Monday, March 24, 2008

Grade School Candy Pushers Thwart the Nanny State

Grade school candy bans create little entrepreneurs

Teachers trying to kill the entrepreneurial spirit

Apparently there is still hope for America. And that ray of hope comes from, of all places, California.

The Daily Press of Victorville reported last week that the sugar and junk food ban in California schools has created an underground economy where kids are buying and selling candy bars and sodas at big profits:

“It’s created a little underground economy, with businessmen selling everything from a pack of skittles to an energy drink,” said Jim Nason, principal at Hook Junior High School in Victorville.

This has become a lucrative business, Nason said, and those kids are walking around campus with upwards of $40 in their pockets and disrupting class to make a sale.

Schools have been individually banning junk-food sales for years, and enforcement was increased in 2005 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed legislation to combat childhood obesity, according to the office of the governor.

Since then, schools have slowly adjusted by offering more healthy alternatives, such as baked chips and granola bars.

But Nason said that he sees just as much candy and soda as ever, because students still bring it from home — for lunch, and to turn a profit.

“I think it’s original purpose was pretty good, but it doesn’t seem to be making that big of a difference,” said teacher Rolayne Allen of the junk-food ban.

Teachers are instructed to confiscate candy when kids have it in class, Nason said, and the punishment for making sales can be detention.

That last paragraph is typical of the Nanny State control freaks who want to control every aspect of our lives. They refuse to understand that we don't want to live by their rules--that we want our chocolate, grease, eggs, booze, smokes and anything else that tastes and feels good. And, they're making little criminals out of these budding entrepreneurs by giving them detention for selling candy!

Kids used to get detention for mouthing off to teachers, starting fights or trying to burn their schools down. And you can see where some of those detentions might have been justified. But detention for selling candy!

A judge once told me that the way everything is being criminalized and banned in this country, pretty soon all kids will be stamped with parole numbers at birth.

I think he's right.

But until then, God bless those grade school candy pushers.

Friday, March 21, 2008

NM Democrats buying votes, too

NM Democrats are buying votes, too

Lujan and Wiviott offer delegates food and motel rooms

Dave Cargo says AG won’t investigate vote-buying charges because he doesn’t want to hurt Dems

By Dennis Domrzalski

Former New Mexico
Gov. Dave Cargo says he now knows why the state Attorney General’s Office seems to be dragging its feet in investigating allegations of vote buying at the February Bernalillo County Republic Party’s pre-primary nominating convention.

Democrats have been engaging in the same kind of vote-buying behavior, and Democrat AG Gary King doesn’t want his party to get caught up in the mess.

The Espanola-based Rio Grande Sun reported Thursday that at least two candidates for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall, D-NM—PRC Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan and Developer Don Wiviott—were rewarding delegates who voted for them at the Party’s March 15 pre-primary convention with food and hotel rooms.

The AG’s Office said last week that it wasn’t investigating the allegations of GOP vote-buying because political party elections are private affairs that aren’t covered by the New Mexico Election Code.

Cargo sees another reason for Democrat King’s refusal to investigate:

“They don’t want it to slip over into the Democrats,” the former governor said. “I’ve said that if they looked at the Republicans they’d have to look at the Democrats. It’s amazing that they aren’t cracking down.”

Here’s what the Sun reported:
Gifts for Delegates

The financial disparity between the top two candidates for Udall's seat and the rest of the field was made evident at the convention. Lujan has received broad support with the help of his powerful father, state Speaker of the House Ben Lujan (D-Nambé).

Lujan's staff swarmed the Santa Ana Star Center with ear pieces and walkie-talkies and handed out food coupons for pizza and hotdogs to delegates who voted for him.

Wiviott's staff and volunteers also took measures to ensure Wiviott's delegates were well looked after.

San Juan County delegate Ivan William Pfeifer had arrived the day before the event and stayed the night at a Holiday Inn Express in Bernalillo, care of Wiviott's campaign.

"We were very much surprised it was even offered," said Pfeifer, who donned a blue Wiviott shirt at the convention.

Caroline Buerkle, Wiviott's campaign spokeswoman, said the campaign provided rooms for about 20 delegates. Two-hundred delegates voted for Wiviott, who has used his own money to build a war chest worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The overwhelming majority of delegates got here completely on their own," Buerkle said.

Nothing in campaign finance law explicitly prohibits candidates from providing lodging for delegates, and the Secretary of State’s Office deferred any questions on the matter to the Attorney General’s office.

“We have a similar situation regarding the paying of registration fees at the (Republican Convention),” Secretary of State spokesman James Flores said. Buerkle said the campaign was not worried about any perception the rooms brought.

"What do you do for the delegate who can't afford to come?" Buerkle said. Pfeifer said he had not been swayed by the free lodging.

Cargo, a Republican who brought the allegations of Republican vote buying to the news media and to the state Secretary of State’s Office, said what Lujan’s and Wiviott’s campaigns did at the convention amounted to vote buying.

“I consider it vote buying. What else did they pay, their back taxes?” Cargo asked. “It amounts to blatantly buying votes.”

The AG’s Office told us last week that it doesn’t think the Republic vote-buying scandal warrants an investigation because political party elections are private affairs that aren’t covered by the New Mexico Election Code. The election law says it is a fourth-degree felony to offer someone a bribe to vote a certain way, or to accept a bribe to vote.

King’s office might be wrong in its opinion that party elections aren’t covered by the state’s election law. Here’s what the Election Code says about party elections:

1-7-1. Political parties; condition for use of the ballot. (1969)
All nominations of candidates for public office in New Mexico made by political parties shall be made pursuant to the Election Code [1-1-1 NMSA 1978]. No political party shall be permitted to have the names of its candidates printed on any election ballot unless and until it has qualified as provided in the Election Code.

Cargo has been pushing for an investigation into allegations of the Republican vote buying efforts. Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign has admitted that it paid the $30 registration fees for five people to attend the Bernalillo County GOP’s mid-February convention in Albuquerque. Attendees to the convention elected delegates to the state GOP’s March 15 nominating convention.

NM SoS Mary Herrera, a Democrat, has been trying to investigate the allegations of Republican vote buying. But her office is represented by the AG, and any charges in the matter would have to be brought by the AG.

“I did hear back from the AG and they told me that they don’t have a date when they will make a determination,” Herrera said Thursday. “Our legal counsel (from the AG’s Office) says he is still meeting with his authorities and that they don’t have a determination yet. There’s nothing I can do until I get a determination from the AG.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Albuquerque Journal fails miserably again

Journal can't be trusted to deliver a story on time or accurately

New Mexico's largest news operation took 16 days to cover this hot story

Another journalistic disgrace

By Dennis Domrzalski

The Albuquerque Journal today proved once again why it can't be trusted to inform the public.

Today the paper finally published a story about the allegations of vote buying at the mid-February Bernalillo County Republican Party's pre-nominating conventions. And what a lame, disgraceful story it was. Read this stupid lead:

A registration fee for rank-and-file Republicans to attend their county convention— a fee candidates sometimes pick up— might be the root of a behind-the-scenes political flap in Bernalillo County.
Naaah! Really? A registration fee might be the root of a behind-the-scenes political flap?

How about allegations of criminal vote buying are ripping the party apart? That would be more accurate. How about this story has been raging in the national blogosphere for weeks and has contributed to a massive swell of anti-Heather Wilson venom? How about former KKOB Radio afternoon drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum broke the stories in late February and resigned in early March when her idiot news editor killed them because bloggers hadn't picked them up? How about this blog broke the MacCallum resignation story and put the vote-buying allegations on the Internet on March 3, more than two weeks ago?

You'll never read about those things in the Journal because they're the truth and that paper is incapable of telling it.

This is typical Journal arrogance, though. If they're too lazy or too stupid or too biased to break a story, then, in their minds, it isn't a story. It doesn't become a story until they say so.

At The Albuquerque Tribune years ago we routinely beat the Journal on big stories. When it could, the idiot paper ignored the story for a week or two. Then it published its own version and pretended like it had found the news. The Trib, which is now gone, was by far the better newspaper.

The Journal's not-so-ace political reporter Jeff Jones failed to mention an even bigger issue in the state GOP: The threats that were made to at least three people who once considered running for the First Congressional District seat being vacated by Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

Jones quoted New Mexico Attorney General's Office spokesman Phil Sisneros as saying the AG's Office wasn't investigating the vote-buying allegations because political party conventions are private affairs that aren't subject to the New Mexico Election Code. Sisneros told us that last week. But we at least found a part of the election code that contradicts Sisnersos' logic. Here's the law:

1-7-1. Political parties; conditions for use of ballot. (1969)
All nominations of candidates for public office in New Mexico made by political parties shall be made pursuant to the Election Code [
1-1-1 NMSA 1978]. No political party shall be permitted to have the names of its candidates printed on any election ballot unless and until it has qualified as provided in the Election Code.

Other sections of the election law say it's a fourth-degree felony to buy a vote or to accept a bribe to vote a certain way. Jones didn't bother to include that in his story either.

This isn't the first, nor will it be the last time the Journal has failed and will fail to fully inform its readers. It buried its story about MacCallum's resignation.

There might be one bright side to the Journal's finally running the vote-buying story. Two lame bloggers might finally recognize the story as news. Heath Haussaman and Mario Burgos both Republican Party apologists, said the vote-buying scandal was never a story. Now that the Journal has declared it news, these two might finally see a story.

You can read the Journal's story here. But why waste your time?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Brenda Dunagan: Master of the Ballroom!

Albuquerque Dance Instructor Brenda Dunagan Gets Her International Dance Diploma

All of Humankind Cheers

An Awed World Wonders: What's Next For Brenda Dunagan?

Sick of hearing about lying, thieving, sneaky politicians and idiot celebrities? Care to hear about some of the remarkable, talented, smart, hard-working and inspiring people who actually deserve honor and acclaim? Of course you do. I said so.

So here’s Brenda Dunagan. Brenda is a dance instructor, performer, magician, choreographer, scholar, jokester, inspiration and just one incredible human being. She chases dreams and catches them. Read her professional bio here (page 6).

Last week, Brenda got what amounts to her Master’s Degree in ballroom dance instruction: her Licentiate Diploma from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She and Albuquerque dance instructors Bill Zimmerman and Anita McBride went to Los Angeles and took grueling, two-day exams from the snooty Brits who run the Imperial Society. The three, who teach dance at Albuquerque’s Enchantment Ballroom, all passed. They studied and practiced with each other for the exams for more than a year, cheerfully dragging themselves into the studio at 10 o’clock on Saturday mornings--no easy thing for dancers because they're always working into the early morning--to rehearse and meticulously go through each and every step. They also spent untold hours each week studying and memorizing instruction manuals and dance steps. In the week before the exams, Brenda spent more than 30 hours rehearsing.

Brenda is also a tenacious scholar. In December she got her B.S. in biology from the University of New Mexico, with minors in philosophy and chemistry. That came after 11 straight years of going to school part time--never missing a semester--and while working full time as a dancer, instructor and performer. She's performed in all 50 states and 11 countries.

My wife and I have been taking lessons from Brenda for the past year. In that time I’ve gotten to see just how much hard, hard work, dedication and practice—yeah, practice, practice and more practice—it takes to make gliding around a ballroom floor look effortless. And I've gotten to know Brenda. Brenda is a friend, and one of those rare people in life who, because who and what they are, spark you. She has sparked me, and I'm grateful and thrilled for it.

So here's to Brenda, Bill and Anita. Congratulations!

Here's a story I wrote last year about Brenda. It initially appeared in Accent Albuquerque Magazine

By Dennis Domrzalski

“Rock step forward, cha, cha, cha. Rock step backward, cha, cha, cha,” Albuquerque dance instructor Brenda Dunagan encouragingly repeats over and over as she gently coaxes her stiff-jointed, middle-aged student into simple steps and movements that are far beyond his limited ability to comprehend and execute.

The balding student tries, but for someone with the grace and agility of a plodding brontosaurus, it’s a tough and clumsy go. The student manages, with a studied and anguished deliberation, to mechanically place one foot where it’s supposed to go.

It’s not the effortless, fluid and exuberant step that Dunagan would like to see, but it’ll get there. And in a few weeks the student will be gliding across the wooden dance floor of the Enchantment Ballroom dance studio trying desperately to erase the humiliation of a time when he was so painfully shy that the mere thought of dancing made him nervous enough to vomit.

Photo: Steve Bromberg

The student will succeed because Dunagan won’t quit. The 34-year-old dream chaser never has. That’s why, after 11 straight years of taking at least two courses a semester—all while working full-and part-time—Dunagan will graduate in December from the University of New Mexico with a B.S in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. That’s why this entrepreneur, stage magician, professional dancer, choreographer, linguist, kick boxer, yoga practitioner, self-starter, movie extra, tutor, model, lover of knowledge, performance artist and passionate individualist will find a new level to climb to after she graduates. She wants to teach, write and continue in academia. Whatever she does, Dunagan will succeed, and in doing so, she’ll inspire others to do the same.

That’s because Brenda Dunagan is contagious. Spend just a little time with this five-foot-three, 115-pound, laugh-loving, category-five human tornado, and you’ll be thinking about goals set and never fully pursued, time wasted in orgies of self-pity and procrastination, and obstacles never sidestepped or smashed to pieces. And in just a little while you’ll be energized and thinking once again about the possible and dusting off those old goals and dreams and saying to yourself, “Dammit, I can do it—No. Dammit. I will do it!”

“People should never give up on what their dream and goal is—if they want to dance or go to college or do anything else that everybody in their life has told them what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do, or aren’t going to able to do. They should disregard that and pursue their dreams,” Dunagan says while using a double-handed clasp to raise a mug of coffee during an interview on a recent day off.

“I’ve had students with one leg learn how to dance. I’ve had people in wheelchairs come up and say, ‘I love music. I love to move. I want to have fun with my wife. Help us choreograph a dance in a wheelchair.’ A lot of people keep from doing things they really have passion for because they say, ‘You know, I’m really not intelligent enough. I’m not young enough. I’m not thin enough, or I’m not physically capable.’

“It is magical and so wonderful to see people overcoming their obstacles and their boundaries and realize that they can catch a dream and celebrate being alive.”

That might seem easy to say for someone who has won countless dance awards, performed in all 50 states and 11 foreign countries, owned her own dance studio and met President George W. Bush, but it comes from experience. Dunagan wasn’t always the beautiful, graceful, high-spirited, funny and charming dancer, artist and determined scholar and philosophy club junkie that she is now. At Manzano High School in the late 1980s she was a skinny nerd whose glasses were almost as big as her head.

“When I was a teenager I didn’t get a lot of dates. I was really awkward and nerdy and I had big, hooter-owl glasses, and I was skinny, skinny,” Dunagan laughs with a confidence that respects a past that tempered the pain of awkwardness with the comfort of isolation.

“On weekends I would stay at home and watch old black and white Hollywood movies—Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire. It was kind of pathetic, but that was my social life. Those were my dates. So I fell in love with old Hollywood—big-band music, women in beautiful, feathery dresses and suave, debonair men in their tuxedos.”

Determined to bust out—and maybe get a date or two—Dunagan nurtured a dream: She would be a singer. She wanted to join Manzano’s Swing Choir. To do so she took some dance lessons at age 17 to make the choir’s dance auditions. It was then that Dunagan realized something about herself: She loved movement and music. It was exciting, and it seemed as if she was born to do it.

“Dancing came very naturally to me,” she says. “When I was 18 I started taking professional ballroom lessons, and started teaching when I was 20. After two years they asked me to teach. It’s funny, because I had never planned on being a dancer.”

During those first few years of teaching dance, Dunagan held onto another goal: She wanted to go to college. No one in her family had ever done so. Her mother and father, Jeanette and Phill Dunagan, ran an appliance business (they still do), and they knew that their daughter would do quite well dancing, performing and jaunting around the world using her talents to transport audiences into fairytale worlds in which they too were gliding effortlessly across ballroom floors with handsome or beautiful partners.

Fate intervened, though. At age 23 Dunagan was in a bad car accident. Ligaments and tendons in her neck were torn. She got a settlement and took three months off to decide what to do with the rest of her life. It was then that her self-starting and self-motivating side really took hold.

“That’s when I taught myself trigonometry,” Dunagan laughs. “I went back and reviewed all the high school crap I had never learned. I was dyslexic and I had always scored horribly in math. I realized that in learning how to dance and learning how to memorize directional movement that I was thinking differently than other people. I bet that I could teach myself math. So I went and got some tutoring books and taught myself algebra, trigonometry and pre-calculus. Then I scored a 98 percent on the college entrance exam. I can write in opposite directions with both hands and I can write with one hand in English and one hand in Spanish (she also knows French) simultaneously.”

Dunagan quit dancing, took a waitressing job and enrolled in college.

“Dancing has always been a means to an end for me. I’d say, ‘Okay, I’ll take this job here and that job there to make enough money to pay my tuition this semester,” she says.

In 1995, after she had quit dancing to fully concentrate on going to college, fate stepped into Dunagan’s life again when she was waitressing at the Great American Land and Cattle Company.

“I was at the restaurant and an old dancing partner of mine was roller skating on rollerblades outside. He broke a wheel on his skate and came in and said, ‘Didn’t you used to dance?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t dance anymore.’ He said, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got a job at the Kimo Auditorium in two weeks and one of my dancers broke her leg. Can you replace her?’ I said, ‘I quit dancing two years ago and I don’t do that.’”

The former partner persisted and Dunagan began rehearsing with the group. She performed with them at the Kimo.

“There were talent agents in the audience, and the next thing I know I’m getting calls for this show and that show and I’m performing every weekend for the rest of my life,” she says with a “Sometimes, I still can’t believe this” laugh.

In 1999 Dunagan was hired by The Pink Flamingos as a Ginger Rogers impersonator. She toured the country and world with them for two years. Even though she was on the road, Dunagan always made time for school.

“I would always do a correspondence course or fly back and go to school on Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s and then go back on the road on Friday,” she says.

In 1998 Dunagan became an assistant to Albuquerque magician and escape artist Rick Maisel, the man who, in handcuffs and leg irons, stuffs himself into a front-loading wash machine, turns on the wash cycle and escapes before the deadly spin cycle begins and whirls him into a heap of broken bones. Since then she has bought and sold her own dance studio, helped care for her 92-year-old grandmother, become an on-stage magician, been involved in countless dance and performance productions, including dance and music videos, and donated dozens of dancing lesson packages to various charities. She is studying again with the prestigious Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance of Blackpool, England to get her Licentiate, or Masters teaching certificate (she already has an Associate certificate), in Ballroom Dance. When she gets it, Dunagan will be the only female dance instructor in New Mexico to have one.

Although Dunagan is a fireball and an inspiration, she isn’t flawless.

“I drink copious amounts of coffee,” she says. “That’s my only vice.”

“Only one vice?” the disbelieving interviewer demands.

“I’ll sound like Bill Clinton, here, but define vice,” Dunagan says while laughing.

Dunagan has a favorite saying: “Whatever you do every day is what you will be able to do most of your life. The activities you put off doing are what you lose the ability to do.”

It looks like Brenda Dunagan won’t ever lose the ability to do anything.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Mexico's Economy Tanking

Despite a 3.1 percent unemployment rate, things are looking bad

Year-to-year job growth only .5 percent

New Mexico's economy slowed dramatically in the past year. Job growth was only a half percent, or 4,400 jobs. Just about all industry sectors showed weak growth.

We'll talk about the slowing economy on Sunday's Eye on New Mexico program.

Nicole Brady and I will be joined by economists Larry Waldman of the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and Gerry Bradley from New Mexico Voices for Children.

The show airs at 10 a.m. Sunday on KOB-TV, Channel 4

Friday, March 14, 2008

NM SoS Says Vote-buying Probe Still On

Mary Herrera Says She Hasn't Seen AG's Memo Vote-buying probe still on Mary Herrera Says She Hasn't Seen AG's Memo

Vote-buying probe still on

By Dennis Domrzalski and
Mark Bralley

Photos by Mark Bralley

New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera said late Friday that she hadn't seen a memo from the state Attorney General's Office saying it would not investigate allegations of vote buying at the recent Bernalillo County Republican Party pre-primary conventions and that her office was still pursuing the vote-buying allegations.

The AG's memo, which AG spokesman Phil Sisneros said was sent on Wednesday, said there was nothing the AG could do about the allegations because political party conventions are private affairs that aren't governed by the New Mexico Election Code.

"We have not seen a memo from the Attorney General's Office," Herrera said. "We have been trying to get hold of them all day."

Herrera added that her Bureau of Elections Director Daniel Miera had been unable to contact the assistant attorney general who is assigned to represent her office. The AG's Office is the SoS's lawyer.

As we reported earlier today, the AG might have gotten it wrong in saying that party conventions aren't subject to state election law. According to the state election code:

1-7-1. Political parties; conditions for use of ballot. (1969)

All nominations of candidates for public office in New Mexico made by political parties shall be made pursuant to the Election Code [ 1-1-1 NMSA 1978]. No political party shall be permitted to have the names of its candidates printed on any election ballot unless and until it has qualified as provided in the Election Code.

AG Office spokesman Sisneros said he couldn’t release the memo because of attorney-client privilege concerns.

Sisneros did leave open the possibility that the AG's Office will take up the investigation again.

"They ( SoS) need to do their due diligence and provide us some evidence," Sisneros said. "They are supposed to do the initial inquiry. So far, that is what we are we are waiting on."

NM AG Might Have Gotten Law Wrong

NM law says that political parties have to abide by the election code when nominating candidates

Former NM Gov. Dave Cargo says law is clear; AG got it wrong

By Dennis Domrzalski and
Mark Bralley

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office might have gotten it wrong this morning in saying it can’t investigate allegations of vote-buying at the recent Bernalillo County Republican Party ward conventions because political party nominating conventions aren’t subject to the state’s election code.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King--Photo by Mark Bralley

According to the New Mexico election code, political parties have to abide by the code when determining which candidates get on ballots. Here’s the relevant part of the election law:

1-7-1. Political parties; conditions for use of ballot. (1969)
All nominations of candidates for public office in New Mexico made by political parties shall be made pursuant to the Election Code [
1-1-1 NMSA 1978]. No political party shall be permitted to have the names of its candidates printed on any election ballot unless and until it has qualified as provided in the Election Code.

Other sections of the election code say it’s a fourth-degree felony to pay for a vote and to take money to vote a certain way:

1-20-11. Offering a bribe. (1969)
Offering a bribe consists of willfully advancing, paying, or causing to be paid, or promising, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable consideration, office or employment, to any person for the following purposes connected with or incidental to any election:
A. to induce such person, if a voter, to vote or refrain from voting for or against any candidate, proposition, question or constitutional amendment;
B. to induce such person, if a precinct board member or other election official, to mark, alter, suppress or otherwise change any ballot that has been cast, any election return, or any certificate of election; or
C. to induce such person to use such payment or promise to bribe others for the purposes specified in this section.
Whoever offers a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

1-20-12. Accepting a bribe. (1969)
Accepting a bribe consists of knowingly accepting any payment or promise of payment, directly or indirectly, of money, valuable consideration, office or employment for the unlawful purposes specified in
Section 1-20-11 NMSA 1978.
Whoever accepts a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

Former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo brought the vote-buying allegations to the news media. He said that certain campaigns paid the registration fees of some attendees to the Bernalillo County GOP’s March 17 pre-primary nominating convention. The delegates elected at the pre-primary nominating convention will determine which candidates will appear on the Republican Party’s June primary election ballot. Those include candidates for the U.S Senate and the House of Representatives.
Dave Cargo and Gary King--Photo by Mark Bralley

Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign has admitted that it paid the $30 registration fees for five convention attendees.
The 79-year-old Cargo said this morning that he was “appalled” when he heard of the AG’s decision to not investigate the vote-buying allegations.

“It’s as clear as a bell. They (political parties) have to abide by the law,” Cargo said. “Otherwise, how do they control expenditures, accounting, reporting and all kinds of other things. There is nothing private about a public election. You talk about a plain reading of the statute, how could it be any clearer?”

Cargo has argued that the Republican pre-primary convention is subject to the election code because it was the first step in the process to officially name party candidates for federal, state and local offices.

Another section of the election code also appears to support Cargo’s argument:

1-7-2. Qualification; removal; requalification. (1995)
A. To qualify as a political party in New Mexico, each political party through its governing body shall adopt rules and regulations providing for the organization and government of that party and shall file the rules and regulations with the secretary of state. Uniform rules and regulations shall be adopted throughout the state by the county organizations of that party, where a county organization exists, and shall be filed with the county clerks. At the same time the rules and regulations are filed with the secretary of state, the governing body of the political party shall also file with the secretary of state a petition containing the hand-printed names, signatures, addresses of residence and counties of residence of at least one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for the office of governor or president at the preceding general election who declare by their signatures on such petition that they are voters of New Mexico and that they desire the party to be a qualified political party in New Mexico.
B. Each county political party organization may adopt such supplementary rules and regulations insofar as they do not conflict with the uniform state rules and regulations or do not abridge the lawful political rights of any person (Emphasis mine).)Such supplementary rules shall be filed with the county clerk and the secretary of state in the same manner as other rules are filed.
NM AG says there’s no GOP vote-buying probe.

Says that party conventions are private affairs that are not subject to the state’s election code

By Dennis Domrzalski

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office said today that it is not investigating allegations of vote-buying at the recent state GOP pre-primary conventions because party conventions are private matters that aren’t subject to the state’s election code.

AG spokesman Phil Sisneros said the office sent a memo to the Secretary of State’s Office saying that unless there is more to the allegations there’s noting to be investigated.

Secretary of State Mary Herrera said on Wednesday that her office was working closely with the AG’s Office to finish the investigation before the state Republican Party held its statewide nominating convention on Saturday. Herrera said at the time that she had never heard of people having to pay to attend party nominating conventions and that she thought the practice was “very odd.”

“We sent them a memo saying that they need to come up with more information before we can do anything,” Sisneros said. “Because for us, the Republican convention is not under the state election code. It’s the same thing for the Democrat Party’s caucuses. They’re private organizations and they do not come under the state election code. It is really going to be a party issue.”

SoS spokesman James Flores confirmed that Bureau of Elections Chief Daniel Miera had received the AG’s memo.

The vote-buying allegations stem from the Bernalillo County Republican Party’s pre-primary convention on Feb. 17 in Albuquerque. Former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo, a Republican, said attendees had told him that their $30 registration fees had been paid by certain campaigns. Cargo also said he had been told that some campaigns might have paid attendees $35-an-hour to be at the convention.

Attendees to the convention elected delegates to the state GOP’s statewide convention to be held on Saturday. Those delegates will decide which candidates will be on the party’s June primary election ballot.

Cargo, a lawyer, said the allegations, if true, amounted to vote-buying and bribery, which under state law are fourth-degree felonies. Cargo was not immediately available for comment Friday morning.

Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign initially refused to answer questions about whether it had paid people to attend the conventions. Later it admitted it paid the $30 registration fees of five people who attended the conventions.

Bernalillo County GOP records show that Wilson’s campaign paid four people’s fees by check—two from Ward 31, and one each from Wards 23 and 24.

The vote-buying allegation story was broken by then-KKOB Radio drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum. She quit her job after station News Director Pat Allen pulled the stories. Allen said in a memo to MacCallum that he didn’t think the story was valid because bloggers and other news outlets hadn’t picked it up.

State GOP officials have said that the party has charged registration fees to convention attendees since the mid-1990s. They said the fees help pay the overhead costs of running the conventions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heather Wilson Vote-buying Scandal Paper Trail

NM Secretary of State Marry Herrera is racing to complete the probe into the state GOP's vote-buying scandal

Herrera said she's never heard of campaigns paying for people to attend party conventions; calls the practice "very odd."

Exclusive interview with Herrera!

The paper trail: Copies of the checks that Wilson's campaign wrote to convention attendees are headed to the AG's Office.

Those checks might be the reason Wilson's Senate campaign fessed up to paying

By Dennis Domrzalski

New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera said her office is working closely and quickly with the state Attorney General’s Office to finish the investigation into the state Republican Party’s vote-buying scandal.

The agencies want the investigation completed before the state GOP’s statewide convention on Saturday, Herrera said late Tuesday in an exclusive interview with this blog.

Herrera also said she was troubled by the allegations that the
campaigns—including Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign—had paid people to attend the Bernalillo County GOP’s ward conventions on Feb. 17 and vote for certain delegates.

“It’s something new—people being paid to get to conventions. I’ve never heard of it. I’ve been attending (Democratic Party) ward and state conventions since I’ve been 18 and I’ve never heard of anything like this. Now we have paying people to do it. It sees very odd,” Herrera said during the face-to-face interview in Albuquerque.

And new evidence emerged in the case that offers a reason why Wilson’s campaign suddenly admitted to paying for five people to attend the conventions after initially refusing to comment on the allegations of vote buying at the Feb. 17 Bernalillo County GOP’s ward conventions: a paper trail.

Wilson’s campaign paid at least four people with checks. Those checks went to four people to attend conventions in Bernalillo County wards 31, 23 and 24.

The AG’s office is expected to get copies of those checks today.

“We are working fast because their convention is Saturday, and we are working closely with the Attorney General’s office,” Herrera said.

GOP Party Chair Confirms Investigation

Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman Fernando C. de Baca confirmed that he had been called by the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday morning about the vote-buying allegations and that he talked to Bureau of Elections chief Daniel Miera for more than an hour about the issue.

“I was called by the head of the Bureau of Elections. He asked me about the convention procedures and asked if I had seen any checks written by Heather Wilson’s campaign and if the checks had any names,” C. de Baca said.

“I told him that there were four checks, that they were made out to the Bernalillo County Republican Party and that they had no names. He told me he would need copies of them, that he would be meeting with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office and that they were conducting an investigation.

“I informed this party’s executive board about the allegations and that there was an ongoing investigation of the matter by Secretary of State’s Office.”

Wilson’s Campaign Checks

Copies of the checks written by Wilson’s Senate campaign exist because the Bernalillo County GOP keeps meticulous records of all money it receives. All checks the party receives, as well as all large amounts of cash—are photocopied. That’s right; the party even photocopies large bills and records their serial numbers! In most cases, the party can trace specific bills to specific donors.

The investigators have asked for all the county party’s convention records so they can try to match Wilson’s check numbers to specific attendees. The party’s records include lists of all convention attendees, if they paid, and how they paid—whether by check or cash. So it shouldn’t take long for investigators to match the checks with names.

Wilson’s checks were written to the county GOP. Each one was for $30, which was the convention registration fee, and none mentioned that the purpose of the money was to pay for people to attend the conventions.

Two checks were received from Ward 31 in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, and one each came in from Wards 23 and 24.

The checks were the large, business-type design. The check from Ward 24 was numbered 7291, while the one from Ward 23 was numbered 7292—which shows they were written in sequence. The two from Ward 31 were numbered 7254 and 7263. That interruption in sequence could lead investigators to ask whether Wilson’s campaign wrote checks to convention attendees in other counties. It’s not clear if the checks were written on the day of the convention. If they were written days before the convention, investigators might start looking at just how premeditated the vote-buying effort was.

Dave Cargo Vindicated

The Wilson campaign checks vindicate former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo, whom the state GOP has tried to smear in recent days as a disloyal Republican who was angry because he wasn’t elected a delegate to the March 15 convention.

Dave Cargo and his wife, Ida Jo (left)--photo by Mark Bralley

The 31st Ward is where the controversy over the vote-buying scandal erupted. Cargo was the ward’s chairman, and he’s the one who went to the news media with allegations that certain campaigns had paid people’s registration fees for the conventions, which were held to nominate delegates to the state GOP’s March 15 statewide nominating convention. Those delegates to the statewide convention will vote on which candidates will be on the party’s June primary election ballot. Cargo also said he heard people at his ward convention say they had been paid by certain campaigns $35-an-hour to attend the function.

State GOP officials blasted the 79-year-old Cargo after he made the allegations. And, when then-KKOB Radio afternoon drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum aired stories about Cargo’s complaints and the alleged vote-buying scheme, state party officials and Wilson campaign operatives called the station to complain that Cargo was a disgruntled loser who had no credibility.

KKOB News Director Pat Allen eventually killed MacCallum’s stories on the subject, saying in a bizarre memo that the stories weren’t valid because other news outlets and bloggers had not picked them up.

MacCallum resigned in protest.

Cargo has also said that the vote-buying scheme is a fourth-degree felony under New Mexico law. The law says it's a crime for someone to over a bribe for a vote and to accept a bribe to vote a certain way.

Cargo said the checks vindicate his allegations and prove that state Republican Party operatives "are a closed little group who operate on the basis of hate."

"This happened right in my ward, which is what I said," Cargo added. "They pait me as being disloyal and they were the ones doing the corrputing. Instead of admitting what they did, they tried to smear me."

And the Ward 24 caucus was where state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, said she had that people had been paid by certain campaigns to attend.

State GOP officials have said that the convention fees were legitimate charges because they paid to rent a ballroom at the Albuquerque Marriott where the conventions were held.

Checks Could Cause Wilson Reporting Problems

How Wilson’s campaign reports the checks on its campaign finance reports to the Federal Elections Commission could eventually be of some interest. Will it call them donations to the Bernalillo County Republican Party, or will it be honest and say the money was paid for people to attend ward conventions and vote a certain way?

Cargo says that in the eys of the FEC, "buying votes is not a legitimate campaign expense."

Investigators might eventually be looking at that, as well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pat Rogers Retraction

GOP Attorney Retracts Allegations That Dave Cargo Gave Only to Democrats

Republican Attorney Pat Rogers called this afternoon (about 4:45) to say that one of his comments on the Eye on New Mexico program regarding former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo was inaccurate.

During the show, which aired at 10 a.m. Sunday on KOB-TV, Channel 4, Rogers accused Cargo, a Republican, of having made campaign contributions only to Democratic candidates. Republicans, Rogers said, "might not be supportive of a Republican who has only donated to Democratic candidates, including (indicted former State Treasurer) Robert Vigil."

Today, Rogers retracted that allegation. "That part of what I said was inaccurate," he said.

Rogers said that statement was based on records from the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office. The statement was, apparently based on one report. Type "David Cargo" on the site and five reports pop up. They show that, since 2004, Cargo has made 10 contributions totaling $605 to the Bernalillo County Republican Party, and one, $100 contribution to Demesia Padilla, a Republican who ran for the state Treasurer's Office in 2006.

The reports show that Cargo donated to three Democrats during that time. He gave $50 in 2006 to Harold Mark Garcia, a candidate for the county assessor's seat in San Miguel County; $100 in 2005 to Richard Vigil, a candidate for state representative from District 70; and $100 in 2005 to Robert Vigil.


Guest column: Who Cares About Bill Richardson?

by Dorothy Cole

Bill Richardson will decide soon whether to endorse Clinton or Obama.


Does anybody care any more? Back when Richardson first dropped out of the race, Hillary Clinton was ahead, John Edwards was still viable and Barack Obama was gaining fast. How fast he was gaining was not yet obvious. There were a couple of weeks there when everyone really wanted to know which candidate Richardson would back.

Some people saw him as a valuable spokesman for the Latino voting bloc. Latinos -- Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Argentine, Dominican and Spanish-Americans among others too numerous to list -- don't actually vote as a bloc. But that's another story. Some people saw him as a significant bellwether for influential former Clintonites. Lots of people cared what he might be thinking.

Bill Richardson wasted that time. He watched the Super Bowl with Bill Clinton. He grew a beard and renewed his devotion to his pet causes here in New Mexico, where he is still governor. It looked then and continues to look like he is trying to stay friendly with all the candidates, in order to preserve his shot at a cabinet appointment from the eventual nominee.

In my case, since I had contributed a couple of bucks to his campaign, I was still on the email list. One missive carried the tagline "Richardson poised to make endorsement." I opened the letter. It was a request for more money to help retire his campaign debt.

I was suddenly receiving emails from Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who was endorsing and aggressively supporting Hillary Clinton. Gee, I'm registered as a Republican, so how could they possibly have gotten my name? Maybe from the Richardson campaign?

It makes a lot of sense that Denish would support Clinton for her own reasons; they are both women, they share many political views and Clinton is popular among New Mexico Democrats. To me, though, it looked like part of Denish's support was as a stand-in for Bill Richardson. After all, she'd been doing his work as acting governor while he was off campaigning for president. They have long made an effective team working together.

The only evidence I have is my sudden appearance on the mailing list. That's not persuasive, because my support of Richardson got my name on many Democratic lists. I guess I really need to be more careful to whom I give my email address.

As governor of New Mexico, Richardson is one of the much-discussed superdelegates. Those of them who have not yet declared for one candidate or the other seem to be similarly paralyzed by joint fears of public opinion and the Clinton machine. I may disagree with Denish's decision, but for goodness sakes, at least she's made one.

I am delighted at the possibility of having two great nominees -- McCain or Obama -- to choose from in the general election. Richardson was my original choice, but I don't care who he endorses any more. Does anybody?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why Bloggers are Important

A Week Later, the Albuquerque Journal Reports and Buries the Laura MacCallum Story

So Much Left Out and not Reported

That’s Why More and More People Distrust the Mainstream Media

By Dennis Domrzalski

After waiting nearly a week, and after waiting for the story to travel around the world on the blogosphere, the Albuquerque Journal--New Mexico's largest news outlet--decided on Sunday to finally publish a story about Laura MacCallum quitting her job as KKOB Radio’s afternoon drive time anchor because of political pressure on the station from Heather Wilson's U.S. Senate campaign.

What a pathetic and disgraceful story it was, though. It shows why the blogosphere is daily becoming more powerful and why more and more people are turning away from traditional media sources for their news. The fact is, those traditional sources can’t be trusted to tell us what’s really going on, especially when it comes to their own industry, and especially when it comes to political parties they support and who support them.

MaCallum quit because KKOB News Director Pat Allen pulled her stories about allegations of vote buying at the recent sate Republican Party’s pre-primary conventions. Allen caved after getting complaints from Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign and from state Republican Party officials.

The Journal’s seven-paragraph story, buried on page B4, fails to mention that it was Wilson’s campaign that did the complaining. It didn’t go into detail about the vote-buying scandal, and it said nothing about Allen’s memo to MacCallum that he didn’t think the stories were valid because other media outlets and bloggers hadn’t picked them up.

The MacCallum story involves legitimate and burning questions about the state GOP’s delegate selection process—whether campaigns can buy delegates to the main nominating convention—and whether a federally licensed radio station caved to political pressure to kill the stories. Would KKOB have pulled stories critical of the state Democratic Party if one of its campaigns or officials had complained?

The Journal wasn't alone in its failure cover this story properly and inform the public about how ugly, deceitful and power driven political campaigns can be. No TV stations ran it, and with the exception of KKOB Radio's Thursday afternoon four-hour apology to the New Mexico Republican Party, no other commercial radio stations ran it. Only public radio covered the story.

They refused to run it even though the New Mexico Secretary of State's and the State Attorney General's offices are investigating the allegations and whether they amount to felony vote buying.

Truth is, TV, radio stations and newspapers routinely make decisions about which stories to pursue or not based on political pressure, personal and corporate biases and advertising dollars.

They just don’t want you to know about it. That’s why you rarely see the media writing or airing stories about itself. That’s why you hardly ever see or hear stories about their inner workings, their profit margins, their reasons for killing or pursuing stories, their news judgment.

The industry that demands that politicians, institutions and businesses reveal just about every detail of their lives, offices and business, tries as hard as it can to keep those things about itself secret.

They’re all members of the same club, and the club doesn’t criticize itself. They protect each other.

Is it a big deal that the state’s largest radio station—a conservative talk station—pulled stories after a Republican campaign and the state Republican Party complained?

You damn straight it is.

Was the public served—KKOB operates on the public airwaves—by the station’s censoring a story critical of the Republican Party?


Is it news that the Journal, New Mexico's largest media outlet, buried this story and kept key details of it from the public? Is it news that the Journal refused to dig into a story about whether political pressure kept a story from the public airwaves?


Would this matter of public interest have been covered so extensively by the mainstream and traditional media?

Hell no. They didn’t want you to know about it.

But you do know about it, thanks to bloggers.

People in the traditional media have long been society’s information gatekeepers. In the past, what you’ve been able to see, hear and read has been totally up to them.

They demanded your trust--after all, they knew what information you needed and didn't need-- but they’ve abused that trust time and time again, especially in regards to their own decisions and secrets.

That’s why the gatekeepers are being swept away. That’s why we need more bloggers.

Republican Rancor

Republican Rancor

Dave Cargo and Pat Rogers Clash

Former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo and Republican attorney Pat Rogers clash over vote-buying allegations at the recent Bernalillo County GOP pre-primary conventions. Watch it on Eye on New Mexico. Dennis Domrzalski co-hosts with Nicole Brady.

Rogers, as Republican operatives have been doing all week, tried to tar Cargo as a disloyal Republican for being seen with Hillary Clinton. "At least part of his time has been spent with Hillary Clinton," Rogers said in trying to explain why some Republicans don't like Cargo and why the former Republican governor was not elected as a delegate to the GOP's statewide convention on March 15.

Toward the show's end, Rogers made the remarkable allegation that Cargo, who first came to New Mexico in 1956, has made campaign contributions only to Democrats!

Republicans, Rogers said, "might not be supportive of a Republican who has only donated to Democratic candidates, including (indicted former New Mexico Treasurer) Robert Vigil and not to any Republican."

Cargo didn't take it. "Oh, that's a lie," he shot back. Citing his right to associate with whomever he wants, Cargo blasted Rogers for trying to portray him as a Clinton supporter.

"For you to say that I think is despicable," Cargo said.

Eye on New Mexico, March 9, 2008 -- Part 1

Dennis and Nicole discuss controversy in Republican ranks with former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo and GOP attorney Pat Rogers. To watch the discussion, click on the video player on the right. To see part two, click here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Heather Wilson's Campaign PR Ineptitude

Abusive Tactics Gave Vote-buying Story Legs

Photos by Mark Bralley

By Dennis Domrzalski

It was a horrible week for Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Stories about the campaign’s alleged effort to buy votes and delegates at the state Republican Party’s pre-primary Bernalillo County conventions exploded across the Internet. So-called liberal bloggers picked up the story and spread it around the world.

The anti-Wilson venom spewed from Maine to Australia. And it was intense. In New Mexico the Wilson haters recalled her every misstep, from the heavy-handed attempt to pressure former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias into indicting Democrats before the 2006 November election, to her acting like a spoiled brat and throwing a fit when she was moved from the front of the New Mexico State Fair parade to a position further back.

It was vicious. Swept up in the damage were KKOB Radio and the state Republican Party. The station was blasted for caving to pressure from Wilson’s campaign and killing the vote-buying stories being aired by drive-time news anchor Laura MacCallum.

MacCallum resigned in protest. KKOB News Director Pat Allen became the laughingstock of the blogosphere, and probably the entire news world, when his memo to MacCallum on why he killed the stories hit the Internet on this blog. The memo suggested that MacCallum’s stories weren’t valid because bloggers hadn’t picked them up. One of the state’s biggest alleged news operation had ceded the news initiative to bloggers.

The state GOP looked stupid and corrupt for refusing to concede that it was wrong for campaigns to pay for people to show up at the conventions and vote for certain delegates to the party’s March 15 statewide nominating convention.

It was ugly, vicious, and for Wilson’s campaign, awful. She was smeared, attacked and ridiculed, while her opponent for the Republican nomination, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, sat back and laughed. You could almost see people racing to vote for Pearce.

It was a disaster.

But the real disaster of it for Wilson’s campaign—the stunning disaster—is that it was all the campaign’s fault. It needn’t have happened. The tsunami of negative publicity that cashed into the campaign, the radio station and the party was all self-inflicted. It was the result of one of the biggest political PR blunders in the state’s history.

MacCallum’s stories, which were broadcast more than a week after the GOP conventions, weren’t going anywhere. They ran on Tuesday and Wednesday the week after the conventions. No one had picked them up—not print journalist, not TV talking heads, not bloggers. By Thursday of that week they would have ended and almost no one would have known that Wilson’s senate and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's campaigns were being accused of trying to buy votes and delegates.

Dave Cargo's Republican credentials--U.S. Rep. Manual Jr., R-NM, (left) and President Richard Nixon

But Wilson campaign spokeswoman Whitney Cheshire was too dumb to see it. Instead of letting a story fade into inconsequentiality, Cheshire resorted to ham-handed, abusive tactics. She called Allen to screech that the allegations made by former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo weren’t true and that the stories had to be killed. State GOP flackster Scott Darnell also called the station to yell.

Allen caved, MacCallum quit, and the vote-buying story that would have faded away and that everyone would have forgotten became a huge story.

The ineptitude didn’t stop there. I called Cheshire to ask about Cargo’s allegations. I just needed a simple yes or no answer as to whether the campaign paid people to show up at the conventions. Her response was ridiculous and insulting. She said she needed a video or tape recording of Cargo before they would respond.

Whitney Cheshire behind Darren White

I explained Cargo’s allegations and asked again if they had paid people to attend the conventions—a simple question—and the response was the same. No comment would be made unless the campaign had a recording of Cargo making the allegations.

For a reporter, that was an outright refusal to answer the question. And when somebody refuses to answer a simple question, it says they’re guilty as charged.

Cheshire’s refusal to answer the simple question and Allen’s nutty memo spread over the Internet. The negative press poured in. The self-inflicted disaster ensued.

The carnage didn’t stop there. Rather than making a case that the payments were some kind of noble deed—Republicans scooping poor people off the streets and giving them a chance to participate in Democracy—GOP operatives tried to smear and destroy Cargo, who is a true New Mexico hero. Read it again: Dave Cargo is a New Mexico hero. There is no one in this state who has battled longer and harder to expose corruption. No one!

Rather than admitting they were wrong, party operatives, with the help of lapdog KKOB Radio Operations Manager Pat Frisch, tried to slime Cargo. Instead of answering the questions and talking about the sleaziness of letting campaigns pay for people to attend the nominating conventions, the GOP smearmeisters screamed that Cargo was once seen in the presence of Bill Clinton and that he had had his picture taken with the former president.

They pretty much accused the former governor of high treason for showing up at Hillary Clinton’s recent book signing in Albuquerque. The GOP ass-kissing Frisch refused to let Cargo talk when the 76-year-old former governor called into his talk show on Thursday. The way he treated Cargo was despicable and disgraceful.

On Friday, during the taping of the Eye on New Mexico TV talk show, Republican attorney Pat Rogers produced a magical invoice that said a party operative had paid Cargo’s $20 registration fee in 2004--four years earlier! The invoice was dated March 7, the day of the taping. Rogers also tried to smear Cargo with having attended Hillary’s book signing.

Rather than honestly addressing the issue, the state GOP—the club, the party, the gang, the would-be empire—tried to kill the messenger.

It didn’t work.

By the week’s end, Wilson’s campaign admitted that it had paid the convention entrance fees for five people. But it was too late. They had already shot themselves in the head.

The would-be empire and Wilson’s campaign behaved like the power-obsessed elitists they are, and it backfired. The blogosphere hit back. The gatekeepers in the traditional media were blown away.

It isn’t all bad, though, for the non-answering Cheshire and the GOP smear-job operatives. With their abusive, sleazy and self-destructive tactics they’ve proven themselves worthy.

Worthy of jobs in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Friday, March 7, 2008

GOP Tries Killing the Messenger

NM GOP Accuses Dave Cargo of Hypocrisy

Republican Lawyer Says Party Operative Paid Cargo’s $20 Registration Fee in 2004

Cargo Calls it the “Magical Invoice;” Denounces GOP’s “Sleazy Tactics”

Photos by Mark Bralley

By Dennis Domrzalski

Dave Cargo calls it the “magical invoice.”

The former New Mexico governor—the man at the center of the vote-buying allegations at the recent state Republican Party Bernalillo County ward conventions—was accused today of being a hypocrite for denouncing the fact that U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson’s (R-NM) senate campaign paid the registration fees of five people to attend the recent county ward conventions where delegates to the party's March 15 nominating convention were elected.

High treason! Dave Cargo with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton

The accusation from Republican lawyer Pat Rogers—who in the past has been the party’s legal counsel—came in the form of an invoice. During the taping of the Eye on New Mexico program at the KOB-TV, Channel 4 studio, Rogers pulled an invoice from a stack of papers and said that four years ago, party operative Lou Melvin paid the $20 registration fee for Cargo to attend and participate in a delegate nominating convention.

Melvin’s invoice was dated today (March 7, 2008) and alleged that she paid Cargo’s registration fee for the 2004 “Bernalillo County Pre-primary County Convention.” The invoice also charged Cargo for four years interest at 5 percent—$6.47.

Cargo called the invoice a “lie,” and said several times that he had paid his own registration fee in 2004. In fact, Cargo said he pays his party’s dues six months at a time, in advance, and that for the Feb. 17 convention, he paid the $30 registration fee twice.

After the taping, Cargo was livid.

“I have never gotten anything from them. I have always paid my registration fees,” Cargo said. “They suddenly show up with an invoice from four years ago. It makes no sense. I’ve seen Lou hundreds of times in the past four years and she’s never mentioned this. These are just sleazy tactics. This is a magical invoice.”

I called Melvin at the state GOP’s party headquarters to ask why she decided to invoice Cargo four years later and on the day that the party’s former legal counsel was to tape the Eye on New Mexico show. The receptionist asked who was calling, and I identified myself. I was put on hold, and after a few moments, party executive director Adam Feldman came on the line.

“Nobody at the party is going to talk about this (vote-buying issue) anymore,” Feldman said. “We’re done with it.”

The accusation against Cargo appears to be part of the party’s tactics in the vote-buying scandal. And those tactics are to smear and discredit Dave Cargo. For it was Cargo, who served as governor from 1967 to 1971, who went to the news media with allegations of vote buying at the March 16 and 17 Bernalillo County Pre-primary conventions.

Cargo took his allegations to KKOB Radio (the TV and radio stations are separately owned and have no connection to each other) afternoon drive-time news anchor Laura MacCallum. Cargo said that at least two campaigns—Wilson’s and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White’s, who is running for congress in the First Congressional District—paid people to attend the 31st Ward convention and vote for a list of candidates.

The former governor said that paying for votes is a fourth-degree felony under New Mexico law, and that it was improper, immoral and illegal for campaigns to pay people to attend the conventions and to vote for certain delegates. Those delegates will vote at the party’s March 15 convention as to which candidates should be on the party’s June primary ballot.

Why is it wrong to pay people to show up to vote for delegates to the party’s nominating convention?

“Because we’re selecting nominees for congress and the U.S. Senate,” Cargo said. “I don’t think you should have vote buying for those offices.”

MacCallum ran the stories for two days before KKOB News Director Pat Allen pulled them last Thursday. After getting an e-mail from Allen in which he said the stories were being pulled because bloggers hadn’t picked them up, MacCallum resigned.

The GOP’s smear tactics against Cargo didn’t stop with the “magical invoice.” Rogers, who along with Cargo, is active in the Foundation for Open Government, brought up a subject that Cargo says amounts to “high treason” in the Republican Party. Rogers said that the former governor had had his picture taken with former president Bill Clinton.

It’s true. Cargo attended Hillary Clinton’s recent book signing and actually dared to shake hands with Bill Clinton. Nicole Brady (Eye on New Mexico co-host) and I stopped Rogers. The photo-with-Clinton had nothing to do with vote buying allegations, we said.

And, as Cargo said, “I’ve had my picture taken with lots of presidents. I like to know what the other side is saying. I didn’t realize it was fourth-degree felony. I guess I should just be uninformed.”

Cargo, who has been no stranger to controversy since he got to New Mexico in 1956, accused Rogers and GOP insiders of “verbal inexactitude, or, to shorten it, it’s called a lie.”

And on Melvin’s apparent refusal to take my call and Feldman’s assertion that the New Mexico Republican Party will no longer comment on the vote-buying scandal, Cargo added:

“They just don’t want to clarify the lie.”

Eye on New Mexico airs on Sunday at 10 a.m. on KOB-TV, Channel 4.

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