Thursday, July 13, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: DO NOT SUSPECT THAT THESE ARE CAMPAIGN ADS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 13, 2006


Be Afraid.

That’s in big red letters on a four-page mailer from the state Attorney General’s Office that many New Mexicans have found in their mailboxes in recent days.

The topic of the mailer is Internet sexual predators. But state Republicans are afraid the slick, full-color publication “appears to be campaign literature” — tax-funded campaign literature — for Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who is running for Congress against Republican incumbent Heather Wilson.

The complaint sounds similar to one that Democratic land-commissioner candidate Jim Baca has been voicing in recent weeks about the official Web site of the State Land Office, currently run by Republican Pat Lyons.

“I feel the land office Web site is nothing more than a campaign Web site for Lyons,” Baca wrote in a recent e-mail. “I object to taxpayer financed funding of his campaign.”

Aggressive action: When you look at Madrid’s mailer, the message spanning the top of the pages is: “Online predators are exploiting our children. ... Attorney General Patricia Madrid is taking action to keep New Mexico’s children safe.”

On the left page is a picture of three children gathered at a computer keyboard. There’s an excerpt from a January Albuquerque Tribune editorial saying, “State Attorney General Patricia Madrid has taken a much-needed, aggressive stance in targeting Internet sexual predators who target children.”

On the opposite page, following a statement that one in every five children has received unwanted sexual solicitations online, the mailer lists ways in which Madrid “is taking aggressive action to stop these predators from hurting our children.” It mentions the task force created to investigate Internet crimes against children, and the New Mexico Cyber Safety Line.

At the bottom of the page is a message encouraging parents to order or download a copy of a publication — “N.M. Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s Internet Safety Guide for Parents and Teens” — by visiting http://www.ago.state.nm.us or calling (505) 222-9000. "

On the back is a color photo of Madrid, who asks parents to join her in the fight against online predators.

Sam Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, denied the mailer had anything to do with Madrid’s congressional race. The main reason for the mailer was to let people know about the Internet Safety Guide, she said.

She said the mailer — which cost $111,000 to print and mail — was paid for out of a settlement fund from a class-action suit with Microsoft. It was sent to New Mexico homes statewide — not just in congressional District One — Thompson noted. The mailing list was purchased from a commercial source, she said.

More than 70,000 copies of the Internet Safety Guide have been distributed around the state, Thompson said.

Modern times: The Land Office Web site that evoked Baca’s ire, , consists almost entirely of glowing “news” stories about Lyons.

“Land Commissioner Pat Lyons Spent $5 Million to Expand Land Management Programs/Staff” is the top-page headline. Others include “Land Commissioner Brings Biggest Solar Energy Plant in the World to New Mexico” and “Commissioner Lyons and BLM Join Forces to Open 15,000 Acres of Public Land.”

Lyon’s photo is on the top of the page. He also is shown receiving “a warm welcome” from a Bureau of Land Management official and showing reporters the location of a proposed wind farm.

“That’s ridiculous,” State Land Office spokeswoman Kristen Haase said about the suggestion the Web site looked like campaign literature.

“When Jim Baca was land commissioner, the Internet didn’t exist,” Haase said. “But now it’s modern times, and as with every other elected official, Commissioner Lyons has a Web site to highlight his accomplishments and his agenda.”

Earlier this year, Baca called attention to several television spots that featured Lyons talking about various State Land Office programs. The office paid to produce the ads and to buy time for them on New Mexico television stations.

Bet early and often: I don’t know whether the Internet Safety Guide covers online-gambling sites. But it’s been about a year since Roundhouse Round-up checked to see how our governor’s presidential chances are doing in the world of computer sports book sites.

As of Tuesday night, according to the Canada-based SportsInteraction.com, Gov. Bill Richardson and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner are in a tie for second place behind New York Sen. Hillary Clinton on the Democrat side. Clinton’s odds to get the Democratic nomination are 1.72 to one, according to the Web site. Richardson’s and Warner’s are 5 to 1. Former North Carolina senator and vice presidential nominee John Edwards is right behind the governors with 6 to 1 odds.

On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain is a 3-to-1 favorite for getting the GOP nomination. Next is Virginia Sen. George Allen (4-to-1) followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani (5 to 1).

But when the question is "Who will be the next president?," Clinton is the favorite with 2.2 to 1 odds. Next is McCain (5 to 1), followed by Guiliani and Allen (both 7 to 1), and tied for fifth, Richardson and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. (both 15 to 1).

UPDATE: This story ran an incorrect phone number for the AG's internet safety hotline. It has been corrected here. My apology.

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