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Heinrich campaign attempts to clarify ‘lobbyist’ flap
ALBUQUERQUE — The war of words and associations in the hotly contested 1st Congressional District show no sign of slowing down less than a month before Election Day.
Even as Democratic nominee Martin Heinrich is riding high in the polls and national sources of funding for his Republican opponent Darren White appear to be drying up, Heinrich hasn’t been able to disprove one of White’s main lines of attack: that Heinrich worked as a lobbyist but never registered as one, which may have constituted a violation of state or federal law.
Two Heinrich campaign memos recently shared with NMI appear to be incomplete and include shifting documentation of the candidate’s past work. Meanwhile, the campaign has declined requests to disclose original time sheets or tax records that could conclusively settle the dispute over the candidate’s work history.
After NMI reported on Sept. 11 that the campaign of Republican nominee Darren White, the Bernalillo County sheriff, had taken to calling Heinrich a “slick lobbyist,” the Heinrich campaign was quick to dismiss the attack as “inaccurate.”
In a subsequent meeting with NMI on Sept. 26, Angela Barranco, a Heinrich spokeswoman, shared a two-page campaign document addressed to “interested parties” entitled “Martin Heinrich’s fight to protect the Ojito Wilderness.” Barranco explained that the candidate and campaign had taken their time to accurately reflect the number of hours and amount of money paid to Heinrich Consulting, the one-term Albuquerque city councilor’s small business that was paid to advocate on behalf of the then-proposed Ojito Wilderness from 2003 to 2006.
The purpose of the document was to dispel allegations from the White campaign that Heinrich was in fact legally compelled to register as a lobbyist for the work he did.
“According to both the New Mexico’s Lobbyist Regulation Act and the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act, Martin Heinrich was neither a lobbyist nor was he required to register as a lobbyist,” according to both versions of the memo.
But while the memo stipulates that Heinrich “never represented the Campaign for New Mexico’s Wilderness” before the state Legislature, it does not specify if he did so for any other clients of Heinrich Consulting.
The first memo, given to NMI on Sept. 26, lists four trips Heinrich made to Washington, D.C., to advocate or lobby for passage of the Ojito Wilderness for a total of $2,460 in income. According to the memo:
He represented the [Campaign for New Mexico's Wilderness} and its partners in Washington on four separate occasions for a total of 96 hours.
That figure, the memo argues, puts Heinrich well below the time threshold that federal law sets out for registered lobbyists.
NMI was given the memo on the condition that it would not be published in its entirety.
But after inquiring about any lobbying work Heinrich may have done in New Mexico, with members of the state's congressional delegation or staff related to pending legislation or resolutions — none of which was reflected in the first memo — the campaign updated the original memo, altering the numbers.
The second version of the memo, dated Sept. 30, states the following:
[Heinrich] contacted Federal lawmakers on behalf of the organization and its partners in Washington and in New Mexico for a total of 147 hours.
That memo, however, doesn’t give any more detail, instead adding four “other” line items with additional hours worked.
But even with the added hours, the Heinrich campaign maintains that the time spent lobbying still only constituted a small fraction of the total contract hours worked per year. According to federal law, if lobbying constitutes less than 20 percent of contract hours over a six-month period, there is no requirement to register as a lobbyist.
Both memos also contain the following lines:
Darren White’s campaign owes the people of New Mexico an apology. As a Sheriff, White should have known to investigate the facts before making false allegations
“These records strike me as grossly incomplete,” Jim Scarantino, who was the chairman of the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness from 2000 to 2004, tells NMI.
“Why didn’t he show you his original time sheets?” Scarantino asks. “The records he showed you indicated he’s withholding substantial information.”
Scarantino, who publicly supports White in the race, maintains that Heinrich was paid to take U.S. Rep. Tom Udall to Ojito and persuade him to introduce the bill. He says Heinrich also gave U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson a tour of Ojito, as a well as accompanying her on a flight over the Valle Vidal, an area in northern New Mexico environmentalists were fighting to see spared from natural gas development.
Calls to both Udall and Wilson’s congressional offices have not yet been returned.
Scarantino claims that Heinrich helped persuade the state House of Representatives to pass a resolution in support of the proposed Sabinoso Wilderness in San Miguel County and that Heinrich was also paid to lobby against oil and gas development on Otero Mesa.
Further, Scarantino cites a private lunch with U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman at the Quarters near Cottonwood Mall in Albuquerque that included both Heinrich and Scarantino and that was focused on discussing Ojito strategy.
None of the state tours or meetings are mentioned directly in the memos provided to NMI.
“How can you forget having a private lunch with Jeff Bingaman,” Scarantino says. “That was an intentional decision to leave that out. I will never forget having that lunch.”
In an e-mail to NMI, White campaign spokesman Stephen E. Schatz confirms that White supported Heinrich’s efforts on Ojito. “Darren supports protecting the Ojito Wilderness,” Schatz writes.
So while it remains unclear whether Heinrich should have registered as a lobbyist, what isn’t unclear is the word Heinrich prefers to use to couch his past work — advocacy — versus the label While would rather see attached to it — lobbying.
All of which calls to mind the advice proffered by George Lakoff, a University of California at Berkeley professor of cognitive linguistics, in his book “Don’t Think of an Elephant.”
In what he describes “a basic principle of framing… when you are arguing against the other side: Do not use their language. Their language picks out a frame — and it won’t be the frame you want.”
It’s advice both campaigns appear to have taken to heart.