Sunday, August 20, 2006

As the Mud and Fur Fly…

What's wrong with this picture?

This picture is from a piece of literature New Mexico’s Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid mailed out last week.

It is the second piece I have received in the past month. These two documents come with a return address of the Attorney General’s office, but they seem oddly out of place and suspiciously timed.

They are the first such documents I recall ever seeing from the Attorney General in more than seven and a half years that Madrid has been in office.

Questions are raised as to whether this is properly the Attorney General’s office presenting educational material at the same time there is an election campaign or is it campaign material masquerading as AG educational information. Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican gives a good accounting on August 12, 2006.

Madrid is not the only one who plays fast and loose with “public documents official business.” Congresswoman Heather Wilson has for years sent out flyers that include questionnaires, surveys and applications for war medals and the like under congressional franking privileges.

Both the AG’s and Congresswoman’s documents appear to be name recognition or on-going campaign material, though neither ever says, “vote for me.” Their names and images repeatedly appear.

It seems that some individual politicians, who now hold office, put themselves ahead of their oath. Instead of looking at their job as the “Office” they happen to hold; they rather see “Themselves” holding the office. It is not a difference without a distinction. The ego that compels politicians to run for office sometimes may overwhelm their obligation to uphold the public trust.

We are not a monarchy. The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Democratic Land Commissioner candidate Jim Baca recently complained about the incumbent using the office’s website as his own public relations tool.

It is the nature of politics that incumbent office holders get to take credit for the successes in pushing their agenda, but they also must shoulder any failures; either actual or just those that are perceived as political differences, as well.

Come election time, it is up to the electorate to determine whether or not an incumbent has lived up to the public’s expectations or whether the challenger’s promises are better suited. In an open race, the most popular candidate will take the day, whether qualified or not.

The use of taxpayer money to advance an agenda is exactly what is expected and required of our political officers and an accurate accounting is what the public record is all about. The public recognizes that it is human nature that there will be a certain amount of bragging. However, as the great St. Louis Cardinals baseball pitcher turned radio-television color commentator Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean said, "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up."

Yet, there comes a time when taking personal possession of the public infrastructure crosses an ethical line. In the last year, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron made several TV commercials to advise of changes to voter registration requirements. At the end of these “public service” announcements, she stated that you could go to “her” website rather than “the Secretary of State’s office website.” Nitpicking? It may be….

So, what's wrong with these pictures?

Madrid’s picture in the $61,000 publicly funded methamphetamine “informational” flier shows her in the same outfit, down to the same earrings that she wore on one of her recent TV campaign commercials.

One of the things that a political strategist will instruct his candidate to do is to make the image familiar. Madrid has two ways of displaying this strategy; the wardrobe and the tough stance with her arms folded.

The question is, did she use a photograph taken during her campaign session in the “official” AG taxpayers funded piece or vice-versa? Either way, it’s unethical; but to whom does one complain? Maybe the Attorney General, but I wouldn’t expect a prompt answer from Madrid.

As for Wilson, her franked “public documents official business” messages use the same photograph of her as her contribution paid mailers do.

With all the mudslinging, is it possible to actually believe everything that these two campaigns charge of their opponents? Might we, the voters, hear a debate of issues of what the candidates will do, rather than what their opponents allegedly did or didn’t do?

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