Leaked Emails: GOP leaders seek fake report to push right to work and ‘sugar daddy’ to fund it

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Picture it: February 2012. New Mexico Republicans were almost to the end of a 30-day legislative session where their voting block had successfully defeated key Democratic sponsored legislation like a raise to the minimum wage.

With three days left before the 2012 session adjourned, Democrats were whipping votes to pass their key legislation. But Republican operatives were already looking to define the next election and their agenda with a new campaign issue that would propel them to take over the House in 2014.

A new review of secret campaign emails leaked from Susana Martinez’s campaign account by former staffers located emails between the Rio Grande Foundation and Republican operatives looking for a “sugar daddy” to pay for a fake report and new narrative designed to “win all close elections” against Democrats “dumb” enough to oppose it.

The Emails

On Thursday February 17, 2012 the Rio Grande Foundation’s Paul Gessing emails Republican lawyers Mickey Barnett and Duncan Scott along with former sheriff and failed congressional candidate turned Republican operative Darren White and the governor’s top political operative, Jay McCleskey “RE: Question and potential study”

Read more about the men behind the emails here.

In the email, Gessing is fishing for funding to create a “study” to support a new push for right to work (for now, let’s set aside the problem of funding a “study” to reach a pre-determined conclusion:

Email from Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation, Feb 17, 2012

Email from Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation, Feb 17, 2012

The next day, Mickey Barnett responds:

Email between NM GOP operatives, from Susana2010.org emails

Email between NM GOP operatives, from Susana2010.org emails

“We need s sugar daddy willing to put up $S$ to push it. We can win all close elections if D is dumb enough to oppose.” 

That simple email lays out the GOP agenda for right to work: Pay an out-of-state academic to write a “scientific” analysis supporting their pre-determined conclusion, then find a sugar daddy donor to push that narrative through elections and use it to defeat Democrats.

That’s the plan. Politics at it’s best and we can track it playing out from this conception point in 2012 emails straight to the 2015 legislature. Fast forward to the Fall of 2013 – one year ahead of the 2014 elections – and Gessing is promoting his new New Mexico studies in favor of right to work. The Capitol Report even highlighted his work, saying “Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, an Albuquerque-based free-market think tank that has been a strong supporter of right-to-work legislation.”

National Journal reports that McCleskey “sent an email to another former Martinez operative calling (c)(4)s the “vehicles we’ll use.”

By late 2013, Duncan Scott (also in the email chain) had launched the ‘dark money’ 501c4 advocacy group, New Mexico Competes, which is “defending the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.”

Since then, a new non-profit astroturf (“An artificially-manufactured political movement designed to give the appearance of grass roots activism” – politicaldictionary.com) organization has emerged to support the GOP right to work agenda.

Founded by a major GOP donor and run by a Republican public relations operative, Jobs For All New Mexico says it is a grassroots organization but it shows no members or off-line presence.

Supporters of right to work continue to promote junk science so bad even the Albuquerque Journal called it fake:

The National Right-to-Work Committee cites a 1998 study by University of Minnesota economist Thomas Holmes to support its contention that right-to-work laws attract industry and stimulate economic growth…But Holmes wasn’t studying right-to-work laws. His paper says he was comparing states with pro-business policies against other states and chose right-to-work states to represent all states with pro-business policies.

“In sum, broad comparisons of right-to-work states and non-right-to-work states prove nothing about the effects of states’ policies on manufacturing growth rates,” Holmes wrote.