This blog article is a review of the involvement of McCleskey Media Strategies in the 2021 municipal election. Political Republican strategist and political operative Jay McCleskey is the primary principle or owner of “McCleskey Media Strategies.” This blog article reviews how Jay McClesky influences the candidates he elects long after he is paid to get them elected and the effect he has had on state and city government affairs.
LUCRATIVE LIVING IN 2021 CITY ELECTIONS
During the 2021 Municipal election, Mc Clesky Strategies managed the campaigns of Der Führer Trump Democrat conservative Sheriff Manny Gonzales and conservative Republican City Councilor candidates Dan Lewis and Renee Grout. From review of the campaign finance reports of all 3 candidates, McClesky Media Strategies had another lucrative election cycle and Mc Clesky was paid top dollar by the candidates his firm represented.
According to campaign finance reports file with city clerk in the 2021 municipal election, McClesky Media Strategies was paid $450,734 total to run 1 unsuccessful mayor’s race and 2 successful city council races to defeat democrats. Those candidates were Manny Gonzales for Mayor and City Council Republican candidates Dan Lewis and Renee Grout. You can review the Campaign Finance Disclosures Statement of all 3 candidates here:
SHERIFF MANNY GONZALEZ FOR MAYOR
More than a few political eyebrows, both Democrat and Republican, were raised when Democrat Sheriff Manny Gonzales announced he was running for Mayor against incumbent Mayor Tim Keller and that he had retained Political Republican Strategist Jay McCleskey and McCleskey Media Strategies to run his campaign. Gonzales at the time justified it saying as Sheriff he worked across party lines and he said the mayor’s race was nonpartisan. No Republican had announced at the time. It was common knowledge that Gonzales was attempting to build a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans and appeal to Der Führer Trump Republican voters.
Gonzales is a strong supporter of former Der Führer Republican Trump law enforcement policies. In the summer of 2020, Gonzales appeared at a press conference in Albuquerque with then Attorney General William Barr to announce federal funding for a Trump law enforcement initiative. Months later, Gonzales traveled to the White House for a press conference with Der Führer Trump.
DENIAL OF PUBLIC FINANCING
In a letter dated July 9, Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson notified Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ that the city was denying his campaign $661,000 in public financing citing misconduct in the qualifying process and forgery of signatures on $5 qualifying donations. City Clerk Watson wrote Gonzales he could not confirm that Gonzales had complied with the city’s Open and Ethical Election Code and associated regulations.
What has never been disclosed is to what extent was McCleskey Media Strategies involved with the collection of forged signatures by the Gonzales campaign. Jay Mc Clesky managed the successful 2009 election of Mayor Richard Berry who ran against Democrat Incumbent Mayor Marty Chavez and former Progressive Demorate State Senator Richard Romero. In 2009, all 3 candidates for Mayor qualified for public financing. Ostensibly, McClesky has the know how on the collection of the $5 qualifying donations for public financing for candidates for Mayor because he ran Berry’s 2009 campaign for Mayor. He also knows the seriousness of collecting fraudulent signatures to qualify a candidate for public financing. The biggest question that remains unanswered is where was McClesky when the Gonzales campaign was collecting the $5 qualifying donations and when signatures were being forged? Did the same thing happen in the first Richard Berry campaign for Mayor?
On Tuesday, September 13, First Judicial District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid upheld the Albuquerque City Clerk’s decision to deny $661,000 public financing to Sheriff Manny Gonzales. After Judge Biedscheid’s ruling to deny him public finance, Manny Gonzales held a news conference and announced his campaign’s plan to move forward with raising private financing.
Subsequent to declaring he would seek private financing, Manny Gonzalez undertook a very aggressive private campaign finance fundraising effort. The Gonzales campaign filed Financial Statements 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, three Supplement Statements and a Final Finance Statement. The link to review all Gonzales Finance Statements is here:
GONZALES RAISES OVER HALF MILLION DOLLARS WITHIN WEEKS
According to Manny Gonzales finance statements filed with the City Clerk, the following amounts in PRIVATE campaign contribution amounts were raised:
Finance Statement 6: $26,667 (Balance carried forward)
Period New Donations: $14,385
Finance Statement 7: $338,201
Finance Statement 8: $64,590
Finance Statement 9: $25,462
Finance Statement 10 : $33,690
FINAL STATEMENT: $1,075
TOTAL FUND RAISING: $504,070
PAYMENTS MADE TO MC CLESKY MEDIA STRATEGIES
According to Manny Gonzales finance statements filed with the City Clerk, the following campaign expense amounts were paid to Mc Clesky Media Strategies:
$6,797 (Finance Statement 7 filed October 11)
$55,091 (Finance Statement 8 filed October 18)
$85,695 (Finance Statement 9 filed October 25)
$21,696 (Finance Statement 10 filed October)
-$0- (Final Finance Statement Filed:
$363,628 TOTAL AMOUNTS PAID TO Mc Clesky Media Strategies by Manny Gonzales
Note that the total amount of private campaign contributions raised by Many Gonzales was $504,070. Mc Clesky Media Strategies was paid $363,628 of what was raised or over 72% of what was contributed to Gonzales for Mayor campaign.
DAN LEWIS CAMPAIGN FOR CITY COUNCIL, DISTRICT 5
For the December 7, 2021 municipal election, City Council District 5 candidate Dan Lewis qualified as a public finance candidate and was given $50,489.00. Lewis went on to be elected to the city council by defeating incumbent Democrat Cynthia Borrego who had replaced Lewis 4 years ago when Lewis ran unsuccessfully for Mayor against then State Auditor Tim Keller. Borrego also qualified for public financing of $50,489.00.
In addition to City Councilor elect Dan Lewis having been given $50,489.00 in public financing, Lewis also had the benefit of two separate Republican measured finance committees. The two measured finance committees that promoted Dan Lewis were Albuquerque Ahead that raised $34,900 and Healthy Economies Lead to Progress raised $196,532 for a total of $231,432. The cash contributions were spent to promote 3 conservative Republican candidates for city council Dan Lewis, Renee Grout and Lori Lee Robertson. The 2 finance committees were successful in ousting Democrat City Councilors Cynthia Borrego and Lan Sena.
Review of financial statements filed by the Dan Lewis campaign reflects the following amounts paid to Mc Clesky Media Strategies:
$3,747 (Finance Statement 7 filed October 6)
$5,781 (Finance Statement 8 filed October 15)
$5, 756 (Finance Statement 9 filed October 18)
$4,192 (Finance Statement 10 filed October 29)
$4,103 (Final Financial statement)
$29,720 TOTAL PAID BY DAN LEWIS TO MC CLESKY MEDIA STRATEGIES
POLITCAL HIT PIECE
A “political hit piece” is the lowest form and most unethical form of negative campaigning used by bottom feeder political consultants to smear the reputation of an opponent with the use of lies. It is often condemned by the public, especially by those who are the target, but used because negative campaigning works and it’s difficult to respond to by a candidate, especially at the end of a contentious campaign.
A few days before the November 2 election day, Republican Dan Lewis authorized McClesky Media Strategies to send out a political hit piece mailer against Incumbent City Councilor Cynthia Borrego. The hit piece arrived on November 1, the day before election day. The hit piece is replete with lies and innuendo and Borrego did not have the time nor funding to respond.
On one side of the mailer is a very unflattering photo of Cynthia Borrego proclaiming “Politician Cynthia Borrego has the wrong priorities”. The truth is Borrego retired after 30 years of dedicated service to the City. Borrego has done more for the city with her 30 years of dedicated service to the community than Dan Lewis could ever dream of accomplishing for the city. Four years ago was the first time Borrego ever ran for public office and she replaced Dan Lewis
The flyer makes the inflammatory and false accusation “Cynthia Borrego wastes our money and makes westside problems worse” giving no specifics and falsely labeling as “junkets” trips to the National League of City Conventions which the city council has participated in for decades. Dan Lewis on the other hand is a seasoned right wing Republican politician having served 8 years on the council and ran for Mayor 4 years ago and lost to Tim Keller in a landslide. Lewis supported the disastrous ART Bus project costing $130 million dollars and voted for gross receipts tax bonds to fund the project. During the 8 years Dan Lewis was on the city council, APD went from employing 1,100 sworn police to 860 sworn police and Dan Lewis did absolutely nothing to hold APD accountable for excessive use of force and deadly force.
The mailer goes on to lie in bold black letters that Borrego “Supports Sanctuary City” and says “Borrego voted to pass Sanctuary City policy that protects illegal immigrants who commit crime even for rape and murder.” This statement is an absolute lie by Dan Lewis and this lie coming from some on who professes to be a Christian Pastor. Simply put, there is no such sanctuary city policy “that protects illegal immigrants who commit crime even for rape and murder.” Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city” and it’s not at all likely it is ever going to be one. The truth is that in 2001, a full 10 years years before Borrego became a city councilor, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a resolution that declared Albuquerque an “immigrant-friendly” city. The resolution is symbolic and was sponsored by then-Republican City Councilor Hess Yntema, whose wife is a naturalized United States citizen from Columbia.
On the other side of the flyer is a very flattering picture of Dan Lewis where he proclaims he will “Fight crime by ending “Catch and Release” of criminals from jail. This too is another Lewis lie in that the City Council has no control over the criminal justice system, let alone the jails and the courts. This is the very same promise Lewis made when he ran for Mayor 4 years ago and threatened to plaster judges faces on billboards to supposedly hold them accountable for failure to hold those charged until trial.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 9
In the District 9 City Council runoff race, Republican Renee Grout secured 51.69% (4,027 votes) and Democrat Rob Grilley secured 48.31% (3,764 votes).
McCleskey Media Strategies managed Republican Renee Grout’s successful campaign. Review of Renee Grouts campaign finance reports reveals a staggering amount of money paid to McCleskey Media Strategies producing and printing campaign materials and mailers.
The amounts are staggering for the reason that Renee Grout was initially a public finance candidate and was given $41,791 to run her campaign. After the November 2 election when she made it into the runoff, she became a privately financed candidate and raised more.
The amounts paid to McCleskey Media Strategies for the November 2 election are as follows:
7th campaign finance report: $2,426.18
8th campaign finance report: $10,472.17
9th campaign finance report: $8,441.41.
10th campaign finance report: $10,035
Total Paid for November 2 election to McClesky Media stategies: $31,374
Renee Grouts 4th Runoff Statement Campaign finance report reveals $14,992.66 paid McCleskey Media Strategies.
Renee Grouts 5th Runoff Statement Campaign report reveals $11,019 paid McCleskey Media Strategies.
The grand total paid to McCleskey Media Strategies by Renee Grout for the November 2 and the December 7 runoff is $57,386.42
The link to the city clerk’s office where you can review all of the Renee Grout campaign finance reports is here:
ANOTHER POLITCAL HIT PIECE
On December 1, a mere 6 days before the December 7 runoff election, Republican Renee Grout mailed a false “hit piece” campaign mailer against Democrat Rob Grilley. When you view the fine print on the flyer, barely readable because it is so tiny, the reader finds that it was produced by “McClesky Media Strategies.”
THE LIES TOLD
The political hit piece had a color photo of Democrat Rob Grilley with his arms crossed, and smiling. The photo was obviously taken off of Grilley’s campaign web page. To the right of the Grilley picture is the proclamation “Grilley supports Sanctuary City that protects violent criminals .” The words “protect violent criminals” are in yellow with a black background and the word “protects” is underlined in red for emphasis.
The political hit piece went on to say:
“Rob Grilley supports Sanctuary City policy that forces police to hide illegal immigrants from federal authorities, even if they commit crimes like rape or murder!
In bold, bright red letters appear the words: “Protecting Violent Criminals.” Below these words appears the following text:
“Jaqueline Vigil, a mother of two New Mexico Police Officers, was murdered by Luis Talamantes-Romero, an illegal immigrant with a lengthy criminal history. Vigil’s killer should have been deported before, but the city’s sanctuary city policy forced police to hide him from immigration officials.”
THE LIAR WHO TELLS THEM
The flyer attacking Democrat Rob Grilley was simply a pack of lies. On many levels, the lies revealed a candidate grossly ignorant of the truth or could care less about the truth so long as she won an election. With the malicious flyer, Grout resorted to fear tactics and misinformation to distract voters and it worked.
ALBUQUERQUE HAS NEVER BEEN A “SANCTUARY CITY”
It’s a Grout lie likely spoon fed to her by McClesky when she says, “Rob Grilley supports Sanctuary City policy that forces police to hide illegal immigrants from federal authorities, even if they commit crimes like rape or murder!” Simply put, there is no such policy to hide illegal immigrants who commit crimes like rape and murder from federal authorities. As noted above, Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city” and it’s not likely it is eve going to be one. In 2001, the city became an “immigrant-friendly” city and implements “welcoming city” policies and does not provide for city enforcement of federal immigration laws, and addresses only city services, including licensing and housing. The focus is to create inclusive, immigrant-friendly, and welcoming policies. Albuquerque’s “immigrant-friendly” designation by city council resolution welcomes immigrants to the city and is mainly symbolic and in no way hides rapist and murders from law enforcement.
JAQUELIN VIGIL’S KILLER WAS UNKNOWN TO APD
It was another lie when the flyer says, “Vigil’s killer should have been deported before, but the city’s sanctuary city policy forced police to hide him from immigration officials. When the murder occurred, it was first believed to have been a retaliation killing against Vigils’ two state police officer sons. APD did not “hide her killer from immigration officials” because APD had no idea who her killer was, and a search had begun while APD was investigating the murder. What the investigation found is that the killer was “casing” homes at 5:30 am in the area, he came upon Jaqueline Vigil pulling out of her driveway to go to the gym and he shot her.
The truth is Jaqueline Vigil’s killer had already been deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) a few months before the killing. The first illegal entry was a misdemeanor. When he reentered the United States illegally for a second time, he committed a felony. Unbeknownst to APD, Talamantes- Romero was arrested by INS on an outstanding warrant on unrelated charges and was being held in an El Paso federal detention facility. On June 21, 2021, Talamantes- Romero was indicted by a state grand jury on murder, burglary and attempted armed robbery charges stemming from the Nov. 19, 2019. He is in custody and is awaiting trial.
“MC CLESKEY MEDIA STRATEGIES” IS JAY MC CLESKEY
According to the McCleskey Media Strategies internet web page, the company ostensibly provides “all inclusive” one stop services in political consulting and advertising services including television and radio production, direct mail, digital services, general consulting, public relations and strategy. When you examine the company’s “our team” link, the only biography provided is that of Jay Mc Clesky, leading one to believe he is a sole employee of the firm.
The biography of Jay Mc Clesky is very revealing to the extent of influence he exerts over candidates that he elects with an almost exclusive emphasis on Republican candidates. The Jay Mc Clesky biography states in pertinent part:
“Jay McCleskey is President of McCleskey Media Strategies and brings over 20 years of experience running campaigns. His clients have included candidates at all levels, as well as major national party organizations such as the Republican Governors Association and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In 2004, McCleskey ran the RNC’s Victory operation for President Bush’s re-election campaign in New Mexico, which was one of only two states to change from blue to red.
Prior to that, McCleskey served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of New Mexico.
From 2005 to 2009, McCleskey served as the Regional Political Director (RPD) for the Republican National Committee and managed the RNC’s political operations in 10 states, while assisting dozens of the most competitive campaigns in the country.
In both 2009 and 2013, McCleskey served as chief strategist for Richard Berry. Mayor Berry was the first Republican mayor in Albuquerque in 25 years in an upset victory over incumbent Marty Chavez….
In 2013, McCleskey led Berry’s campaign to a 39-point victory.
In both 2010 and 2014, McCleskey served as the lead consultant for Susana Martinez for Governor and served as Governor Martinez’s chief political advisor during her 8 years in office. During the first campaign, McCleskey produced all of her paid media, direct mail, and was the chief campaign strategist for Martinez … In the 2014 re-election campaign, McCleskey served as chief strategist for Martinez. …
… [In] 2014, McCleskey served as the chief strategist for the independent expenditure campaign effort that led to Republicans winning control of the New Mexico House of Representatives for the first time since 1952. That same cycle, McCleskey also served as the media consultant for two major statewide GOP victories.
In 2016, McCleskey managed the independent expenditure effort that defeated State Senator Michael Sanchez, the majority leader who had served for over two decades.
… McCleskey also served as the media consultant for the successful statewide campaign of Supreme Court Justice Judy Nakamura, the first Republican elected to the court in 36 years.
In 2018, McCleskey served as the media consultant for the Republican Governors Association in multiple states, including producing television advertisements for the successful re-election effort on behalf of Governor John Sununu in New Hampshire.
In 2015, NMPolitics.net described Jay McClesky as “the most influential political operative in New Mexico”.
McCLESKY TWICE ELECTING AND INFLUENCING A REPUBLICAN MAYOR
Jay McCleskey says in his biography:
“In both 2009 and 2013, McCleskey served as chief strategist for Richard Berry”. Mayor Berry was the first Republican mayor in Albuquerque in 25 years in an upset victory over incumbent Marty Chavez…. In 2013, McCleskey led Berry’s campaign to a 39-point victory” seriously down plays his role and intentionally ignores the smear tactics to win both races at any and all costs.
Because McClesky down plays the extent of his role in both the 2009 and 2013 Mayor’s race, a review of both those elections is in order.
2009 MAYOR’S RACE
In 2009, then Republican State Representative Richard Berry was essentially recruited by the Republican Party to run against incumbent Democrat Mayor Martin Chavez and progressive and former State Senator Richard Romero. All 3 of the candidates for Mayor qualified for public finance and each was given $330,000. No measured finance committees were established to help any one of the candidates. It was said that Berry did not believe he could win and ran only to increase his name identification to allow him to run for congress or Governor.
The 2009 Mayor’s race is believed to be the very first time Jay McClesky ran a Mayor’s race. The goal of the Republican Party in 2009 was to end the political career of Marty Chavez after his 3 terms as Mayor and return a Republican to city hall with all the patronage and jobs the office comes with. Berry was a very well liked Republican and in the construction industry who had much higher ambitions.
In 2009, Chavez was seeking a 4th term as Mayor and Progressive Democrat Richard Romero was said to have a grudge against Chavez. The Berry campaign, no doubt under the guidance of McClesky, produced campaign ads and materials that took direct aim at Marty Chavez and attacked the Chavez record on property crime rates. Jay McClesky produced TV commercials and flyers that pandered to the fears of voters when it came to property crime as a means to defeating Mayor Martin Chavez and it worked.
In 2009, Berry made auto thefts a corner stone issue in the Mayor’s race by doing a commercial standing next to his burned out stolen truck and vowing that he could do better as Mayor and make Albuquerque the “worse place to be a criminal”, a slogan ostensibly created by McClesky. The ad essentially blamed all of the city’s rising property crime on Chavez. The truth is that under Chavez, crime rates were down. None the less, the TV ad was so effective it won a national award. McClesky produced no ads attacking Richard Romero. Eight (8) years later, after Berry’s two terms as mayor, Albuquerque had become number one in the nation for auto thefts and crime rates across the city were dramatically spiking. APD also went from 1,100 full time sworn police to 860 sworn police during years Berry was in office. So much for making Albuquerque “the worse place to be a criminal.”
Another very nasty campaign tactic used by Berry supporters ostensibly approved by Jay McCleskey was when they circulated a billboard mounted on a truck that drove through city streets that proclaimed Chavez had made the city a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, which was a total lie. The city has never been a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, but the ploy worked to gin up conservative Republicans.
On October 6, 2009, Berry won the election outright with 36,466 votes (43.82%) to Chavez’s 29,140 votes (35.02%) and Romero’s 17,458 (20.98%). The 2009 election was at the time the lowest voter turn out election in the city’s history. The 2009 election ended the political careers of both Marty Chavez and Richard Romero.
TO THE VICTOR GOES THE SPOILS
As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils. Once elected, Richard Berry proceeded to quickly replace virtually all city department heads with inexperienced Republican political operatives seeking high paying jobs, including relatives of Republican legislators. Heading the Berry transition team was long time Republican Political operative Sherman Mc Corkle.
One particular political operative during the transition period was sent to the Mayor’s office where he proceeded to write down the names of employees on doors and desks in the Mayor’s office so that termination letters could be sent to them telling them their services were no longer needed. Letters of termination were signed by and sent by designated Chief Administrative Office David Campbell, who had yet to assume office and had no authority to terminate.
It is common knowledge amongst political observers that former Bernalillo County Sheriff and Republican political operative Darren White is a close personal friend of McClesky. Confidential sources confirmed in 2009 that Jay McClesky and Sherman McCorkle were successful in getting Mayor Richard Berry to appoint as Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White and appoint political operatives Rob Perry City Attorney and Gordon Eden APD Chief. Perry would later go on to be appointed the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and paid $200,000 a year by Berry after Perry squeezed David Campbell out of the job.
The 2013 Albuquerque Mayor’s race was the lowest voter turnout in the city’s history with only 70,473 voting, or a miserable 19%, out of a little more 300,000 registered voters. Two Republicans, incumbent Mayor Richard Berry and retired APD Sergeant Paul Heh and one Democrat, retired Chief Public Safety Officer, and former Chief Deputy District Attorney and City Councilor Pete Dinelli, qualified to be on the ballot. Democrat former Albuquerque first lady Margaret Aragon de Chavez withdrew from the race. Former Democrat Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico Diane Denish and Democrat City Councilor Ken Sanchez, declined to run for Mayor in 2013 as did then State Senator Tim Keller who decided to run for NM State Auditor.
In the 2013 Mayor’s race, Democrat candidate Pete Dinelli qualified for public finance and was given $340,00 for the campaign after securing 5,000 qualifying $5 donations. Duke City Rising, the measure finance committee formed to promote Democrats raised upwards of $60,000 but spent very little on the Mayor’s race. Instead it was used to help and promote almost exclusively Democrat City Council Candidates. Despite a commitment to raise funding of upwards of $150,000 by then Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman for Duke City Rising to help in the Mayor and City Council races, only office space was given by the State Democratic party for debate preparation.
Then Democrat Party Chairman Sam Bregman reneged on his promise to raise money and asked Democrat Dinelli to raise money for the Democratic party instead. Democrat United States Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall at the time declined to get involved with the Mayor’s race saying they did not endorse in municipal elections. Both US Senators later endorsed Democrats in city council run off elections and allowed their names to be placed on a flyer promoting Democrat City Councilor Diane Gibson saying she had “friends in high places”.
In the 2013 mayor’s race, Republican Richard Berry raised and spent $1.1 million in private financing. For a supposedly nonpartisan race, Mayor Berry’s 2013 private finance contributors list was very top heavy with prominent Republican donors and heavy hitters including the Republican National Committee ($10,000 donation), Brewer Oil Company ($5,000 donation), Western Refining Company ($5,000 donation).
In the 2013 Mayor’s race, Jay McClesky spent the full $1.1 million Berry had raised to produce TV and radio commercials and campaign mailers to disparage the 28 year public service career of Pete Dinelli. McClesky produced 3 TV ads disparaging the reputation of Dinelli and proclaiming it would be too dangerous to make him Mayor.
The first false ad claimed that Dinelli over 20 years before running for Mayor, went on a “boondoggle trip” to Calvary, Canada and stayed in a “castle” as Bernalillo Chief Deputy District Attorney. The trip was in fact a three day trip by a delegation of 12 who were part of the committee consisting of construction contractors, representatives from the county, courts and the DA’s office working on the new Metro Courthouse and DA Office construction projects. The trip was arranged by Bernalillo County. No one stayed in a “castle” but at a private corporation owned home that had guest house accommodations behind the home. The day after arriving, the delegation was taken to a manufacturing plant to review floor plans and modular office construction for competitive bids.
A second false ad produce by Jay McClesky accused Dinelli of signing a multi million dollar purchasing contract for furniture for the the new District Attorneys office. The ad was an outright lie in that no Chief Deputy District Attorney nor District Attorney has purchasing signature authority to sign such contract and only the county manager can sign such contracts.
A third false ad produced by Jay McClesky accused Dinelli of violating people’s civil rights in a civil code enforcement action by the APD code teams to enforce a drug contamination ordinance. Dinelli was not even present, was already retired in many cases and did not approve such actions. It was APD employees under the management of an APD Sergeant and Lieutenant that violated people’s civil rights. The Berry Administration agreed to a federal court “class action lawsuit”, agreed to add Dinelli as named party defendant without notifying him and after Dinelli had already retired. Under the orders of City Attorney Rob Perry, the Berry Administration refused to defend the class action lawsuit and instead settled the case taking no depositions, sending out no interrogatories nor making request for production of documents, and refuse to retain expert witnesses in the case.
In 2013, then Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Berry won the Mayor’s race garnering 48,008 votes or 68.12% votes with Democrat Pete Dinelli garnering 20,248 votes or 28.73% and Republican Paul Heh securing 2,217 votes or 3.15%. It was the lowest voter turn out in the city’s history.
MC CLESKY TWICE ELECTING AND INFLUENCING A REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR
It has been said by political insiders that in 2010 Jay McClesky went out of his way to recruite Susana Martinez to run for Governor and she herself has said she would not have been elected had it not been for Jay McClesky. Rooting out corruption was a major issue in 2010 Governors race. During the 2010 race for Governor between then 2 term Democrat Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish and then long time serving Republican Dona Ana District Attorney Susana Martinez, McClesky successfully managed to get Martinez elected on a “law and order” platform by tying Denish to then Governor Bill Richardson and “pay to play scandals” of the Richardson Administration. Denish had nothing to do with those scandals and it was common knowledge amongst politicos that Denish had a strained relationship with Richardson and she was never conferred with nor part of the Richardson “inner circle.”
In the 2010 race for Governor, Susana Martinez launched TV ads to link Denish to convicted or accused sex offenders. One of Martinez’s ad, ostensibly produced by Mc Clesky, claimed Denish was responsible for a policy of not reporting juvenile illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities, a policy that the ad said allowed one man, who recently was arrested for sexual assault of a child, to stay in the U.S. The ad claimed Denish responsible for the policy which was a stretch if not an outright lie. You can review the ad and fact check analysis here.
The Richardson Administration was investigated by United States Attorney for New Mexico Greg Forate for “pay to play” allegations that the Richardson Administration was awarding state contracts in exchange for campaign contributions. Forate was forced to abandon the criminal investigation when nothing was found, but that did not stop Forate from issuing a press release that Richardson had corrupted the state procurement process. The press release in and of itself was out of the ordinary with many accusing Greg Forate of violating Department of Justice (DOJ) protocol. McClesley took full advantage of the situation to taint Denish.
What is ironic is that later Jay McClesky himself would also be investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) relating to his involvement in the “Dirty Downs” deal which is described more fully below.
MC CLESKY DOES THE GOVERNOR’S BIDDING AND AGREES TO PAY $375,000 FOR DEFAMATION
Former Republican Governor Susana Martinez was vicious in going after members of her own party who disagreed with her and she did that with Jay Mc Clesky carrying out her orders. Recently, it was reported that Southern New Mexico rancher Scott Chandler, a Republican, settled a defamation lawsuit he filed claiming political consultant Jay McCleskey and the former Republican Governor’s political action committee circulated untruthful mailers about him during the 2016 campaign. The settlement agreement was reached 3 days after Chandler filed a motion asking a judge to add former Governor Susana Martinez as a defendant in the case. The motion was based on Mc Cleskey’s statements in a recent deposition that Martinez was critical in setting up the Advance New Mexico Now PAC.
Chandler’s 2019 lawsuit alleged that McCleskey and Advance New Mexico Now PAC circulated two mailers about Chandler damaging his chances of winning a 2016 Republican primary election for House District 32. Republican Chandler lost the primary by 16 votes. The lawsuit alleged that McCleskey and the PAC mailed fliers during the 2016 primary that asked, “How did a business accused of child abuse and torture AVOID government oversight?”
The fliers referred to a 2013 New Mexico State Police investigation of Chandler’s Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program in Hillsboro, north of Deming. No criminal charges were ever filed as a result of the investigation. Chandler received legal settlements approaching $1 million from the state related to the investigation. The defamation suit against Mc Cleskey also alleges that Mc Cleskey advised then-Governor Martinez to execute the State Police search of Chandler’s ranch in October 2013. Chandler asked a 6th Judicial District Court judge on November 1 to add Martinez to the suit, alleging McCleskey recently implicated the former governor as a key player in the PAC who “directly authorized the mailing of the fliers.” McCleskey made the comments during an August 10 deposition in a related lawsuit McCleskey filed against his insurance company. In that suit, Mc Cleskey alleged that the company refused to pay his legal costs in the Chandler lawsuit.
In his deposition, McCleskey said Martinez was involved in setting up and operating the PAC, which is no longer active, the motion states:
“Governor Martinez was involved in the running of the PAC, including decisions about proposed budgets, proposed targets, and proposed districts. … She was involved in polling meetings and was presented with polling information.”
On May 20, 2019, Scott Chandler sued Jay McCleskey and his political action committee in Luna County for defamation related to mailers that were sent out during the 2016 Republican primary for the New Mexico House of Representatives. In response to the Complaint, Mc Clesky filed a motion to dismiss the case based on new Mexico’s statute prohibiting strategic litigation against public participation (Anti-SLAPP statute). McClesky also argued that the statements at issue were not defamatory as a matter of law. The District Court denied the Motion to Dismiss and the Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s decision. On April 7, 2020, the New Mexico Supreme declined to hear the case meaning that the agreed with the lower court ruling,
On Decmber 15, 2021, the case was settled with McClesky’s insurance company agreeing to pay $375,000 to settle the defamation claims against McClesky. The link to the settlement agreement is here.
On December 15, Scott Chandler issued the following statement on the $375,000 settlement:
In essence, law was made and precedent was set to provide a warning to those who chose to cross the line using “scorched earth” tactics to win. Our case will not only serve as a warning but, as a potential roadmap for others who find themselves, as we did in 2016, facing lies and unbelievable actions of unscrupulous individuals. Jay McCleskey, even in his own words, implicated a sitting Governor and their PAC acting as if they could operate above the law. In McCleskey’s deposition he was asked who authorized him to say “on behalf of Advance New Mexico that it didn’t consider Mr. Chandler to be a good candidate for the general election,” Mr. McCleskey answered “[t]he governor.”
The link to quoted source materials is here:
“THE DIRTY DOWNS DEAL” AND A FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION
During her first year in office, Governor Susanna Martinez herself was alleged to have been involved with a “play to play” controversy involving the award of a $1 Billion-dollar, 25-year, Albuquerque Downs Racetrack contract, dubbed by politicos as “The Dirty Downs Deal”. At the very center of the “Dirty Downs Deal was Jay Mc Clesky who carried out the Governor’s orders.
The FBI investigated the contract, which was awarded to the Downs at Albuquerque in December 2011, with FBI agents interviewing people involved with the Martinez campaign and others about the lease and about campaign donations and inaugural donations. Martinez herself also answered FBI questions about the Downs lease deal. Allegations were made that the Downs at Albuquerque contract was a “pay-to-play deal”, reminiscent of those alleged during the administration of her predecessor Governor Bill Richardson.
Allegations of nefarious conduct around the Downs lease involved political insiders, significant campaign contributions to Martinez and attempts to hide political donations and contributions to Governor Martinez or her political action committee from donors connected to the Downs. Two of the Downs owners were Louisianans Bill Windham and John Turner both Republican boosters and were substantial contributors to Martinez’s campaign for Governor. Martinez received $70,000 in contributions during her campaign from Windham and Turner.
According to news reports, after her election, Windham asked for a meeting with Martinez’s transition team to discuss the future of the racino lease and offered to contribute $50,000 to the Martinez inaugural committee. According to news reports, Andrea Goff, who was executive director of the inaugural committee, was instructed to turn down Windham’s offer.
At the center of the “Dirty Downs Deal” was Governor Susana Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey, who was not a state employee, yet had an office on the 4th floor of the state capitol next to the Governor. McCleskey, who was living rent free in the Governor’s mind, thrust himself right in the middle of controversy.
According to news reports, McCleskey became upset over a two-week delay to award the contract by the State Fair Commission and was angry that the commission did not approve the 25-year racino lease with the Downs at Albuquerque. McCleskey, after the vote to delay the award of the lease, made repeated contact to complain to Andrea Goff Andrea.
Goff was a Hobbs-area fundraiser who at the time was working for Martinez and raising money for Susana Pac, the Governors political action committee. Andrea Goff is the daughter-in-law of then-State Fair Commissioner Buster Goff who had cast the deciding vote to delay the award of the contract for two weeks.
Buster Goff was a Martinez appointee to the State Fair Commission and his vote was considered a betrayal to the person who appointed him.
A text message from Jay McClesky to Andrea Goff includes the following:
“Buster screwed us!”
“He [Buster] has just really hurt the governor,”
“The gov is furious … It is VERY bad.”
“These 2 weeks will not be used to study the proposal … they will be used to kick the crap [out] of the gov … That’s what he [Buster] needs to understand.”
“Windham [one of the Downs’ owners] will be a piñata for 2 weeks. … He [Buster Goff] was supposed to pass it [the Downs contract].”
Andrea Goff said in media interviews that she felt she was being pressured by McCleskey to somehow get her father-in-law to change his vote. Andrea Goff said she did not try to change the mind of her father-in-law Goff but that she did try to find out from him what happened and what his reasoning was to vote for a two-week delay. According to Andrea Goff, her father-in-law and other commissioners were very concerned with performance clauses in the lease and said to McCleskey:
“They want to be good public servants for the gov and the state but did not know they were just supposed to be a rubber stamp [ and just vote to approve].”
In one text message, Andrea Goff said Buster Goff had offered to resign as State Fair Commissioner. According to news reports, McCleskey ignored the resignation offer and harped to Andrea Goff about how Democrats in the New Mexico State Senate wanted to embarrass Governor Martinez. McCleskey predicted dire financial consequences for the State Fair if the lease was not approved.
The State Fair Commission eventually voted to award the contract to the Downs of Albuquerque with Commissioner Buster Goff voting for approval.
Republican operatives former Bernalillo County Sherriff Darren White, who appeared in Martinez election commercials, and former Republican National Committeeman and private attorney Pat Rogers were hired by the successful Downs Race track applicant. Both White and Rogers are known to have close ties with McClesky and no doubt played a role in influencing the award of the contract by the Martinez Administration.
FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION
McCleskey denied trying to pressure Andrea Goff in any manner. For several months, a federal grand jury had investigated Jay McCleskey regarding expenditures from Republican Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee that went to McCleskey.
On March 4, 2016, McClesky’s attorney and the Republican Governor’s attorney Republican Paul Kennedy, the former Supreme Court Justice appointed by Martinez and Republican operative, announced that the federal grand jury would not indict McCleskey by saying tersely “I’ve been informed the investigation has been terminated”. Kennedy declined to answer any questions. Paul Kennedy is a very prominent criminal defense attorney known to charge top dollar and it has never been disclosed if he was paid for his services by McClesky, the Governor’s PAC or by the Republican Party.
What happened with the “Dirty Downs Deal” was a good example of McCleskey’s aggressive conduct to defend and protect Governor Martinez at all cost during her entire 8 years in office. It was also a good example of the vindictive way McCleskey goes after people he views as opponents who refused to tow the line.
MILLIONS PAID MCCLESKY MEDIA STRATEGIES BY RONCHETTI
OpenSecrets is the nation’s premier research and government transparency group tracking money in politics and its effect on elections and policy. OpenSecrets is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that tracks data on campaign finance and lobbying. It was created from a merger of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and the National Institute on Money in Politics.
According to OpenSecrets, the Mark Ronchetti for New Mexico committee made 105 payments totaling $2,647,913 to Mc Clesky Media Strategies in Ronchetti’s race for United States Senate against Ben Ray Lujan. The amount is based on expenditures reported by candidates, parties, PACs and outside spending groups for the 2019-2020 election cycle and based on Federal Election Commission data available electronically on Monday, February 01, 2021.
COMMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Jay McCleskey is New Mexico’s version of Lee Atwater or Karl Rove, two of the most despicable right wing Republican bottom feeders and political consultants and strategists for the Republican Party. McClesky has even received praises for his work from Karl Rove. McClesky is known for his negative slash-and-burn tactics to disparage and viciously malign Democrats at all levels and he has been very successful at it in New Mexico for the last 20 years making a very lucrative living. It’s difficult to respond to a politcal hit piece, especially at the end of a contentious campaign or if an opponent does not have the financial resources to respond to the lies and the liars who tell them.
A “political hit piece” is the lowest form of negative campaigning used by all successful bottom feeder political consultants to smear the reputation of an opponent. In New Mexico, McCleskey has elevated the “political hit piece” to an art form. His tactics are often condemned by the public and those who are the target. The problem is that negative campaigning and smear tactics work and has worked for Jay McClesky over the years. McClesky has made a lucrative living at it and will likely continue to do so here and elsewhere in the country.
Sources have confirmed that McClesky is already lining up clientele for the 2022 midterms, including being hired by former Republican State Representative and retired APD police officer Paul Pacheco who is running for Bernalillo County Sheriff. Mark Ronchetti has now announced he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor in the 2022 election and it is more likely than not that McClesky Media Strategies will once again be advising Republican Mark Ronchetti to do whatever it can to make Governor Michell Lujan Grisham a one term Governor.
Simply put, Jay McClesky is the go-to guy for anyone who is Republican running for office willing to spend and do whatever it takes to win an election at any and all costs. One thing is for certain is that when you hire Jay Mc Clesky to manage your campaign, and if you do win, you can expect him to exert great influence over you until the day you leave office.
LET THE VOTING PUBLIC BEWARE!
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