It’s a story everyone is talking about.
First Mother Jones released explosive tapes from inside Susana Martinez’s 2010 campaign. And that story included an allegation from a former staffer that the campaign routinely had investigators working for then-District Attorney Susana Martinez check license plates of vehicles supporting her opponent.
In September, the new district attorney, Mark D’Antonio, announced that emails from the Martinez-era were “intentionally destroyed” before he took office.
And that seemed like the end until ProgressNowNM identified a backup server in Albuquerque which contained some of those deleted emails. (our stories here, and here). Our investigation showed that Martinez’s staff tipped off Republican campaign operatives to an investigation into voter registration fraud by the Republican party (our story here) and that they later shredded copies of documents they research and used in Martinez’s campaign commercials (that story here).
Now the Santa Fe Reporter’s Justin Horwath has used those same archived emails to uncover evidence that the Martinez campaign deployed its law enforcement investigators to conduct opposition research and even teamed up with supporters in Albuquerque to get the dirt.
It’s a great piece of reporting you should really read.
First, from the Santa Fe Reporter:
Other emails obtained by SFR, and recently released by the advocacy group ProgressNow New Mexico, indicate that the Martinez campaign’s apparent abuse of government resources started months before the license plate incident.
At the end of August 2010, one of Martinez’ top prosecutors in the Third, Amy Orlando, emailed Scarborough the name of an immigrant, Natividad Mendoza, along with his date of birth, social security number and driver’s license number. The subject line to Orlando’s email reads “People to run.” She indicated to her sister in other messages that she had was conducting work on commercials for Martinez’ gubernatorial campaign that Sunday.
Two days later, the campaign released a TV ad saying that “Martinez gave criminal illegals prison time,” while her opponent “gave them drivers licenses” under Bill Richardson’s administration. The commercial showed booking sheets, presumably of undocumented immigrants who had been arrested.
Orlando wrote to Scarborough that another employee had been “running” the names through “CMS,” short for case management system, a database that allows district attorneys offices across the state to access information on prosecutions, witnesses and criminal defendants. Years before, Martinez had been instrumental in developing the database.
“I looked at the commercial they describe, and the records in that commercial are booking reports, which are all public record,” Orlando says in a written statement to SFR when asked about the correspondence. She also wouldn’t directly in a written statement deny the claim that she used the law enforcement databases to conduct research for the campaign commercial.
Two weeks after the ad ran, a staffer in the Third Judicial District office asked Orlando if she could “shred” a “pile of booking sheets that we had in my office.”
“For what??” Orlando replied.
“They are a bunch we printed the night we stayed looking for drivers license stuff,” office manager Robin Bruck replied, “I think these are all the ones that did not have a drivers license.”
“Yes!!” Orlando responds. “Thanks!!”
…new evidence suggests the Martinez 2010 campaign took political espionage to another level by using the taxpayer-financed resources of the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office to give it an edge. In the process, the campaign subjected unsuspecting people to a research process normally reserved for suspects under investigation by law enforcement, specifically targeting undocumented immigrants and at least one person engaging in political speech protected by the First Amendment—the anti-Martinez bumper sticker.
Ford, who was working as the candidate’s personal assistant, sent a photo of the license plate to [DA investigator Kip] Scarborough in the email. “What’s up??” he replied. “Tejana Susana stickers all over back and parked at our hotel,” she wrote back. He knew exactly what to do with the information: “Cool I will see who it belongs too!! [sic]” he replied.
Tracing the owner of a vehicle using just its license plate number would be impossible for anyone who didn’t have access to confidential law enforcement or motor vehicle department information. Federal law prohibits motor vehicle departments from giving out identifying information on drivers to anyone not authorized to see that information…Emails released by AODA also show an outsized investigative role for Scarborough. He appears to be tracking vehicles in Santa Fe during his time as an investigator with the Doña Ana County office, sending himself photographs of the City Different streetscape. In a handful of other emails during the campaign, a man who calls himself James Roehl sends Scarborough license plate numbers in a series of incoherent messages. It’s unclear why he sends the license plate numbers, but after the November election, Roehl, in a reference to Martinez’ opponent Diane Denish, wrote to Scarborough that, “I delivered to you a box of files for review relating to the Denish related matters that are not part of the new district attorney files.” Roehl threatened to call the police when a reporter knocked at the door of his Albuquerque apartment recently.