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Dems: OK for Richardson, Not for Martinez

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I got a good whiff of hypocrisy when the state Democratic Party questioned whether Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, had violated state law by soliciting political contributions during the Legislature’s session in September.

I don’t recall the Democratic Party going nuclear when then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations during sessions of the Legislature.

For the regular sessions of the Legislature beginning each year in January, the Campaign Reporting Act prohibits a governor from soliciting campaign contributions beginning Jan. 1 and ending 20 days after a session.

The prohibited period for a special session of the Legislature begins when the governor issues the proclamation for the session and ends 20 days after the session. Lawmakers met in special session for most of September.

The Democratic Party got after Martinez a couple weeks ago when the governor’s candidate committee and her political action committee reported contributions dated during the special session.

“Such a large amount of money raises serious questions about whether Susana Martinez or her ‘agents’ solicited funds throughout the special session, breaking the very law she has vowed to uphold,” Scott Forrester, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in an email.

“I am having a hard time with where the ‘Bold Change’ is now that she has been governor for 9 months,” added the outraged Forrester.

While the Campaign Reporting Act bans solicitation of political donations during a special session, it doesn’t prohibit a committee from accepting contributions during that time.

The Martinez folks said the dates on the contributions reflected when they were processed and deposited, not when they were solicited. The governor’s PAC had left a “DONATE” link up on its website during the session, but a Martinez adviser said it was an inadvertent mistake and that two small contributions made by donors using the link wouldn’t be accepted.

You don’t have to look far to find Richardson’s candidate committee accepting a ton of dough during prohibited periods surrounding sessions of the Legislature. Take just 2006, the year of his re-election. Richardson’s committee reported a $50,000 contribution during the prohibited period of the regular session from Santa Fe contractor Sonny Otero.

Two months later, the Richardson administration paid $5.9 million for 12 acres of vacant land owned by Otero and his family. That was $3.2 million more than the family paid for the land just 28 months before the sale to the state.

A Richardson spokesman has said the land purchase wasn’t a sweetheart deal. Most of the Otero land and a smaller adjoining parcel purchased by the state remain unused.

I am sure the Richardson folks also would say that while they took in political donations during prohibited periods surrounding sessions of the Legislature, they didn’t solicit the money during those times.

Greeting contest

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced last month she wants state workers to answer telephones with a uniform greeting: “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How can I help you?”

According to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Haley said the change will boost the morale of state employees, remind them they work for the callers and help her sell the state to employers.

“As hokey as some people may think it is, I’m selling South Carolina as this great, new, positive state that everybody needs to look at,” the governor said.

Haley’s announcement brought this response from Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the state Democratic Party: “She believes that if you say the lie enough, people may begin to believe it. But we know the state is in the toilet.” He was referring to the state’s 11 percent jobless rate, among the highest in the nation.

Haley’s announcement got me thinking that maybe state workers in New Mexico should answer phones with a uniform greeting, but I can’t come up with a clever one.

So, it’s time for a contest. Send me your ideas for a phone greeting to my email, listed below. I can’t promise the winner much more than a plastic coffee mug. But, heh, you might get a shout-out.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@ abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal. com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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