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GOP hammers Heinrich on ‘lobbying,’ skipping debate

Republicans are calling on Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Martin Heinrich to release records related to his work toward the creation of the Ojito Wilderness and accusing him of ducking debate.

The GOP contends that Heinrich “broke state and federal law by failing to register as a lobbyist” while he worked toward the creation of the Ojito Wilderness, according to a Monday news release from the state Republican Party. Heinrich was paid by several organizations to push for creation of the wilderness. His campaign calls it “advocacy,” while the GOP and the campaign of his Republican opponent, Darren White, call it “lobbying.”

In the release, the GOP called on Heinrich to release records related to his work, including “all names of the clients he represented at Heinrich Consulting and the corresponding gross receipts tax records for all income Heinrich Consulting received from those clients.”

A spokeswoman for Heinrich, Angela Barranco, wouldn’t respond directly to the allegation that Heinrich was required but failed to register as a lobbyist or to the request that Heinrich release his records. Instead, she made this statement:

“Martin is proud of the work that he did to advocate on behalf of New Mexico priorities and help bring together grassroots work on behalf of Ojito Wilderness, which is one of New Mexico’s greatest challenges,” she said. “I challenge them to pick which part of that they don’t agree with.”

The GOP release brings up the fact that Heinrich has previously admitted that he ran his consulting business for three years — including time while he was an Albuquerque city councilor — before realizing he needed a city business license.

“Martin Heinrich has already admitted to breaking the law once by illegally operating his business without a license. Now it’s time for him to come clean about breaking ethics laws by failing to register as a lobbyist,” state GOP spokeswoman Shira Rawlinson said.

‘He should have to explain’

Barranco recently told the New Mexico Independent that Heinrich “has never been registered as a federal or state lobbyist and he’s proud of the advocacy work he’s done,” but she conceded that he was paid for work that included attempting to influence government officials. White’s campaign manager, Sara Lister, told the Independent that Heinrich’s failure to register as a lobbyist was similar to his failure to register his business with the city, saying it “doesn’t mean he wasn’t a lobbyist any more than his failure to register his business does not mean he didn’t have a business.”

“He should have to explain why he did not register,” Lister said.

That’s something Barranco and the Heinrich campaign have, thus far, not done.

The GOP release quotes Jim Scarantino (who, by way of disclosure, is an unpaid columnist for this site), a former director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, as saying he has firsthand knowledge that Heinrich lobbied at the state and federal levels. Scarantino said Heinrich was paid by the Wilderness Support Center and Campaign for America’s Wilderness to lobby on behalf of the Ojito Wilderness Act, and claims Heinrich also lobbied on two other preservation issues. The Heinrich campaign has not disputed the assertion that he was also paid by Zia Pueblo and the Sierra Club on the Ojito issue.

Heinrich created this Web site, which states that he “dedicated several years of my life to the creation the Ojito Wilderness.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee put out its own release stating that Heinrich “has some explaining to do.”

“The last thing Washington needs is another politician who is willing to skirt the law and try to get away with it,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in the release. “With his shady dealings and refusal to be forthcoming about his lobbying work, Martin Heinrich has shown voters that he’s already well on his way to becoming just another Washington insider that can’t be trusted to put their interests over his own.”

Ducking debate?

Also on Monday, the White campaign put out a news release accusing Heinrich of pulling out of a debate that was being organized by KRQE-TV and AARP. A date had not been announced for the planned forum.

“After agreeing to the debate, and even after both campaigns agreed to change the date to appease Martin Heinrich’s ‘busy schedule,’ today Martin Heinrich surprised no one and declined the opportunity to debate Darren White on the important issues of the day,” White spokesman Stephen Schatz said. “Martin must have reconsidered after his abysmal performance at the other candidate debates and forums and awakened to the fact that his liberal politics are out of touch with the independent voters of the First District.”

Barranco said that’s not what happened.

“We just couldn’t really come to a schedule that was going to be workable,” she said, adding that the candidates have already debated twice and have two additional debates scheduled.

“There’s other opportunities, and this is really just them again, just much ado about nothing,” Barranco said.

Update, 9:40 a.m.

Click here to read the letter from the AARP and KRQE to the White campaign stating that there won’t be a debate because Heinrich declined the invitation.

3 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Darren White is the best choice for Congressman. Why would Martin Heinrich not want to debate and what could be more important than letting voters know where you stand. It goes against commons sense for a politician who is running for office to skip free media opportunities… unless he is afraid of standing behind his record, business practices or something else…

    Darren White is an good, honest, hard-working man with a lifelong record of public service. Don’t be fooled by Martin Heinrich New Mexico.

  2. Talk about avoiding the issue. Was he lobbying? Does lobbying for a non profit mean you don’t have to comply with the law. Perhaps its not possible to use such a nasty word as “lobbying” with such a nice innocent term like “non profit”?

  3. “Advocacy” vs “Lobbying” a distiction without a difference, once money’s involved.

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