New Mexico In Depth an on-line news agency and is a member-supported, digital first, nonpartisan news organization. It was founded in 2012 as a response to ongoing downsizing among traditional news organizations. Its mission is to produce investigative, data-rich stories with an eye on solutions that can be a catalyst for change. The link to New Mexico In Depth is here:
On April 22, “New Mexico In Depth” posted the following news report entitled “ABQ city councilor’s political group steps up to PAC” written by staff reporter Marjorie Childress:
“Another political season. Another new political group with a forgettable but vaguely feel-good name.
In March, a new entity registered with the Secretary of State: Working Together New Mexico. Albuquerque City Councilor Louie Sanchez, who represents part of the city’s westside, has said its purpose is to support the campaigns of particular candidates.
Sanchez didn’t file a report last week saying how much the group has raised and spent despite a state deadline. Nor did he file a no activity report, a minimum requirement of groups that register with the Secretary of State under the campaign reporting act.
Yesterday, six candidates in the June 7, 2022 Democratic primary wrote Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to request an immediate investigation of Working Together New Mexico for not filing a report.
“This PAC has developed a website, launched a PR campaign, raised funds, and retained a prominent consultant…to say they haven’t spent $1,000 yet just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Tara Jaramillo, running for State House District 38 in central and southern New Mexico, stated in the press release sent out by campaign consultant, Neri Holguin.
Here’s what we found out … .
The group retained professional political consultant James Hallinan, whose email and phone number are listed on the registration, and a website has been created. Hallinan responded via text message to me this morning, saying “the PAC is a client.” The website identifies former Public Regulation Commission member Karen Montoya as a co-leader with Sanchez.
Hallinan also said that the group wasn’t required to file on April 11 because it fell under the spending threshold, per advice it received from the Secretary of State’s office.
As it turns out, the group has now re-registered as a political committee, with its new registration active just this morning. In common parlance, we call these “PACs”.
Previously it was registered in a different category for groups spending under $5,000.
What does this tell us? We can only speculate. But the campaign reporting act requires any group that raises or spends $5,000 to register as a political committee. So possibly, the group has met those thresholds as of today. The next report is due May 9.
Staying abreast of political spending can easily be a full-time job during an election year.
History tells us that a political committee could at any moment unleash a scorched earth campaign against a candidate, out of the blue and in the dark.
One of the most notorious examples, for me, happened in 2017 when a prominent westside Albuquerque developer and a southern New Mexico oilman launched an advertising campaign with a video and billboards that suggested mayoral candidate Tim Keller was soft on sex offenders. The ominous ads showed a dark figure in a hoodie, a boy on a bicycle, and a crying girl with a man’s hand over her mouth. The public didn’t know who paid for the ads at first.
The billboards were up for about a week before westside Santolina developer Jeffrey Garrett released a statement that he was partially responsible, 24 hours before the campaign finance deadline. (Garrett wasn’t a stranger to forming PACs in the final stretch of a campaign to wage negative attacks. The year before he was a major funder of another pop-up PAC that ran ads against a vocal opponent of the Santolina development.)
The sex offender ads roiled the city, but Garrett let his identity remain secret until the day before the PAC was required to file its report.
In 2020, two nonprofit groups tested new rules requiring they report political spending. In both cases, the new State Ethics Commission was able to hold them accountable. We followed the ins and outs of those cases throughout, including the settlements with both groups.
This year, the group led by Sanchez has been quiet. We’ve yet to see ads or other activity, beyond its website. We’ll see what’s next.
Every election cycle sees such groups pop up. They often go negative. As the 2022 election season heats up, New Mexico In Depth will focus specifically on how groups comply with reporting requirements, because they mandate that groups disclose information that helps the public discern what special interests, or ideological groups, are trying to influence their vote.
WORKING TOGETHER NEW MEXICO
Since commencing his term on the City Council on January 1, Louie Sanchez has aligned himself with all 4 Republicans on major Republican sponsored resolutions calling for the repeal of past Democrat initiatives. Sanchez has voted for the Republican sponsored repeals of Democrat sponsored legislation including the city policy mandating project labor agreements, the emergency powers given to the Mayor to deal with the pandemic and voted to repeal the ban on the use of plastic bags at businesses.
It was on March 14, Sanchez announced his new political action committee called the Working Together New Mexico PAC that will back “moderate” Democrats in a host of contested primary races. The Working Together PAC is registered as an independent expenditure committee, and for that reason it cannot coordinate with any other candidate’s campaign. It was also announced that political operative James Hallinan was hired as the its executive director of Working Together New Mexico. Hallinan is the principal owner of two political consulting firms “Intersection Strategies” and “Purple Strategies, LLC. You can read more about Hallinan and his controversial past in the postscript to this blog article.
Sanchez does not define what he means by “moderate” nor what the litmus test is to get the financial support of the PAC. However, based on the Sanchez votes and actions on the City Council, he likely means a plethora of conservative Republican causes that are contrary to Democratic core values and that support corporate interests over the working class
The Working Together PAC is registered as an independent expenditure committee, and for that reason it cannot coordinate with any other candidate’s campaign. Sanchez does not define what he means by “moderate” nor what the litmus test is to get the financial support of the PAC. However, based on the Sanchez votes and actions on the City Council, he likely means a plethora of conservative Republican causes that are contrary to Democratic core values and that support corporate interests over the working class.
Sanchez and his Working Together New Mexico PAC are seeking to elect “commonsense” Democrats in races for 6 House seats, 2 statewide offices and a Bernalillo County Commission District. Sanchez did not disclose the names of the other candidates for the New Mexico House, the 2 statewide offices nor the county commission. It is unknown if any endorsement will be made in the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s race which has 12 candidates running. Given the fact that Sanchez is an ex cop, it’s more likely than not an endorsement will be made in the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s race.
Sanchez had this to say in forming the PAC:
“It’s time for politicians to stop pandering to the far extremes and start solving our multitude of problems at home in New Mexico. … [The PAC looks forward to financial] support from fellow commonsense Democrats and the business community from around the state.”
Sanchez does not identify what it takes to be a “common sense Democrat”. Using the term “common sense” is a ploy taken out Republican playbooks to promote anything they propose believing the term gives the cause credibility in voters minds. Sanchez does not say if the business community around the state include Republican owned businesses, let alone if they have any common sense.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
SANCHEZ CALLS UNION MEMBERS SLUGS
It was on April 4 that the Albuquerque City Council voted 5 to 4 to repeal the Project Labor Agreement mandates passed by the City Council in December, 2021. The legislation was enacted in 2021 when the City Council had a 6-3 Democrat majority. After the 2021 municipal election, the Democrat majority was reduced to a 5-4 majority. Despite pleas from local labor unions to keep the Project Labor Agreement Ordinance in place, city councilors voted during the April 4 meeting to repeal the ordinance.
Three of the five councilors who voted to repeal the ordinance are new to the council and they are Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and West side Democrat Louie Sanchez. Democrat City Councilor Louie Sanchez joined all 4 of the bill’s Republican City Councilor sponsors Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Trudy Jones to repeal the ordinance. Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted no to repeal.
Sanchez is a former APD police officer and was a member of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association. Sanchez retired after 26 years of service with the Albquerquerqu Police Department. He was in charge of Mayor Marty Chavez’ security detail. He is now employed as an insurance agent. In announcing his support of the repeal, Louie Sanchez had this to say:
“I know the competition is good. … I really feel everybody has to have a piece of the pie. … Another thing I know, because I was a union member for so long, is that, there is a lot of slugs in the union. I know that for a fact.”
UNIONS SEND MESSAGE TO SANCHEZ
On April 11, Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the repeal of the PLA ordinance. On April 18, the Albuquerque City Council failed to override Mayor Keller’s veto of the Project Labor Agreement ordinance on a 5-4 vote. Republicans Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and lone Democrat Louie Sanchez supported the override which is the same five that had previously voted for the repeal. Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted against the override.
Representatives and members of unions throughout the city turned out in force to oppose the override of the Project Labor Agreement Ordinance veto and to essentially berate Sanchez for his name-calling. Union members from a variety of occupations jammed the council chambers. It was clear flexing of political muscle and sent Sanchez one of the strongest messages possible to an elected official. Councilor Sanchez district has a strong working-class constituency and believed to have never elected a Republican.
Trade union members spoke to the council in opposition to the override as dozens other union members stood in support. The unions argued that the agreements ensure apprenticeship and workforce development and keep contractors from misclassifying workers to pay them less than the applicable prevailing wage.
Councilor Sanchez’s comments “there’s a lot of slugs in the union” drew particular scorn with a warning. Bobby Baca of IBEW 611, the electrician union, told Sanchez:
“I choose to forgive you for what you said, but I will never forget and neither will our membership. What you said about union workers is totally wrong, and I believe you owe a public apology to everybody standing in this room.”
Sanchez for his part only made things worse by refusing to backdown and instead try to clarify his comments when he addressed the criticism prior to his voting to override and said:
“To make it clear, I didn’t call each and every one of you a slug – that’s not what my comment was. … My comment was that I’ve been in unions before, and I’ve been in unions that have had slugs that worked for them.”
REJECTING WORKING TOGETHER NEW MEXICO ENDORSEMENT
Working Together New Mexico made it known that it intended an planned on endorsing Democrate state House candidate Cherise Quezada. Quezada, whose husband Michael represents the South Valley and SW ABQ on the BernCo Commission, is seeking the Dem primary nomination in House District 26. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Georgene Louis following her DWI arrest. Quezada faces progressive former state Rep. Eleanor Sanchez in the Westside district.
Following his Sanchez’ remarks about unions, Cherise Quezada said she rejected the endorsement and had this to say:
“My name was thrown in with other candidates’ names labeled as “moderate democrats” they were planning to endorse. I’ve never worked with these individuals and I did not solicit their endorsement. I. . . denounce them. . .because (of) the recent disparaging remarks made about unions by the PAC’s chairman. I am a proud pro-choice, union supporting Democrat.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
With his creation of Working Together New Mexico PAC, Louie Sanchez is saying he wants to be the new “King Maker” in New Mexico Politics. The antics of City Councilor Louie Sanchez forming a political action committee to promote “moderate Democrats” falls short given his support of very right wing Republicans who he supports as opposed to any of the Democrat’s. The city of Albuquerque is often vilified in the New Mexico legislature, especially in rural parts of New Mexico, often coming in on the short end of the stick when it comes to funding of major projects. Good examples include the centralized homeless shelter and major issues, such as crime legislation, affecting the city.
Albuquerque is viewed as the major source of many of the state’s problems, such as rising crime rates and homelessness. Now we have “big city” City Councilor Louie Sanchez who wants to stick his nose into Democrat New Mexico legislative politics that will likely result in even more resentment towards the city, especially if the Democrat incumbents prevail.
Freshman City Councilor Louie Sanchez has no business sticking his nose into Democratic races and establishing a PAC to unseat elected Democrats that no doubt know far more about their Districts than Sanchez and his PAC could ever hope to know or understand. But then again, Sanchez has hired a firm with extensive experienced in “opposition research” to run his PAC and do his bidding and his dirty work for him to disparage Democrat incumbents.
Democrat Louie Sanchez is now considered by many as a DINO (Democrat in Name Only), especially after forming a political action committee (PAC) to raise money and oppose incumbent Democrats in the legislature who he claims are too progressive or not moderate enough for his liking.
Albuquerque City Councilor Louie Sanchez is not up for re-election until 2025, but in less than 4 months in office he has managed to alienate so many Democrats to the point he has sown the seeds of opposition. Sanchez has also set himself up as the number one critic of APD and Chief Medina. City hall speculation is that Sanchez is already thinking about running for Mayor in 2025 or of supporting Dan Lewis for Mayor in 2025 who is also said to be running so that Lewis will appoint Sanchez APD Chief of Police. With any luck, Sanchez will be a one term city councilor.
A link to a related blog article is here:
James Hallinan is more than just a “professional political consultant”for Working Together New Mexico as its executive director. He is a “political operative” with a very controversial and dubious past. He is the principal owner of two political consulting firms “Intersection Strategies” and “Purple Strategies, LLC.
In the 2021 Albuquerque Municipal Election, Hallinan was the campaign consultant for City Council Candidate Louie Sanchez in his successful campaign to unseat City Council Progressive Democrat incumbent Lan Sena in the 2021 municipal election and was $16,679 for his work on the campaign. Hallinan was also involved with the PAC that supported Sheriff Manny Gonzales for Mayor over incumbent Mayor Tim Keller. During the 2021 municipal election, James Hallinan was the campaign manager for the measured finance committee known as “Save Our City”, the PAC headed by Sam Vigil, whose wife was killed in the early morning hours on her way to the gym by a fugitive from Mexico who was in the country illegally. According to the city clerk’s online campaign finance records for the 2021 municipal election, Hallinan was paid $60,680 for his campaign services for “Save Our City”.
James Hallinan is the Democratic political consultant who alleged that then candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham poured water on his crotch and grabbed him during a staff meeting. Hallinan claimed the assault happened during a senior staff meeting held at Representative Deborah Armstrong’s home in the summer of 2018. In one news report, Hallinan said:
“She took a water bottle and dumped it on my crotch and then slapped and grabbed me in front of everybody. … It really fucked me up.”
Hallinan waited more than a year to come forward and claimed there was a reason for that saying:
“Her campaign manager convinced me not to report it to law enforcement, convinced me not to quit the campaign because I tried.” Ostensibly, he did not try hard enough and he could have simply not shown up for work.
NM State Representative Deborah Armstrong was asked if she saw the alleged assault on Hallinan in her home and she had this to say:
“I never witnessed any such thing.”
The Governor’s Office labeled Hallinan’s claims as “bizarre and slanderous”. The Governor and her staff denied the incident ever happened. The Governor’s Press Secretary disputed all of Hallinan’s claims, saying his time working with the campaign was “marked by frequent inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Hallinan was so unprofessional … he was not offered a job in her administration.”
Hallinan sued the governor and an out of court settlement of $150,000 was reached paid by the Lujan Grisham for Governor Campaign. No taxpayer money was used to pay the settlement in that the incident occurred prior to Lujan Grisham being elected Governor. The Governor’s Office said the settlement was paid due to the expense of litigating business disputes, to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and to avoid major distraction to the Governor and her staff.
RADIO HOST ACCUSES HALLILAN OF EXTORTION
On November 19, 2021, the Albquerquerqu Journal reported that Albuquerque police investigated a local radio host’s complaint that James Hallinan tried to recruit her as a client or he would “expose private information” about a member of her family. Hallinan was named in an August 13 Albuquerque Police Department investigation report that cites “extortion,” “harassment” and “libel” as the potential offenses being reported by the radio host.
The Albuquerque Police Department released the offense report to the Albuquerque Journal in response to a request under the state Inspection of Public Records Act and in turn the Journal reported on the investigation. According to the Journal article, the police report details exchanges Hallinan had with Alyson Lamanna, cohost of “In the Morning with Jackie, Tony and Donnie” on 100.3 The Peak. Lamanna goes by Jackie on the show. According to the police report, Hallinan texted Lamanna at 10 p.m. and offered his services as a crisis manager. Hallinan told Lamanna that negative news about one of her relatives’ alleged involvement in online pornography was about to break “publicly at [some] point and within iHeartMedia corporate.”
Lamanna responded to Hallinan’s text that she didn’t know what he was talking about and told him “do not text me again.” Hallinan sent another text telling her he was surprised by her “aggressive” response and he texted:
“I can only imagine how you must feel … I was simply giving you a heads up and offering my services, and still am, in order to mitigate this situation as much as possible. It’s what I do for a lot of powerful and famous people around the country.”
According to the Journal report, Hallinan sent another set of texts on August 10th and he said:
“Hope you guys get a few winks tonight. … I felt you were very unprofessional and rude to me today when I gave you a heads up.”
Lamanna replied: “Do not contact me again.”
According to the Journal report, Hallinan took to Twitter to say he was hearing rumors iHeartMedia, owner of the radio station, was going to suspend Jackie and her husband, Tony, over “mounting allegations” that involved the relative. Officials from iHeartMedia in Albuquerque did not respond to a request by the Journal for comment.
The Albuquerque police officer wrote in his report that he responded to the iHeartMedia building in response to Lamina’s complaint that Hallinan was “threatening” her “by text messages to pay or they would expose private information about the caller.” The APD officer wrote:
“The continued texts and Twitter posts were done by Mr. Hallinan as he is knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct that is intended to annoy, seriously alarm or terrorize another person, and that serves no lawful purpose. The conduct must be such that it would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and, in speaking with Miss Lamanna, she was in substantial emotional distress.”
The police report said the case was forwarded to APD’s Central Impact team, which investigates crimes not covered by other specialty units. At the time of the Journal report, Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman, said the investigation was ongoing. The final disposition of the investigation is unknown and it has not been reported on by the Journal.
You can read the full Albuquerque Journal article quoted entitled “Radio host accuses strategist of extortion” at this link: