Monday, July 28, 2008

Big Red: Ed Pennybacker

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Ed Pennybacker, former local radio and television news reporter died this past week after a long illness. He was 80.

He was the news reporter for KQEO AM radio and KGGM TV, which is now KRQE in the 1960s. Pennybacker then became a consumer watchdog with his “On Your Behalf” segments on KOAT TV in the late 1970s and 80s.

This picture was taken at KOAT in Oct. 1978, as he prepared for one of his consumer reports. He was working with new technology; next to the electric typewriter is a 3/4 U-Matic Video tape cassette that was just starting to replace sound to film.

However, Pennybacker is best remembered amongst journalists and those now old enough to have remembered growing up in the 1960s, attending high school and listening to what was then considered Albuquerque’s premier day-time rock and roll radio station, KQEO, as the ultimate mobile newscaster. He covered the news in town back in the day when KQEO would go off the air every evening at sunset with the playing of the National Anthem. Kids who wanted to continue to listen to rock and roll would switch over to powerful, 50,000 watt KOMA 1520 out of Oklahoma City. 

Those were the days of commercial AM radio; FM was not something you tended to find in automobile radios, it was reserved for non-commercial “classical music” listeners. It was also a time when radio stations broadcast under the old Federal Communications Commission license rules, which included requirements to provide news, public service and entertainment that, according to the Federal Communications Act, “will serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” Unlike today, you got local news coverage by law.

Pennybacker was a glorified ambulance chaser. Don’t get me wrong; he was one of those quintessential newsmen. He could present a story condensed to 20-seconds; a headline and two sentences and you were informed. However, his specialty was fatal automobile accidents.

Pennybacker’s moniker was “Big Red.” He was a barrel-chested man with a stern commentators voice who played a gruff character; serious about his profession. However, when off the air he was also easy going and had a quick smile. At KQEO, he drove an Oldsmobile 442, fully equipped under the hood and loaded with radios and emergency police and fire scanners. It had enough whip antennas mounted on the back of his car to possibly be confused with a tuna trawler. Of course it was red; “Big Red!”

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Some of the old news hounds of the era, who now blog, wrote about Pennybacker. Jim Baca and Joe Monahan share their stories, while former employers, KRQE, and KOAT and the Journal wrote. I also will.

Pennybacker, seen here at the June 1, 2002, opening of the photographic work of then local artist Olivia “OC” Carlisle, right, now of Athens Ga., speaking with my brother, Guy. The three had a common interest in cars and some of Carlisle’s work was of details of racecars. It was the last time I spoke with Pennybacker.

Pennybacker is seen here, sitting on the right side of a table, during a Jan. 29, 1972, press conference. The briefing was after a police shooting of two men, Antonio Cordova and Rito Canales, who were killed by six officers from the: State Police, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s, and Albuquerque Police Departments, on Black Mesa at an Interstate 25 construction site near South Coors. Officials alleged the men were armed while burglarizing a dynamite storage shed. Officers challenged the men, after breaking the lock, then the men turned on the officers, raising weapons. Officers fired on the men killing them.

Pennybacker called me “an angry young man” in 1972. I wore the title proudly. When we spoke thirty years later, I told him the only thing that had changed was I was not so young. When Pennybacker quit running around town in “Big Red,” a journalistic art form moved on as well. When I roamed the streets in the late 1960s and early 70’s for photographic opportunities, if I saw “Big Red” moving quickly, I knew to follow, for he was usually on to a story lead. I never got in the way; his story was broadcast within moments and my pictures would not be published for days.

The 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the New Mexico Air National Guard had 22 F-100s activated and assigned to Tuy Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam, in June of 1968. Pennybacker and fellow New Mexico journalist, Ernie Mills, went to southeast Asia for a couple of weeks and sent film and audio reports back to KOAT and KGGM TV. I recall it to have been compelling coverage, as they got shots from the back seat of the F-100-D model, of formation flights and individual bombing runs. The same airplanes are seen here in a shot I got from a D model of a four-ship formation over the Rio Puerco, near Cabezon Peak in Sandoval County a few years later. What a ride! But I wasn't being shot at. 

Pennybacker was an actor in several locally filmed movies. Parts included: playing a teamster in the 1970 production of "The Cheyenne Social Club" with James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley Jones and Sue Ane Langdon.

"The City," with Anthony Quinn as the first Hispanic mayor of a southwestern city, that looked an awful lot like Albuquerque, was made in 1971 for ABC TV. 

Here, Quinn, playing the role of Mayor Thomas Jefferson Alcala, waits a call for action during filming in a Corrales home. 

If memory serves me, Pennybacker played a newsman, much like himself. The film was a pilot for the ABC series “The Man and The City,” which ran one season.

Pennybacker had third billing in the 1976 “John Baker's Last Race,” His role was the main character’s father, Jack Baker, in the true story of Manzano High School and UNM cross country and track star turned school teacher at Aspen Elementary School. Baker died of cancer. How he dealt with his impending death inspired a generation of Albuquerque school children. At the insistence of the Aspen students, the School Board renamed the northeast heights school, John Baker Elementary.

Pennybacker appeared in an un-credited role in the 1982, Sean Connery CIA thriller, “Wrong Is Right.”

In 2006, he played Dr. Coffee in a true story “Believe in Me.”

His last movie role was as a train conductor in the soon to be released “Appaloosa.” He continued to write.

Pennybacker lived in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque where he had been a Trustee. He also was involved with horses and assisted the New Mexico Horse Council and its publication, “The Horsemen's Voice,” which was published by his wife, Sallie Pennybacker, for many years before she retired.

Former KOAT TV news reporter Rodger Beimer remembered one of Pemmybacker’s trademark sign offs, “Reporting live for the grand opening of the Red Lobster at the corner of San Pedro and Montgomery; this is Ed Pennybacker in Big Red.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keep Your Hands Off!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is a physical guy.

He’s touchy-feely, he backslaps, he bear hugs, and he’ll even bonk people in the head.

However, he only seems to do it to people who are smaller than he is. Of course that’s most people, because he’s a big guy.

Its caused him some trouble before. "I think it's irritating and annoying," Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said in a Dec. 17, 2005, Journal article. In a March 9, 2007, Journal article she explained about Richardson's touching as an annoyance, but not inappropriate. Above, he gives Denish a hug at a 2006 Patricia Madrid campaign event.

It seems he has a need to feed his ego by forcing himself on people.

Sometimes he knows better, like these women from Alamogordo with whom he posed to have their picture taken at the recent Democratic Four Governors fund raiser.

In the schoolyard, a guy like that is called a bully.

It appears Richardson attempts to intimidate people, as he walked into KLUZ Univision TV 41's Jim Morrison. Richardson usually does it with a smile, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy.

His staff make excuses for his physical contact.

“Governor Bill Richardson Announces Aug. 15 Special Session Date,” according to a July 21, press release.

The release from Press Secretary Gilbert Gallegos, left, noted, “We are ready to move forward with health care reform and cover more New Mexicans,” Governor Richardson said. “There is adequate room in the budget to get this done now. We can’t afford not to act.”

Richardson has called a special session of the Legislature to address issues that he could not get passed during the last regular session. Particularly, returning some taxes based on $400 million of oil and gas revenues and for universal health care.

It is within the exclusive purview of the Governor to call a special session. However, in calling the Legislature back to Santa Fe, he is interfering with a more important process – a free and open election.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Of the current 112 Legislators, some seen here during the opening of the 2007, 60-day session, 55 have no general election opponents. That means 57 Legislators are running campaigns to retain their seats.

State law prohibits Legislators from raising money during a session.
1-19-34.1. Legislative session fundraising prohibition.

A. It is unlawful during the prohibited period for a state legislator or a candidate for state legislator, or any agent on behalf of either, to knowingly solicit a contribution for a political purpose. For purposes of this subsection, "prohibited period" means that period beginning January 1 prior to any regular session of the legislature or, in the case of a special session, after the proclamation has been issued, and ending on adjournment of the regular or special session.

B. It is unlawful during the prohibited period for the governor, or any agent on his behalf, to knowingly solicit a contribution for a political purpose. For purposes of this subsection, "prohibited period" means that period beginning January 1 prior to any regular session of the legislature or, in the case of a special session, after the proclamation has been issued, and ending on the twentieth day following the adjournment of the regular or special session.

So what does this mean?

It effectively brings a halt to political campaigning for the State Legislature. It doesn’t just apply to the legislators, but also to those running against incumbents.

“No soliciting contributions for a political purpose,” does not only mean financial contributions, but may also be interpreted as soliciting contributions of ones vote through advertising, sending out mailers or distributing yard signs.

It also means that the Governor is prohibited from campaigning or supporting any candidate for the State Legislature.

My Take

I doubt Richardson gave the ramifications of the Legislative session fundraising prohibition any consideration at all. But if he did, isn’t it one of the wickedest political maneuvers you’ve ever seen?

Consider that Richardson now has all the Legislators at his call, unable to campaign for their upcoming election, from the day he formally announced the session, July 21, until they adjourn. Does this sound like blackmail or just political manipulation? – Do my work and you can get back to campaigning.

House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, left, told the Associated Press that he expected the session to last seven to 10 days.

Richardson has an additional problem in that the law prohibits him, specifically making it, “…unlawful during the prohibited period for the governor, …to knowingly solicit a contribution for a political purpose.” That would be any political purpose, including retiring his presidential debt. He also has an additional 20-days tacked on to his probation; the time he is allowed to act on any legislation that might be passed. Even if the Legislature were to adjourn without passing anything, the Governor would still have to wait 20-days before resuming contributions for a political purpose. The prohibition covers the dates of the Democratic National Convention. Richardson is probably considered a big draw in Denver.

Attorney General Gary King, left, rendered an opinion on February 7, 2007, that concluded: "Based on the doctrine of Federal Preemption, the prohibitions in the State Campaign Reporting Act and State Lobbyist Regulation Act do not regulate contributions to candidates for federal office."

However, the opinion is only advisory and does not address the Governor's non federal office activities in which he would still be prohibited from being involved.

Now I doubt that it was anyone’s intent to have this law interfere with free elections, but that is exactly what it has done. The statute makes sense during a regular session, far from the election cycle, but after the campaign season formally begins, by law, there is a conflict that has developed.

Meant as a piece of ethics reform, it now disrupts the fundamental concept of our democratic society.

What should take precedence? Holding a non-emergency special session or not disrupting the elections by delaying the special session until after the election.

My two cents worth; there is nothing on the Governor’s call that can’t wait for the 60-day regular session, set to begin less than six months from now. Waiting until after the election would allow lame duck legislators to act after some have possibly lost reelection.

The First Amendment right to campaign freely for office should not be disrupted by the call for a special session and the attendant prohibition against fund raising.

Some of what is on the Governor’s call is purely political, specifically a tax rebate or refund. The excess Richardson proposes returning will still be there mid January. There are some things the Governor should not have his hands all over.

Just give us our money,” wrote Dan Foley, right, on Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics’ blogspot and repeated on the New Mexico Independent’s site. Foley is one of those not returning to the Legislature, having been defeated in the primary. He might like another shot at getting a rebate or refund before giving up his seat.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Trouble in Lobo Land. It’s “NOT” Irrelevant

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Lobos cast in bronze adorn the University of New Mexico’s main campus. Officially, it’s Canis lupus baileyi or Mexican Gray Wolf, also known as el Lobo. It’s on the endangered species list and is being reintroduced to the wild in parts of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Lobo is UNM’s mascot. Some, mostly ranchers, do not welcome the reintroduction of Lobos out of fear of the wolf and they perpetuate the old “Big Bad Wolf” myths. The wolf does endanger livestock and several have been found shot to death by those who simply take matters into their own hands, skirting any efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to mitigate their damage.

This week, my associate, political blogger Joe Monahan, left, was contacted by one of his alligator sources with a tip that Republican Congressional District One candidate Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, right, was participating in a fund raiser billed as "An Evening With Coach Alford;" that’s UNM Lobo Head Basketball Coach Steve Alford.

The event, scheduled for July 16, is to be hosted by UNM Lobbyist Joe Thompson. Two of the sponsors are UNM Regents Don Chalmers and Jack Fortner. The main draw was participants could have their photo taken with the coach for a $1,000 contribution.

After Monahan’s initial Tuesday post, the Alford situation got a lot of air-time on talk radio KKOB-AM, a report by KOB TV Eyewitness News’ Stuart Dyson and other bloggers commenting on the issue.

“’We felt like the coach would be a good draw, and he had already agreed to do other events, and he could turn around and say no,’ said Darren White,” KOB reported.

Monahan wrote that Alford’s boss, UNM Athletics Vice President Paul Krebs, said he and Alford were unaware of the coach’s anticipated role in fundraising.

White’s campaign defended the Alford affair, pointing out that he had attended other political events for Democrats: Gov. Bill Richardson’s Presidential bid and Second Congressional District nominee Harry Teague’s campaign. However, Alford’s attendance was not in the starring role, he simply showed up unadvertised.

The Albuquerque Journal teased their story on the Wednesday night 10 PM KOAT TV‘s Action 7 News segment “tomorrow’s headline tonight,” about what Alford planned to do.

Monahan’s Thursday blog noted that Alford, as a private citizen, may support anyone he wants.

“Krebs said he didn’t know the coach would be the main attraction,” was stated in an article entitled, “Flagrant Foul?” written by Journal Political Writer Jeff Jones and Sports Writer Mark Smith.

“I wouldn’t know Darren White if he walked in front of me,” Alford said. “It got falsely advertised. I was just stopping by,” according to the story.

Krebs told the Journal, “he had asked Alford to attend the fundraiser but said he didn’t know his coach would be the main draw.”

“A fundraiser is a fundraiser. Whether you’re doing photos or shaking hands, it’s irrelevant,” White told the Journal. He was equating Alford’s appearance at a Richardson event last year and a Teague event in May, with his headliner event.

In a special Friday posting, Monahan wrote that Alford told sportsmeister Scott Stiegler of 770 KKOB-AM, "as a man of his word," that he would attend the White fundraiser, but not allow his photo to be sold.

The Journal’s Jones reported, “UNM regents President Jamie Koch, a major Democratic player and fundraiser, said having a UNM employee headlining a fundraiser sponsored by regents left a bad impression — and said he planned to introduce a resolution to stop such practices.”


There are several issues raised by this series of events:

What’s the role of the head basketball coach in using his title by attending and drawing people to a partisan political event?

Why does the Coach go where his boss, a university vice president, tells him to go for political purposes?

Why is the Sheriff inviting a high profile public servant to act as a draw for political financing?

Is there a need for the President of the Regents to write a new policy on handling employee conduct in political events?

For all the noise that has been made, it seems no one started where they should, at the beginning.

What does the university policy say? Of course there are policies; they’re contained in the University of New Mexico Board of Regents’ Policy Manual and the University Business Policies and Procedures Manual. They apply to all employees and even the regents.

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents’ Policy Manual.
The relevant language reads in part:
Employees of the University shall maintain the highest standards of business ethics in transactions with the University, with state, federal, and local governments, and with the public. Employees are expected to perform their duties faithfully and efficiently and never give rise to suspicion of improper conflict with interests of the University. Employees shall not accept favors or gratuities from any firm, person, or corporation that is engaged in, or attempting to engage in, business transactions with the University. Subject to specific University administrative policies, employees must avoid any conflict of interest that may affect their independent judgment in the impartial performance of their duties and may not use their positions to enhance their direct or indirect financial interest or use confidential information learned as employees for anyone's private gain. All employees shall comply with state conflict of interest laws as well as University policies.
The University Business Policies and Procedures Manual’s Employee Code of Conduct and Conflicts of Interest reads:
Employees of the University shall maintain the highest standards of business ethics in transactions with the University, with state, federal, and local governments, and with the public. Employees are expected to perform their duties faithfully and efficiently and never to give rise to suspicion of improper conflict with interests of the University. Subject to specific University administrative policies, employees must avoid any conflict of interest that may affect their independent judgment in the impartial performance of their duties and may not use their positions to enhance their direct or indirect financial interest or use confidential information learned as employees for anyone's private gain.
The magic little language is, “All employees shall comply with state conflict of interest laws…”

Let’s look at the State law. There are two sections of importance under Chapter 10, Article 16, known as the "Governmental Conduct Act."

This particular law specifically covers the UNM regents, vice president of athletics, head basketball coach and the county sheriff.

10-16-3. Ethical principles of public service; certain official acts prohibited; penalty.

A. A legislator, public officer or employee shall treat the legislator's, public officer's or employee's government position as a public trust. The legislator, public officer or employee shall use the powers and resources of public office only to advance the public interest and not to obtain personal benefits or pursue private interests incompatible with the public interest.

B. Legislators, public officers and employees shall conduct themselves in a manner that justifies the confidence placed in them by the people, at all times maintaining the integrity and discharging ethically the high responsibilities of public service.

C. Full disclosure of real or potential conflicts of interest shall be a guiding principle for determining appropriate conduct. At all times, reasonable efforts shall be made to avoid undue influence and abuse of office in public service.

D. No legislator, public officer or employee may request or receive, and no person may offer a legislator, public officer or employee, any money, thing of value or promise thereof that is conditioned upon or given in exchange for promised performance of an official act. Any person who knowingly and willfully violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a fourth degree felony and shall be sentenced pursuant to the provisions of Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978.
10-16-3.1. Prohibited political activities.

Public officers and employees are prohibited from:

A. directly or indirectly coercing or attempting to coerce a state officer or employee to pay, lend or contribute anything of value to a party, committee, organization, agency or person for a political purpose;

B. threatening to deny a promotion or pay increase to an employee who does or does not vote for certain candidates, requiring an employee to contribute a percentage of the employee's pay to a political fund, influencing a subordinate employee to purchase a ticket to a political fundraising dinner or similar event, advising an employee to take part in political activity or similar activities; or

C. violating the officer's or employee's duty to not use state property, or allow its use, for other than authorized purposes.
So what’s wrong with this picture?

Any citizen has a First Amendment right to speech, free association and to petition government for a redress of grievances. I don’t suggest that any of the players here are not permitted to exercise their Constitutional rights. I would be the first to yell foul should someone try to restrain them. However, that’s not what going on here. The regents, vice president, coach and the sheriff each hold a public title and by law may not trade on those titles. If each drops the mantle of their state authority, by title, then who cares what they do in voicing their support in the political field? To retain their title is to drag the university and the state illegally into the politics.

Regents Chalmers and Fortner, trading on their titles, are hosting the event at the home of University Lobbyist Thompson.

The event is advertised as an evening with Coach Alford to benefit Darren White. The word coach has value, $1,000 per photo, as used in the law.

Alford says his boss told him to go to political events; this one and others.

Krebs admits to telling Alford to attend the political event, in what appears to be a direct conflict with the prohibition against, “advising an employee to take part in political activity or similar activities.”

White’s campaign admitted it had received donations of $1,000 from a number of supporters to have their pictures taken with Alford.

My Take

I have an associate who argues that none of this matters. That no one will do anything. That it’s a dead story. That it’s irrelevant.

“Here's the latest -- and dare we say, hopefully last -- chapter in the saga of UNM basketball coach Steve Alford's attendance of a fundraiser for 1st Congressional District GOP Candidate Darren White,” wrote Tripp Jennings of the New Mexico Independent.

I see it a little differently. It’s not irrelevant. Nor should it be the last chapter. If no one does anything, then this becomes a toehold for corrupted acts.

We can’t un-ring the bell. Alford says he’s a man of his word. However, I believe he has a duty to “his word” that belongs first to the people of the state, as written in our laws. He’s taking almost a million dollars a year in salary from us. He knows there are rules. By taking the job, he and all the rest of the players agreed to play fair, to follow the law. None of these guys have.

There often is no bright line in ethics situations. In this case it flashes.

When reading the above laws, each paragraph is a violation in and of itself.

Some might want to misread some things in the statute, like “…thing of value or promise thereof that is conditioned upon or given in exchange for promised performance of an official act.” This is commonly known as the quid pro quo, “What for what; something for something,” according to Black’s law dictionary. What is the return from White you might ask? He is running to be a United States Congressman.

Federal government appropriations in the fiscal year 2008-09 total operating and capital budget plans for UNM are $29,080,735. The figure represents only 1.4 percent of the total budget.

Krebs told Alford to attend as a matter of networking. One doesn’t need a codebook to know what that means; play nice, "...benefit Darren White" so we have a friend in the possible next congressman who will grant us access and talk with us.

It might be appropriate to reevaluate Alford’s visits, as coach, to the earlier Democratic fund-raisers.

The old cop in me says there is sufficient information to call out the proper authority to investigate these events, the Sheriff.

Oh wait; he’s the guy who started this whole mess.

It’s not irrelevant. The Sheriff is required to know the law.