Inside the Capitol

Friday, April 18, 2008


FRI. 4-18-08

SANTA FE - Buying votes in New Mexico? Who's ever heard of such a thing? Well, it depends on what sort of votes are being bought, but nearly everyone in the state has heard of such a thing.
Maybe we never have heard much about Republicans buying votes. That's why the charge from former Gov. Dave Cargo and others that Rep. Heather Wilson was buying votes at the Bernalillo County GOP preprimary nominating convention seemed like quite a revelation.
As it turned out, the big news was that the GOP still charges a poll tax and Wilson was paying the fee for some of her supporters for whom that would have been a hardship.
The Republican Party argues that conventions cost money and a charge per delegate is a method of covering those expenses.
The point is valid but the memory of undesirables being turned away from the polls in a previous century because they could not afford the fee to vote is sufficiently strong in some minds to recoil at the thought of having to pay to vote. Later, we learned that Bernalillo wasn't the only county to charge a fee to delegates.
Then came news that 3rd Congressional District Democratic candidate Don Wiviott was paying for people's rooms to come to Rio Rancho to vote for him at the state Democratic preprimary nominating convention.
That sounds a little worse, But not surprising. Democratic candidates have been doing that for years. I would be surprised to hear of Rio Arriba County delegates ever paying for their rooms. Rep. Bill Richardson spent a fortune on that over his 14 years in Congress.
Shocking or not, the financial assistance given to party convention delegates by Wilson, Wiviott and Richardson was not unlawful. Those were party conventions and the parties make the rules.
Now then, dollar bills or pints of whiskey handed out at the polls on election day. That's different. There are laws against that. It still happens but it is subtler, more behind the scenes.
We're now into a brave new world of vote buying. Drunks on street corners no longer are the beneficiaries. Now it's the fat cats in the boardrooms of your local television studios, who rake in money that would embarrass your local wino.
And they don't do much more than the wino to qualify for the largesse. They just happen to be in the right place at the right time. A millionaire politician shows up at the door with a political ad in one hand and a fat checkbook in the other.
The deal is made. All quite legal. No one gets hurt, except the sensibilities of those unwise enough to sit in front of the boob tube for hours. Me? I've already left on an extended cruise of the South Seas. I'll still be able to log on to my favorite newspapers and bloggers. I just don't have to listen to commercials in order to get the news. Come join me. The water's great.
Here's what those of you who don't join me will be seeing. Don Wiviott, from the 3rd congressional District is already on the air. He's vowed to spend a million of his own money on the campaign. More than half will go to television advertising. Senate candidates Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson will be on screen soon. The race will be close. Wilson is behind in the polls, so expect a lot of negative ads.
Ed Tinsley, from the 2nd Congressional District has reportedly purchased $320,000 on Albuquerque TV for May. Aubrey Dunn, Jr. has loaned his campaign $300,000, much of which will go to TV ads.
This isn't going to be easy-listening time, folks. This is the big show. All three congressional seats and one of two senate seats are up for grabs. It is a major opportunity for both parties and they know it. New Mexico has been flagged for major party money and attention. And they're already here.
Apparently, this one didn't send last week.

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