House Office release Office Expense Reports

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In a new (and welcomed) form of disclosure, House members have released a huge document dump containing office expenditures for all 435 representatives. Sunlight will be doing a distributed research project of some sort to sift through the data, but I wanted to get out the info on New Mexico’s congressional delegation. For the following charts, the column on the right is quarterly, while the column on the left if YTD (though which quarter is kinda confusing). Click for larger versions.

First up, Rep. Martin Heinrich. His report can be found in the second PDF, beginning on page 343. Here’s the summary:

Martin Heinrich Expense Report 2009

Next up is Rep. Harry Teague. His report is located on the third PDF, beginning on page 277:

Harry Teague Expense Report 2009

Finally, here’s Rep. Ben Lujan. His report is in the second PDF, starting on page 337. His summary:

Ben Ray Lujan Expense Report 2009
Looks like Rep. Teague spent the most this quarter and YTD, almost cracking the $1 million mark for 2009 spending just more than $900,000 thus far.

Each member has about 5-6 pages of information, where the above info is broken down into details (like reimbursements for taxi rides and contracts for technology services), so check through and see if there’s anything interesting. Also, while these reports are a great asset and step toward transparency, they could be better. Keep an eye on the Sunlight Foundation blog for more and to see how you can help.

Update: To answer the obvious question, I included images because I literally couldn’t copy and paste just the sections I wanted. That’s how poorly structured these were (at least for me).

Update 2: Though Rep. Teague did spend the most among his peers in New Mexico, he didn’t really come close to spending $1 million (though Rep. Heinrich did). Also, Teague has been disclosing his office expenditures online all year long. You can see those reports here (on Teague’s nicely detailed Transparent Government page). After doing some searching on the sites for Reps. Heinrich and Lujan, I couldn’t find a similar page, nor could I locate office disclosures for past quarters.

So, kudos to Rep. Teague for being ahead of the curve.

Mr. Fancy Pants Goes to the Ball

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I alluded in my Twitter feed a few weeks ago that I had purchased a tuxedo. Well, it’s inauguration season here in Washington D.C., and I’m going to celebrate in style courtesy of the New Mexico State Society. My sister and I are society members, and while she forked up the cash to get in, the Society was gracious enough to allow me to attend as a member of the press. I think it’s very indicative of how well the Land of Enchantment, its lawmakers and other leaders have embraced new media and the state’s bloggers.

I’m also going to work with Matt from NMFBIHOP and Barb from Democracy for New Mexico to interview the freshman members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation (Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, Martin Heinrich, and Harry Teague) in the coming week.

Regardless of that possible coverage, I will be taking my camera to the Inaugural Gala (which is to be held at the beautiful Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian). So, I hope to snap a bunch of photos of New Mexican politicos and other friendly faces as we celebrate the inauguration of President-Elect Barack  Obama.

More on the Chino Layoffs

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So, looks like the job-cuts aren’t limited to SW New Mexico: Freeport McMoRan is cutting 20% of its U.S. workforce as it moves to reduce production across the board. The Daily Press also has a bit more on the local cuts this afternoon. In addition, looks like the AP expanded its coverage as well, with a really solid article:

Silver City is a prime example of how the global economic troubles — such as China’s cut in steel production or the domestic auto and housing woes — have hurt small towns across America.

“Copper truly gives a picture of the economy,” Silver City Mayor James Marshall said. “When the price of copper is up, the economy is healthy. When the economy drops, copper follows.”

If there’s any more evidence that the U.S. needs a federally-backed stimulus plan, one centered around infrastructure, I don’t know where you’ll find it. James is right – when you’re building cars and homes and routing cable to new subdivisions or creating SUPERTRAINS, you’re using copper. When the average price drops (according to the Daily Press) by $2 a pound, those things aren’t happening.

In addition, you can imagine copper will figure into a stimulus package that creates green jobs. Sure is reassuring to know we have a president-elect who is committed to that sort of goal.

Regardless, it’s probably going to be rough in Grant County for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, New Mexico’s current (and incoming) congressional delegation is already on the case, seeking federal assistance for affected workers: ((Hat tip to Peter St. Cyr (via Twitter) for the link))

The news has prompted Senator Jeff Bingaman, Senator-elect Tom Udall and Representative-elect Harry Teague, all New Mexico Democrats, to send a letter today to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

They are asking that the U.S. Department of Labor act quickly to determine whether the workers will be eligible for federal assistance.

On a personal note, it appears as though several members of my family are going to be impacted by this decision. It really hits home, as they say, to realize what the past 8 years have meant for my loved ones.

Crunch time

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I imagine most of the people still in New Mexico who read this blog are watching the economic turmoil with a mixture of fear, anger and awe. So much of the current mess seems beyond our control and completely out of our hands. And, while I’d agree with that in part, there are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Register to vote! This mess is the result of a bunch of bad decisions by a bunch of people, and voting better people into office is a great way of remedying the situation. There’s a widget on the right hand side of this blog where you can go, or visit this link to register through Rock the Vote. You only have a few days left.
  2. Donate to candidates. I know it’s tough right now, especially with the economy in the state it’s in. However, it’s probably the best investment you can make with your money. Vote more and better Democrats into Congress (people like Martin Heinrich or Harry Teague) and they’ll work to fix some of the inequality that has impacted families across the state and country. Check out the True Blue New Mexico page on Act Blue and send some coin to some worthy candidates.
  3. Volunteer. Knock on some doors or make some phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. My understanding is that they’re coordinating a lot of the get-out-the-vote effort, and this will be crucial in swinging New Mexico for the Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District and for the presidential race.
  4. Tell your friends. Send them a link to this post. Ask them to register. See if they’ll volunteer with you.

Or, you can do nothing – you can sit back and watch what happens. If you think the country is doing great and you’re happy with your health care options and you think America is safer than in 2000 and you’re not worried about your retirement, then I guess you don’t have that much at stake in this election. Otherwise, I hope you’ll help out. You owe it to yourself.

Holier than thou

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Has there ever been anything related to blogs and media that Heath Haussamen hasn’t been right about? He should set up a hotline for us bloggers (and reporters!) who are writing stories, so we can make sure our content meets his standards.

Obviously, IOKIYAR – can you imagine the furor that would have erupted had Teague said something similar?

Still, I now know Tinsley should get a pass. Thanks Heath!

True Blue New Mexico

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Donate to Democratic CandidatesMy friends at Democracy for New Mexico and New Mexico FBIHOP are fundraising again: they’ve started an ActBlue page for all of the Democratic candidates for federal office in New Mexico. They inlcude: Sen. Barack Obama, Rep. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Harry Teague, and Ben Ray Lujan.

The netroots is playing a big role in elections this year, and I give some serious props to Matt and Barb for stepping up and getting this effort going. I think it’s a testament to their hard work, and a recognition of the role they’re playing, that each of the New Mexican candidates are posting guest blogs this week (you can see Heinrich’s posts here and here).

Matt has a great post introducing the project, highlighting the unique situation in New Mexico this cycle:

In 2008, New Mexicans have a chance for a true change — a golden opportunity to make a True Blue New Mexico.  There are more Democrats than Republicans registered in the state, and Democrats control both the state Senate and House.  Yet in federal offices, Republicans hold a 3-2 advantage, including a 2-1 advantage in the House. This year, that can change — and change dramatically.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve thought that some additional attention in southern New Mexico from groups like the DCCC could help push the district closer toward the “Democratic” column, and with the right candidate Rep. Steve Pearce might have had a fight on his hands. With changing demographics, who knows what would have happened? Continue reading…