Martinez-supporting Super PAC comes to aid of Dems
Reform New Mexico Now is funded primarily by backers of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and is helping Democratic legislative incumbents who have sided with her on some issues.
A Super PAC that appears to be trying to advance Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s agenda is coming to the aid of at least three Democratic state senators who have sided with her on some issues in the past and are in tough primary battles.
The group, Reform New Mexico Now, would not answer a question about whether it has ties to Martinez or her political action committee Susana PAC. The mailers and radio ads it provided to NMPolitics.net state that they’re not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
But the group’s biggest donors are Martinez supporters. And its issues are Martinez’s issues.
For example, the group has sent a mailer in support of Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, who is facing a tough primary battle against Thomas Garcia, D-Ocate, a state representative who has been no friend to Martinez. The mailer praises Campos for voting for a bill that gives in-state businesses first priority on state contracts and another that gives a $1,000 tax credit to small businesses that hire veterans returning from war.
Both are bills that were sought by Martinez. The mailer credits Campos with “fighting for New Mexico jobs.”
A radio ad running in Senate District 35 defends Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, who carried Martinez’s bill to end so-called social promotion in the last session. It attacks Smith’s challenger, Larry Martinez, who has had his own help from a progressive Super PAC and a teacher’s union that have attacked Smith.
“Larry Martinez is trying to fool us all. Special interest groups are attacking Sen. John Arthur Smith, all because Smith is fighting for education reform,” the radio ad states. “… He stood up to the special interests because John Arthur Smith always puts our children first. Not Larry Martinez. Larry Martinez is the special-interest candidate.”
And in Senate District 4, the group is running a radio ad attacking Genevieve Jackson, a McKinley County commissioner and one of two candidates challenging Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, who has sometimes sided with Martinez on budgetary, tax and education issues.
“Genevieve’s been jet-setting all over the country, and you’ve been picking up the tab,” the radio ad states before describing taxpayer-funded trips to New Orleans, California and Las Vegas.
“Tell Genevieve Jackson the free ride is over. Vote no on Genevieve Jackson,” states the ad, which doesn’t mention Muñoz.
‘Bipartisan group’ includes Martinez-supporting Dem
In a prepared statement, Dominic Aragon, an Albuquerque Democrat who supported Martinez in the 2010 gubernatorial race, said Reform New Mexico Now is “a bipartisan group that independently supports candidates committed to enacting reforms that will improve our schools, promote public safety and help create jobs in New Mexico.”
“As a registered Democrat and former Democratic ward chairman from the Albuquerque Westside, it’s time we elect leaders who are willing to come together on commonsense initiatives like helping children read by the third grade,” the prepared statement from Aragon reads.
The group provided the radio ads and mailer linked to above, and Aragon said it also sent out a mailer supporting Republican David Chavez’s attempt to unseat Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, in the November election. Sanchez is perhaps Martinez’s biggest foe in the Roundhouse.
But Reform New Mexico Now said it would provide no other information, including listing other races it’s involved in. NMPolitics.net has learned that the group sent out a mailer attacking Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, who has been a Martinez foe. Alcon faces Billy Moore of Thoreau in the primary.
Funded primarily by energy companies
The group’s finance report reveals that it has raised $205,000, including $130,000 from Chase Oil Corporation and $50,000 from Mack Energy Corporation, both based in Artesia. It also took a $5,000 contribution from Nestor Romero of Albuquerque, who was one of Democrat Brian Colón’s biggest supporters in the 2010 lieutenant governor’s race.
Romero donated more than $3,000 to Martinez’s 2010 opponent, Democrat Diane Denish, but he also donated $1,000 to Clovis-area District Attorney Matt Chandler, a Republican and close Martinez ally.
Chase Oil donated $75,000 to Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Mack Energy donated $100,000. They also donated $10,000 apiece to Susana PAC in April, six days after they gave money to Reform New Mexico Now.
Because it’s a Super PAC doing independent expenditures – which means there’s no coordination with candidates – Reform New Mexico Now isn’t subject to contribution limits.
‘The difference between John Arthur Smith and me’
Martinez’s PAC has gotten involved in several Republican primaries, as The Associated Press has reported. But Susana PAC, which is directly tied to the governor, has stayed away from Democratic primaries. That may in part be because candidates she’s opposing could counter attacks by criticizing their opponents for having support from the Republican governor in a Democratic primary.
Even in this instance, without proof of direct ties between Reform New Mexico Now and the governor, Smith’s opponent, Larry Martinez, was quick to respond to group’s radio ad by highlighting its contributions from energy companies – and he pointed out that those companies have also donated to Martinez and other Republicans.
“It’s no surprise to see oil and gas corporations coming in at the end to try to defend their biggest supporter in the Senate, John Arthur Smith,” Larry Martinez said. “These corporations fight for special tax breaks for themselves, which means less funding for our schools.”
“Therein lies the difference between John Arthur Smith and me,” he said. “I am backed by teachers and he’s backed by oil and gas interests.”
Update, June 2, 11:45 a.m.
Reform New Mexico Now also sent out mailers in support of Carl Trujillo in his Democratic primary battle against David Coss for the state House District 46 seat (view it here), and, in the Senate District 39 race, in support of incumbent Democrat Phil Griego, who faces two opponents on Tuesday (view it here).
One of those opponents, Jack Sullivan, released this statement:
“The mailer sent out by the Reform New Mexico Now PAC is an attempt at revisionist history. Senator Phil Griego has voted against closing the corporate tax loophole every year since 2009. As chair of the Corporations and Transportation Committee, he voted against hearing this bill for three years and voted against it in committee as recently as this year. He only voted for SB 9 when it appeared it would pass on the floor.”
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