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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reporting and staying on this story. Its so typical and predictable for sleazy Republicans to smear anyone with integrity and the audacity to speak out against questionable ethics and tactics. Govenor Cargo has always demonstrated a level of political integrity and forthrightness that is admirable. Quite frankly the "magical invoice" has the same level of believability as most of the disinformation and propaganda shoveled at we the people the last seven years.

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