New Mexico attorney general charges secretary of state with corruption


Hector Balderas at Navajo Nation Police Headquarters

New Mexico’s Democratic attorney general on Friday charged Republican secretary of state Dianna Duran with embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations, further widening a rift between the two over enforcement of the state’s laws governing campaigns.

Attorney general Hector Balderas’ office filed the 64-count complaint…in state district court in Santa Fe…

The attorney general’s investigation stemmed from a confidential tip received in July 2014. Duran was accused of funneling contributions intended for her campaign into personal accounts for her own use.

According to the complaint, the investigation centred on deposits of large amounts of cash as well as campaign contributions into both personal and campaign accounts controlled by the secretary of state. The movement of money often culminated with cash expenditures at casinos throughout the state, the complaint states.

Investigators obtained subpoenas for multiple casinos where Duran withdrew cash. Records show those electronic debits totaled more than $282,000 in 2014 alone. Another $147,641 was withdrawn in 2013.

The complaint also cites a series of detailed bank transactions as well as donations from supporters, calling into question Duran’s campaign finance reports.

I have no knowledge whatsoever where the tip came from. BUT – I almost wager dollars to donuts it involves the good old Bank Secrecy Act. Among other requirements, banks must report suspicious transactions to law enforcement.

In addition to the numerous felony and misdemeanour embezzlement and money laundering charges, Duran also faces counts of tampering with public records, conspiracy and violating the state’s Governmental Conduct Act…

Republican governor Susana Martinez said she has talked with Balderas about the charges against the secretary of state.

“These allegations are deeply troubling and concerning, and all relevant state agencies have and will continue to assist the attorney general throughout the process,” Martinez said in a statement…

State law requires that candidates’ reports list donations and expenditures. The public documents are also supposed to list the donations’ sources.

Balderas said his office had received only one criminal referral from the secretary of state for a violation of the reporting law.

A review by the Daily Times newspaper in Farmington also showed that Duran’s office collected only 4% of roughly 2,000 fines imposed on candidates during the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections…

Duran, a former Otero County clerk and state lawmaker, is serving her second term as the state’s top elections official. She was the first Republican to be elected to the office in eight decades, inheriting an agency that had been plagued by scandal.

A stellar example of the inbuilt failings of our 2-party farce.

New Mexico voters – including many independents and progressives like me – voted for Duran as the only choice offered as an alternative to a Democrat Secretary of State notorious for her own corruption. The only reason she stayed in office was a Democrat AG – from one of our political royal families – who deliberately stalled out her indictments and trial until she could claim lack of timely due process and charges finally had to be dropped.

So, the Republicans offered up an alternative in Duran – when we would have voted for a prairie dog as an alternative to what Democrats offered.

What did we get? The same old, same old. More corruption, money laundering, embezzling payoffs. What do we need? An open primary system like those in many Western democracies, like the system used in California. We haven’t any independents or Greens capable of building a grassroots base for a 3rd or 4th party. At least let us have a primary system where the occasional Bernie Sanders-style independent might be allowed to run and win.

The corruption, liaison between thieves and reactionaries representing every interest but workers and working class families, has given us 2-party indoctrination for so many decades in American politics, young people must think real democratic participation is a foreign invention. To be feared, not embraced.

I’d love to be able to think of Election Day as an opportunity – not a half-hearted defense against the evil of two lessers.

How much produce is tossed because it’s not pretty enough?

Nobody’s perfect. So why do we expect our fruit to be?

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So why do we do it when it comes to food?

Have you ever noticed how nearly all the fruits and veggies you see in most grocery stores look kinda … perfect? It turns out that not all produce grows into perfect, uniformly shaped foodstuffs. In fact, a good chunk of produce might be considered downright ugly.

But you know what’s truly ugly? The huge amount of food that gets thrown out simply because grocery stores don’t think it looks good enough for us to buy…

Think about it: 30% to 40% of food is wasted (depending on whether you look at post-farmed or pre-farmed). One tomato packing house can fill dump trucks with 22,000 pounds of rejected tomatoes every 40 minutes. And a citrus-packer estimates that as much as 50% of the produce they handle is unmarketable but totally edible.

Estimates show that 1 in 7 Americans do not have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food…

Let’s be real. When it comes to nutrition, looks don’t really matter — it’s what’s on the inside that counts…

This concept is far from new. In 2013, a supermarket’s Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign in France proved so successful that the availability of uglies for purchase quickly shot up throughout Europe.

Even before the Inglorious campaign I was part of earlier efforts to defeat marketing standards in Europe that made it illegal to distribute and sell unattractive fruit and veggies. Lobbyists from the largest supermarket chains worked with agribusiness growers who could afford to spoil and waste half of what they produced to offer only the “perfect” plum, the sexiest squash.

And the EU made anything else – not allowed.

Inglorious kicked things over the edge and made the difference. Let’s hope we can have as much success with campaigns like @uglyfruitsand veg.