State brought in the big guns for latest SNAP hearing

After damning food stamp fraud allegations surfaced in federal court in April, the state brought on a high-profile Albuquerque law firm. A later court hearing earlier this month marked the first time that Paul Kennedy, a former State Supreme Court justice and frequent lawyer for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, made a formal entrance in the decades-old Deborah Hatten-Gonzales v. Human Services Department lawsuit. Kennedy made a formal entrance into the Hatten-Gonzales case on May 12. Daniel Yohalem* is an attorney representing part of the Center on Law and Poverty’s legal team who has been working on the Hatten-Gonzales case since 1996. The May 13 court hearing was the first time Yohalem said he’d ever seen Kennedy on the case. Originally filed in 1988, the Hatten-Gonzales lawsuit alleged that the state was mishandling its processing of applicants seeking benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, and Medicaid.

Ex-Martinez campaign aides want answers on dropped FBI probe

Two former fundraisers for Gov. Susana Martinez are demanding answers on why the federal Department of Justice dropped an investigation into Martinez’s top political operative. Earlier this month, both Andrea Goff and Cecilia Martinez wrote letters to U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez detailing their cooperation with the FBI investigation into Jay McCleskey and the retaliation they said they experienced as a result.

New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan first reported on and published the letters earlier today. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed receipt of the letters but would not comment further on them, citing a policy that the office doesn’t comment on investigations. When asked if that policy includes closed investigations, the spokeswoman said, “correct.”

NM Political Report also sent voicemails and emails to McCleskey and a spokesman for Gov. Martinez. We’ll update this post if we receive a response.

Gov’s top political adviser will not face charges

The smoke surrounding an FBI investigation into a top political adviser did not result in any fire. That’s what an attorney for Jay McCleskey said on Friday, saying that the grand jury investigation into McCleskey is over and that McCleskey will not be facing any charges. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news. “We have been informed that the investigation has been terminated and no charges will be forthcoming,” Kennedy told the newspaper. NM Political Report confirmed with Kennedy over the phone that the investigation is over.

Number two story of 2015: FBI investigation

The end of 2015 brought explosive news that the FBI were conducting investigations on New Mexico state government and Gov. Susana Martinez’ top political operative, Jay McCleskey. The first report, by the Santa Fe New Mexican, mentioned that federal authorities were looking into campaign spending by Martinez during her first gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and also spending from her first inaugural committee in 2011. We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is. Previous: Stories 10-6.

Feds subpoenaed info from Gov’s time as DA

A federal grand jury wanted information related to potential wrongdoing in the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s office when current governor Susana Martinez was DA, according to a report by The Santa Fe New Mexican this weekend. The news is the latest in a series of revelations about federal investigators looking into the Martinez administration and campaign side. Martinez’s office has repeatedly said there is no wrongdoing. A spokesman for the governor told The New Mexican that the governor is not being investigated. The latest, in part, follows headlines in 2014 when the Santa Fe Reporter wrote about allegations that the Martinez used the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database for opposition research during her 2010 campaign for governor.

Anti-abortion group challenges campaign finance penalty

An anti-abortion group in Albuquerque filed an appeal to a campaign finance decision by the city that ended with a public reprimand and $1,000 fine earlier this month. Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion in Albuquerque, is challenging the City of Albuquerque’s decision in the Second Judicial District Court. At issue is a ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics that Protest ABQ violated a city statute by not properly registering as a measured finance committee, or MFC, before spending money in October city elections. During the recent municipal election, Protest ABQ group sent out mailers that purportedly depicted a woman who died from an abortion as well as an aborted fetus. The mailers said District 6 candidate, and now incoming councilor, Pat Davis* supported late term abortions and said that he is too extreme for Albuquerque.

Former Gov. Johnson weighs in on Martinez scandals, Syria

A former Republican governor of New Mexico criticized Gov. Susana Martinez for her stance on Syrian refugees and predicts that she may end in the same boat as her predecessor when it comes to the perception of corruption. Gary Johnson is arguably the most athletic governor New Mexico has seen, so it was not much of a surprise that he answered a call from NM Political Report while riding his bicycle from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Johnson, who famously left the Republican Party to run for president as a Libertarian, has been outspoken on topics like marijuana legalization and what he sees as overreach by the federal government. He told NM Political Report the United States is at least partially to blame for the situation many Syrian refugees are currently facing. “[The U.S.] should take our fair share,”Johnson said.

Dems push ethics bills after year of scandals

House Democrats gathered in Santa Fe to unveil a slate of ethics and transparency bills on Tuesday. The bills come after a year that saw a state Senator resign after violating the state constitution and the Secretary of State resigned after pleading guilty to six crimes, including two felonies. One bill that they included was instituting a state ethics commission, legislation that has been introduced in one form or another for over a decade without ever passing. New Mexico is one of just eight states that do not have an ethics commission. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, is the latest to attempt to bring the legislation to the governor’s desk.

GOP governors choose Martinez to lead RGA

As was widely expected, Republican governors selected Susana Martinez to lead the Republican Governors Association. The governors picked Martinez to be the next chair of the organization on Thursday at a meeting in Las Vegas, which pushes Martinez even further into the national spotlight. The selection will surely prompt more discussion of Martinez as a possible Vice Presidential candidate or cabinet member of a Republican presidential administration. Martinez has denied any interest in national office each time she is asked. Martinez previously was the vice chair of the RGA, which is an organization that represents Republican governors throughout the country and seeks to get more Republicans elected to the position. Republicans currently are in the majority of governor’s mansions across the country, 31 in all.

Gov confirms FBI spoke to her, staff about investigations

Gov. Susana Martinez dismissed complaints that have led to an FBI investigation of her top political operative, speaking publicly Monday afternoon for the first time in person to reporters about the matter since it rocked news headlines over the weekend. In doing so, she acknowledged to reporters that federal authorities had talked with her and members of her staff. She also told reporters that she has talked with Jay McCleskey about the investigation which reportedly is looking into money that he controlled. “I speak to him every day,” Martinez said. “And when I talk to him—he’s working right now, I’m working right now, we’re moving forward, we’re doing our thing.”

Martinez kept her comments short following an unrelated press conference in the Albuquerque Northeast Heights announcing job expansions of Skorpios Technologies, a tech company that creates photonic integrated circuits.