Sunday, October 14, 2012

A PAC Invades Las Cruces

Big-money PACs have reached Las Cruces, abusing their power as badly as we feared.

One well-meaning, progressive citizen running for State Representative is suddenly the target of a "Super-PAC" from outside our county.

Joanne Ferrary is running in District 37. She’s a do-gooder who got her MBA atNMSU and worked 16 years for the Traffic Safety Bureau, pushing for DWI reform, thenand has continued to work to decrease DWI fatalities. Only thing is, she may be more effective than most do-gooders. She helped get key legislation passed, and DWI fatalities have dropped. (She doesn’t and couldn’t claim credit for that, but contributed significantly.)

Late last month, voters started receiving vicious e-mails from something called "Reform New Mexico Now." The mailings spout such blatant lies that no candidate could put his name to them.

Her opponent, Terry McMillan, says he doesn’t control the PAC, that it’s independent, and that he wishes there were no PACs. I believe him. On the other hand, the PAC is funded by the oil and gas industry and run by political allies of Dr. McMillan’s. The two big donations that started the PAC came from Mack Energy (which contributed $22,000 to Susana Martinez and $1,000 to Dr. McMillan in 2010) and Chase Oil, which gave Martinez $75,000 and the Republican Party $24,000 in 2010.

McMillan courted oil and gas support from the start. When he ran in 2010, fellow Republican Lee Rawson sent lobbyists an e-mail promising, "His [McMillan’s] candidacy should be particularly appealing to those of you representing energy, mining, medical, and business issues!" It continued, "The more you know the candidates, the better your clients will be served." (Rawson had been rejected by District 37 voters in 2008 while under fire for alleged misuse of taxpayer funds. Also heavily supported by oil and gas, Rawson had allegedly used public funds to pave a road in front of his family business.)

McMillan told me that the first he heard of this e-mail was "at the Sun-News debate [in 2010], when my opponent brought it up. Jeff Steinborn."

Rawson’s account differs. Although he says that McMillan didn’t see the e-mail in advance, he confirms telling McMillan at the time that, "I’d sent a note up there. His goal too is, he wants to meet those guys. I didn’t just send it up to those guys and not tell Terry anything. That’d be like an ambush."

The PAC’s address is the address of Susana Martinez’s political director, Jay McCleskey. (You gotta wonder how a guy with McCleskey’s police record became a former prosecutor’s "top advisor." DWI’s, leaving the scene, and battery on a woman are well-documented facts.)

The PAC apparently started by breaking the law. It registered with the Secretary of State on May 29. It said it had received its two big oil company contributions on April 24. The law says a PAC must register within ten days of receiving a contribution greater than $500.

No problem. The PAC filed an amended report changing the dates of the two major contributions to May 21 and May 24. Careless the first time or lying the second? I’m betting Lie. If someone gave me more than $100,000, I’d have a real good idea when I received it. The PAC says the date was a typo.

McCleskey and McMillan’s oil company pals are sending absurdly negative and misleading ads to help McMillan keep his seat. That should make the rest of us feel like getting out of our seats and walk some blocks knocking on doors for his opponent, Ms. Ferrary.

As I was finishing this column, I spoke to McMillan again. The PAC had made a crazy allegation that Ms. Ferrary was going to raise New Mexico income taxes by $350 million. I’d not heard of any such proposal, and Dr. McMillan confirmed that he hadn’t either.

He also told me he’d just heard a local radio ad against him from a new PAC called Patriot Majority USA. First I’d heard of it, though a Sun-News story appeared on-line that evening.

My first reaction was annoyance. I don’t want PAC’s telling lies on behalf of either side. I then looked at the group’s website. The site listed the group’s priorities, which sounded generally good, and said the PAC was formed, largely by labor unions, to combat the Republican PAC. (I’ve found no website for that one.)

I hope this new PAC won’t descend to the level of the other one. Looking at the web-site, there’s some hope of that.

And of course I hope the Supreme Court some day overturns Citizens United.

Meanwhile, the Court may have saddled us with PAC’s that make elections even more of a circus than were, but we don’t have to listen.

I’d urge voters to tune out the kinds of vague allegations against candidates – Ferrary, McMillan, or anyone else – that PAC’s can toss around so freely.


[The foregoing column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, 14 October, with one slight wording change.]

To facilitate readers' further review of the substance discussed in the column, I wanted to provide some links to sources here.
First of all: I still haven't found a web-site for "Reform New Mexico Now", but . . .
The web-site for the "Patriotic Majority" is           .
The column also refers to Jason "Jay" McClekey, who deserves a separate column some day. 
I'd advise anyone who's interested to take a look at Independent Source for details, and even a link to some of the police reports and civil pleadings involving McCleskey.  See
As near as I can tell, the record includes:

-- at least one DWI (with speeding, no registration, and no insurance);
-- at least one "leaving the scene of an accident" (which usually means defendant left to avoid a DWI charge) and "criminal damage to property" two weeks after pleading guilty to the DWI -- and although th;
-- battery on a woman (a younger woman, smaller than he), although that charge apparently was never tried and thus did not result in a conviction (but the police report is pretty deatiled and credible; and the police report indicates that McCleskey, smelling of alcohol that night and slurring his words, apparently lied to the polic officer about his whereabouts); and
-- in a civil case, using his superior resources to bully his female adversary (a much younger woman he'd met on the Internet and impregnated).
It's an unappealing picture, and his reported problems with drink, vehicles, and apparently violence are only a part of it.  His more recent record includes:
-- apparently running "Reform New Mexico Now," making him responsible ethically or morally for its vicious and wildly inaccurate mailings to voters;
-- getting taped making
-- working (until Martinez got elected) with a group run by the same fellow who runs the group in Florida that is under investigation for voter registration fraud.  (There's no hint that he was involved in the Florida situation, and no evidence that he was involved in any voter registration fraud here.  He says he had no involvement with that side of the operation.)

McCleskey's personal problems and brushes with the law are irrelevant, except that his carelessness with the truth (talking to police officers or courts, or through PAC mailers) and apparent contempt for women are also visible in the PAC's mailings.   His redeeming feature is his potential for helping voters see that maybe Susana Martinez ain't a wonderful choice for her current position. 

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