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Thursday, February 24, 2011
Foes Lash Back Over Martinez Tactics
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
A battle between Gov. Susana Martinez and Democratic lawmakers that started over political pressure on the issue of allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses continued Wednesday, with senators changing committee rules and a group alleging Martinez violated the law.
Senate Democrats renewed their objections to Martinez's efforts to have her staff videotape committee meetings on issues she is supporting or opposing Wednesday, passing a resolution that would allow committee chairs or the ranking member of the minority party to prohibit taking video or audio of the meetings.
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, who sponsored the rule change, said it was to protect members of the public who did not want to be filmed when testifying, but debate centered on Martinez's videos.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said senators ought to be protected from partisan political operatives who can edit videos to misrepresent a lawmaker's arguments.
"Its not fair to the individual senator, because you are taking things out of context," Sanchez said.
Martinez said Wednesday morning that legislators shouldn't fight transparency.
"I ran for office for 16 months, and my biggest promise was that I was going to bring the people to the process, and there was going to be more transparency on what goes on in the Roundhouse," Martinez said.
Meanwhile, immigrants' rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido filed complaints with the attorney general and secretary of state alleging Martinez violated the Campaign Reporting Act when her campaign committee paid for radio ads pushing for the repeal of the state law that allows illegal immigrants and other foreign nationals to obtain driver's licenses.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran said Wednesday, however, that her office reviewed the situation and does not think Martinez violated the law.
In the complaints, the group asserts that the act restricts many uses of leftover campaign funding and the political ad was not included.
"(The act) allows such funds to be used only for the payment of campaign debts, donations to charities or the state's general fund, contributions to other candidates or political parties and refunds to the contributors," the complaint says.
Duran said definitions in the act give the campaign committee authority to run political ads, even in a noncampaign season. She said numerous other candidates have used their leftover campaign funding in the same way over the years.
"We believe that conducting an advertising campaign for a political purpose is expressly permitted for a political committee," Duran said.
Martinez's campaign committee spokesman, Danny Diaz, said the allegations were politically motivated.
"It's ironic that a radical special interest group that believes illegal immigrants have a right to New Mexico driver's licenses does not believe the governor has a right to free speech. We disagree," Diaz said.
Senate Democrats continued to attack Martinez's approach to supporting her issues on the floor, saying she is distorting the meaning of transparency. Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said Martinez's videos and phone calls were one-sided, not an open approach to government.
"That is not transparency; it's a slanted effort to try and get a message across," Morales said.