Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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New Mexico AG Opens Criminal Investigation Into Missing Susana Martinez Emails

| Tue Sep. 30, 2014 12:57 PM EDT
New Mexico AG Gary King, who is running for governor against Republican Susana Martinez.

The New Mexico Attorney General's office is opening a criminal investigation into missing and/or destroyed emails covering part of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's tenure as a district attorney and also the tenure of Martinez's successor, Amy Orlando, a close friend of the governor. Complicating the investigation is the fact that New Mexico's AG, Democrat Gary King, is Martinez's opponent in this year's gubernatorial race. 

The investigation was triggered by an internal report released last week by the district attorney in New Mexico's Third Judicial District. As I reported, it found that many emails sent and received by staff members inside the Third Judicial District office were apparently "deleted and/or removed" during the period when Martinez and later Orlando headed the office. Those missing emails—which are state property—likely include messages to and from Martinez herself, who served as DA until she became governor in 2011.

Martinez handpicked Orlando as her successor, but her term was shortlived. In 2012, Orlando lost her DA election to a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor named Mark D'Antonio, who is a Democrat. It was D'Antonio who forwarded his office's findings to the AG for further investigation.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, King, the state AG, made a brief appearance in which he said that the disappearance of the emails in question "appears not to be the result of an inadvertent clerical error or policy but rather the planned intentional destruction of vital government records." Dave Pederson, the general counsel in the AG's office, downplayed the potential conflict of interest posed by King's gubernatorial run and said this case "goes way beyond simply pressing the delete button on certain emails or electronic files." According to the Santa Fe Reporter, Pederson declined to tell reporters which statutes may have been violated to avoid alerting potential targets.

Orlando is currently the general counsel at the state's Department of Public Safety (DPS). Her boss, DPS Secretary Greg Fouratt, dismissed the AG's investigation as "nothing more than a clumsy and amateur political stunt coordinated between a DA with what appears to be a personal vendetta and a gubernatorial candidate who's just a few weeks away from an election." Orlando herself slammed last week's report on the missing emails as an "amateurish political stunt on the eve of an election" that was filled with "baseless innuendos."

Labor's New Attack on Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst: She's An ALEC Shill

| Tue Sep. 23, 2014 5:17 PM EDT
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

The battle between Democratic congressman Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst to be Iowa's next US senator couldn't be closer. In an effort to fire up voters in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate in 2015, the AFL-CIO—the labor federation representing 56 unions and 12.5 million workers—is blasting out mailers this week attacking Ernst for her membership in the American Legislative Exchange Committee, the so-called bill mill in which corporations and state lawmakers get together in private to draft industry-friendly legislation.

The new mailers, which are going out to tens of thousands of union households in Iowa, say that Ernst, who has been an ALEC member, "works for corporate interests, not yours" and is "already in the pockets of big corporations." The mailers also criticize Ernst for supporting "huge corporate tax breaks," refusing to support an increase in the minimum wage, and accepting $200,000 in contributions from donors who've supported ALEC, such as the tobacco company Altria, oil companies, and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and members of Koch's immediate family. "Hardworking Iowa families are struggling," the mailer says, "but Joni Ernst just keeps voting with ALEC, the corporate special interest group that is taking over our state by giving free trips and expensive meals to politicians." (Ernst's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)

Here's the first anti-Ernst mailer:

 

Here's the second anti-Ernst mailer:

 

Michael Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO's political director, says the anti-Ernst mailers are intended to hurt Ernst's image as well as motivate Democratic voters, who tend to be less enthusiastic in non-presidential years. The mailers, in other words, aren't geared toward swinging undecided voters but rather mobilizing the Democratic base to vote on Election Day. "These mailers are part of an effort to dramatize to people just how stark the choice is and how consequential their vote is," Podhorzer says. "We hope this will motivate people to turn out and motivate people who are undecided to think about the race in economic terms."

The AFL-CIO also plans to target two other Republican Senate candidates—Colorado congressman Cory Gardner and Michigan's Terri Lynn Land—with anti-ALEC mailers. A spokesman says the AFL-CIO will attack Gardner for being an "ALEC alum" (he was a member when he served in the state legislature) and Land for accepting contributions from ALEC donors.

This week, ALEC received some unwelcome news when Google board chairman Eric Schmidt said the company's decision to fund ALEC was a "mistake." Schmidt singled out ALEC's anti-climate-change stance as the reason for Google's regret over its ties with ALEC. "Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place," he said. "And so we should not be aligned with such people—they're just literally lying."

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