Legislature Super Diary from the Fun Part of Hell: Entry No. 1

It’s Day 1 at the legislative session. I’m covering the happenings for Independent Source PAC, an awesome new organization of a few people who want to follow the money and find out who’s truly making the decisions of these lawmakers. They offered me a job reporting right after the Journal fired me (see previous post), and I was happy to take it.

For my story on the governor’s State-of-the-State speech, click here. You’ll notice these words above my piece: “ISPAC will be covering the legislative session as part of our mission to educate the public about the hypocrisy, corruption and hidden agenda of conservative office holders and interest groups.” Sounds partisan as hell, I know. But I’m not interested in ideologies, I’m interested in what these guys are actually doing with their time and what they’re really like, instead of what they tell me in planned, canned interviews.

This sort of thinking got me fired, but whatever.

The seal has a Mexican eagle with a snake in its mouth and a cactus in its talon, protected by an American Bald Eagle. "Crescit eundo" means "It grows as it goes." Huh.

You should see these guys at the Roundhouse. “We are honored and humbled to be your public servants,” said Lt. Gov. John A. Sanchez, illuminated by two giant spotlights, before he introduced Governor Susana Martinez. I call bullshit. Because what happens next is he proceeds to introduce every state official with any power in the room (and this is a big room) so they can stand and receive a rousing ovation. It takes 30 minutes. “The honorable judge of the court of appeals Dexter McCotchery…. The honorable chief clerk at the appellate Wendy Sarkenpocket.” On and on it goes. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at this session, a lot of problems to solve, but God forbid you skip the opportunity to say each and every person’s name so they can stand and wave and soak in some applause. Humbled? Please. Nice suit.

That’s inside: Shiny silk and grins and handshakes. Teleprompters and standing O’s.

Outside: Tea Partiers in darkly colored, decades-old down jackets on one side of the Roundhouse; Occupy Santa Fe-ers on the other, shaggy and clad in layer after layer of heavy wool. East-side/West-side.

Kudos to the Occupiers, who genuinely disrupted the Guv’s opening remarks. I think that “People’s mic” the Occupy protestors favor is terrible (one guy yells something, and then everyone around him repeats it at once), but it stole Susana’s thunder. They yelled about Martinez siding with polluters and punishing immigrants and favoring oil and gas companies over people. They were dragged out, roughly, by police officers as they kept hollering. Martinez just smiled. What else could she do?

The difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy gang is that Tea Partiers are much more affable. They’re way more fun to converse with. They are mostly old people, and old people like to talk. Occupy skews a lot younger, and they don’t like talking with press or giving their names. (That’s based on experience covering multiple rallies on both sides.) Old people are angry about the country, but they’ve had decent lives already. Young people are angry about the country, and are facing a fight to find success in life. They’re pissed off about that.

So I ambled over the Tea Partiers. An apple-shaped state Representative was giving a speech about her bill mandating voter IDs. She cited liberal objection to the proposed law: “You don’t need voter IDs because there’s no voter fraud in the United States,” she said, in a tone meant to mock her dumb enemies.

“BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” It was the rowdy sort of reaction you typically hear from hoops fans jeering a visiting rival. Except this booing was for liberals who don’t believe voter fraud is a problem in America worthy of lawmakers’ attention during a period of deep economic crises.

A tall white guy standing next to me in a cream-colored jacket seemed to have booed the loudest. He kept fake-laughing at what she was saying, the Democrat slams. I asked him what the speaker’s name was and he didn’t know. Neither did the next five folks I queried, though they were all holding signs with messages like “Repeal Obamacare.” Finally, someone informed me the apple was Cathrynn Brown, a Republican who represents Carlsbad.

Rolling Stone and MSNBC have convinced me voter fraud is a phony issue. It’s an excuse to mandate identification, which studies show will dampen turnout by young people and minorities, who vote Democrat. Voter IDs, essentially, will bring on Republican rule. Or so the thinking goes.

It’s real, though. Standing bundled up next to a sign that says “Voter Identity is a Must!” was Mary Fulton. She’s a very nice, older woman who said she was raised poor.

“But I learned from it,” she said. “I didn’t expect someone to take care of me my whole life.”

Welfare for the poor really rankles the Tea Party. “A hand up, not a handout,” Mary said more than once to me as we chatted.

Mary swears voter fraud is happening. “It’s a fact,” she said. “It’s been proven. It’s happening. By a lot of people it’s been proven.”

She didn’t know where or when, and tells me I’ll have to look it up. Luckily, Cathrynn Brown does the work for me. She’s seen it with her own eyes, she said, when someone was at a voting booth but got turned away because, he was told, he’d already voted.

“Was it a mistake or fraud? I don’t know,” Brown said. Then she brought up two other examples: In 2007 in New Jersey, people at a homeless shelter said they’d voted using other people’s names. And in 1984, a voting ring was busted in New York after casting thousands of fraudulent ballots over 14 years.

I ask Mary about ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Fox News hates ACORN, which registers voters in poor parts of the country and which has helped people I know personally buy their own homes. Mary says of ACORN: “They’re dishonest. The don’t represent true America.”

A man in a “Semper Fi” baseball hat joined us. Paul Chacho Jr., with business cards that say “ATP Let Freedom Ring” (Albuquerque Tea Party) and tout his membership on the ATP “recruitment and activation team.”

“There have been two states where ACORN was convicted of voter fraud,” Paul said. “I can’t think of them, but look it up.”

Wisconsin and Nevada? I tried to look it up. It appears there has been a lot more than two voter-fraud convictions, judging by a bunch of websites I don’t trust.

Anyway, who cares about voter fraud when there are so many real problems in the country? That’s why I don’t trust it as an issue, because I don’t believe it really matters.

Paul, though, said it does. He cited Mitt Romney’s recent eight-vote win over Rick Santorum in Iowa, and the hair-thin election margin in Florida when Bush beat Gore in 2000.

“Some of these elections are so close,” he said. “A few votes can swing the direction of the country.”

Paul then proceeded to talk about stopping illegal immigrants from getting drivers licenses. Important note: He admitted he rambles. I tried to keep up:

Identity theft costs $30 billion annually.

The Russians can come here and steal identities.

Russia isn’t even a democracy; it’s run by a mafia.

The Tea Party is just about smaller government and free-market capitalism.

Leave the states alone by following the 10th Amendment. (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”)

People know where they want their money to go, and that’s roads and policemen and fire fighters. Not welfare. Welfare’s bankrupting the country.

Federal education programs take money from the states, then send that money back with strings attached.

Because of unions, there’s no accountability for teachers. Liberal teachers are everywhere.

The Occupyers are wrong because millionaires aren’t bad people.

Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex, but he should have said “government industrial complex.” As a percentage of gross domestic product, military spending is much smaller than welfare, which teaches people the government will solve all their problems.

McCarthy was right. Russian KGB documents showed there was an infiltration in America of communists. Communists like to use our own laws against us.

Paul is a sharp dude, and did make some interesting points. Seems to have a bit of a bug up his butt about Russia, but we all have our quirks. He’s a Vietnam veteran who is “tired of nation building. I did one of these nation buildings, and it doesn’t work.”

They come all kinds. I know there’s a middle ground between these groups, that they’d be capable of coming together and conversing about the country’s problems if not for superficial obstacles. It’s the same outside the Roundhouse as in.

Back to it tomorrow.

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2 thoughts on “Legislature Super Diary from the Fun Part of Hell: Entry No. 1

  1. Phil: Just found your piece today. I like it. I do ramble but Russia isn’t that much of a bother for me. I don’t know why I talked about it so. Thanks for the complimentary tone. I do hope we are more interesting than those Occupy brats. We old people have led much more interesting lives. They are just getting started. A bad start to boot. Hope your well. If you have my card, look me up. More stuff going on all the time. This is a big year and I do believe conservatives are going to kick some butt. Best regards, Paul. 5/26/12

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