SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Legal Wrangle

Bernalillo County to challenge secretary of state on marijuana advisory question

Local NewsMonday, September 15, 2014 by Joey Peters

The Bernalillo County Commission today voted 3-2  to file a legal challenge to the secretary of state's attempt to keep two advisory questions off the November election ballot. 

One of those questions seeks to ask voters if the county should support decriminalizing penalties for possession of one ounce of marijuana or less. Last week, both the Bernalillo and Santa Fe county commissions voted to put such a question on both counties' ballots. Neither question would hold legal weight. Instead, they would essentially serve as voters' recommendations to the counties.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran quickly told both counties that they had no right to put "poll questions" on general election ballots and that her office would bar them from doing so. But both counties say they have the right to, pointing out that advisory questions are not addressed in state statute nor the state constitution.

Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar recently told SFR that her office should control the county side of all election ballots while Duran's office controls the side of the ballot with statewide races. 

Bernalillo County's legal challenge against her ruling will be filed to the state Supreme Court. The commission's two Republicans voted against the measure. The Santa Fe County Commission is expected to make a similar after a special meeting tomorrow. Salazar says that her office needs the issue resolved by Friday so she can get ballots out to absentee voters in time. 

Ad Wars: King Campaign Silent Following Martinez Attacks

All the free speech money can buy

Local NewsMonday, September 15, 2014 by Justin Horwath
Democratic gubernatorial challenger Gary King has yet to respond to a shelling of recent ads from incumbent Republican Susana Martinez. 

If this gubernatorial election has showed anything, it's the ability of big money to drive campaign narratives. The latest campaign finance reports show Martinez with $3.8 million in the bank, a 24-1 cash advantage over King's $157,730. (Much of that came from King's own pockets).

Arguably, King hasn't been helping his own narrative. Monday, he announced the departure of his third campaign manager for this election season. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Keith Breitbach cites family and "philosophical differences" with his boss for the exit. That's following reports that King is returning contributions made from companies tied with registered sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein—the same week when a video leaked showing King quoting Hispanic labor activist Dolores Huerta. “[Huerta] said you can’t go out there and just vote for somebody for governor because they have a Latino surname,” King tells a crowd. “She said you have to look at them and find out if they have a Latino heart. And we know that Susana Martinez does not have a Latino heart.”

The Weekly Standard released a portion of the video without the reference to Huerta's name. King stood by his comments. But the damage was done. Big money doesn't only just buy campaign ads. It also finances a team of opposition researchers to dig up the dirt—in this case an out-of-context video snippet leaked to a friendly reporter—to drive a particular campaign narrative. It could be working, too: An Albuquerque Journal poll released Sunday shows Martinez with an 18-point lead over King.
But for now we'll focus on the television ads. Television is the preferred medium for campaigns to communicate a narrative to voters. A TV commercial reaches a wide audience. It doesn't take active engagement—like reading a newspaper article—to view. And it's easy to digest. 

Here's a snippet of all the free speech money can buy.

What's Right? 

First, SFR would like to take credit for this recent ad, which lambasts King for publicizing emails leaked from the campaign accounts of Martinez and her staffers. King didn't exactly "publicize" the emails in the traditional sense of the word. We did, in a 2012 article The Year in Closed Government, an investigation into the private email network maintained by the governor and her close advisers. King's office had been investigating the emails. He furnished them to SFR after we made a request for the emails under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

"King...released the emails to SFR without redacting anything, even purchases linked to Martinez’ account of Nickelback, Lifehouse and Kenny Chesney songs," we reported, along with receipts for "Spanx undergarments."

"King publicized the stolen emails," an ominous female voice says in the ad. "Receipts for the governor's underwear order."

The ad correctly points out that the FBI blasted King for releasing the emails during its investigation into their release by Jamie Estrada, Martinez' 2010 campaign manager who this summer pleaded guilty of two federal felonies in the case: unlawful interception of a campaign email and lying to the FBI about it.

King defends releasing the emails in response to our records request in this interview, saying, "Frankly they weren't secret documents by any circumstances because they were already in the hands of somebody who was a member of the public."

You're welcome, governor. But we'll give her team credit for its ability to pick out of our 4,500-word investigation—into deal-making within the confines of a gubernatorial shadow email network—one paragraph dealing with gubernatorial undergarments. Brilliant. 

The Washington Approach 

"Politicians in Washington just don't get it," says the gubernatorial candidate whose $3.8 million warchest includes a whole lot of Washington money. "Here in New Mexico, we're doing things differently." Text of the ad cites a "bipartisan jobs package" passed by the Democratic legislature and signed into law by Martinez. As Steve Terrell at The Santa Fe New Mexican points out, the ad also refers to King's votes as a freshman lawmaker in 1987 to hike the state gas tax by three cents and to suspend for two years tax rebates on food and medicine. The bills, Terrell reports, passed the legislature with bipartisan support. Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers signed them into law. No mention of that bipartisanship. 

No Regrets

The Martinez campaign is really hammering away at those 1987 votes [see above]. This time it throws in the assertion that King voted for the "largest tax increase in state history." The New Mexican has the context behind that assertion. (It wasn't actually the largest tax increase in state history.) In any event, the "better choice" is clearly Martinez, according to the ad, who "inherited the largest deficit in state history"—the state constitution doesn't allow the state to operate on "deficits," but this is more of a semantics debate than anything. She emerged from the budgetary woes, the ad goes, and sold the state's "luxury jet"—true, but the move was more symbolic than having any sort of budgetary impact. Martinez' also "increased teacher pay." Democratic lawmakers surely had a lot to do with that effort, but there's no mention of the bipartisanship waxed upon by the previous ad. The governor initially proposed an increase in teacher pay before the 2014 legislative session, and ultimately signed into law a package that hiked pay for all teachers by 3 percent, along with increasing the minimum teacher pay by $2,000. But she rejected hiking pay for more experienced teachers. 

RGA: Pay to Play

In addition to $3.8 million in her campaign bank account, Martinez also boasts support from the Republican Governor's Association, which reported raising $24.1 million from April to July of 2014.

Since the US Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, groups like the RGA can raise an spend unlimited amounts of cash in elections. The caveat is that they can't directly coordinate the spending of that cash in elections with candidates.

IRS filings show that the RGA has been paying the firm of Martinez' top political advisor Jay McCleskey tens of thousands of dollars over the past year. He hasn't commented on the expenditures, but RGA disclosures say the group is paying him for "consulting" in Arizona and Nevada.

The ad hits King for engaging in "pay-to-play" governing by taking contributions from attorneys who had contracts with his office. We reported some of these donations in an October 2013 article.

Yet there's a particular irony in the RGA releasing an ad hammering Martinez' opponent for "pay-to-play" governing. In February, an SFR investigation reported on emails that showed Martinez' 2010 campaign apparently attempted to funnel $25,000 in contributions to Martinez from a Louisiana developer through the RGA, a charge the campaign now denies. Following the contributions, the Martinez administration awarded the developer's company, The Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack and Casino, a 25-year extension to lease state land.

The Truth

This is perhaps the most hard-hitting ad that's come out of the faltering King campaign. The first assertion that Martinez "lied" is a response to a previous Martinez ad that pointed out numerous gender discrimination lawsuits filed against King in his capacity as the state's attorney general. One of the four lawsuits brought by female employees was rejected by a federal judge, while King's office settled claims with three of the other employees. King says Martinez will "do anything" to avoid talking about all the various rankings at which New Mexico has placed last. That includes job creation—referring to federal data that showed New Mexico was last in job growth from Jan. 2011 to Nov. 2013, with 0.9 percent—and "caring for children"—referring to an Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Book, where New Mexico ranked 49th in child well-being. Martinez did make a list released by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which calls Martinez one of the nation's "worst" governors. It's a list, Republicans will point out, that includes mostly Republicans. And while it's true that Martinez vetoed a minimum-wage hike, she was also on record supporting a smaller increase than what Democratic lawmakers sent to her desk. 


Here we have King attacking Martinez for attacking King. He hits on yet another "worst" list and the state's job woes again. He also alleges Martinez "gives no-bid, sweetheart deals to her friends," but, in this instance, that's more of a reference to the friends of Martinez-appointee Jon Barela and a whistleblower lawsuit filed against him and the state's Economic Development, which he leads. King will "demand" that women are paid the same as men, promises the ad. The Martinez camp had an immediate response to that assertion: "What King fails to mention is that the liberal American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) praised Governor Martinez 'for her support of New Mexico’s Equal Pay for Women Act and for developing measures to narrow the gender wage gap.'” 


In this ad, King's hoping voters will remember his parents, former Gov. Bruce King and First Lady Alice King, fondly. It's the old "Elect-me-like-you-elected-my-dad" card Humorously, King also cites a New Mexico Watchdog article detailing that, while New Mexico is at the bottom in education results, it's at the middle of the road in education spending—point being that more taxpayer money pumped into education doesn't necessarily produce commensurate educational outcomes. What's humorous here is that King uses the article to argue he'll "reverse Martinez cuts to education." 

Yet there's not much time for context in a 30-second TV spot, is there? Just sit back and let the money talk. 

This is Only a Test

Santa Fe plans emergency disaster drill this weekend

Local NewsFriday, September 12, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Sirens, blockades and evacuations might be on tap Saturday in the Santa Fe area as officials conduct a citywide emergency preparedness drill and an emergency wildfire drill with the Monte Sereno community.
Santa Fe Office of Emergency Management, Fire and Police Departments, the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center are all involved in the exercise at Monte Sereno and near Ridgetop Road and the Thornburg Investment Management campus.  A city press release says it will test the 911 reverse notification system and ask residents of Monte Sereno to evacuate to a pre-determined evacuation site.
The exact time of the exercise is not being disclosed in advance "to protect the integrity" of the drill, the release says. 

The citywide drill sounds more like an elaborate PR campaign, with the agencies asking residents  to:

"Identify two emergency escape routes from their home and neighborhood, locate their gas shut-off valve (if they have natural gas service to their home), call or text an out-of-town contact they may stay with in the event of an evacuation and let them know they are participating in the drill, and post a picture or description of an important, unusual, or creative item that they have included in their emergency kit to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #SantaFeOEM."

Don't want to miss the fun? Sign up for the Nixle alert system.

Campaign Finance Amendment Dead in Senate

Tom Udall hits the campaign trail.

Local NewsFriday, September 12, 2014 by Justin Horwath

"Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard."

That's what US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissenting opinion in a case decided by the high court in April, McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission. Federal campaign finance law limits donors to giving $5,200 to an individual federal candidate per election cycle, in addition to $5,000 annually to a political action committee. The decision struck down an overall limit on individual giving per election cycle, so before the ruling, a person could only give $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to PACs.

Now, the sky is the limit.

Only three of Breyer's colleagues agreed with his analysis that limiting so-called aggregate contribution limits does not violate the First Amendment's free-speech protections. The conservative five-member majority once again eviscerated a decades-old campaign finance regulation, furthering its reasoning in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that equates giving and spending money in elections to free speech.

Enter New Mexico's US Sen. Tom Udall. He introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and the states to "regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections." It would essentially overturn the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions and strip the Supreme Court of its ability to declare "reasonable" campaign finance laws unconstitutional.  

[Click here for this week's print article about New Mexico legislative candidates skirting campaign finance limits].

You could read the full amendment here, but we've got a spoiler for you: It died a predictable death in the US Senate Thursday, with 54 Democrats falling six votes short of earning the necessary 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. The death was predictable because Republicans in both Congressional chambers oppose the proposal on free-speech grounds. All 42 senators in Thursday's vote were Republicans. (Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich voted in favor of the amendment.)

Constitutional amendments are the only way to overturn Supreme Court precedent—short of the court overturning itself. Yet, getting Congress and the states to agree on a such a measure is a long shot.

To amend the Constitution, two-third majorities of both the US Senate—67 of 100 members—and US House—290 of 435 members—need to approve a joint resolution and pass it along to the states. Currently Democrats hold the Senate with 53 seats and two Independents who caucus with them, while Republicans have 33 more seats in the House. 

Then, three-fourths of the states—38 of them—must ratify it with a majority in either a state legislature or state convention. 

That's partly why Republicans called Udall's unlikely proposal, introduced in June, election-year rhetoric, while the New Mexico senator issued a statement saying he's "encouraged" by the "growing support" for the proposal. He pledges to continue fighting the high court's rulings. "Momentum continues to build for common-sense campaign finance reform," he says in a statement, "and I will keep leading this fight on behalf of New Mexicans and all Americans to restore our nation’s founding principle—a democracy of, by, and for the people."

But to do so he'll need to play by the Supreme Court's rules.

Udall continues to pump money into his $3.4 million campaign warchest to take on Republican challenger Allen Weh, who reports $691,424 cash-on-hand. As of June 30, Udall, the self-professed campaign finance reformer, holds a $2.7 million advantage over Weh, the self-professed First Amendment protector who says the solution to money in politics is "more transparency, less regulation." 

The latter is certainly transpiring, as Udall well knows. He was listed on an invite as the beneficiary for an Aug. 2 fundraiser held at the Albuquerque home of Shana and Greg Levenson. The luncheon invite suggests contribution amounts: "Victory" costs $1,000 per person; "Success" costs $2,500 per person; and "Triumph" costs $5,000 per person. That latter suggestion is $200 short of the $5,200 election-year contribution limit to candidates, an amount that less than 0.1 percent of the 310 million Americans donate per election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now, with the McCutcheon decision, that small group of donors can contribute the $5,200 limit to an unlimited number of political committees, which, according to Justice Breyer's logic, allows their voices to be amplified over that of the majority of Americans by buying access to candidates at fundraisers. 

Mr. Udall wants to go to Washington. Again. 

Ballot Scuffle

Counties say legal challenge could stop secretary of state from axing ballot question on marijuana

Local NewsFriday, September 12, 2014 by Joey Peters
Politicians, lawyers and advocates disagree on the question of whether the secretary of state has the authority to stop a marijuana decriminalization advisory question from appearing on two countywide election ballots.

New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who this week said her office won't be putting the marijuana question on either ballot, maintains that she's well within her limits to do so. She underlines that her decision was based on the legality of the issue, not the content of the advisory question. 

"No forms or procedures shall be held in any election pursuant to the election code without prior approval of the secretary of state," was Duran's jargon-laden answer to this reporter's question when she briefly appeared on KUNM's Call-In Show Thursday morning. 

Duran says that after hours of working with her legal counsel, they concluded that counties don't have the right to put non-binding advisory questions, or poll questions, on statewide general election ballots. This came after both the Santa Fe and Bernalillo County commissions voted to put a question asking voters whether the counties should support decriminalizing marijuana on the November ballot. Because they're advisory questions, they essentially work as recommendations to county officials and don't carry legal authority with them. 

Duran says placing such questions on the ballot would push out more meaningful questions, such as bond issues or constitutional amendments.

"My decision is based on that legal advice—not on the issue itself—but that we cannot begin to allow polling questions on an official general election ballot," Duran says. "Not only is it unconstitutional according to my legal counsel, and I’m not an attorney, but it also does not conform with state law." 

This differs from state Attorney General Gary King's letter released last week that says counties have the authority to place such questions on general election ballots as long as they "not carry the force of law." Traditionally Duran, a Republican, as secretary of state would use a legal counsel from King's office. King, a Democrat, is running for governor this year.

Instead, Duran's office has been using Albuquerque attorney Rob Doughty. According to the state Sunshine Portal, Doughty's law firm has received $89,000 in public money from contracts with Duran's office since 2013. 

But Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, both Democrats, tell SFR that the secretary of state doesn't have the statutory authority to stop countywide ballot questions. Toulouse Oliver is running in a heated race against Duran for the secretary of state this fall.

Salazar brings up the fact that the paper ballot will have two sides: one dedicated to statewide races and one dedicated to countywide races. Her office is in charge of the county side of the ballot, she says.

But a technical issue may allow Duran to get her way. Until this year, the county used Automated Election Services to process its ballot before election. This year, Duran asked the counties to use a company contracted with her office instead in order to expedite the process. Salazar says since the new setup goes through Duran, it will give her a chance to remove the marijuana decriminalization question.

Salazar adds that the county is looking into its legal options to prevent Duran's office from doing so, which could include an appeal that reaches the state Supreme Court. "The technology has changed," Salazar says. "The law has not."

Such a challenge would have to be settled by next Friday, Sept. 19, so the counties can start getting absentee ballots out to New Mexico residents located out-of-state during the election. The Santa Fe County Commission could take up the issue during its special meeting next Tuesday at 1 pm. The Bernalillo County Commission may make similar actions during a closed meeting next Monday.

UPDATE: The Santa Fe County Commission has added closed-door discussions of a possible pending litigation regarding "a countywide advisory question for the 2014 general election concerning public support to decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana" to the agenda for its Tuesday meeting. An action item concerning a potential vote to authorize such a lawsuit follows. 

Congressional Reality

NM Sen. Heinrich to appear on Discovery Channel survival show

Local NewsThursday, September 11, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Will a New Mexico senator have to drink his own pee to survive on a desert island? Can his Arizona counterpart from the US Congress figure out how to spear a fish for dinner?

US Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., are expected to tackle the challenges of securing drinking water, shelter and food during a new television show called Rival Survival that is scheduled to air on The Discovery Channel at the end of October and promises to be at least slightly more entertaining than C-SPAN coverage of congressional debates. 

The congressmen taped a show on Uru, part of the Marshall Islands, where they “put their political differences aside and work together for six days and six nights to find common ground through compromise if they want to survive,” according to an announcement from Discovery. 

Heinrich’s press office issued three news releases today, one about the 13th anniversary of 9/11, one about the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, and a statement about campaign-finance reform efforts. But the official channels were silent about the TV show.

Laurie Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Discovery Channel, said this statement comes from both leaders.

"Both of us know just how frustrated people are with Washington right now. We can both attest that no one is more frustrated than those of us trying to get things done in this environment. We recognize how difficult it can be to cut through the partisanship. So we decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and frankly a little extreme to show the world and our colleagues that even if you have serious differences, if you want to survive you have to work together. " 

Here’s the news release issued today from Discovery:

At a time when partisanship in U.S. politics litters the media landscape, Discovery Channel's RIVAL SURVIVAL brings together two real world political adversaries and maroons them on a remote island for a week. Disconnected from the world on an uninhabited island surrounded by shark infested waters that mirror the seemingly treacherous terrain of the U.S. Congress, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) must put their political differences aside and work together for six days and six nights to find common ground through compromise if they want to survive in RIVAL SURVIVAL which premieres on Discovery October 29 at 10PM ET/PT.

Sen. Flake, a true conservative Republican, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for six consecutive terms from 2001-2013 prior to his election to the U.S. Senate. Sen. Flake is a self-described reformer who attacks government spending and is vocal on hot-button issues like immigration reform. Last year, Sen. Flake and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were part of the "Gang of 8" who teamed up to try to change immigration policies in the U.S.  Sen. Heinrich, a member of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a self-described conservationist and a strong progressive voice from New Mexico on issues that include education, health care and social security. Polar opposites and often at odds in the Senate, these two men must come together to take on the island of Eru, Marshall Islands, an utterly unforgiving deserted destination where the reefs alone are fraught with dangers that include venomous stonefish, lionfish and scorpion fish.

In RIVAL SURVIVAL, our senatorial adversaries turned survival teammates are given a modest choice of items from which they can select only three. Using only these limited resources and their wits, the pair must work together as they attempt to spear fish, build shelter and find enough water to survive for one week.  There is no natural source for fresh water on Eru, and what lives in the ocean will be their major food source. This unusual pairing will leave behind the daily life of congressional staff, senate hearings and committee meetings to navigate the rigors of surviving on an isolated island with no contact with the outside world to call upon for help. 

Once a pivotal point of control during World War II, Eru is home to the wreckage of downed WWII aircraft, and is also knows for what lurks in its waters -- the largest shark sanctuary in the world with more than 2,000,000 square miles of protected waters.  The ban on shark fishing here has created one of the greatest shark populations on earth with nearly every major species of shark, including Black Tip Sharks, Oceanic White Tip Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks, among others.

RIVAL SURVIVAL is produced for Discovery Channel by Renegade, the producers of Discovery's hit series Naked and Afraid, where David Garfinkle, Jay Renfroe and Sean Foley serve as Executive Producers. For Discovery, Denise Contis and Craig Coffman serve as Executive Producers.


Jamie Estrada, Citing Character, Asks Feds for Probation

Gov. Martinez' former campaign manager offers remorse for intercepting emails

Local NewsThursday, September 11, 2014 by Justin Horwath

Citing his "good character," a "distinguished history" of public service and his "critical" role in caring for ailing family members, Gov. Susana Martinez' former campaign manager Jamie Estrada is asking a federal judge to put him on probation instead of throwing him behind bars for intercepting Martinez' campaign emails then lying to federal agents about it. 

New filings in the case reveal a intimate side of Estrada—Martinez' estranged campaign manager who pleaded guilty in June on two federal felonies. Attorneys want to show US District Court Judge William Johnson that the defendant doesn't deserve the maximum sentence of just over a year in prison for crimes Estrada now calls "completely out of character" for a rising star in the Republican Party who has no prior convictions or even "prior contact with law enforcement." 

The contriteness Estrada, 41, expresses in his sentencing memorandum contrasts sharply with the more defiant tone he took just months ago as the case approached a possible jury trial in July. Estrada maintained innocence in the face of 16 felony charges and accused Martinez and her close associates of "potentially corrupt conduct" that he argued was revealed by the campaign emails that he intercepted and released to the governor's political opponents.

Martinez said at the time it would've been easier for her to not have "reported this crime," but she was willing to endure "bogus and personal smears" in cooperating as a victim in the case because thousands of New Mexicans are victims of cyber crimes each year.

But Judge Johnson swatted down the defense request for documents pertaining to alleged improprieties by Martinez and her inner circle, saying the case was only about the charges against Estrada, "nothing more, nothing less." Shortly after that defeat, Estrada struck a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to intercepting one of the emails outlined in the charges and for one count of lying to the FBI about it. 

He's now at the mercy of the court, which can sentence him to a maximum of 366 days in prison in a planned Oct. 8 hearing.

Now he describes his motives for intercepting the emails as "mixed" and says that "obtaining these emails and later sharing them represented serious lapses of ethics and judgement."

"He felt used and betrayed by Gov. Martinez," argues Estrada's defense team. "But he also believed that the emails would reveal that Gov. Martinez or members of her administration were involved in unethical and possibly even illegal conduct. In any event, he knows there is no excuse for his own actions." 

Martinez has maintained her administration's awarding of a 25-year contract that allows the Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack and Casino to lease New Mexico State Fair land was above board, and the federal government has not filed any charges resulting from its investigation into the deal. Many of the intercepted emails later turned into newspaper headlines about the racino.

Estrada served as the Martinez' campaign manager from the summer of 2009 through December, before beginning an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission. Martinez maintains she fired Estrada for looking at her emails while Estrada still maintains she never fired him. 

Estrada's team argues his "integrity, generosity, kindness, and commitment to serving our community, our state, and our country" and "love for and commitment to his family, friends, and wife" justify probation instead of prison time. 

The sentencing memorandum coupled by letters from friends, family and former colleagues paint a narrative of the Las Cruces native as a dedicated family man who excelled in school, business and politics. Documents describe an eager New Mexico State University honors student with a 3.9 GPA who earned two bachelor's degrees in economics into business, parlaying his college education into a successful stint at Intel and eventually a master's degree in business administration from Georgetown University. 

Included in the 69 letters Estrada submitted is a testimony from Republican oilman Mark Murphy, who "directly attributes" former President George W Bush's win in New Mexico in the 2004 presidential election to Estrada's efforts as a field director in the campaign's New Mexico operation. 

Colleagues from Bush's US Department of Commerce—where Estrada quickly rose to the position as the deputy assistant secretary of manufacturing—describe him as someone more dedicated to his public service than a typical "political appointee." 

Estrada's emphasis on his "true character" and "patriotism" while serving the GOP presidential administration could play well with Judge Johnson, whom Bush appointed to the federal bench in 2001. He also secures a letter from an FBI agent, Jerry Hanafin, a friend who "still believe[s] today" that Estrada is "of high moral character and integrity." 

Current Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, a former assistant US attorney, writes to the court that he met Estrada two years ago—around the time the FBI began its investigation into Estrada—and, "We communicate about once a week." D'Antonio is a Democrat who defeated Martinez' ally Amy Orlando in a heated 2012 race.

"His indictment was a shock to me, and I was disappointed to hear the allegations," D'Antonio writes. "Instead of running away from Jamie, as a friend, I confronted him about the matter." 

Estrada argues probation is sufficient because he's "suffered and will continue to suffer tremendous collateral consequences as a result of his actions," including losing his employment, his right to vote and "longtime goal of a career in politics or public service."

Probation, the defense argues, would also ensure Estrada would be able to care for his ailing father and directing the care for his brother, who's suffering from a "disabling condition associated with liver disease." 

"If Mr. Estrada is imprisoned and separated from his family," the defense argues, "it will be impossible for him to provide critical care and support for his brother, who has a fatal illness, and for his father, who is also in poor health." 

His wife Kristina Estrada—a current Department of Defense branch chief who works on military intelligence and holds a security clearance—also makes her first public comments about the case in her own letter, saying that the charges "are completely out of character" for the "real Jamie: a faithful, trustworthy, honorable, loving and dedicated individual" who rescues stray dogs and finds guidance in their pastor's recent advice: "Your past will either be a rudder to guide you, or an anchor to hold you back."

"Jamie is choosing the rudder," she writes.

Where Were You?

SFR remembers the day America cried

Local NewsThursday, September 11, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

It’s a conversation that Americans have every year on this date: Where were you?

What were you doing when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? 

I was working for the Associated Press in Albuquerque and I rushed to the office when I heard the news, then spent the morning at the airport interviewing frightened passengers who had landed in New Mexico as the nation cleared its skies. That night, I covered the president's speech from a local bar where patrons watched in silence.

SFR staff writer Justin Horwath was a freshman in high school in Minnesota, at home on the school day because he was sick. Art Director Anson Stevens-Bollen went to Santa Fe High, then left when classes were canceled. Publisher Jeff Norris was listening to NPR as he drove a car in Arkansas.

But the folks at SFR at the time were on the job on Marcy Street. Sept. 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. That’s deadline day for your local alt-weekly. The gravity of the national tragedy meant the main story got scrapped and replaced with a solemn black cover and a collection of firsthand accounts from writers at other alternative news outlets.  

Then-editor Julia Goldberg, whose mother’s New York City office was just a block away from the building, sent reporters running while the rest of the city, the nation and parts of the globe stayed glued to the television and the radio. This was our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our Kennedy assassination. 

We won’t forget. 

Click the button below to check out the issue that hit the stands the next morning:

Read the Articles

Tecolote Café to Re-Open Doors in November

Local eatery was evicted last April

Food WritingWednesday, September 10, 2014 by Enrique Limón


t was fitting that Tecolote Café’s last day of operations fell on an Easter Sunday. Families wearing their best duds broke bread together; new friends were made at their community table and a hearty line serpentined through the locale’s bright yellow doors.

As SFR first reported, owners Katie and Matt Adkins had been served with an eviction notice from their longtime landlord and, 30 days later, were forced to darken the lights (and pack up the tchotchkes) at 1203 Cerrillos Road.

“It’s been insane business all week long. The community is awesome,” Katie Adkins told SFR that day.

By her own estimation, the move to a new and improved location would take anywhere from 60 to 90 days. Several potential deals fell thought and the second coming of the venerable Santa Fe eatery remained in limbo.

Now, Adkins is happy to announce they’ve secured a deal to take over the former Yummy Café, located at 1616 St. Michael’s Drive.

She hopes to open Tecolote 2.0 in early November and complete expansion plans on to the neighboring Cinema Café by this time next year.  

“There’s a great neighborhood over there, a good school and all sorts of stuff going on with the college,” Adkins says of the new surroundings. “I think it’ll be a good location.”

Foodwise, Adkins advances that the menu for the most part will remain intact. They’ll take a back-to-basics approach by revisiting her father’s original recipes and dinner will be added. As far as their famed bakery baskets, do not fret fellow cinnamon roll lovers, they’ll make a comeback as well.

“We don’t want to mess with a good thing, because we’ve been successful for a long time doing what we do,” she says.

Having a summer break was a refreshing move for the couple and their children, though surviving the hiatus financially has been a challenge. “It’s been stressful, but it’s been good,” she says. “We’ve been able to refocus, so we can start fresh.”

For Adkins, the return to the ulcer-inducing restaurant business is a welcome one. “It was nice having the summer off and all,” she finalizes, “but there’s only so much house you can clean.”

SOS Says No to Pot Ballot

Santa Fe County Commissioner says fight is not over

Local NewsWednesday, September 10, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Seeking an opinion from voters on marijuana isn’t permitted under state law, according to a letter New Mexico’s Secretary of State Dianna Duran issued to officials in Bernalillo and Santa Fe County today.  But the county governments aren’t going down without a fight.

Duran sent a representative to the meeting Monday where the Bernalillo County Commission decided to put an advisory question on the General Election ballot about whether voters favor decriminalization of marijuana. She argues that the board’s ruling and the subsequent Santa Fe County decision Tuesday along the same lines are “unconstitutional and incompatible with state law.”

The secretary of state is a Republican seeking re-election against Democrat challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and some Republicans have said they oppose the ballot questions because they could lure liberal voters who otherwise wouldn’t show up for the election.

Both commissions voted to put the non-binding question on their respective ballots at the behest of residents who circulated a petition asking for Santa Fe and Albuquerque city voters to weigh in on reducing the penalties for small-scale marijuana possession.  While Albuquerque’s mayor vetoed a measure to change the law, Santa Fe’s City Council voted to reduce the penalties without asking voters.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics tells SFR she’s disappointed with the news from Duran and says both county governments are considering a court appeal. 

“I don’t think it’s over with yet. Our county attorney is working with the Bernalillo County attorney on a possible appeal,” she says, noting that Bernalillo County already has a “litigation meeting” planned for Monday.

Now, the Santa Fe County Commission plans to amend the agenda for its meeting already planned for Tuesday to include an executive session and possible action on an appeal, she says.

“When we decided, our vote was 5-0 and our County Commission took very seriously the thousands of people who had signed the petition and who wanted to speak out about this,” she says. “None of the commissioners took it lightly.”

Emily Kaltenbach, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance, says her organization relies on an opinion from the state attorney general that the questions are permissible.

“I think the attorney general made it very clear that advisory questions are allowed onto the ballot and so at this point it’s our understanding that the secretary of state should abide by the AG’s opinion,” she tells SFR.

And by the way, Democrat Attorney General Gary King is also running against Republican Governor Susana Martinez for the state’s top job this November. The plot thickens.

Here's the full text of today's press release from the secretary of state:


Secretary of State Dianna Duran today informed the county commissions of Bernalillo County and Santa Fe County that her legal counsel advises her that local ballot questions that merely “poll” voters and are not questions that serve to adopt or reject public policy, are both unconstitutional and incompatible with state law.

The legal counsel for the Secretary of State stated:

“Throughout New Mexico statutes, consistent with the Constitution, the legislature has authorized specific  types of questions that can be placed before the voters on general election ballots. In each case the  statutory language calls for a decision to be made by the electorate, i.e. the enactment of public policy, including the adoption of fiscal measures regarding debt, taxation and the like. In each instance the law is explicit with regard to the fact that the electorate is making law.

No reference can be found in New Mexico law in which a question may be put to the voters that is not for a decision to be made by those same voters, that is for the purpose of adopting or rejecting a constitutional amendment, a bond issue, or a local question involving the contracting of debt or taxation. The constitutional framers and subsequent legislatures apparently viewed the role of public bodies as either:

1) making a decision themselves on questions of these types, or 2) submitting the questions to the voters for the electorate to make the decisions. They did not contemplate, and have not written, provisions for actions that do neither. Nor have they provided for an elected body to take a poll of the constituency to determine what they should do.

Duran wrote to the Bernalillo and Santa Fe County Commissions:

“The Secretary of State, as a constitutional officer must bear in mind the long-term effect of the adoption of the extra-legal measures proposed by the Boards of County Commissioners of a county. If any county is permitted to co-opt the franchise—which belongs to New Mexico voters, and is their sacred right and responsibility—for the purpose of placing unprecedented and unauthorized questions on the ballot, specifically those that merely poll the public, there can be little question that this procedure will be taken up all around the state. Commissions, councils and boards will all soon be using scarce public resources, the tax dollars that fund the already substantial costs of elections, to take polls—an activity currently restricted to partisan political campaigns which are generally funded by private contributions.

“Along the way, it is highly likely that questions involving significant and weighty matters of public policy will be squeezed out of the electoral process due to ballot length or cost, or both.

“As Secretary of State, if I were to place such extra-legal issues on the ballot then I would be taking an active role in accepting this kind of use of the ballot as lawful and appropriate, both statutorily and constitutionally. Such an action would then permanently place this constitutional office squarely in league with the adoption of ballot questions that our counsel advises is not permissible under the New Mexico Constitution or its statutes. I cannot in good conscience, and with a clear understanding of my oath of office and my constitutional duties, acquiesce to such a course of action I believe to be contrary to the laws and the constitution of the State of New Mexico.

“Based on the advice of counsel, questions that serve merely as poll questions or “advisory” questions are not authorized either by the constitution or by statute.”


Legal Wrangle

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