SunCal Ad Report: Double Standards and the Zombie TIDD

SunCal:  Selling a pig in a poke

SunCal: Selling a pig in a poke

The regular session of the 2009 Mexico State Legislature is over now, but the aftermath of what happened in and around the Roundhouse keeps floating down around us like tiny flecks of ash.

One detail that’s just been released is the amount of money that Westland/SunCal spent on advertising during the legislative session.

Many New Mexicans were curious to know just how much the California-based development company spent blanketing the state with print, broadcast and online advertisements touting the benefits of TIDDs – or tax increment development districts. The ads were part of Westland/SunCal’s effort to get legislators to approve a bill that would have given the financially-troubled company $408 million in future tax revenues to develop a parcel of land on Albuquerque’s West Mesa.

The Secretary of State’s office said state law allowed the company to take up to 15 days after the session to report the advertising expenses.

In the waning hours of the session, the Westland/SunCal TIDD was narrowly voted down  – and this week New Mexicans found out the price tag for the company’s huge public relations push.

According to a report  filed this week with the Secretary of  State’s office, Westland/SunCal spent $232,540 to tout the benefits of TIDDs, including about $80,000 on local network television advertising, $55,000 on cable, $23,000 on billboards and more than $10,000 on radio.

“Inadequate” Report

That near quarter-million dollar total is pretty shocking all by itself.

But at least one veteran legislator suspects the report barely scrapes the surface of what Westland/SunCal laid out to try to get New Mexico legislators to pass the TIDD bill.

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Accommodating SunCal’s Message Strategy

I’m glad someone else noticed that surreal statement from Westland/SunCal spokeswoman Catherine Wambach in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal.

Wambach was asked how much the California-based development company spent wooing New Mexico legislators who are poised to consider legislation that could give the company over $400 million in tax increment development districts, or TIDDs, for a development on Albuquerque’s West Side.

That includes how much they spent for a massive web, television, radio and billboard advertising blitz in favor of TIDDS that recently blanketed the state.

From the Journal story:

SunCal spokeswoman Catherine Wambach on Thursday declined to say how much the company spent, saying the totals will be available in state-mandated reports 15 days after the legislative session ends later this month.

Providing the numbers in advance of that is “not part of our strategy. It’s not part of our messages,” Wambach said.

Matt Reichbach, who blogs at nmfbihop.com, gets it dead right in his analysis where he questions this ridiculous statement.

But it’s also interesting to note that the Secretary of State’s office has added a whole new section of their website, just to deal with lobbyist advertising campaign reports – like the kind Westland/SunCal is supposed to file?

What’s the rationale for that?

Again, why does SunCal get special favors?

Department of Distress: SOS on-line woes continue

What’s going on at the Secretary of State’s office?

sos1No, I’m not referring to this.

Infuriating as that is, it’s old news.

No, I’m talking about backlogs in posting public records online and barriers to access for people who are searching for those records.

Legislators, election observers and advocates for good government have been complaining about the efficiency of the SOS electronic filing system since it was instituted.

And I’m here to tell you:  It hasn’t gotten any better during the current legislative session.

I know this because of my personal experience with the office and because of the constant complaints I hear from reporters who frequent the SOS office and are grimly familiar with the roadblocks it throws up for anyone seeking public records.

That really bothers me, because if skilled, paid searchers have problems getting the documents they came for, what chance does the average New Mexican have?

My Story

I made a special trip to the Secretary of State’s office in Santa Fe on Feb. 12.

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NM SOS: Transparency Need Not Apply

At this point during election years in New Mexico, familiar themes seem to emerge. Candidates for office at all levels define themselves and their opponents (aggressively in some cases), while radio and television are flooded with all manner of advertisements. Our state also draws an inordinate amount of national attention, especially during presidential election years.

New Mexico’s election years are beginning to add another theme to the list of familiars. That theme of course is the inaccuracy and malfunctioning of the Secretary of State’s online reporting system. Unfortunately for the people of our state, this problem is rather unique to The Land of Enchantment. In the year 2008, practically every state in the country has a functioning, real-time campaign reporting system that is fully searchable and easy-to-use.

In order to understand the magnitude of this painful saga, I believe it is instructive to review the lack of progress over the past five years.

Let’s take a look at the time line. Continue reading

The Dark Ages of Campaign Reporting

Yesterday was the first deadline of the year for candidates to file campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State’s office. Candidates are encouraged (I write “encouraged” because anybody filing a report can claim a “hardship” and fax in their paper reports) to file donation and expenditure reports on-line.

According to news reports, the Secretary of State’s office has announced that it is granting a 24-hour extension for candidates to file. Additionally, the public learned this morning that this first set of campaign finance reports will not be available on-line until May 26th.
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