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."
Weekend warrior: Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman
Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator who is on track to be the next congressman from Wisconsin's 6th district, has never been shy about speaking his mind. He's a bomb-thrower, a perpetual outrage machine for his liberal opponents, and a gift to the local and nationalpress corps.
Grothman briefly stepped onto the national stage during the 2011 protests against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's effort to curb public workers' bargaining rights. He was one of the most outspoken critics of the anti-Walker protesters. On MSNBC, he derided those protesting the bill as "a bunch of slobs" and compared those who occupied the state Capitol to "college students and hangers-on having a party."
In August, Grothman surprised many, including some in his own party, by squeezing out the narrowest of victories in the GOP primary in his overwhelmingly Republican district, which includes Oshkosh and Fond du Lac. Referring to Grothman's previous remarks about women, one Republican operative tweeted, "Gee, so glad we nominated the guy w/ a reputation of being a misogynist in #WI06 w/ both our Gov and AG candidates down vs women."
Uncharacteristically, Grothman has gone silent since his primary victory. (His campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)
Here is a roundup of what might be called his greatest hits. Read them and remember that Grothman is likely headed to Congress.
Days off from work are "a little ridiculous": In January, Grothman proposed rolling back a Wisconsin law requiring employers to give workers at least one day of rest per week. He told the Huffington Post the existing state law was "a little goofy" and his proposal was about "freedom." "Right now in Wisconsin, you're not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week," he said.
Sex ed could turn kids gay: In 2010, Grothman, who believes that homosexuality is a choice, proposed banning Wisconsin public school teachers from mentioning homosexuality in sex education classes because some teachers had an "agenda" to turn kids gay.
Planned Parenthood is racist: In January 2013, Grothman appeared on Voice of Christian Youth America, an evangelical talk show, and he called Planned Parenthood "the most overtly racist organization." He said that Planned Parenthood has a pattern of "not liking people who are not white" and specifically targets Asian Americans for sex-selective abortions. (Planned Parenthood opposes sex-selective abortions.)
"Money is more important for men": After voting in 2011 to repeal Wisconsin's equal-pay protection law, Grothman argued that the male-female pay gap wasn't about discrimination in the workplace. "Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers," he told the Daily Beast. "But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they're 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn't discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person." He added, "You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious." (At a 2010 tea party rally, Grothman said, "In the long run, a lot of women like to stay at home and have their husbands be the primary breadwinner.")
People on food stamps don't act poor enough: In a 2004 op-ed calling for new restrictions on the federal food stamps program, Grothman outlined the extensive research that informed his position. "I've interviewed over a dozen people who check out people who pay with food stamps," he wrote, "and all felt people on food stamps ate better—or at least more costly—than they did." He also wrote: "Observations of people who work in food stores indicate that many people who use food stamps do not act as if they are genuinely poor."
"Many people who use food stamps do not act as if they are genuinely poor," Grothman wrote.
God is probably mad at John Kerry: In April, Grothman appeared again on Voice of Christian Youth America, and he discussed Secretary of State Kerry's efforts to lobby against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's bill to punish gays and lesbians. "Now, usually I associate the United States with being a positive influence on Africa," Grothman said. "You associate the United States with sending missionaries to Africa…Instead, what we have is the secretary of state going to Africa and educating Ugandans or saying he is going to send American scientists to Uganda to explain how normal homosexuality is. Think about that. What must God think of our country?"
The Kwanzaa conspiracy: A December 2012 press release issued by Grothman's state senate office asked, "Why Must We Still Hear About Kwanzaa?" In it, Grothman claimed that Kwanzaa is a phony holiday promoted by "white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans." He urged "mainstream Americans" to be "more outspoken on this issue. It's time it's slapped down once and for all."
Affirmative action is "offensive": Following the US Supreme Court's 2014 ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which upheld a ban on racial preferences in college admissions, Grothman said he would re-up a previous bill outlawing all race- and gender-based affirmative action programs in Wisconsin. "There's no question that affirmative action is an idea whose time has come and gone," he told Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's offensive and it's very anti-business."
If he could turn back time: Grothman told an interviewer in 2010, "Did people even know what homosexuality was in high school in 1975? I don't remember any discussion about that at the time. There were a few guys who would make fun of a few effeminate boys, but that's a different thing than homosexuality. Homosexuality was not on anyone's radar. And that's a good thing." But Grothman doesn't just miss the '70s; he's also said he wants to turn the clock back to the 1950s.
Martinez's  crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.
After my story went live and the Santa Fe Reporter published its own report on the license plate controversy, the Democratic Party of New Mexico filed an open-records request with the state's Third Judicial District Attorney's Office, which Martinez ran as DA before becoming governor in 2011. The Democrats asked for emails spanning August to December 2010 written by Martinez; Amy Orlando, a close friend who was Martinez's chief deputy DA and then briefly succeeded her as DA; and a senior investigator in the DA's office. The Democrats also asked for all correspondence to and from employees of Martinez's DA office relating to her 2010 gubernatorial campaign, and any correspondence from August to December 2010 mentioning the words "Diane Denish," "Denish," and "license plate." (Diane Denish was Martinez's 2010 Democratic opponent.)
On Tuesday, Mark D'Antonio, the current DA in New Mexico's Third Judicial District, released the findings of an internal investigation that concluded that large amounts of emails—potentially including those sought by the Democrats—had been "deleted and/or removed" during the period when the office was briefly run by Orlando, Martinez's onetime deputy. Two of the four hard drives used by Orlando's administration—hard drives that might have contained the requested emails—were missing. And investigators noted that all emails in the DA's office were supposed to be backed up by a "special tape drive" in the office, but the back-up tapes were "blank and appear to have been erased."
The report also noted that, under Orlando, the DA's office misled a reporter who'd made his own request for similar records. The DA's office told the reporter that the records he wanted didn't exist because the office's server "is routinely cleaned." But after interviewing IT staffers, investigators concluded this statement "was inaccurate because IT personnel stated that servers were not routinely 'cleaned' and that the data should exist on a server."
Orlando, who is now general counsel at the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, did not respond to a request for comment. She told the Albuquerque Journal that the report was an "amateurish political stunt on the eve of an election" filled with "baseless innuendos." Martinez's office did not respond to a request for comment. The investigative report was not a criminal investigation, and none of its claims constitute criminal wrongdoing.
The report also turned up evidence of troubling behavior by Orlando. Of the few emails dug up by investigators, one exchange showed Orlando trying to thwart D'Antonio, who replaced her as DA starting in 2013, from applying for and receiving several hundred thousand dollars in grant funding for DA operations. "Don't leave ANY notes about how to do it!! Please," Orlando wrote to a colleague in the DA's office. Investigators call this "a conspiracy to actively deny Dona Ana County and related law enforcement agencies with much needed grant money."
In a September 2010 email, Orlando asked the tech staff in the DA's office to change the access level to her calendar and to obfuscate the reason why. "I need the people that have access to my calendar changed. But I need it done quietly. Please get with [senior investigator] Kip [Scarborough] and he will explain. And we will need to say that a virus or something happened."
In an August 2010 email addressed to Orlando, a staffer in the DA's office appears to admit to forging then-DA Martinez's name on an affidavit relating to a hotel bill. "I had to fill out an affidavit that SM had to sign (forgery), and fax to the Hyatt to get her hotel bill."
And in a November 2010 email, Orlando makes a snide remark about the planning for Martinez's upcoming inaugural ball (she was then the governor-elect). Apparently relaying Martinez's wishes about the theme of the ball, Orlando wrote to a party planner (whose name is redacted): "She wants it blk and white w a hint of Susan [Komen] color pink!"
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."
It's the home stretch of the 2014 election season. No single theme or issue has dominated the midterms, but 2014 is on pace to be the Year of Dark Money.
Nonprofit groups, some well known (such as the US Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers) and some obscure (America Inc., anyone?), have dumped huge sums of anonymous money into every competitive Senate race and many House contests. Here are five eye-opening indicators showing the rapid spread of dark money in this year's campaign season—and why it's going to get worse as Election Day approaches.
The $50 Million Mark
A milestone passed in late August: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, dark-money groups—nonprofits created under the 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) sections of the US tax code—had by then surpassed $50 million on elections. These groups, unlike political action committees and candidates' campaigns, do not have to disclose their donors. So some of the key players looking to sway election results remain in the shadows. This was a new record and seven times the amount of dark money spent by the same point on House and Senate elections in 2010. And this week, dark-money spending for the 2014 cycle reached $63 million—just shy of the $69 million in dark money spent during the entire 2008 presidential election.
You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Every politician knows that campaign season begins in earnest after Labor Day. If recent history is any guide, there is sure to be an unprecedented last-minute blitz of dark-money spending.
As the Center for Responsive Politics' Robert Maguire notes, almost $7 million had been dropped by Labor Day in 2010. But by the end of that election season, dark-money spending had spiked to $130 million. That trend repeated in 2012: In late August of that year, dark-money spending clocked in at $51 million. Fast forward to Election Day and the total ballooned to more than $300 million.
The chart below illustrates how secret spending could accelerate in the final weeks of an election year. This cycle is not a presidential year, but with the US Senate up for grabs, dark-money spending could surpass the record-setting amount of 2012. "If the rate of spending from previous cycles continues," Maguire writes, "the totals could reach upwards of $730 million or—if the rate seen in the last midterm holds—edge close to $1 billion."
The Casino King Bets Big on Red—Again
Sheldon Adelson, the 81-year-old casino mogul who runs the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is one of the biggest individual political donors in American history. In 2012, he doled out nearly $150 million to candidates, PACs, super-PACs, and dark-money nonprofits. His largesse propped up former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's wounded presidential campaign during the primaries, and Adelson later gave more than any other donor to the super-PAC backing GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Despite a win-loss record in 2012 that would make a rookie craps player blush, Adelson is back at it in 2014. As the Daily Beast's Peter Stone reported, Adelson "is poised to donate close to $100 million this election cycle, with much of that total coming in untraceable 'dark money' to conservative groups." Then again, if you're worth $38 billion, as Adelson is, what's another nine-figure spending spree to put your friends and allies in power?
The Koch Brothers Flood the Airwaves
If you live in a state with a competitive Senate race and you watch TV, there's a good chance you've sat through an ad like the one above. TV viewers around the country have been inundated with political ads and negative messaging this campaign year—and for that, they can largely thank Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialist brothers, and their sprawling network of dark-money groups.
Koch-linked groups ran nearly 44,000 TV ads from January 1, 2013, to August 31, 2014, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Here's another way of looking at that number: 1 out of every 10 TV ads in that 20-month time period came from a group affiliated with the Kochs' political network. These groups include the Koch network's flagship organization, Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, Concerned Veterans for America, the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity and the 60 Plus Association.
Democrats Love Their Dark Money Too
Don't think that the dark-money action is all on the Republican side. Not only do Democrats have their own political sugar daddies—see Tom Steyer, the retired hedge fund investor who's pledged to spend $50 million of his own money this year on congressional races—but pro-Democratic dark-money groups rank among the biggest spenders in this year's contests.
Four of the top 10 dark-money spenders so far in the 2014 midterms are aligned with Democrats and have combined to spend $14 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They are Patriot Majority USA (which paid for the above ad), the League of Conservation Voters, VoteVets.org, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund.
Democratic dark-money groups are as prone to twisting the truth as their GOP-allied counterparts. Patriot Majority, for instance, accused Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican running against Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, of wanting to give himself "taxpayer-funded health care for life." PolitiFactrated that claim a lie. VoteVets.org recently blasted out a fundraising email falsely claiming that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) posed for a photo with ISIS militants.
Craig Varoga, the president of Patriot Majority USA, justified his use of dark money in an October 2012 interview with Campaigns and Elections. "For the time being, it does not matter whether any of us agree or disagree with current campaign finance laws, or court interpretations and FEC rulings on these laws," he said. "This brave new world is here."