Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gov. Richardson Grants Few Clemency Requests

After quietly granting 19 requests for executive clemency earlier this fall, Gov. Bill Richardson has decided not to consider application packets from 241 other convicts before his term expires on Friday.

As of today, only a pardon request for Billy the Kid is still being considered by the governor.

For the other applicants, who claimed responsibility for their crimes, completed their court-ordered sentences, and begged for the governor’s mercy, the black stain of a criminal conviction will remain on their record.

Public records indicate Richardson has kept his 2009 promise and rejected requests by two death row inmates to have their lethal sentence commuted to life in prison.

The governor has also decided not to act on an application he received from former Santa Fe attorney Carlos Fierro. He was convicted on a vehicular homicide charge while driving drunk in November 2008..

Richardson also rejected a request from former Democratic Party Chairman Ray Sena. He was convicted of vehicular homicide after a Shuttlejack bus he owned crashed while transporting a group of elementary school students back from a ski trip in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in March 1999.

“I believe that requests of this nature must be fully vetted and investigated by the appropriate agencies to ensure that I do the right thing for those who request clemency as well as the citizens of New Mexico,” said Richardson in a news release issued on Wednesday afternoon. “While [I] appreciate the urgency from those who have made last-minute requests for pardons, I do not have adequate time to thoroughly review them before leaving office.”

After returning from a private trip to North Korea earlier this month, Richardson has spent most of his time considering the Billy the Kid pardon and reviewing input from the public that he solicited online.

Big Richardson donor given clemency.

In August, Richardson accepted the recommendations of the Adult Parole Board and State Corrections Secretary to restore citizenship rights to a donor and 88-year-old philanthropist Edward M. Gilbert, a real estate magnate and the founder of Santa Fe company BKG, a group that controls 230 properties in 25 states. His net worth has been estimated to be over $100 million.

Interestingly, Gilbert does not appear to have any criminal convictions in New Mexico. In fact, his clemency file only included information from two cases filed years ago while he still lived in New York.

It’s unclear why Richardson restored rights to Gilbert for crimes he committed out of state.

The governor’s office did not offer an explanation despite multiple calls to his deputies and press secretary.

Reviewing hundreds of applications for executive clemency in the governor's office.

That may be because last week this reporter filed a complaint in the 2nd Judicial District Court (in Bernalillo County) alleging the governor and his staff were violating the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act for blocking access to executive clemency applications first requested on November 11th.

While the lawsuit remains on the docket, the governor’s custodian of public records Marcie Maestas finally allowed SF New Mexican veteran journalist Steve Terrell and this reporter access to the records today in Santa Fe after blocking requests for nearly 50 days.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Steve Terrell helps review documents.

With records in hand, we learned that Richardson has only granted clemency to 12 men and 7 women since November 2005. And those individuals only had their citizenship rights restored, which allows them to vote and buy and carry a firearm in some cases.

The 19 approved clemency requests represent a little more than seven percent of the 261 applications received in the governor’s office. Documents reviewed today show Richardson granted eight clemency requests on August 6th. The remainder were granted on November 11th.

Commutation pleas from death row inmates Robert Fry and Timothy Allen were rebuffed by the governor. Their attorneys had argued for the governor to spare their lives after he signed a 2009 law repealing the state’s death sentence. Allen’s attorney even submitted an Executive Order to commute the sentence, but it will not be signed by Richardson.

Governor Elect Susana Martinez campaigned to restore the state’s death penalty. She is unlikely to consider future requests for clemency by Fry and Allen.

Both Fry’s and Allen’s applications included a speech delivered by Governor Toney Anaya in 1986 when he announced his decision to commute the sentences of death row inmates William Wayne Gilbert, Richard Reynaldo Garcia, Michael Anthony Guzman, Joel Lee Compton, and Eddie Lee Adams.

Another applicant who will not receive clemency is Yhoshua Cohen – a Jewish Rabbi convicted of aiding in an escape. He pleaded with Richardson for a full pardon and firearm restoration citing, “I honestly feel that Ms. Martinez will deny my application and I’m ready to move on with my life.”

Prison inmate David Lewis Stone will not get relief despite a sending the governor a handwritten note in January . “I would be greatful [sic] if you could send me not one packet request, but if you could do me a favor and send me (2) two of them as I mess up alot.”

Not everyone was denied.

David Vincent Wohlert, who spent 11 years in federal custody on drug charges received a letter from Richardson just before Thanksgiving notifying him that his citizenship rights would be restored.

“We count it among our Thanksgiving blessings, and our gratitude is profound,” wrote Wohlert in a note to the governor. Wohlert even invited Richardson to stay on his coffee farm in Costa Rica. “You always have a place here.”

Martha Ann Moore will also begin 2011 with a fresh start and a clean record. She wrote a Thank You note to the governor for granting her clemency after clearing tax debts with the IRS that she claims were imposed on her by her former husband in 1993.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for granting me a pardon. After nine years of clearing all those tax debts with the IRS and three state agencies, imposed upon me by my former husband, you have restored my good name,” Moore wrote to Richardson. “I shall never forget your act of kindness.”

Many of the 241 applications were rejected because they were incomplete or requested clemency for misdemeanor convictions. In his denial letters, Richardson wrote, “Unfortunately, a pardon to restore civil rights has no effect regarding conviction for misdemeanors, because a misdemeanor conviction does not negatively affect any of the civil liberties that a pardon restores.”

Most applicants had their petitions for clemency prepared by attorneys and provided certificates they have earned in prison or in school, and included letters of recommendation by employers, friends, church pastors, and in some cases prosecutors and trial judges.

Traffic investigators in Fierro’s vehicular homicide case submitted letters to the governor along with Fierro’s request for clemency stating they believe the accident investigation was biased.

Gabriel Gurule, 26, who was also convicted of vehicular homicide after killing three people in an Albuquerque taxi cab more than five years ago, learned he was not eligible for Commutation of Sentence or other relief because that is only considered in cases of unusual meritorious service of an inmate who has saved the life of a correction department employee or inmate, or assisted in stopping a riot, or secured the release of a hostage in a riot situation.

A large number of clemency requests were submitted by people convicted of drug crimes, some as long ago as the 1960’s. Other’s came from murders, rapists, and check forgers. Many convicts initially asked to be considered for executive clemency, but did not return the required information forms.

Photo and scan credits: MG Bralley

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Abruzzo Pushed Boundaries and Inspired Us All.

For adventurer Richard Abruzzo the sky wasn't the limit—it was just the beginning.

Whether he was aloft in a hot air or gas balloon, flirting with his wife Nancy, racing down the mountain, leading a business meeting, pedaling his bike up a mountain trail or across a rural country road, playing with his children, or teaching his friends the joys of scuba diving, Abruzzo used his talents and energy to inspire us.

A remarkable balloonist, businessman, husband, father and brother, Abruzzo spent his life pursuing his dreams, nurturing his family, building a business and serving our community.

Abruzzo often drew upon a well of bravery and courage to tackle obstacles he encountered in pushing the boundaries of his sports and businesses.

He didn’t wait for happiness to find him. In fact, he showed us the importance of cherishing the joys in our own lives. He taught us to appreciate every waking moment.

Blessed with the spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship, Abruzzo planned his expeditions and his races knowing that the thrill was simply taking the journey, not arriving at the destination. Indeed, he seemed happiest not at the end of an adventure, but along the path.

Perhaps it was his consistent belief that he could fly higher and farther, ski quicker and pedal faster, that makes it possible for us all to believe we can confront our own life challenges, achieve happiness, and ultimately success in our own lives.

The warmth of his heart, the strength of his convictions, and the smile on his face are examples for those who survive him.

Like his father Ben Abruzzo, who built the Sandia Tram and opened Sandia Peak Ski Area, all before sailing the skies across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Richard's accomplishments and community leadership will never be forgotten.

It’s clear our lives would be lesser without daring men and women like Abruzzo and his co-pilot Carol Rymer Davis. Each taught us the importance of making the most of life journeys. They knew the risks of their sport, but decided to push the boundaries because it fulfilled their dreams. They each decided not to be just good, but great.

Today we recognize Albuquerque’s son Richard Abruzzo’s legacy and honor his life.

Balloonist Prayer:
The Winds have Welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Land office lawyers call AG's claims ludicrous

Attorneys representing the State Land Office say because Land Commissioner Pat Lyons is granted ”complete control over the care, control, and disposition of state trust lands,” the Supreme Court should reject Attorney General Gary King’s premise that four controversial land swaps at Whites Peak were predetermined “shams.”

A month ago, the Supreme Court granted an emergency petition filed by King that effectively halted those swaps. Now justices will have to decide if Lyons’ proposals violate any laws or if they may continue as planned.

Land Office Chief Legal Counsel Robert Stranahan, who directed a team of contract attorneys and filed the Land Office’s response with the court last week, told us that the “SLO is not a public auction house,” and that “the AG is “100 percent wrong on the law.”

“The Attorney General’s Office already has an opinion that says we can do land exchanges,” Stranahan said, referring to an opinion issued by former Attorney General Tom Udall.

“The commissioner is the one that decides what’s in the best interest of the trust – he has a fiduciary duty to the trust, and that’s what he’s exercising,” Stranahan said.

Stranahan said the commissioner’s authority is laid out in the state’s constitution, and “to suggest that we would need somehow to seek some other kind of guidance on how to exercise that authority is just improper.”

The Land Office has proposed trading about 11,000 acres of trust land around Whites Peak for about 9,600 acres of private land in an effort to consolidate the checkerboard area north of Ocate. The office says it is trying to clearly define state and private holdings and help eliminate problems with trespassing and littering on private lands.

Stranahan rejects the AG’s assertion that the bids were steered to predetermined parties.

“To suggest that we had negotiations with private parties is absolutely true. You bet we did. It’s completely within the province of the commissioner to do that,” Stranahan said. “If we are trying to fix this issue we need to go with the people who would potentially be bidders, but that doesn’t preclude someone else from bidding.”

He claims the SLO doesn’t even need to conduct a public auction if the end result of an exchange increases the value of the land.

‘Bidding process was flawed’

Former game commissioner Oscar Simpson, who now works as a campaign coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, disagrees.

He told us at a game commission meeting in Santa Fe last week “the bidding process needs to start over.” Simpson is upset because, he said, he doesn’t believe the SLO’s bid process was transparent or fair.

“It was a flawed process,” Simpson said. “The attorney general quite plainly asked the court to intervene because of the process in which the State Land Office proceeded.”

Families in the area, hunters and sportsmen groups have protested the deals. They claim Lyons is giving away pristine wilderness area that has been hunted by generations of New Mexico families, and they fear the land will be closed off to them and the public by the private ranchers.

“Every aspect of what they did to inform the public and the game commission was devious,” Simpson said. “The attorney general looked at all the records and said it wasn’t a public process – that it was an inside deal. By the time anyone else found out it was too late.”

He told us he thinks Lyons is “trying to get these land swaps pushed through” because it’s his final year in the land office.

“This is his last-ditch effort to appease his friends and political contributors,” Simpson said. “He’s certainly giving private ranchers a primo deal as far as big game parks, ranches and their land.”

'The public hasn't really benefited'

Simpson said he thinks state laws that regulate land exchanges are antiquated, and the “process of public auctions has basically been prostituted.”

“In the past, we’ve lost about four or five million acres of state land. A lot of this has been under the cover, and the public hasn’t really benefited – especially all the trustees and beneficiaries.”

Hunting guide Albert Goake agrees.

“This land swap has nothing to do with boundaries, vandalism or poaching. It’s all about the money,” Goake said. “Those ranchers are going to make millions of dollars selling trespasser fees for the elk permits.”

Simpson claims big land owners are coming in from out of state and buying up ranches because of the value of wildlife, “especially where you have a lot of big game and bull elk.”

“The big game hunts, that run anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000, are worth a lot of money, and are worth a helluva of a lot more than cattle grazing, and this basically augments the value of the ranch, because you can get so many elk tags, and the resale value is tremendous,” Simpson said.

Land worth more

On the same day that the SLO attorneys filed their response with the court, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) filed a brief in support of the Attorney General’s efforts. LULAC wants the justices to consider historic land grants given to Spanish settlers in the Whites Peak area.

In its brief, LULAC said, “The Whites Peak land and other land at issue here is highly likely to have originally been land held within community land grants.”

They claim land involved in the proposed exchange “is worth far more than the Land Commissioner asserts when its cultural and historic value is adequately taken into consideration.”

Attorney General spokesman Phil Sisneros told us that the attorney general’s office is still reviewing the response filed with the Supreme Court by the SLO.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gonzales appointed U.S. Attorney for NM

Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall announced that Kenneth Gonazales has been nominated to replace U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt.

Gonzales, a Pojoaque High School graduate, has been working in the Las Cruces office of the U.S. Attorney.

Fouratt has been interim U.S. Attorney since David Iglesias was forced out during the controversial 2006 U.S. Attorney firings by the Bush Administration.

“President Obama could not have selected a more qualified, capable candidate for this important position. Ken has the experience required of a U.S. attorney, having served for the past 11 years as a career prosecutor working on cases involving organized crime, narcotics, anti-terrorism, and other violent crimes,” Bingaman said in a news release.

“Ken worked as an aide to me more than a decade ago, so I have witnessed first-hand his keen legal judgment, fair-mindedness and strong work ethic," Bingaman said. "I applaud the president for choosing someone of Ken’s caliber and experience.”

“I applaud the President’s decision to nominate Kenneth Gonzales as the next U.S. Attorney for New Mexico,” Sen. Tom Udall said. “Ken Gonzales’ legal expertise and long record of statewide public service – including more than a decade as Assistant U.S. Attorney – make him extremely qualified for the job. He will make an excellent U.S. Attorney, and I look forward to working with President Obama and Senator Bingaman to ensure his swift confirmation by the Senate.”

Santa Fe New Mexican political reporter Steve Terrell has more details on his blog: Roundhouse Roundup.

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Sen. Payne: Taxes will be 'astronomical' in Bernalillo Co.

Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, who represents part of Albuquerque's far Northeast heights, said Bernalillo County will be hit hardest by the multitude of tax increases the State Senate passed in Santa Fe last night.

In the video below, Payne compares Bernalillo County to other counties. And claims it already pays twice as much in property taxes, and levies upon levies as well as having one of the highest gross receipts taxes.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Domenici Jr raises $260,000 in first six weeks

Updated March 5 - 9:34a

Domenici for Governor Campaign announced Monday night that it has raised $260,000 in the first six weeks after launching his campaign.

“This support reflects the strong welcome Pete’s campaign has received from people who believe that he is a solid Republican who has the respect, backing, and state-wide exposure to win the governor’s office.” Domenici Campaign Director Doug Antoon said.

A list of contributors is
available online.

Domenici Jr has contributed $50,000 to his own campaign -- the single largest contributor listed in the report.

“This support reflects the strong welcome Pete’s campaign has received from people who believe that he is a solid Republican who has the respect, backing and state-wide exposure to win the governor’s office,” Campaign Director Doug Antoon said in a news release.

Political contributions become more transparent

Janice Arnold-Jones was the first Republican to list her contributors on her Web site, and I am proud to follow her example,” Domenici said in the release.

Since January, Arnold-Jones has been posting on her campaign Web site information about every contribution she’s received to date, and she is keeping the list of contributions current. Domenici didn’t say if he plans to constantly update his list or release new information periodically. Antoon previously said the campaign hoped to release information about contributors at least monthly.

The next required finance report is due on April 12, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denishstarted the trend of voluntarily releasing reports quarterly, even in off-election years when it’s not required, more than two years ago. Her most recent report came in January.

Republican Susana Martinez has matched Denish in voluntarily releasing a report of contributions and expenditures for the fourth quarter of 2009.

But unlike Denish and Martinez, Arnold-Jones has not been releasing information about campaign expenditures more often than is required by state law. Asked if Domenici planned to release information about expenditures more often than law requires, Antoon said he does not.

“Expenditures will be released in accordance with the state’s disclosure law because it is a campaign’s expenditures that detail planning and strategy (though nearly all campaigns would not admit that outright),” he wrote in an e-mail. “So we will safeguard that information.”

In response to a question, Antoon said the campaign may release information about any in-kind contributions the campaign has received more often than state law requires.

Republican candidate Doug Turner has said “maybe” in response to my question about whether he would voluntarily release a finance report. And the campaign of Republican Allen Weh has said he is “considering”doing the same.

Dems attack

The Democratic Party responded to Domenici’s release of contribution information by accusing Domenici of underperforming by his “own standards.”

Citing a “source close to the campaign” that quoted when Domenici entered the gubernatorial race on Jan. 17 as saying the campaign expected to reach $500,000 in fundraising “very soon,” the Democratic Party said in a news release that Domenici’s “early gaffes and mistakes” have hampered his fundraising.

The Democratic Party did not point out that the Domenici campaign never officially set the bar at $500,000.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Clayton Prison passes audit

The Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility (NENMDF) in Clayton passed its first American Correctional Association (ACA) audit with flying colors this week, scoring 100 percent on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards. The audit report now goes to the Commission on Accreditation, which will meet in Chicago, Ill., this summer, to review the results and determine whether accreditation will be granted.

ACA standards ensure the safety and well-being of staff, inmates, and the community. The standards determine nearly every aspect of prison life, from the temperature of meals, to how soon after intake an inmate should be interviewed by mental health professionals to how many square feet of living space each inmate should receive. The audit team found NENMDF compliant with the 57 mandatory standards and 428 non-mandatory standards applicable to the facility.

ACA accreditation is a voluntary process, but the New Mexico Corrections Department requires all prisons within its system to be ACA accredited. New Mexico is one of only a few states with the ‘Eagle Award,’ a special distinction for having all applicable areas of its agency ACA accredited.

NENMDF’s three-person audit team complimented the prison staff. Auditor Robin White of Georgia commented on something that had never before occurred during one of her audits. She said, “Inmates said the best part of being here is the staff.” The auditors said comments like that highlight the professional culture that’s being cultivated at NENMDF. The auditors were: J. Patton Dellow, correctional consultant from Lincoln, Ill., Rodney Bivens, director of corrections and personnel for the Knox County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Department, and Robin White, correctional consultant from Savannah, Ga. The audit was conducted February 22-24, 2010.

The GEO Group, Inc. operates the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility. NENMDF is a medium-security prison, housing 600 New Mexico Corrections Department male inmates. The facility opened in 2008.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Poll: Denish leads GOP field in 2010 election

Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish leads all five Republican gubernatorial candidates in a new poll released by Public Policy Polling -- although it appears Pete Domenici Jr is within striking distance.

Denish leads Domenici by five percentage points, 45-40, but holds much wider margins against the rest of the Republican field.

“Even in this hostile political climate, Diane Denish holds a lead against all of her potential opponents," Denish campaign Communications Director Chris Cervini said in a news release. "That’s because New Mexicans view her as an independent voice and a champion for middle-class families and their jobs."

But, considering the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error a possible Denish-Domenici race is essentially a dead heat. Of course that race isn't even finalized. While Denish is running unchallenged, Domenici still needs to collect a minimum of 20 percent of his party's pre-primary delegates and win the June 1st primary.

Denish polls 18 percentage points higher than Allen Weh, 48-30 percent, and by 14 percentage points over state Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, 47-33. She also holds a 14 percentage point lead over Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, 46-32 percent, and the a similar 14 percentage point leader over Albuquerque Public Relations agency owner Doug Turner, 46-32 percent.

“Diane has developed a unique relationship with the people of New Mexico, and as Governor she’ll bring about a new way of doing business to Santa Fe. New Mexicans are looking forward – not backward – and Diane has the new ideas that will get our economy moving and help families make ends meet,” Cervini said.

Denish’s advantage comes in spite of significantly reduced popularity for Governor Bill Richardson. Only 28 percent of voters in the state approve of the job he’s doing with 63 percent disapproving. His 22 percent approval with independents and 7 percent with Republicans is not unusual for a Democratic official these days, but he’s even in negative territory within hisown party at a 42/47 spread.

"Given Obama and Richardson’s low levels of popularity Diane Denish is doing pretty well,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But a contest with Domenici certainly looks like it could be competitive.”

Denish is easily the best known of the Gubernatorial candidates with 75 percent of voters holding an opinion about her. They break down positively by a 41/34 margin. A plurality of voters has no opinion about each of the Republicans. Domenici is viewed favorably by 27 percent, followed by 17 percent for Martinez, 12 percent for Weh and Turner, and 8 percent for Arnold-Jones.Although Barack Obama’s approval has slipped into negative territory at 45/48, both of the state’s Democratic Senators have solid 48/36 approval spreads.

PPP, a Democratic polling firm, surveyed 990 New Mexico voters from February 18th to 20th. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.1 percent. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turner and Arnold-Jones smoked marijuana

A week after Pete Domenici Jr. admitted to “recreational” marijuana and cocaine use decades ago, two more Republican gubernatorial candidates, Doug Turnerand Janice Arnold-Jones, say they also tried marijuana years ago.

“I tried marijuana between high school and college,” Turner said in an e-mail sent via his campaign spokesman, Stephen Dinkel. Turner said he has never used any other illegal drug.

Arnold-Jones, who is on a fundraising trip in New Jersey, told today that she tried a marijuana cigarette once, with her boyfriend, in 1972 while she was attending UNM, but said she “didn’t like it.” She also said she bought a pack of cigarettes 30 years ago, but after smoking just nine, decided she didn’t like them either

Republicans Allen Weh and Susana Martinez told, through their spokespeople, that they have never smoked marijuana or used any other illegal drug.

Diane Denish, the Democratic candidate for governor, was traveling and did not respond to a question about whether she’s ever tried illegal drugs in time for this posting.

Heinrich: Labs technology transfer to be streamlined

U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-1) is applauding Energy Secretary Steven Chu for appointing a Technology Transfer Coordinator to help national laboratories streamline the transfer innovative scientific and technical solutions to American businesses.

“When world-class scientists and entrepreneurs put their minds together, anything is possible,” Heinrich said. “I commend Secretary Chu for his leadership in recognizing the tremendous opportunities our national laboratories present to private industry. The addition of a tech transfercoordinator will help businesses utilize advanced technologies to manufacture products more effectively and ultimately create more jobs.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Heinrich joined ten of his colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary Steven Chu urging him to appoint a national Technology Transfer Coordinator.

Today, Chu named Dr. Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology was named as the first ever, full-time appointee to the position and will be responsible for working with national labs to streamline their research and commercialization partnerships with the private sector—including large and small companies, venture capital, universities, and other nonprofit research and development institutions.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 8, 2005, included Section 1001(a) to require that a Technology Transfer Coordinator be appointed as the Secretary of Energy’s principal advisor on technology transfer and commercialization; however, a full-time position was not filled until now.

According to a November 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service, the federal government spends approximately one third of its annual research and development budget to meet mission requirements in over 700 government laboratories. Much of the technology and expertise generated by this investment has applications beyond the immediate goals of federally funded research and development. As a result, there are numerous opportunities for private industry to take advantage of existing technologies at federal laboratories.

Sandia National Laboratories has been a leader in building mutually beneficial partnerships with industry, including Goodyear, Intel, and General Motors.

GOP Survey shows Pearce with lead

Former Republican Congressman Steve Pearce, who has outraised freshman incumbent Rep. Harry Teague, in the last two quarters, is now touting polling data which shows him with a slight lead in this year's 2nd Congressional District race.

The Tarrance Group poll, commissioned by Pearce, surveyed 401 likely voters between February 16-18, shows Pearce with a 4 percent lead in the 2010 election -- clearly inside the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.

However, the good news for Teague, according to National Journal's Hotline On Call blog, is that he continued to outperform the Democrat generic ballot, meaning that some voters who are turned off by the Democrat brand still feel some connection to the Southern New Mexico incumbent.

The bad news is that he's still way below 50%, and the rest of those votes will be hard to make up -- even in a district that has more Democrat voters registered.

Pearce is listed as a "Young Gun" on this NRCC list.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poll: Domenici Jr leads GOP field

While Democrat Lt. Governor Diane Denish cruises toward her party’s nomination for governor in 2010 unchallenged, the five-person Republican primary is beginning to heat up, and Pete Domenici Jr, who entered the race last, already has a huge double-digit lead in both name recognition and early voting preferences according to a public opinion poll conducted by 28 NMSU students enrolled in a Political Research Skills course instructed by Dr. Jose Z. Garcia.

The telephone survey, which calculated the responses of 444 registered Republicans statewide, from February 9-13, reports 36.3 percent of participants named Domenici without prompting and 29.3 percent of them said they were leaning toward voting for him — a nearly 18 percent lead over second place finisher Susana Martinez.

“That’s a substantial poll,” Domenici Jr told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “We’re pleased to see those results. We didn’t expect to be this far ahead this soon.”

In fact, Domenici’s likely voter support exceeded the combined voter preference totals for Martinez (11.5%,) Allen Weh (7.4%), Doug Turner (6.8%), and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones(2.5%). A little more than 42 percent said they are still undecided.

Room for any one of the candidates to surge ahead'

Among likely Republican voters who were able to name, unprompted, at least one candidate in the race, 36 percent were able to name Domenici Jr. That was followed by former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh (22 percent), Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez (18 percent), Albuquerque public relations firm owner Doug Turner (17 percent) and State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque (8 percent).
Still, 46 percent of respondents — 203 people — weren’t able to identify a single candidate.

In his analysis of the results, which have an error rate of plus or minus 5 percent, Prof. Garcia looked at the question of whether Domenici’s lead was primarily due to high name recognition because of his father, retired six-term U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

To test it, Garcia looked at respondents who recognized both the names of Domenici and Martinez, who came in second in the poll, and found that 25 percent of those people preferred Domenici, while 40 percent preferred Martinez, 12 percent preferred another candidate and 12 percent were undecided.

“That, coupled with other factors, could mean this primary race could come down to Domenici and Martinez,” Garica predicted.

“The low sample size does not permit definitive conclusions, but this reduction, when combined with the relatively low performance of Weh in the preference question despite his relatively high name recognition … and the relatively low performance of Turner and Arnold, suggests—other things being equal—this is likely to become a two-person race in the next few weeks between Domenici and Martinez,” Garcia’s poll memo states.

Garica’s analysis also broke down the support by gender and ethnicity of respondents, and found that Domenici had the support of at least as many men and women as all the other candidates combined, and the support of roughly twice as many as Hispanic voters.

“Pete’s conservative positions are being well received by those now following the race,” Domenici’s campaign manager Doug Antoon wrote in a news release Sunday morning.

Garcia said he recognized the high number of undecided and believes there is still “a great deal of room for anyone of the candidates to surge ahead.”

In fact, the poll was taken before Domenici admitted to using drugs in the 70’s and 80’s and a mixed statement about his chances of winning the general election in 2010.

Poll results challenged

At least one campaign has questioned the reliability of the poll, calling Garcia a “staunch supporter” of Martinez. Another campaign manager told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the poll does not match their own internal polling.

“We disagree with the results, as Susana Martinez’s results appear inflated,” Allen Weh spokesman Chris Sanchez told the Las Cruces newspaper. “It appears there was a huge conflict of interest. We question who paid for the poll.”

But, Garcia has been upfront on the issue. He said that he purchased the survey list from Albuquerque-based Research and Polling with his own money, said that he's "not backing any of the candidates," nor consulting for any campaign.

The professor said his comments about Martinez being "a game changer," made to blogger Heath Haussamen last July, shortly after Martinez' announcement, was not an endorsement.

“I’m a registered Democrat,” Garica said. “My classes have been conducting polls like this for years.”
“It was not an endorsement at all,” he said. “I think I spoke factually, and if she ends up being a viable candidate in the Republican Party, I was right.”
Some pundits have said the poll signals problems for the Weh campaign.
He had the second highest name identification, but only place third in voter preference. So voters who know him may not have a favorable opinion of him.

Steve Kush, who moved to New Mexico from New Jersey, shortly after aiding Chris Christie’s successful campaign, told the Sun-News the polls numbers are “out-of-line with our internal numbers and appear to be regional in nature.”

“The only poll that matters is the one taken by the voters on Election Day, and I am confident the voters will respond to Representative Arnold-Jones’ message,” Kush told the Sun-News.

Turner told the newspaper he was “pleased that his name recognition numbers were as high as they were in the poll.” He said he started out the campaign at “2 percent or less,” because he’s new to the political arena.

The candidates first test will come in mid-March at the Republican Party Pre-Primary nominating convention in Albuquerque. Candidates there will need to muster at least 20 percent of the delegate vote for an automatic primary ballot position. No candidate who has not garnered that minimum has ever gone on to win the primary.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Domenici Jr accuses Weh of 'dishonesty'

Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Domenici Jr is accusing primary opponent Allen Weh of being "intellectually dishonest" after Weh distributed a news release to local bloggers - including ours -- using comments Domenici made about his chances of winning the general election this Fall.

“For him to have ripped out of context an innocent sentence was a half truth and reflects the same type of dishonesty we are trying to rid Santa Fe of,” Domenici said during a three-way call with Publisher Heath Haussamen and us.

"His excerpt from the 770KKOB interview ended with my statement about how hard it will be for Republicans to win without the best candidate. The rest of my statement concluded with, I'm saying I can win, and I'm concerned with the perception that I'm hearing (from Allen Weh) that says any of them (the Republicans running) can beat Denish. I don't agree with that," Domenici clarified.

Here’s the original transcript of what Weh provided:

Villanucci: Are you the best person to win the general?

Domenici: The general is going to be an extremely difficult election. The perception out there that somehow any of the five candidates can and should win the general, I disagree with strongly.

Villanucci: Who can’t win?

Domenici: I don’t know if I want to say particular names of who can’t win.

Villanucci: You obviously have a feeling on that. You said that not all of you can win, so somebody can’t, and you think you can. So, who can’t?

Domenici: Actually, I would even include myself in the group that

But a review of the full audio transcripts revealed the Domenici went on to say:

“Actually, I would even include myself in the group that can’t. I don’t think this is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. It is going to be extremely tough. So I, that’s why I don’t want to go in the negative. I’m saying I can win and I’m concerned with the perception I’m hearing that says any of these five can win. I don’t agree with that.”

Domenici goes even further in a news release distributed after the telephone call, and claims it is Allen Weh who "cannot win."

"He has alienated too many Republicans and voters across the board,” Domenici said in the news release.

All four Republican candidates will try to pick up pre-primary convention delegates at nearly a dozen county meetings this weekend. Domenici said he'll attend at least two - in Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Updated: Domenici says general election will be "tough""


A second and more thorough review of Domenici's statement to a local talk show host reveals he actually thinks he can win, he simply says "it's not a sure thing."

I don’t think this is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. It is going to be extremely tough. So I, that’s why I don’t want to go in the negative. I’m saying I can win and I’m concerned with the perception I’m hearing that says any of these five can win. I don’t agree with that.”

Political newcomer Pete Domenici Jr, who admitted to smoking marijuana and using cocaine in the 1970s and 1980's, also told 770KKOB radio talk show host Jim Villanucci on Tuesday that the 2010 general election is going to be "difficult" for any of the five Republican gubernatorial candidates to win.

In fact, Domenici, who considers himself a front runner in this June's primary, went further and said he might not be able to win the general election himself.

Today, Albuquerque Businessman Allen Weh, who is also running for Governor, sent us the audio and a news release stating that he is much more confident in the party's chances this Fall.

“In November, voters will be looking for a leader who can put New Mexicans back to work and get our economy moving in the right direction,” Weh said. “Unlike my opponent, I believe the next governor of New Mexico will be a Republican.”

The following is a transcript, provided by the Weh camp, from Wednesday’s radio interview:
Jim Villanucci: Are you the best person to win the general?

Pete Domenici Jr: The general is going to be an extremely difficult election. The perception out there that somehow any of the five candidates can and should win the general, I disagree with strongly.

Jim Villanucci: Who can't win?

Pete Domenici Jr: I don't know if I want to say particular names of who can't win.

Jim Villanucci: You obviously have a feeling on that. You said that not all of you can win, so somebody can't, and you think you can. So, who can't?

Pete Domenici Jr: Actually, I would even include myself in the group that can't.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

APS charter school audit reveals 'troubling' patterns

State Auditor Hector Balderas announced today that the 2009 Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) financial audit performed by Moss Adams contained 378 findings, the vast majority of which exhibit poor financial management and failure to adhere to internal controls in many of the District’s charter schools.

“In these difficult economic times, it’s imperative that school districts manage funds responsibly and I will continue to highlight areas of concern,” Balderas said. “My office will continue to partner with APS and the District’s charter schools to strengthen their fiscal accountability.”

Of the 378 findings, over 120 were identified in previous years but had not been corrected. Balderas called upon the governing bodies of APS and those charter schools identified by the audit to reduce risks to public school funds and work together to address the findings.

"The recent audits of the Jemez Mountain and Mora School Districts have highlighted that sound fiscal management of public school funds must be a priority,” Balderas stated. “It’s critical that the state’s largest school district correct these troubling trends in order to prevent fraud and the inappropriate use of public funds.”

Many of the District’s charter schools had the most findings, including Christine Duncan, The Learning Community, Academia de Lengua y Cultura, La Academia de Esperanza, La Resolana Leadership Academy, Corrales International and Albuquerque Talent Development. The findings included non-approved journal entries and overall issues relating to cash controls.

More specifically, for certain schools the findings cited no receipts completed for cash received; no evidence of payroll registers having authorization or review sign offs; invoices were not approved before they were paid , cell phones were paid for contractors without monitoring personal use; proper procurement procedures for competitive bidding on contracts were not followed; and there was no segregation of duties when preparing and depositing money.

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SIC increasing distribution to public schools

While lawmakers continue to debate how to reform the State Investment Council, the group's board has announced it will distribute $720 million to public schools and other permanent fund beneficiaries in fiscal year 2011 -- an $8 million increase over the current year.

After the 2008 market collapse and credit crisis, the state Land Grant Permanent Fund investment grew 21.2 percent in 2009 -- outperforming its policy index by 4.5 percent. That return ranked it in the top third amoung its peers. Investment returns were also in double digits for the Severance Tax Permanent Fund last year. It grew 19.8 percent -- outperforming its benchmark by 4.4 percent. It ranked in the 43rd percentile among its peers in the same time period.

"These distributions show the overall vitality of the Permanent Funds, which continue to experience long-term growth, despite the economic downturn," interim State Investment Officer Bob Jackson said in a news release. "This is the ultimate purpose of these trust dollars -- to produce steady earnings that benefit New Mexico residents today, as well as future generations."

Annual distributions are based on a 5-year rolling average of the state's permanent endowment and are established by the state's contitution.

Perfomance data and individual SIC manager performance for 2009 can be reviewed online.

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Americans oppose court's donation ruling

Americans are upset over the Supreme Court decision last month that threw out limits on corproate spending in political campaigns, and with Democrats in control, Congress is eager to figure out a way around the decision.

A new ABC News/Washington post poll shows 80 percent of Americans oppose the court's ruling, which lifts laws banning corporate campaign donations.

Another 72 percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling Jan. 21, said federal restrictions on corporate spending in elections constituted a violation of free speech. Critics called it wrong to equate corporate "speech" with individual speech and said the ruling would allow special-interest money to flood election campaigns. The ruling did not explicitly include spending by unions, which also was restricted in the law, but is expected to apply to them as well.

One proposal now being considered would require a company's C-E-O to appear in campaign ads -- like candidates -- saying they "approve this message."

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Holguin 'surprised and disappointed' by senate confirmation vote

A day after New Mexico senators rejected Neri Holguin’s nomination to the state Environmental Improvement Board she says she’s “surprised and disappointed” by the 17 to 25 vote — especially since she’s been sitting on the board since last July.

And, at least three senators say the vote appears to be, at some level, political payback for Holguin’s campaign work in 2008.

She successfully managed victories for Eric Griego and Tim Keller, who defeated sitting senators Shannon Robinson and James Taylor in a hotly contested primary race.

The New Mexico Independent reports that during the senate debate Albuquerque Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, scolded his colleagues for objecting to Holguin’s appointment.

“Suddenly to develop scruples is disingenuous and incredibly hypocritical,” he said about concerns over possible conflicts of interest.

Sen. Eric Griego also used the confirmation vote to express his support for webcasting saying, ”people need to know what happens up here. I’m learning a lot more about this body the more time I spend here.”

But, Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, told The Independent he was “afraid of politicizing this extremely important board.”

Despite not being confirmed Holguin said she “will continue to advocate for the responsible stewardship of our natural resources and the public health, safety and welfare of New Mexicans.”

Holguin is currently managing Democrat Ray Powell’s campaign for commissioner of public lands. She is also consulting for Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins 2010 campaign.

PNM offers New Mexico non-profits energy grants

New Mexico non-profits, who want to become more energy efficient, could soon be getting some help -- in the form of grants -- from PNM.

The nonprofit PNM Fund, a division of the PNM Resources Foundation, announced today that it will award $250,000 in Reduce Your Use Grants to nonprofits in its service territory to implement energy-saving measures that lower their electric bills and help the environment.

“With the demand for services supplied by so many nonprofits rising, and budgets tightening, the Reduce Your Use Grant represents a unique opportunity for a nonprofit to focus more of its money on what really matters: fulfilling its core mission,” said Diane Harrison Ogawa, executive director of the PNM Resources Foundation.

In prior years, funded projects included the replacement of inefficient appliances with Energy Star®-rated appliances, replacement of single-pane windows with double-pane windows, upgrades and updates to lighting systems, and installation of solar photovoltaic panels.

The PNM Fund, a division of the PNM Resources Foundation, has invested over $7 million to fund nonprofit projects that meet community needs. More than $780,000 is distributed annually through PNM Reduce Your Use Grants, PNM Classroom Innovation Grants, Matching Grants, Volunteer Grants and Volunteer Excellence Awards.

Applications must be submitted online by April 15. Recipients will be announced in May.