Thursday, September 20, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: BRING ON THE PSAs

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 20, 2007


If you think you’ve been seeing a lot of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish lately, maybe you’re watching too much late-night television.

Denish, like several New Mexico politicians before her, frequently pops up in public service announcements — those noncommercial commercials that television stations run to fulfill their “public service” requirements.

A Denish spokeswoman, Kate Nelson, insists these have nothing to do with the fact the lieutenant governor is running for governor in 2010.

Denish taped a spot about adoption for the state Children Youth and Families Department. There’s one for Insure New Mexico — a task force created by Gov. Bill Richardson and chaired by Denish that has studied ways to increase the number of people with health insurance in the state.

In the past, she has appeared in at least two PSAs for the state Department of Transportation through the New Mexico Broadcasters Association, aimed at discouraging underage drinking, plus another DOT spot aimed at first-time drunken-driving offenders.

Plus, Nelson said, Denish has lent her voice to a few radio spots for various causes, including a recent one plugging an event for an organization concerned with breast cancer.

A few television PSAs are still in the can. Nelson said the state Taxation and Revenue Department asked Denish to tape some spots to inform people about a new driver’s license issuance process that won’t be unveiled until the spring.

All of this face time on television screens might bring back memories of other state officials — former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, former Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, all of whom appeared in PSAs in recent years to plug various programs or causes. Critics charged the officials were using taxpayer money to promote their own careers by building their name recognition — a charge all three vehemently denied.
As does Denish.

“She already has name recognition,” Nelson said. “That’s one reason why these agencies ask her to do these.”

Denish doesn’t accept every invitation to make a public service announcement, Nelson said. “Just the issues she’s personally interested in.”

If PSAs become an issue for Denish in the 2010 race, she won’t be alone. Earlier this year The Albuquerque Tribune reported that Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez — a probable primary opponent for Denish — did the voice-over for a city-produced 30-minute documentary called Shaping the Future: Albuquerque’s Economic Success, which some suggested was a thinly disguised campaign ad. (To which Chávez protested, in the Tribune in July, “I’m not a candidate for anything.”)

Corruption list: The three Republican members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation made a nonprofit organization’s list of what it considers the 22 most corrupt members of Congress.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce were included in the third annual “Beyond DeLay” report by a Washington, D.C., group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

Domenici and Wilson were included for making phone calls to former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias — calls that Iglesias interpreted as pressure to bring corruption charges against a prominent Democrat, former state Sen. Manny Aragon of Albuquerque, before the 2006 election. This allegedly would have helped Wilson in her close re-election contest with Madrid. (Aragon eventually was charged, earlier this year, with several felony counts.) Both Domenici and Wilson repeatedly have denied they tried to pressure Iglesias.

CREW earlier this year filed complaints against Domenici and Wilson over the Iglesias matter.

As for Pearce, CREW alleges the congressman from Southern New Mexico failed to report the 2003 sale of the assets of Lea Fishing Tools Inc., of which he was president, on his financial disclosure statements.

CREW also criticized Pearce for backing a plan to open Southern New Mexico’s Otero Mesa to oil-and-gas drilling while taking more than $78,000 in campaign contributions from the Yates family — which is involved in the oil business and traditionally is a big GOP contributor in the state.

A Pearce spokesman released a statement that said: “They don’t have their facts correct. Rep. Pearce filed an accurate financial disclosure statement and all of Mr. Pearce’s assets and transactions were correctly reported as law required. There has been no violation of the Ethics in Government Act and Mr. Pearce stands by the documents on record. ... It is appalling that a group which claims to promote ethics and accountability would publish outright lies.”

Investigation heating up?: An “independent journalism” Web site called Truthout reported Wednesday that the Senate Ethics committee investigation of Domenici over the Iglesias case is heating up.

“According to some senior staffers working for lawmakers who sit on the Ethics Committee, the six-month preliminary investigation into Domenici has turned up enough evidence to open a formal, public investigation into the New Mexico senator,” the Web site says.

However, Truthout said it’s not clear whether a formal investigation will be filed.

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