Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scarantino, Say What?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Jim Scarantino, above, on his new site New Mexico Watchdog, apparently did some research into the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 and wrote, “Lt. Governor Diane Denish used $225,000 in federal funds to pay for a driver to shuttle her to meetings and press events, a contractor to take Christmas pictures and write Christmas cards, a lawyer to make hotel reservations, opinion polling and public relations services.”

The money, $64 million, from Congress, in New Mexico, went directly to the State Executive and was to be used for a couple of specific purposes: essential government services, and to cover unfunded mandates. It appears, on its face, this report is not looking at expenses covering unfunded mandates.

Governor Bill Richardson forwarded some money to Denish which she spent.

In his last paragraph of the post, Scarantino suggests the use of the money exceeds Denish's lawful authority, yet without expressing an accusation of any actual wrongdoing.
Under the New Mexico State Constitution, the only powers and duties given to the Lt. Governor are to serve as president of the State Senate, cast a vote in cases of a tie and to succeed to the office of Governor in the case of death, incapacity or removal. Unlike other executive officers, the state constitution does not even require the Lt. Governor to keep public records, books, papers or seals of public office.
On November 5, 2009, Scarantino posted, “Albuquerque Journal Confirms My Reporting on Denish,” in which he wrote:
I note the Journal’s reporters did not comment on my findings that Denish used federal funds to hire someone to pick her up at airports, drive her to meetings and get things from her house. Denish has not denied spending federal stimulus money on paying for a driver. Perhaps that is why the Journal did not raise that point.
Scarantino posted another piece, “Investigate Denish?” He reported several Republicans called for an investigation, including GOP Gubernatorial candidates, former State GOP Chairman Alan Weh, above left, and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, above right. Scarantino wrote:
…We merely reported on what Denish did with the money once it was under her control. We reported what is recorded in the time sheets and other documents we inspected. Period.

We express no opinion on the legalities of what happened with the money. We report only the facts as best we know them. That’s what this site is for. We look to see what’s being done with the taxpayers’ money. We take the time to dig through lots of tedious paperwork and then share what we have learned. As to what we say in our reports, whether we say this or that, the answer is in the reports themselves. If it’s not there, we didn’t say it.
Then in his last paragraph Scarantino wrote:
And the story is not New Mexico Watchdog. The story is how the public’s money is being spent, or misspent. Period.
And there it lies, “misspent,” the allegation of wrongdoing. So Scarantino is not merely reporting, nor is he "not expressing an opinion on the legalities"; he does.

Several of my fellow bloggers took apart Scarantino’s efforts. Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics posted, “Denish stimulus spending: What’s the big deal?”

It’s a must read. Former Congresswoman Wilson and Scarantino wrote comments adding to the veiled accusations that Wilson and Scarantino make. The use of the money was, in their opinion, improper.

A Government Accounting Office spot check revealed no problems with the manner in which the discretionary money was spent.

The State's Legislative Council determined that the federal money was not subject to Legislative oversight and lawmakers did not push the issue that Scarantino suggested should have been dealt with through the budgetary process.

Scarantino's review, six years later, raises questions of political motivation, as we enter the campaign year.

Wilson attempts to take the high ground by rightly claiming, she originally controlled the money through the Congress that went to the states under a post 9-11 stimulus package. She now wants to tweak what the legislation was supposed to mean, rather than how it was actually implemented.

If Scarantino does not allege any illegality, then what is he complaining about? Is it a political philosophical difference over what he defines as essential government services? Is he trying to get the electorate to agree with him that the expenditures were, as he put it, "misspent?"

Scarantino and Wilson don't say it, but what is implicit in every partisan statement is drawing distinctions between the parties. What is meant is, if our party were in control of the money, we would have defined "essential government services" differently, than paying for a driver, contracting taking s Christmas picture and writing the Christmas card's message, having someone who also happens to be a lawyer make hotel reservations, conduct opinion polling and contract out public relations services.

Mario Burgos on his site, Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain, wrote about his definition of essential government services.

Scarantino is not acting so much as a journalistic watchdog, but as a lawyer advancing an argument. An argument making a judgment that the discretionary spending was somehow improper without saying so. It is the difference inherent in the partisan political atmosphere in which we currently live.

Reverse the political roles and there is a fair chance that similar charges could be leveled.

Scarantino provides all theses nice little facts. So what? They don't mean anything legally.

There is a strategy called the, "so what defense." The defense starts with accusations of improper behavior. The accused, admits to each act in the accusation, yet claims none of the acts amounts to any wrongdoing.

There is an old lawyers' axiom about law and evidence. It goes something like this:
If the law is against you, pound the evidence,

If the evidence is against you, pound the law,

If the law and evidence are against you, pound the table.
Hope you didn’t hurt your hand Jim.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Denish needs staff support when she travels around the state as much as she does when she’s in her office. She is entitled to nothing less. To suggest otherwise diminishes the importance of the office. Here is then Denish Spokeswoman Danielle Montoya, left, driving the Lt. Gov. the day before the 2008 general election.

Scarantino called an earlier driver for Denish a chauffer. Some think that the term chauffer indicates elitism and would convey a luxury.

Richardson, talking with members of the press after signing a bill protecting firefighters from on the job exposures to hazardous materials or toxic waste, on April 4, 2009, always travels with an entourage. His party is made up of at least a couple of staffers, usually one or more policy specialists who are expert on the topic germane to the event, and a public information officer or two. At this event he had two Communications Staff Aides, Alarie Ray-Garcia, blond woman in dark jacket, and Caitlin Kelleher, blond woman in light jacket. He is also accompanied by State Police Executive Security Detail officers/driver, background. You'll meet her again later.

Denish has routinely traveled around the state alone. A few years ago, several years after the Scarantino’s reported incidents; the legislature appropriated money and ordered that State Police Security be provided for the Lt. Gov.

In 2008 the Associated Press’ Reporter Deborah Baker wrote:
SANTA FE— Lawmakers put money in the budget last year for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish to have security, with the intent that she spend it on State Police.
I wrote about the need for Denish to have State Police Security in “Talk About Pork.” She should have then had a State Police driver. The fact she used temporary contract employees to drive her, certainly cannot be considered inappropriate.

Denish still only has State Police Security when she is acting Governor, when being out of state incapacitates Richardson and when specifically requested.

My Take

On Election Day, I went to my regular polling place and was approached by two women who were collecting signatures for a petition to get Diane Denish’s name on the Democratic Primary ballot. I responded, I wasn’t a registered Democrat.

After voting, I ran into the Lieutenant Governor at the front door. She had accompanied her daughter, who recently moved into the neighborhood, to vote.

However, her daughter lives in an adjacent precinct and Denish had to take her to the local school to cast her ballot.

Denish, left, with her husband, Herb, right, was checking with volunteers when the petition gatherer said that she had asked me to sign, but I hadn’t.

“Oh, Mark’s an Independent, I think,” Denish said.

I am very Independent; I am not “blindly loyal” to any party or ideologue. I like candidates with whom I have similar thoughts. I happen to be registered as a Republican.

I have, am capable of, and routinely do, hold and keep in my mind multiple divergent thoughts that don’t always align in any way.

Some Progressive and Democratic political bloggers have enjoyed using their dictionaries and thesaurus to avoid repeating the clear, concise and accurate use of my words.

Instead of using the word "reported" to describe my coverage of State Sen. Tim Eichenberg's statement, The New Mexico Independent's Danielle Bauer wrote I was "claiming," Eichenberg, strongly believes Denish can’t win, while Democracy for New Mexico's Barbara Wold stated, that I "described a purported conversation...." Their words denoted skepticism on my reporting or disbelief that Eichenberg was accurately quoted.

It got worse when my blogging buddy KKOB AM 770 Radio News’ Chief Political Correspondent Peter St. Cyr, above, who posts What's the Word, is also writing for Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics, Albuquerque the Magazine and occasionally for New Mexico Independent, interviewed Denish on KNME’s weekly current affairs program, “In Focus.”

St. Cyr asked about, a lot of people, even members of her own Party, including Tim Eichenberg, who last week had criticized her for not standing up and doing more. "Are you supposed to do more than the U.S. Attorney?"

Denish answered:
Well, let me just say, I don’t pay too much attention to comments made at a Republican gathering, one of the Republican candidates for governor, by a blogger who has been hired by that person to cover their events. I’ve spoken with Senator Eichenberg. He assures me that I have his 100 percent support and we’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve worked on many issues. I’m not concerned about those kind of silly things that happen at Republican meetings.
Denish dismissed Eichenberg on the one hand, "I don’t pay too much attention to comments made at a Republican gathering..." without asking the obvious Democratic Party's question, "What the Hell was Eichenberg doing making comments at a Republican gathering???" She then rehabilitated him as a loyal supporter without ever touching Eichenberg's question of whether she was complacent or complicit with the ‘pay-to-play’ atmosphere?

Denish did not deny or refute Eichenberg’s quote.

And then Denish dismissed me by stating what she believes, rather than what she knows.

Though she didn't name me, I'm her "blogger" who reported the comments made at a Republican gathering that she doesn’t pay too much attention to.

If Denish took my reporting as a personal attack from me on her, she'd be wrong.

I might have not have explained fully what I have done and Denish may have mistakenly decided for herself what I said through this earlier disclosure:
I have previously disclosed that I have provided photographic, video and political consultation to Representative Janice Arnold-Jones. She recently announced her run for the Republican Party nomination for Governor and I helped. You will find my photographs on her campaign website. My video services are also used.

My blogging colleague Ched MacQuigg of Diogenes'Six has teamed up with me and has been running my camera on our collaborative efforts to document the Legislature and provide video documentation for Arnold-Jones’ website.

When she asked if I would help, she was concerned that it might create an ethical problem for me. I told her, I would take care of it.

So this is my notice to my readers: I am a journalist, I am a commercial photographer for hire, I also happen to be politically active. Early on I knew I would be supporting Janice Arnold-Jones for whatever office she sought, and in spite of my best efforts to approach the craft of journalism impartially, I don’t want you to think I am not without a bias.

I will strive to keep my bias in check, if I don’t, you are at least aware it exists. I trust you, my readers to be able to work through the issues. Arnold-Jones and I don’t always agree on everything, so don’t jump to too many conclusions either.

If anybody has a problem with how I’ve approached this, we can talk about it.
Followed by my most recent notice:
(Disclosure: I am providing photographic services for Arnold-Jones.)

Denish and others take my disclosure statement as if I was hired by Janice Arnold-Jones. I can and have provided services without being hired. I can understand how one might get that wrong.

I am not hired at all; I provide services. Denish reads that as being hired, it is not. I have been paid for one picture, three years ago. I have allowed Arnold-Jones access to my photojournalistic archives for use in her campaign. I might do a formal campaign portrait, but haven't yet. I will probably have to either produce a bill or in kind statement. There has been no discussion about any payment.

Many people make a huge mistake in deciding that someone can buy my loyalty. It's not for sale. One may gain my loyalty, just like you may gain my respect.

In consulting, I analyze, not strategize. I don't take payment because I'll post my analysis here for free. Even I would be wary of my political advice. Use my pictures? Yes. Take my advice; that could be iffy.

I'll do business with politicians. They don't have to be of a particular political persuasion. The most recent such deal was with City Councillor Michael Cadigan, a Democrat, above, who requested use of his picture. I complied, but he chose not to use my work during his campaign. I don’t know if he didn’t like the picture or didn’t like the price.

Denish could have asked me for the same deal and because it is not for negative campaigning, I'm open for business... Denish has decided to use some other photographer with a much different style.

Just because I do business with a politician regarding my photographs does not mean I have abandoned my journalistic ethics.

I disclose so my readers may make up their own minds about how to read or view me. I wish more of my colleagues would do the same. I am a trained journalist having completed the Journalism track at UNM and hold a Masters Degree in Public Administration, specializing in public personnel management. My under graduate degree was in University Studies with a concentration in legal studies.

It may be easy for Denish to attempt to dismiss my work because it can be labeled a "blog" and because many blogs are not produced at the same level of serious journalistic standards,

The medium is not, in this case, the message. It is a blank space to be filled by its creator with whatever quality of work they desire. The medium does not define the work; the work does.

When I sat in the room as a member of a nonpartisan group, I was always a journalist. When Senator Eichenberg, above, spoke openly, I reported, not for political purposes, but for the news value.

If what Eichenberg said had not been considered news by other bloggers and ultimately the Albuquerque Journal and USA Today on-line, it wouldn't have been picked up and reprinted as many times as it was.

It wasn't news because I wrote it; it was news because Eichenberg had split with his Party's presumptive next governor and publicly said it.

An extremely well respected former senior state Democratic Party leader told me that what Eichenberg said, “…was only repeating what a lot of moderate Democrats are saying in private conversations all over the state.”

On Saturday, June 29, 2009, a national Associated Press story wrote, “Unlike SC's Sanford, most governors easy to find,” and they spot-checked the whereabouts of a number of governors around the country.

The story followed up on Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s disappearance and return from visiting his purported Argentinean mistress María Belén Chapur.

The AP researched the location of 40 Governors throughout the country. New Mexico was not listed in the story.

However, NOLA.com, an online product of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans filled in the blanks.

Because our own Gov. Bill Richardson has a history of playing hide and seek and has been known to flee the state without so much as informing Lt. Gov. Diane Denish of his absence, as he did early on in his first term, I pay attention to what is going on.

As I drove past my neighbor’s house and noticed a New Mexico State Police officer with her assigned unmarked police unit in front of Denish’s home. It signaled to me that Richardson must be out of state and Denish was acting as governor.

I forwarded the picture to my blogging colleague Peter St. Cyr with the recommendation to localize the AP story with the New Mexico angle on his blog, “What’s the Word?” He posted, “Where's Governor Richardson? Not Hiking Naked...”

The published picture upset both the offices of Richardson and Denish.

The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Gilbert Gallegos, above, standing behind Denish, Richardson and Chief of Staff Brian Condit, at the Dec. 4, 2008, Capitol press conference discussing the anticipated transition when Richardson was nominated him to become Secretary of the Department of Commerce by President Obama. Richardson withdrew his name from nomination Jan. 4, 2009.

It was irresponsible of you to publish
 the details, including photos of an undercover police vehicle and
 security agent assigned to the Lt. Governor -- for no other reason than
 to satisfy a voyeuristic desire to inform the public that she, indeed, 
had security while she was acting governor.
The dictionary defines:
Voyeuristic: one who derives sexual gratification from observing an unsuspecting person in a state of undress, naked or engaged in a sexual act. Habitually seeking visual sexual stimulation. Or,
Prying observation for sordid detail or the scandalous.
The photograph is telling, but it’s not sexual in any way, nor is it sordid or scandalous. Makes one wonder where Gallegos’ mind is.

Richardson makes a habit of going where he wants without informing the public. His staff covers for him, in this case Gallegos, wrote:
The Governor did not have any public events scheduled last weekend. I generally do not comment on what the Governor does during his personal time, other than the fact that he is always in contact with key staff members.
Journalists think, because the governor is paid with tax dollars, he is “on-duty” at all times, the public has a right to know what he is doing and where he is doing it. Richardson doesn’t agree. Yet there is no doubt that when Richardson travels he is accompanied by staff and the ever-present state police security detail.

Richardson’s staff may not think what the governor does while he is paid 24-hours a day as the chief executive of the state is any business of those who elected him and for those whom he serves, but some of us do.

According to the State Constitution, absence is a disability, just like a heart attack.
State Constitution
Article V
Executive Department

Sec. 7. [Succession to governorship.]

...In case the governor is absent from the state, or is for any reason unable to perform his duties, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor, with all the powers, duties and emoluments of that office until such disability be removed.
Contrary to his staff’s wishes, citizens not only have a right to know where their governor is, but also based on some of the trouble Richardson seems to generate when he meets with some people, citizens have a need to know with whom he meets and what topics are talked about.

The AP article cited other governor’s staffs as having the same kinds of attitudes. They make a fundamental mistake believing that governors absent from their state still have jurisdiction, they don’t. BlackBerrys don’t trump physical presence.

Richardson is seen here being advised by a State Police officer at the Presidential event in Rio Rancho, May 14, 2009. President Barack Obama spoke in an official capacity, but it is nearly impossible to separate the politics from the “official.” From the left is, Denish’s husband, Herb, Denish, and Speaker of the State House of Representatives Ben Lujan. They all attended in their official capacities. During Presidential events by Republican President George Bush, the high-ranking Democratic elected officials were not seen. It’s the nature of partisan politics. If the office of an elected official, as I contend, is a 24-hour job, then one cannot delineate them from the political nature of the process that brought them to power.

The journalistic argument, based on being the fourth estate, the watchers of government, is to keep track of how taxes are spent, how business in the name of the State is conducted, and yes, the whereabouts of the chief executive are always subject to public knowledge and scrutiny.

It is not irresponsible to publish
 details of who is acting governor. It wouldn’t be necessary to make note of how one learns who is acting, if only the governor made public who is the “on duty” governor. Richardson should have nothing to hide. He works for us and he should never hide what he’s doing from us.

The staff says it will not identify Richardson’s location for security reasons. It doesn’t wash because that is why he has a security detail; the default position is to provide security. There is no security breach in the public knowing his schedule of events or with whom he meets.
Editor’s note: The President of the United States rarely travels secretly. There are a few exceptions, like visiting troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, even then, he is accompanied by a pool of journalists who are embargoed from reporting in advance, but not prohibited from reporting the facts after clearing the higher than normal security area.
Gallegos later wrote, that the post:
…unnecessarily included a photo of the unmarked vehicle and agent – and (sic. not) just in the background, but as the focal point of the photo and your post. It is a security risk.
The vehicle, which Gallegos says was irresponsible to identify, as an undercover police vehicle, is not compromised.

Gallegos first identifies the vehicle as an ”undercover” then as “unmarked.” It is not an undercover police vehicle; it is at best described as an unmarked police vehicle. Reality is, once a dignitary is seen getting into or alighting from such a vehicle, any pretense that it is “undercover” is totally blown, the mode of transportation is on public display; security is obvious.

Procedures have apparently been altered under the guise of increasing security for the governor and lt. governor; it has been a long time since one has seen the state issued red license plate on an executive's vehicle.

As for identifying the “security agent” assigned to the Lt. Governor, she is a sworn New Mexico State Police Officer assigned to the Governor’s Security Detail. The officer, though unnamed, is also not undercover; she’s non-uniformed, plain clothed, wearing a lapel pin badge of office, similar to the one below. By motor vehicle statute, she meets the requirements of identifying herself as a uniformed police officer.

NMSP’s motto is "Pro Bono Publico" or "For the Public Good"; it shouldn’t be just a phrase, but the touchstone of the organization.

Sir Robert Peel wrote his principles for policing in 1825. One of them was: “No quality is more indispensable to an officer than a perfect command of his temper, a quiet determined action has more effect than violent action.” A police officer should stand their post proudly and openly. I have no doubt that this officer and the rest who are assigned to the governor’s detail perform their duty with honor and distinction.

The picture, below, of the same State Police security detail officer, was taken a few days after the picture that irritated the administration was posted. Denish had stood on her sidewalk waiting for the officer to open the passenger door. The officer had to get out of her car walk around it and open the unlocked door for the Lt. Gov.

Every time I notice a police officer on my block I photograph them; whether they are State Police security detail or an APD officer who is the friend of one of my other neighbor’s. Such pictures are part of personal photo projects: “From my Front Porch,” “Drive by Shootings,” and my localized version of my published “Protecting the Man” series.

I am not criticizing any officer; my complaint belongs to Gallegos.

Gallegos was the Albuquerque Tribune’s political writer when he went to the governor’s office six or seven years ago. He does not see his job as requiring a stable relationship with the media, especially smaller markets, small publications and Internet based journalistic outlets; something for which I qualify on all three counts. I also provide freelance work for the easily defined and accepted media outlets.

Gallegos’ predecessors refused to add my name to their electronic notification list. Not being on some list does not negate my being a member of the media. Government doesn’t get to make that distinction because of the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of the press…
If Gallegos wishes to discuss journalistic ethics, he must first recognize the journalist.

Denish’s Press Secretary Josh Rosen got my cellular phone number from St. Cyr by saying the Lt. Gov. wanted to call me. Denish has my home number as published by the neighborhood association, it’s also in the phone book and I have received calls from Herb before.

However, instead of getting a call from Denish, Rosen called. He started by saying that he was not trying to say I couldn’t photograph, but the Lt. Gov. was concerned about the picture in front of her house.

It was apparent that contrary to his first statement, Rosen was attempting to intimidate me. It doesn’t work. I suggested, if he wanted to talk to me as a journalist, then he had to recognize me as one. I asked that he put me on the media notification list. He said fair enough and for a short while I received press releases and notifications.

I hadn’t identified the location of Denish’s home, any more than she has. I have photographed Denish in front of her home several times and published them. Many photographs taken by other photographers, within feet of her property, are currently being used on the web. She has filmed campaign commercials and done TV news sound bite interviews in front of her home.

The Governor's Residence is listed on the State’s website with its own unique page, and is located at One Mansion Drive, Santa Fe.

Richardson’s State Police Detail drivers have been known to speed in excess of 100 MPH, without even giving the pretext of being an emergency vehicle by using its lights and siren, within the city limits of Albuquerque. There is no lawful justification for such behavior. It is unprofessional on the part of the officers and unnecessary. It places citizens at extreme risk. It doesn’t mater how skilled the police driver, should a motorist make a small mistake, speed eliminates the ability to avoid a wreck. If the traffic laws are insufficient; the laws of physics will prevail.

No governor is so special as to require his vehicle to speed. If he is late to some event, then he is not managing his time efficiently. Richardson is hardly the first governor to speed. I personally recall in the mid 1980’s a Lincoln Continental with a red state plate on it blow by me on Interstate 25 south of Santa Fe. I timed the vehicle between milepost markers and calculated the speed to be 105 MPH. That evening I saw on the news that Gov. Toney Anaya had officially opened the State Fair.

Should the governor’s entourage have a need for further assistance, municipal police, county deputy sheriff’s and other state police officers are only a radio call away. According to the NMSP website, a motorcycle unit was formed in 2002 with one of their duties being escorting dignitaries; specifically named was Governor Richardson.

Press Secretary Josh Rosen, above, had placed my name on Denish’s office’s media list in July after an incident over the who is acting as Governor story.

Rosen became chief of staff a few days later and Sam Thompson became Denish’s new press secretary. My name, along with some other media members' names, was purged from her list. Ignoring me or even ostracizing me does not make me any less a member of the media or make me go away. The thing about the First Amendment is government doesn't get to chose who the press is.

Emily’s list, a Democratic group that supports women candidates, placed Denish on their website and solicited donations for her.

Emily’s list posted one of my photographs, above, of Denish on their website. It came with the disclaimer, “Paid for by EMILY's List, www.emilyslist.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.”

I billed Emily’s list my standard "stolen photograph" rate for an otherwise non pre-negotiated publishing. Emily’s list removed the picture from their site and gave me the kiss off. The meaning, Denish has benefited from the contributions generated by the encouragement by use of my stolen picture. It also means that Denish is a co-conspirator in the taking of my photograph from my website.

There is a glaring irony here. I learned of the Emily’s list’s theft and use because the New Mexico Republican Party included the picture in a television ad attacking Denish’s tie breaking votes as President of the Senate, on gambling issues. The TV spot was entitled “Same Game,” published July 12, 2009, that appeared on the New Mexico Republican Party Website, several newscasts, and on YouTube, as “NM GOP "SAME GAME" TV AD ON DIANE DENISH.”

The Republican Party told me they lifted the picture from Emily’s list thinking it was their's.

I billed the GOP and they paid; Emily’s list refused. I am still trying to negotiate with EMILY's List. Denish might not even know of her involvement. I haven’t held it against her. You might think that with over $ 2 million in the campaign bank account, Denish’s friends at Emily’s list could pay their bill without hurting her too much.

I would have posted Denish's speech before the UNM Public Administrators alumni from a couple of weeks ago, but when I was arrested and my recorder was retrieved from the podium, above, by UNM staff, the contents were erased. She gave a good speech on "Creating a Culture of Responsibility," and it would have been worth posting.

Lt. Governor and Jim Scarantino alike, this is a direct invitation for you to come and participate with our non partisan Saturday morning group. We always give candidates running for office time to address the gathering and to answer questions.

I can assure you that you won't feel like you've been mugged by a political party. It's one of the more civil discussions you can find and you are guaranteed your opportunity to speak.

Lt. Gov., being my neighbor, I'd even be happy to drive you; we could carpool and save some energy.

For others interested in attending ConspiracyBrews, here's how our invitation reads:

Rep. Janice E. Arnold-Jones · House District 24
Invites You To
Saturday Morning Office Hours
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
at Southwest Secondary Learning Center
10301 Candelaria Rd NE
(northwest corner at the intersection of Candelaria and Morris)
(Questions? Call Janice -- 379-0902)
--All Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Greens and others are welcome at all times.--

I hope that Denish will continue to recognize my freelance photographic and journalistic work as separate from what she misperceived as a blogging site with a political agenda. She needs to realize that I am legitimately reporting information she’d rather not read about herself.

She was correct in her thinking I was independent. However, I still don’t expect a Christmas card from her, but then I never have received one before.


I can't seem to get ahead of this story. Just before hitting the publish post button, Scarantino posted another installment.

He recounts a couple of invoices from a part-time public relations contractor, Lauran Cowdrey, with what he claims appears to be work for political functions, including:
7/28 8 hours: DNC media binder, organizing clips, manning front office while Barbara attended day-long class.
8/4 9 hours; More tax credit plan work, set up interviews, work on Kerry for Saturday, constituent letter for Carlos, etc.
There is a big difference from an invoice for billed work, which might include some political work and a processed check from the State that makes payment.

Scarantino is doing only half the work. He is running his story based on the submitted invoice, not the paycheck.

Maybe the invoice was paid in full. Maybe the work that looks like it was political wasn't.

It also wouldn't be surprising, with or without an admission of possible error or wrongdoing, that the Denish campaign reimburses the State for the hours shown on the invoices listing the questionable political work.

Scarantino still doesn't have this story nailed down.

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