Report looking at possible ‘pay-to-play’ on investments stirs up a hornet’s nest

A report examining possible “pay-to-play” over state pension investments is drawing sharp reactions and a call for an investigation into whether donations by investment firms broke state laws. The International Business Times and the money-in-politics watchdog nonprofit Maplight released an investigative report earlier this week on donations given directly to Susana Martinez’s campaign and to organizations that backed Martinez and later received state investment money from a public pension fund. A spokesman for Martinez essentially called the report clickbait and said “these accusations are shameless and dishonest” in a statement to NM Political Report. The spokesman, Joseph Cueto, continued, “It’s a shame that the dark-money liberal political group behind this is getting their way with clicks and smear headlines without a shred of evidence. The Governor remains open to further strengthening of our disclosure laws – despite Democrats’ previously killing her proposals to do just that.”

IBT is a for-profit online news organization based in New York City.

Udall, Heinrich back the Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ effort

Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators support the “Medicare for all” legislation proposed by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich each said Tuesday they would cosponsor the effort. “I believe that health care is a human right, and that all New Mexicans – and all Americans – should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick,” Udall said. “A hardworking single mother in New Mexico deserves the same quality health care for herself and her family as a multimillionaire CEO.

Young, out-of-state lawyer could be a new federal judge for NM

A federal court of appeals judge from New Mexico, who is expected to step down soon, could be replaced by a lawyer with less than 10 years of legal work under his belt and very loose ties to the state. NM Political Report learned the White House sent a short list of possible replacements for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul Kelly Jr. Names on the list include  prominent judges and lawyers who currently practice in New Mexico—and one is a lawyer from Washington D.C. who previously worked for a Utah senator and whose family owns a cattle ranch in New Mexico. William Levi, a lawyer in his early 30s who graduated law school in 2010, spent a year as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Scirica and later for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Levi also spent about two years as a staffer for Utah Senator Mike Lee, a libertarian-leaning member of the Republican Party. NM Political Report left a voice message for Levi at his Washington D.C. office and emailed him, but only received an out of office reply.

NM elected officials slam Trump’s decision to rescind DACA

Elected officials in New Mexico slammed Trump administration plans to end a program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country, who were brought to the country as children and do not have documentation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday. The Department of Homeland Security will no longer process new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after Sept. 5. The administration will, however, says it will continue to renew permits for any of those currently under DACA, known as DREAMers, for another six months.

Mum’s still the word on national monuments

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had 120 days to review 27 national monuments and recommend to the White House whether they should be left alone, eliminated or reduced in size. Thursday, Zinke submitted his review to the White House. But the Interior Department has yet to make his specific recommendations public. During the four month review, Zinke visited eight national monuments in six states, including New Mexico. His office said the review included more than 60 meetings, “tours of monuments conducted over air, foot, car and horseback” and a “thorough review” of more than 2.4 million public comments that had been submitted to the department.

Udall, Heinrich slam ‘skinny repeal’ effort

Ahead of another health care vote in the Senate, which came today after multiple Republican plans failed earlier in the week, New Mexico’s U.S. Senators took to the chamber’s floor for the debate. Sen. Tom Udall described the chaotic healthcare process as “healthcare roulette” with leadership deciding what version of a health care bill to vote on by the bounce of a ball. “Not even Republicans know what proposal is coming next and the American people certainly don’t know what’s coming,” Udall said. From what Udall knows of the latest plan, dubbed the “skinny repeal” effort, he said it would kick millions off of insurance rolls while raising premiums for those who still have insurance by 20 percent. Sen. Martin Heinrich also was critical of the “skinny repeal,” and the congressional process.

NM national monuments remain under threat from DOI

TAOS, N.M. — New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments could shrink dramatically if their protected status is removed or their size is reduced, and the decisions could come by late August. A report from Democrats on the U.S. Joint Economic Committee warns that could mean a loss of millions of tourism dollars in New Mexico. Stuart Wilde guides tourists on llama treks through the Rio Grande monument near Taos. He said he agrees that the economic impact would be significant. “People come to hike and bike, and fish and hunt, and camp and experience these national monuments,” Wilde said.

Poll: Approval ratings steady for NM’s senators

Much more New Mexico voters approve of their U.S. Senators’ job performances than disapprove, but there’s still a large chunk who have no opinion. That’s the news from the most recent release of data from polling by Morning Consult conducted over the last few months. The polls show that 53 percent of registered voters approve of Tom Udall’s job performance, while 27 percent disagree and 20 percent have no opinion and that 48 percent approve of Martin Heinrich’s job performance while 30 percent disapprove and 22 percent have no opinion.Both are Democrats. The poll results for the two New Mexico senators are largely unchanged from those released by Morning Consult in April. This comes even as most Senators saw their approval ratings drop in that time period.

Feds to look into behavioral health services in NM

The federal government will take a look into New Mexico’s behavioral health services, according to the four Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation. In a letter last month to Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, the federal Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson confirmed the upcoming review. “OIG will review the extent to which behavioral health providers are included in the States’ managed care plans and the types of care offered by these providers,” Levinson wrote in the June 28 letter.

Heinrich, Udall slam Education Department’s civil rights division changes

New Mexico’s U.S. senators say that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does not support civil rights or oppose discrimination. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, signed onto a letter to the secretary telling her “your actions belie your assurances” on these issues. The letter cited her ties to a prominent anti-LGBTQ group and her appointment of staff who oppose a 2011 Title IX Guidance on sexual assault.The two highlighted her ties to the Family Research Council, a Washington D.C. organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an anti-LGBT extremist group, and contrasts her relationship with the group with testimony she gave in front of a Senate committee. “In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, you attempted to distance yourself from your family’s giving to organizations such as the Family Research Council, which promote intolerant views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming Americans and others,” the senators wrote. “Yet, on June 15, 2017, the Family Research Council participated in an official event on engaging fathers in students’ education at the Department.”

The two also criticized DeVos’ Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson.