Emails show Rio Grande Foundation sought to fund fake report to bolster Republican agenda

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A new review of secret campaign emails leaked from Susana Martinez’s campaign email accounts 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”

More about the men in the email thread in this report.

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:

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

Read the full emails in this report.

Who’s who in this email chain?  We name names here.

Gessing apparently got his sugar daddy.

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.”

Gessing was joined in the push by other Martinez surrogates and Republican candidates.

Set aside (for now) the issue of a 501c3 non-profit coordinating through campaign emails with political operatives to develop a campaign strategy for candidates for office.

See IRS publication: The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations & Published Guidance on Political Campaign Activity of 501(c)(3) Organizations

So what was the study Gessing wanted to replicate to push his right to work agenda? We reconstructed the URL and found the original study:

Minnesota RTW study promoted by Rio Grande Foundation

Minnesota RTW study promoted by Rio Grande Foundation

The study was published by the Center for the American Experiment which has published “conservative and free market” ideas for decades, including a piece on teaching poor people how to feel rich.

The Center for Media and Democracy describes CAE:

The Center of the American Experiment (CAE) is a right-wing pressure group based in Minnesota. It is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as “think tanks” and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide…

SPN is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Additionally, CAE board member, John Gibbs, represents Comcast Corporation on the ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force.[4

The Rio Grande Foundation is also a member of the State Policy Network and an ALEC ally.

And now, thanks to Gessing, New Mexico’s right wing has a shiny “new” study “proving” that right to work is right for New Mexico.