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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  A Higher Power
News-NMLeaks-SFR-071812

A Higher Power

Lobbyist’s leaked emails offer a unique view of government’s inner workings and key players

July 17, 2012, 10:00 pm

“Your note below says toiletries only. Is this one of those clothing optional, naked babe weekends?”

So wrote Patrick Rogers—Albuquerque power lawyer, lobbyist and member of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government—in an email to the private account of Ryan Cangiolosi, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Susana Martinez, and the professional account of Stuart Feltman, president of Coca-Cola in Santa Fe, on Aug. 30, 2011.

Rogers was responding to an invitation from Feltman that he and Cangiolosi join the Coca-Cola executive for a September fishing trip at a private outfit in northwestern New Mexico. “Please check out the Soaring Eagle Lodge on-line,” Feltman had written. “All you’ll need to bring is toiletries.”

Rogers’ email is one of a year’s worth of messages sent from the Albuquerque law firm of Modrall Sperling to the private accounts of New Mexico government officials. Most went to key aides to Gov. Martinez, who campaigned for her present office on a platform of transparency and open government but whose administration has been rocked by the discovery of a private email network for conducting state business. 

Rogers has a reputation for fighting for transparency: NMFOG Executive Director Gwyneth Doland writes in an email that he has “25 years of experience working with open-government and First Amendment laws and is a nationally-recognized expert on the issue,” and in 2006, NMFOG named him Lawyer of the Year. 

But his emails provide a tantalizing window into the high-flying world that connects big-money interests to government officials who have the ear of New Mexico’s governor. They also offer intimate examples of how a man with clout in Republican circles can influence important political and policy decisions.

SFR obtained these emails from Michael Corwin, formerly a researcher for Gov. Bill Richardson. Corwin runs Independent Source PAC, a union-backed political action committee opposed to Martinez. Previous emails leaked by Corwin to media outlets created an uproar about administration officials’ use of private email accounts to conduct state business, which may enable them to circumvent state records laws that allow the public to inspect emails on official government accounts. Unlike the previous leaks, this one is much more extensive and almost exclusively comprises emails sent by Rogers to administration officials.

Scott Darnell, the governor’s spokesman, referred SFR to the “multi-paragraph” statement Martinez issued on June 18 directing all state employees to use public email addresses when conducting state business. “This directive goes beyond what has been required or practiced in the past in New Mexico,” the statement reads.

“We’ve been very clear,” Darnell tells SFR, referring to past email leaks. “[The emails were] definitely illegally obtained.”

He would not discuss the contents of the emails on record.

SFR offered to show all the emails to Rogers if he would comment on the record for this story. He declined that offer, but writes in an email, “You have ignored my offers, my questions, my concerns, federal and state law and [the Society of Professional Journalists] ethics rules. That would be my on the record comment.”

The Emails’ Author
Pat Rogers plunged into conservative politics early in life. In the early 1980s, he graduated with a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and served as legislative assistant to Republican US Sen. Harrison Schmitt—a former NASA astronaut and geologist who last year withdrew his nomination for a cabinet post as the secretary of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department after he refused to allow a state Senate committee to conduct a background check.

Rogers joined the Modrall Sperling firm and by the turn of the century had become a fixture in Republican political circles—but then found himself mired in the scandal that resulted from the firing of New Mexico’s US Attorney, David Iglesias, by the George W Bush Administration in 2006.

In the New Mexico Secretary of State’s lobbyist registry, Rogers lists as clients: University of Phoenix, Cyrq Energy Inc., General Motors LLC, Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, Motorola Solutions Inc., Scientific Games International and Verizon Corporation.

And, as these emails show, he’s always on the lookout for more big-moneyed interests. The period following the fishing trip with Feltman and Cangiolosi offers graphic evidence of how these types of connections are made. 

That trip was planned for Sept. 24. It’s unclear whether the trio went on the trip, but by Sept. 30, Rogers had emailed Cangiolosi that Rudy Beserra, Coca-Cola’s vice president for Latin affairs, might be calling about the company’s lobbying in New Mexico. 

“I have been asked where I got the ‘I hate Ryan Cangiolosi shirt[.]’ I have insisted it was a limited run,” Rogers joked. At the same time, though, he clearly wanted a favor.

“[Coca-Cola corporate] are, apparently, of the mind that, perhaps, a Republican NM lobbyist wouldn’t hurt,” Rogers wrote. In a possible reference to Martinez’ political advisor, Jay McCleskey, he added, “As this is unrelated to the poor Hispanic Dr. Pepper girl that Jay hates, I would appreciate a plug if Beserra calls.”

Influencing Appointments
An Aug. 31, 2011, email from James Bopp, a prominent Indiana attorney with a reputation for dismantling campaign contribution limits, contains an explicit plea for “qualified conservative lawyers” to appoint to the National Conference of Commissioners for Uniform State Laws, an organization that “drafts laws for consideration by the states.” 

Rogers forwarded Bopp’s email to the private accounts of Martinez’ key advisers: Chief of Staff Keith Gardner; Cangiolosi; McCleskey; and Adam Feldman, formerly the governor’s director of boards and commissions. He already had someone in mind: Duncan Scott, a one-term Republican New Mexico legislator who, in 2006, told the Missoula Independent that he didn’t seek a second term because “I decided I could better serve conservative causes by suing liberals rather than serving with them.”

Scott tells SFR that someone approached him to ask if he was interested in the appointment, but he declined because he didn’t have time. “I was very flattered,” Scott says. “I’m very passionate about uniform state laws.” Of Rogers, he says, “[He’s] an outstanding fellow. I think [Rogers] is a brilliant lawyer who seeks to defend our Constitution and liberties. You can look over his 20-year legal career in Albuquerque. It’s chock-full of examples like that.”

Rogers had been involved even more deeply in state staffing decisions: Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 13, 2011, he emailed Feldman, Cangiolosi and McCleskey with another suggestion—this time, about someone the governor should not appoint.

“Don’t give that knucklehead Dan Dolan an interview for the State Engineer’s Job. His legal skills are marginal, his judgment is atrocious,” the email reads. 

Dolan, a chemical engineer and specialist in environmental law, was one of 22 candidates vying for the job of managing New Mexico’s water resources. 

It’s unclear whether the governor’s office interviewed Dolan, who could not be reached before press time. Ultimately, last November, Martinez selected Scott Verhines, a Republican who had served as program manager of the Eastern New Mexico Water Authority. Other emails show Rogers’ involvement in the hiring process for a new president of the University of New Mexico and recommending that a retired Republican nurse “needs appt. to something.”

Influencing State Business
Responding to the demands of being a lobbyist, Rogers was trying to lock down a commitment. On Sept. 20, 2011, he emailed Gardner that executives representing Georgia-based Scientific Games International, Inc. were “convinced you meant it when you told them to come to visit.” The executives—“lots of old [John] McCain and [Republican National Committee] people”—had met Gardner at a conference three months earlier, Rogers wrote, and “think you are swell.”

Rogers followed the compliment with a business question. “Can you find time on Oct 12 or 13?” he wrote. “See you soon.” 

SGI currently has a $7.1 million contract with the New Mexico Gaming Control Board to monitor non-tribal gaming machines and identify taxes owed to the state. The contract expires in 2014. Frank Baca, the acting executive director and general counsel for the Board, says the board released a justification to issue a bid for the new contract this July.

Almost a month after Rogers sent the email, he requested that the breakfast with “3 Scientific Games execs” be moved to the Inn at Loretto.

“[I]t’s more private,” he noted.

“That will be great,” Gardner replied from a Gmail account.

Other emails show Rogers setting up a meeting between Gardner and Pat Broe, of an eponymous Denver-based real estate firm, about possible privatization of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.
“Pat Broe says he will come down,” Rogers wrote to Gardner on Sept. 26, 2011. “Who can I talk to about collecting the roadrunner info to send him to review?” 

Gary Long, president and CEO of Colorado-based OmniTRAX, of which Broe is a major shareholder, recalls a conference call with staffers from the governor’s office more than six months ago. His company was interested in the track’s freight operations and discussed a potential purchase of parts of the Rail Runner, which has struggled financially [cover story, Nov. 9, 2011: “Train in Vain?”]. Long says nothing came of the discussions.

“We just weren’t able to identify any opportunities at the very beginning,” Long tells SFR. “The financial issues were so great.”

Significantly, none of the lawmakers or officials in other relevant agencies who replied to SFR said they knew about the discussions. Both Terry Doyle, transportation director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which operates the Rail Runner, and Frank Sharpless, transit and rail division director at the New Mexico Department of Transportation, say they were unaware of any meetings—as were state Senators John Sapien, D-Sandoval, George Muñoz, D-Cibola, and state Rep. Andy Nuñez, I-Doña Ana, all of whom sit on their respective legislative transportation committees. 

“Given the cost and commitment to make the Rail Runner a reality, I hope…there would be a truly transparent manner in which discussions involving changing the current system in any major way would take place,” Sapien writes in an email to SFR. “It appears the alternative may have been taking place.”

The Backlash
The leaked emails’ content does not seem to suggest any illegal behavior. But previous email leaks have prompted disapproval from both sides of the aisle. 

David Williams, who’s been active with the state Republican Party since the 1970s and is currently treasurer of Republican Pat Woods’ state Senate campaign, says Martinez must cut ties with people like Rogers and McCleskey in order to keep her promise of a transparent government. Williams, who helped out with Martinez’ 2010 campaign, says he still supports her. 

“I wanted to get someone in there [who] might possibly clean things up,” he tells SFR. “In my opinion, she’s not going to get that done with the people she put around her.”

Tom Tinnin, the former state fair commissioner who resigned last November over concerns about how the governor’s office was handling the Downs at Albuquerque racino lease [news, July 4: “Leaked”], says the current administration is working differently “than any other governor’s office I’ve ever seen.” 

“It seems to me the governor has surrounded herself with people that very much like to be in control,” Tinnin, who also served as the state fair chairman from 1997-2002, tells SFR. 

He adds that if Martinez, who “has the potential to be a great governor,” cleans up her office, she “wouldn’t have these problems.”


For more on Rogers' emails, click here.


SFR news intern Kris Fronzak contributed to this report.





THE PLAYERS
Who’s who in the world of leaked emails
by Alexa Schirtzinger

Patrick J Rogers: a lawyer at Modrall Sperling, Rogers has a record of supporting open-government causes. He serves on the board of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and wrote the New Mexico section of the Open Government Guide as well as co-authoring the New Mexico Reporter’s Guide to Media Law. He sent or received the bulk of the leaked emails, almost all of which went to or came from the private email accounts of state government employees. Last month, NMFOG Executive Director Gwyneth Doland called the use of private emails to conduct public business “absolutely unacceptable.”

Keith Gardner: a former state representative, Gardner now serves as Gov. Susana Martinez’ chief of staff.

Ryan Cangiolosi: Martinez’ former campaign manager, Cangiolosi is now her deputy chief of staff.

Jay McCleskey: a political adviser, McCleskey also helped with Martinez’ gubernatorial campaign—in fact, she has said she couldn’t have won without him—and runs her political action committee, Susana PAC.

Scott Darnell: the governor’s spokesman.

Dorothy “Duffy” Rodriguez: deputy cabinet secretary at the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. During her previous position as deputy secretary in the state Department of Health, she was named in a whistleblower scandal that continues to resonate today.

Duncan Scott: a one-term New Mexico lawmaker turned political operative whom, in July 2006, a Missoula Independent article titled “Montana Puppeteer” described as a man who “steers hundreds of thousands of dollars toward conservative ballot initiatives.”

Adam Feldman: the former executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, Feldman also served as the governor’s director of boards and commissions. He no longer works in the governor’s office.

John W Boyd: a partner in the Albuquerque law firm Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Ives and Duncan and a union-appointed member of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

TO PUBLISH OR NOT TO PUBLISH?
By Alexa Schirtzinger
editor@sfreporter.com


On July 9, SFR and various other media outlets received printouts of approximately 65 emails detailed in this story (and, more extensively, at SFReporter.com). SFR did not solicit the emails.
SFR received the emails from Michael Corwin, formerly a researcher for Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson and the leader of Independent Source PAC, a political action committee critical of Martinez. Corwin wouldn’t identify the source of the emails, but writes in a statement for SFR: “I can state unequivocally that the source is a person of good character and standing in the community. I have not in anyway altered the emails and their content is as I received them…The source has represented to me that the source was legally permitted to access and distribute the emails and did not obtain them in any way that was illegal. As far as the content of each email, there is every expectation that the content of these emails are factually accurate and have not been fabricated in any way.”
To the best of our knowledge, the emails display no explicitly illegal behavior; instead, they simply show the level of access and influence lawyer and lobbyist Pat Rogers has with the governor’s office. They also reveal an astonishing level of hypocrisy: Rogers, a board member of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and the author of two media law handbooks, is an active participant in the type of closed government FOG Executive Director Gwyneth Doland herself has publicly decried (disclosure: In the past, Doland has written for SFR).
In an email to SFR, Doland writes that NMFOG has scheduled a meeting with Rogers to discuss the issue. She adds that in the meantime, Rogers has asked to keep himself out of NMFOG communications until then.

 

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