Serna’s practice of taking large contributions from regulated insurers to his Con Alma foundation.[1] One year later, in March 2006, Marks initiated the PRC’s inquiry into a contract between Serna’s Insurance Division and Century Bank. The PRC adopted Marks’ proposal that the Insurance Division be ordered to rescind an illegal contract amendment that had increased Century’s fees.[2] On March 21, 2006, Marks joined a PRC majority in asking Attorney General Patricia Madrid to review the Century Bank contract.[3] Contrary to the implication of Cummins’ release, Marks and the PRC were responsible for the AG’s investigation, not the other way around. On May 18, 2006, Eric Serna’s long and troubled career in state government ended when he agreed to leave his position under pressure from Marks and a majority of his colleagues on the PRC.

Did Jason Marks support retirement benefits for Eric Serna? No. Marks, along with a majority of the PRC, supported allowing Serna to call his departure a “retirement.” Nothing the PRC could have done would have affected Serna’s ability to draw retirement benefits from PERA (other than refer information to law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution, which the PRC did do).

Why did Marks agree to Serna’s “retirement”? Serna was protected by state statute from dismissal without cause. The improper termination of Serna’s predecessor in 2001 had cost taxpayers a half-million dollar settlement. The PRC received no information from the Attorney General about any findings from her investigation that would have supported firing Serna, if he had chosen to contest the firing in court. Under the circumstances, Marks decided to support an immediate end to the Serna controversy that got Serna out of his position right away with no risk or cost to the taxpayers. For comparison, the Highland University Regents gave Manny Aragon a six-figure contract buy-out after they dismissed him. Marks said recently: “The controversy was consuming enormous amounts of time and keeping us from focusing on critical telecom and utility cases. With no end in sight to the investigations, the most important thing was to get Serna out of the Superintendent’s position ASAP, and let the professional criminal investigations take their course. Some may say they would have made a different decision under the circumstances, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that my motivations were anything other than doing what I thought was best for the public and the agency.”

Did Attorney General Madrid agree that Marks and the PRC made the right move? Yes. Madrid said “I believe the agreement reached by the PRC and Mr. Serna, which will allow him to retire and have no further contact with the Insurance Division, is an appropriate Action by the PRC.”[4]

Can the press rely on Cummins’ description of the arrest of former Deputy Superintendent Joe Ruiz? No. The Cummins press release says “the deputy superintendent of insurance was arrested on 31 counts of extortion, corruption, mail fraud and wire fraud.” The truth is that the FBI arrested former deputy superintendent Ruiz. Ruiz was a former deputy because, under Marks’ leadership, the PRC had fired him for corruption more than a year before his arrest.

What do others say? “Contrary to the false accusations it was Jason's skillful negotiations, backed by potential votes of PRC commissioners that forced the corrupt former Insurance Superintendent, Eric Serna, and his wayward assistant out of office. As you may recall, Serna's assistant was subsequently prosecuted and convicted of taking kick backs. The Superintendant's position, statutorily, was practically impregnable. Without Jason's skillful negotiations it could have taken another year to remove Eric Serna from office.” Eric S. Jeffries, an Albuquerque attorney who represents consumers against insurance companies and represented Serna’s predecessor in his suit against the PRC.

“I advised the Commission to accept [Serna’s retirement] as the most effective and efficient way to resolve the central personnel issue. I did not believe it would adversely affect the public interest in that the Attorney General’s investigation would continue.” Allen Ferguson, former Associate General Counsel for the PRC and Acting General Counsel at the time of the Serna investigation.

[1] Albuquerque Journal, February 18, 2005.

[2] Albuquerque Journal, March 19, 2006 and March 22, 2006.

[3] Albuquerque Journal, March 22, 2006.

[4] Albuquerque Journal, May 19, 2006.

Paris Hilton For President. Commander in Bikini.

This is her third video spoof.

Former Louisiana Governor Roemer: Election Could Depend on a Single Vote!

UPDATED: We inadvertently listed this interview as former Colorado Governor Roy Romer for Colorado. That was inaccurate.

Roemer Stumping For McCain- Palin in New Mexico!

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is participating in the “Western Business Tour” today trying to rally support for John McCain and Sarah Palin in Las Cruces and Alamogordo. Roemer believes John McCain’s economic policies to lower taxes will create jobs and benefit all Americans.

He is urging voters to cast their ballot and says the election is going to be close and could come down to a single vote.

Roemer is also talking about economic uncertainty and said he doesn't think a one or two day market moves means the market fall is over. Roemer told me "we're not out of the woods yet."

He says voters in New Mexico are hurting. He says they're cautious because they don't know what the future holds.

"These are dangerous and uncharted times," said Roemer.

He wants to put an end to all the bailouts, and was flabbergasted to hear Wall Street bonus have already been budgeted. Roemer wants more transparency in the reporting of money transferred to Wall Street firms.

Roemer a former Harvard Business School graduate said he thinks the biggest threat to this market is uncertainty.

"What I like about John McCain," said Roemer, "is he takes away uncertainty."

Roemer reminds voters that Sen. McCain has never voted for an earmark. He believes eliminating earmarks could save the federal budget up to 30 billion dollars.

While most market analysts are crediting the Federal Reserve's move to lower interest rates as the primary reason for the Dow Jones' increase, Governor Romer attributes some of the gain, or momentum, to McCain - Palin's recent gains in some political opinion polls.

Roemer believes market confidence will be restored by creating jobs, lowering taxes, and scrubbing the budget and cleaning up spending, and by retraining our workers. He also insists on free trade.

Governor Says Obama has Momentum...But No Predictions.

Photo from Democracy for New Mexico
Visit their Flickr Photostream here.

Governor Bill Richardson, joined by Congressional District 3 Candidate Ben Ray Lujan, Jr. has voted. He cast his ballot early on Thursday, and is encouraging everyone to vote early.

We just returned from one voting site. The line was almost 90 minutes.

Imagine what it will be on election day, especially with analysts predicting a 75 to 80 percent voter turnout in 2008.

Last Saturday, at the Obama Rally, the Governor hinted he may be shaving his beard by the end of the year. Maybe he's getting ready to apply for a job in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Richardson says no one should take this election for granted. He does believes Sen. Barack Obama has the momentum needed to win New Mexico and several key battleground states.

Hear our brief interview with him here.

New Mexicans can take part in Early Vote now through this Saturday, November 1, at county clerk offices and satellite locations throughout the state. Voters can request to Vote By Mail from now until October 30th. New Mexicans can fill out a Vote By Mail application request or find their local Early Vote locations and hours by coming into any Campaign for Change office across the state, by visiting their county clerk's office or by visiting


Also today, Richardson announced the Universal Network Television series, In Plain Sight, starring Mary McCormack and Fred Weller, will return to New Mexico to film for a second season. The series airs on the USA Network.

In Plain Sight tells the story of a federal marshal, played by McCormack, who oversees a community of Witness Protection Program members. Other cast members include Leslie Ann Warren, Nicole Hiltz, Todd Williams, Cristian de la Fuente and Paul Ben-Victor.

The production will consist of 16 episodes and will be shot in and around Albuquerque from October 2008 through May 4, 2009. They expect to hire approximately 75 local New Mexico crew members.

Since Governor Richardson took office, over 100 feature films and television series have shot in the state, adding over $2 billion dollars to New Mexico’s economy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tom Udall Optimistic Confidence In Market Is Returning.

On Sunday, just before the final televised U.S. Senate Debate, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich greeted a little more than 100 supporters at Udall's Albuquerque office for a mid-afternoon barbecue.

Talk about dedication, most of the folks who showed up had just spent most of Saturday night at UNM's Johnson Field waiting to hear Senator Barack Obama.

After chowing down on a few hot dogs or hamburgers and drinking their lemonade straight (no Mike's Lemonade here), they got a chance to hear from both Udall and Heinrich.

After talking to his supporters, Udall told me he's concerned some large Wall Street firms, who benefited from the economic rescue package, are planning year-end bonuses for their executives. One report indicates more than $71 billion dollars have already been allocated for these bonuses.

"I voted against the package," said Udall. "I've always wanted to protect the taxpayers."

While Udall wasn't prepared to talk about the U.S Treasury Department's second round of bailouts (for some of the nation's largest insurance companies), he was praising Governor Bill Richardson's quick response to revenue shortfalls in New Mexico.

In this interview Udall say's if he's elected he wants to serve on the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee, help veterans and work on alternative energy programs (we wonder if he'll join Sen. Bingaman on the Senate Energy Committee.)

Udall also shared details of his brief conversation with Obama the night before at the rally. Udall indicated they talked about America's energy future. Obama believes alternative energy program develop will create 5 million new jobs.

In the interview above, Udall also told me voters want their new president and 111th congress to make swift changes next January.

Udall believes if Obama is victorious next Tuesday the young president-elect will host economic, energy and other summits in November and December. Udall believes Obama wants to hit the ground running with "significant plans" already in place.

On Thursday, Udall plans to tour the San Juan College School of Energy before holding campaign events in Farmington, Gallup, and Grants.

McCain's Media Relations Go Limp after Reporter's Viagra Question.

I can't complain this year. I've had some good access to John McCain during his visits to New Mexico. Heck, last Monday, he called the 770 KKOB newsroom and asked to speak to me. He allowed me five minutes for this interview recorded before the campaign announced he would travel to New Mexico on Saturday. I was also invited in July to be one of five reporters in a local pool to ride in the back of McCain's Straight Talk Express. Listen to our discussion on the back of the bus here.

While local reporter's have had been continually granted access to McCain, the national press pool's access evaporated in July.

If you recall, it happened after a reporter, riding in the back of the Straight Talk Express bus asked him why health insurance companies covered men's Viagra prescriptions, but not some women's birth control drugs.

Today, Maeve Reston, the reporter who asked the question, wrote about the incident and how it may have impacted Sen. McCain's relations with the national media.
It wasn't my intention, but I played a role in shutting down John McCain's Straight Talk Express.

It happened on a warm July afternoon as McCain traveled from a West Virginia airport to a rally in Ohio.

On Saturday, In Albuquerque, at the Spanish Village, McCain, who was introduced by South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, told the crowd Sen. Graham was his best friend in the Senate. Reston recalls this about her interaction with Graham on McCain's Straight Talk jet.
I remembered Graham's explanation in January about why McCain spent so much time with reporters. He said that McCain felt too many politicians had become like a guy in a toothpaste commercial -- you knew what he was selling but not what was behind the smile.

What McCain didn't like about other campaigns and wanted to change, Graham continued, was that "nobody gets behind the curtain."

Whether it was McCain's fault or ours, the curtain had been drawn tight.

Read Reston's story here. And re-watch the video of the Q & A here.

Note: I'm still waiting for access to Senator Barack Obama. And we've offered him equal time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Former NM Health Secretary Rebukes John McCain's Plan to Tax Healthcare!

With all the talk about economic bailout plans, falling stock prices, and rising energy costs it is easy to lose site of some of the other top issues in this year's election.

One that we've focused on is health care for all Americans. We thought we'd re-visit this important issue before the election.

Last week jobless claims rose 15,000 to 478,000 according to government reports. While the number of people collecting regular state unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.72 million in the week ended Oct. 11, the four-week average of continuing claims rose by 44,250 to 3.68 million, the highest in more than five years.

The government's October employment survey was conducted last week, with the results to be released on Nov. 7. Compared with September's survey week, initial claims are up about 8%, while continuing claims are up about 6%.

While states may increase the length of their wage benefits, these hard-working Americans, many who oppose national or universal health care, are about to find out what many people have been talking about for years, and they won't be able to afford the short-term Cobra benefits. Once they land a new job, if economic conditions improve, they'll find out any of their pre-existing conditions won't be covered.

Last Monday, we attended a health care townhall meeting with U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, former NM Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, and UNM Doctor Don Dirkson. They talked to a crowd of about 50 people about exactly what they can expect if Barack Obama is elected president next week.

Essentially, all three VIP's advocated for more access. Each one said that health care isn't about insurance it's about access to quality health care.

Grisham tells us she's been busy since losing to Martin Heinrick in the first congressional district primary in June. In August, she formerd a consulting group with Deborah Armstrong (another former Health Secretary). Grisham told me their new group, Delta Consulting Group, incorpated this summer. We invited her to write a guest column and she responded with this thoughtful piece.

Photo from: MG Bralley
Guest Opinion - John McCain's Plan to Tax our Healthcare!

Our health care system is broken. Barack Obama has a plan to fix it and ensure that every New Mexican has access to quality, affordable healthcare. John McCain will only make it worse by pursuing his policy of deregulation.

New Mexico has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country with an uninsured population of more than 400,000, including about 64,000 children. Currently, one out of every four people in New Mexico does not have the ability to regularly visit a doctor or a health care provider due to lack of health insurance. This is unacceptable.

Since President Bush has taken office, health care costs have risen 4.6 times faster than average wages in New Mexico. And, rather than standing up to health insurance companies to reduce health care costs, John McCain's plan will tax your health care benefits for the first time in history, and lead 20 million workers to lose the coverage they get from their employers, including 98,000 New Mexicans. McCain will pay for his health care plan with a massive tax increase on middle class families, and with costs skyrocketing, that'll mean even more pain and even worse access for your family down the road.

Under New Mexico state law, insurance providers must provide coverage of diabetes care, mammograms, home health care, and immunizations, to name a few. However, the McCain plan will put these services at risk by deregulating the insurance industry and removing the protections state legislatures pass for their constituents. Additionally, the McCain plan won't do anything to stop insurance companies from discriminating against you if you've got a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes and require the provision of preventive health care.

McCain's plan to deregulate the health care industry – just like he and his allies have done with our financial markets – would be catastrophic for New Mexicans. We can't afford four more years of deregulation and New Mexicans to fend for themselves.

In an Obama administration, we're going to finally stand up to the big drug and insurance companies and provide affordable, accessible health care for every single New Mexican. Obama will work with employers who are providing health care for their employees and lower premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year, and he'll reduce costs for business and their workers by picking up the tab for some of the most expensive illnesses and conditions. He will create a Small Business Health Tax Credit to provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50% on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees.

Obama will make sure no American is turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions. And he will have Medicare negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies so that prescription drugs are not cost prohibitive for those seniors.

Taxing middle class families to receive health care is not the answer. Senator Obama will fight for middle class families so that all New Mexicans have a health plan that's as good as the one he has as a Member of Congress.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, J.D.
Former Secretary NM Department of Health

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Health Care Plan is Available for Review here.

or watch this video.

Last August, Charlie Rose interviewed John McCain on his health care ideas.

Mystery Writer Tony Hillerman Dies at 83

Tony Hillerman authored 30 novels. Five were turned into movies. Orginally from Oklahoma, Hillerman became a journalist in New Mexico after returning from World War II. He says his experience as a reporter taught him not only how to write, but how to find information.

He was attracted to the culture of the reservations and wrote about fictional Navajo lawmen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

He loved sharing tips on writing and said young writers should expect to write one million words before they would be taken seriously by publishers.

Sen. Pete Domenici said his longtime friend "almost singlehandly introduced the world to the magesty and spirit of the American Indian culture in the four corners area. "

I met Mr. Hillerman, not as a journalism student at UNM, where he taught for 21 years, but at my parent's church. He was always a gentlemen. I know his daughter, food critic and writing coach Anne Hillerman. This morning we send our condolences to the family and our prayers for his spirit.

Hillerman was 83.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

ABC Radio Reports Stark Crowd Contrasts in Weekend Presidential Rallies.

ABC's Ann Compton
View my Flickr photo set from both the McCain and Obama'a rallies on Saturday, and Sunday's Democrat BBQ at Tom Udall's Albuquerque headquarters office here.
Network reporters, like my colleague Ann Compton at ABC News, have seen it all. Last night, Compton, who I last visited with at Highland High School, during a Hillary Clinton primary rally, was impressed with the size of the crowd at UNM's Johnson Field last night.

The veteran White House reporter told me that Obama's rhetoric on the stump has become simple and direct: No tax increases for most Americans and small businesses, and No more Bush policies.

Compton, who did not raise her hand, when Sen. Barack Obama asked for a showing of people who made less than $250,000, told me large crowds (more than 100,000 turned out in Denver Sunday afternoon) have become the trademark of his campaign.

This is text compiled from several of Compton's national reports filed live from the campus. To hear Compton tune to 770KKOB at the top of the hour and on election night. Note: TV and Radio broadcasters almost always prepare their scripts in ALL CAPS.





Local Supporters Chanting, Obama, Obama, Obama All The Way to The Voting Polls.

Updated: 10/26/08 3:35pm

If you missed the Obama rally in Albuquerque or simply prefer to avoid large crowds, estimated to be around 45,000 people, and want to hear the whole speech, or if you just want to relisten to his address here it is.

For analysis, videos and photos from the Super Saturday field rally at UNM please read my colleagues coverage.

Political Reporter Kate Nash at Green Chile Chatter, LP at NMFBIHOP and Barbara and Mary Ellen at Democracy for New Mexico; and, for team blog coverage check out the NM Independent.

Nash covered both events. Her video, from the Obama rally, begins with George Lopez' funny introduction. Lopez says he came to New Mexico to get people to vote early, and to take home green chile to his brother.

You also have to check out Mary Ellen's video after the event with people walking, laughing and honking their car horns as they left the event feeling good about their candidate and the country.

To read more about John McCain's visit to Southern New Mexico and Dona Ana County read Heath Haussamen here. He's got lots of great photos of McCain smiling and greeting the crowd posted there as well.