Attracting fewer international students, New Mexico loses out on big money

Attracting fewer international students, New Mexico loses out on big money

“The Open Doors 2011″ report released by the Institute of International Education (IIE) notes New Mexico colleges and universities have enrolled fewer international students this year than last, amounting to a 6 percent drop off.

The findings of the report determined New Mexico State University led all state higher education institutions in lower enrollment among international students, driving the overall state countdown.

According to The Association of International Educators, International students are a boon to the U.S. economy — a self-described “conservative” estimate points to $20 billion in additional economic activity as a result of foreign students studying in the U.S.

New Mexico’s intake of that spending pie is roughly $55 million from a mix of tuition, fees, and living expenses for 2010-2011.

While targeting international students expands the diversity of a campus, it also brings in more money for the colleges. Unlike in-state residents, international students pay full tuition. At NMSU the two categories pay $2,913.60 and $9,134.40, respectively.

International students are so lucrative that many universities pay international student recruiters a commission-based salary to attract more full-paying pupils. That practice is not permitted for U.S.-based students.

Nationally, enrollment among international students was up by 5 percent to 723,277. New Mexico was the destination for 2,724 of those pupils.

“It is positive news that our higher education institutions continue to excel in attracting students from all over the world, and in preparing American students to succeed in an increasingly global environment,” said Allan Goodman, President, and CEO of the Institute of International Education, in a statement.  “Educational exchange in both directions furthers business and cultural ties between the United States and other countries.”

The IIE report also notes China was the leading sending country of U.S. bound foreign students, totaling 158,000. Another Asian country, India, came in second with 104,000.

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UBS consultant also worked for Guv’s PAC « New Mexico Independent

There’s another fly caught in the web of connections between Richardson’s advisers, fundraisers and the companies doing business with the state. Fred DuVal was working as a consultant for financial services company UBS, trying to win business with the state of New Mexico, while at the same time he was helping to raise funds for Richardson’s ¡Si Se Puede! political action committee. According to Bloomberg News:

UBS credited DuVal & Associates, the lobbyist’s firm, with helping land an assignment to sell a portion of $1.1 billion of bonds for the New Mexico Finance Authority in April 2004, according to Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board records. That was two months after, Duval 54, was named as a director of ¡Si Se Puede! Boston 2004 Inc., a committee Richardson formed to pay Democratic presidential convention expenses, filings with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service show.

…DuVal said in an interview he didn’t play a role in landing the New Mexico authority bond deals for Zurich-based UBS and he hasn’t been contacted by investigators. The firm’s bankers already had ties with the administration, he said.

…According to filings with securities regulators, DuVal & Associates was paid $10,000 a month to find business for UBS in 10 states, including New Mexico.

DuVal’s firm “obtained or retained” underwriting duties on three authority bond deals in April 2004, totaling $1.1 billion, according to UBS records filed with the MSRB for the second quarter of 2004. DuVal said the bank may have credited his firm with arranging that work unnecessarily.

“There’s a tendency to over-report and be extra transparent,” he said.

DuVal is a member of the Arizona board of regents. His bio, posted on the regents’ Web site, reveals that he, “served as senior staff to former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, where his portfolio included the Regents, and spent seven years in the Clinton Administration in Washington D.C.”

And according to Bloomberg, both DuVal and UBS gave money to the Guv:

DuVal…donated $1,000 to Richardson’s presidential campaign in March 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records. UBS contributed $25,000 to ¡Si Se Puede in June 2004, IRS records show.

DuVal said he played no role in that committee aside from agreeing to sign on as a director at its inception, and said there was no connection with the bond deals. He said he agreed to act as a director on the committee because he thought it may fund voter activity in his home state of Arizona. That never happened.

“My involvement was saying yes to lending my name and nothing after that,” he said.

As the Santa Fe New Mexican has reported, 

…¡Sí, Se Puede! raised $336,000 from the time it was formed in February 2004 until Nov. 19, 2004 — about four months after the convention — when Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. of New Jersey contributed $10,000 to the cause. 

Richardson’s then-political director Amanda Cooper was listed as executor director of the PAC. Other directors included David Smoak, a state Judicial Standards commissioner; Fred Duval, a Phoenix consultant; Denver lawyer Ted Trimpa; Washington, D.C., businessman Miguel Lausell; and banker and Richardson crony Guy Riordan. 

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Obama’s clear break with the past

We’ve had to postpone so much over the last eight years that the inauguration day of Barack Obama and Joe Biden feels as if the nation has arisen from a near fatal coma.

We’ve postponed a mature response to global warming, postponed the cleanup of toxic air and poisoned water, postponed seeing to it that Americans are no longer the health care serfs of the developed world, postponed rebuilding our bridges, roads, levees, postponed honoring our wounded soldiers with first class health care, postponed the technological recreation of the American economy, postponed full speed ahead development of alternative and renewable fuels, postponed, if not abandoned, the creation of meaningful and well paying jobs at home, postponed the inspiration of America’s youth to service, study, and self-improvement, and postponed a productive, serious, and inclusive American discourse on the problems that face us.

We’ve endured so many egregious attacks on our liberties over the last eight years that the morbid miasma seemed filled with prophetic newsreel images of nightmares of the past reborn. We’ve endured machinations to create an authoritarian presidency, endured the potential loss of habeas corpus by executive fiat, endured warrantless searches and evasions of privacy, endured the specter of indefinite detention without trial, endured an economic system that lavishes fabulous wealth on the stupendously wealthy and pauperizes everyone else.

We’ve had to hold our noses and move through the poison gas of hate speech politics for eight long years with so much venom spilled that you’d think we were on the verge of a civil war.

And now, despite all the darkness of those eight seemingly endless years, we see a break in the smog of history, a clear moment in which civility, innovation, social responsibility and economic justice might just have a chance to arise anew. This break with the past, with the Roveian American Reich of a “permanent” Republican majority, is based on the liberation of open-minded, inclusive and, we pray, transparent leadership, and not the false strength induced by the propaganda of fear. And nothing could be more welcome.

It’s not that this inauguration heals the terrible grief so many older Americans still feel from the murders of JFK, Dr. King, and Bobby Kennedy. But there is a sense that we have somehow survived a terrible tangle of outrageous fortune –- from free market banditry and a presidential Caesar who stonewalled the Congress and the nation for almost a decade, to the eroding of America’s environmental stewardship, a perfect storm of pollution and chaotic weather, an inflamed terrorist threat and a bottomed out international reputation in which America, that once stood for fairness and human rights, was for a long bitter moment perceived as no better than the feudal keeper of a dungeon.

Our economic woes go far beyond the bilking of stockholders, depositors, taxpayers and legions of retirement investors. We allowed eight years to pass, eight years in which the world moved inexorably closer to a financially catastrophic peak oil downturn. And we did nothing to prepare ourselves for the monumental energy changes ahead. The combination of robber barons and a willful failure to read the hand writing on the wall, has created a situation in which newly minted financial regulation may try to prop up the old order just as it is collapsing into a low energy transition depression.

The notion of a presidency with no checks and balances, staunchly supported by Alexander Hamiliton in his idea of an “elected monarch” all the way down to Dick Cheney and his idea of a totally top secret executive branch, will linger in the minds of would-be American tyrants for decades. They saw how spineless the Congress was, how compliant the Supreme Court turned out to be, and how shockingly effective a simple “no” to all requests for disclosure and accountability is, even in the face of destructive and farcical malfeasance. An autocrat who learns from Bushian denial and refusal, and his total mastery of public relations and the media, could shred the Constitution.

But perhaps we shall see in the next four years amendments to Article II of the Constitution which governs the presidency.

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Former investment officer alleges pay-to-play in Richardson administration

Frank Foy, left, is alleging a pay-to-play scheme involving state investments. His attorney, Victor Marshall, is seated to the right.

Frank Foy sent a clarion call Wednesday. Wanted: an army of whistle-blowers to uncover evidence of pay-to-play anywhere in New Mexico.

“I would strongly urge anyone else who might have suspicion of pay-to-play anywhere within the state, whether it’s in state government, city government, municipal government, county government, to come forward,” Foy said.

Foy, a former chief investment officer at a state board, appeared to be leading the charge Wednesday when he came forward to allege that he had been pressured to award contracts and make investments that would reward political campaign contributors of Governor Bill Richardson.

Foy, who until last summer worked for the Education Retirement Board, is alleging in a 26-page complaint unsealed Wednesday that pressure was exerted on officers at his former agency and at the State Investment Council, to make investments that ultimately lost the state nearly $90 million.

Education Retirement Board chairman and Albuquerque accountant Bruce Malott, a Richardson appointee, pressured him to invest, he said.

“I just knew, for the first time in my career at ERB, I was instructed to talk to a bond salesman,” Foy said Wednesday, referring to a salesman attempting to interest him in securities touted by a Chicago-based firm, Vanderbilt Capital. Vanderbilt gave more than $15,000 to Gov. Richardson’s presidential campaign.

When Foy tried to resist, he said he was demoted, then forced to retire this past summer.

The suit also alleges that State Investment Officer Gary Bland also pushed Vanderbilt at his agency.

Malott, and spokesmen for the governor and Bland, strongly denounced Foy’s complaint Wednesday and questioned his motives in filing it.

“I simply lost faith in Mr. Foy’s appropriateness for the position,” Malott said in a telephone interview. “It is most unfortunate that he now seeks to exploit recent headlines for his personal vendetta against me.”

Charles Wollman, a spokesman for Bland, said Foy’s assertions were without merit and that “his motivations are questionable at best.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the governor called Foy’s claims “absurd” and labeled Foy “a disgruntled former employee who was accused of serious misconduct during his time as a state employee.”

“The Governor is confident that the state agencies named in this lawsuit acted properly and in the best interest of New Mexicans,” said Richardson’s spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.

Foy acknowledged that he was accused and found guilty of three counts of sexual harassment, “even though I denied all three of them vigorously.”

“I felt it was a sham by senior management to force my hand to get me to quit or retire,” Foy said.

As to being disgruntled, Foy said, “I guess I can be considered disgruntled given the fact that I was railroaded out of my job.”

Accusations Snowball

However the case may end up, Foy’s allegations come at a bad time for Richardson, whose administration already has come under a shadow because of a separate federal probe investigating an alleged pay-to-play scheme at the New Mexico Finance Authority.

In that case, federal prosecutors are investigating whether a California firm, CDR Financial Products, got state work in return for large contributions it gave to two political action committees started by Richardson, ¡Si Se Puede! and Moving America Forward.

The investigation cost Richardson the commerce secretary job in President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Foy said he had not been contacted in that case by federal prosecutors, but he has been contacted by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Foy’s complaint lists multiple defendants besides Vanderbilt, Malott and Bland. Several financial services firms, including JP Morgan Chase and UBS are named. The suit also has 50 unnamed defendants who are known as John Doe #1 through John Doe #50.

JP Morgan and UBS both have figured tangentially in the ongoing federal probe involving CDR. And a UBS AG consultant served as a fund-raising committee director on one of Richardson’s political action committees while the bank says he helped it win state bond work, records show.

Both JP Morgan and UBS sold a portion of $1.1 billion of bonds for the New Mexico Finance Authority in April 2004, which helped to finance the state’s high-profile transportation program — GRIP, short for Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership. CDR advised the finance authority on interest rate SWAPs related to the bond issue.

The investment at the heart of Foy’s complaint is unrelated to the GRIP bond issue, and CDR’s advice to the finance authority.

Concerted Pressure

The investment occurred in August 2006 after what he said was concerted pressure to do business with Vanderbilt. At the time, Foy was in the process of hiring outside money managers to take over investing about a third of the Education Retirement Board’s then-$8.5 billion public pension plan for New Mexico educators and school employees. Until then, he had invested that portion. It was then that he was told to speak to the bond salesman representing Vanderbilt, Foy said.

“The bottom line is the fix was in,” said Foy’s attorney, Victor Marshall. “It became apparent before the investment was made that certain people, including Gary Bland and Bruce Malott, were determined to make this investment with, of all people, Vanderbilt, whoever they are, among the hundreds of people who offer various products.”

Several months later, contributions from people associated with Vanderbilt Capital starting coming into Richardson’s presidential campaign. A total of $15,100 was given over a period from February 2007 to February 2008, records show.

“This happened a few months after the investment,”’ Marshall said. “That is not untypical. If there is a pay-to-play scheme sometimes it happens before. If the people are really stupid, they do it the same day, or right around the same time.”

After the investment, Vanderbilt paid out two dividends totaling $4 million, and then they stopped.

Ultimately the Vanderbilt investment resulted in nearly $90 million in losses — $50 million put in by the State Investment Council and $40 million from the ERB.

Foy is seeking about $300 million in damages to be paid to the state of New Mexico under a 2007 law that allows a citizen to recover three times the amount of money lost to fraud committed against taxpayers.

Foy’s complaint was unsealed Wednesday after the state Attorney General decided not to prosecute it, Marshall said. The complaint originally was filed in July.

A Troubled Fund

Foy’s complaint is not the first time the Education Retirement Board has been in the news.

In 2005, ERB was projecting a $2.4 billion shortfall and although it was able to pay benefits to its retirees, the future looked bleak. That year, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Lucky Varela lifted restrictions on ERB and other state funds (such as the State allowing them to invest in “alternatives” such as hedge funds, eliminating a “legal list” of allowable investments, and replacing it with guiding principles of the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA). It was one of several attempts that year to broaden investment possibilities for the state.

At the time, Foy was ERB’s chief investment officer.

Alternative investments are also at the heart of GRIPgate; CDR, the firm at the center of the probe, advised the New Mexico Finance Authority on interest rate SWAPS.

ERB was one of many pension funds recently affected by Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme. The fund could lose as much as $10 million on Madoff-related investments with Austin Capital Management, the AP reported in December.

NMI’s Heath Haussamen and Gwyneth Doland contributed to this report.

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Balderas asks prosecutors to look at housing audit

State Auditor Hector Balderas has completed and is asking prosecutors to take a look at a long-awaited special audit of the state’s scandal-plagued regional housing authority system.

Balderas is also releasing the special audit and other reports to the public today. The move follows a two-year investigation that began when the state Legislature asked him to take a look at the state’s affordable housing system in early 2007. Balderas says his work confirms previous reports detailing widespread problems with the system.“In my opinion, the five regional housing authorities audited by my office were plagued by weak internal controls and a lack of adequate oversight,” Balderas said today in a news release. “The poorly managed fiscal operations were a colossal failure to low-income citizens and the state of New Mexico.”

The attorney general’s office has already been investigating — most of the housing authority system collapsed in 2006 — and plans to take its case before a grand jury next month. How the auditor’s work might affect the attorney general’s plans is not immediately clear, and the AG’s office does not comment on or even confirm grand jury proceedings because they are secret.

In addition to referring the audit to the AG, Balderas is referring it to the FBI.

The scandal began when one of seven regional housing authorities in New Mexico, the Albuquerque-based Region III authority, defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state in mid-2006. Soon thereafter, the State Investment Council released a report that found widespread misuse of the bond money, which was supposed to be spent on houses. Instead, almost $600,000 went to former Region III Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos as salary and benefits. Almost $700,000 was loaned to the Las Cruces-based Region VII authority, which did little to provide affordable housing and has since shut down.

Perhaps the most intriguing misuse of money revealed in the investment council report was a $300,000 loan the housing authority made to a private company owned by Gallegos under the guise of purchasing more than 30 lots in Las Cruces — lots that had already been purchased by the authority.

In 2007, the Legislature gave Balderas’ office $200,000 to perform an accounting of all Region III assets, because the situation was such a mess that it was difficult to even determine what had happened and how much was lost. Last year, the Legislature extended the appropriation and asked Balderas to conduct a special audit.

Balderas’ office had to conduct 15 financial audits for the regional authorities that had never been completed before conducting its larger, special audit of the system.

In today’s news release, Balderas said his office found that two of the seven regional authorities are current with their audits and fiscally sound. He referred in the release to the other five, including regions III and VII, as “troubled.” Most have shut down since the scandal began.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov Diane Denish and Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, are pushing a bill in the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday that would reform the housing authority system to restructure them and expand oversight.

NMI hopes to have a more detailed report on the audit findings later today.

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Anti-corruption bill boomerangs on Guv

State Auditor Hector Balderas has completed and is asking prosecutors to take a look at a long-awaited special audit of the state’s scandal-plagued regional housing authority system.

Balderas is also releasing the special audit and other reports to the public today. The move follows a two-year investigation that began when the state Legislature asked him to take a look at the state’s affordable housing system in early 2007. Balderas says his work confirms previous reports detailing widespread problems with the system.“In my opinion, the five regional housing authorities audited by my office were plagued by weak internal controls and a lack of adequate oversight,” Balderas said today in a news release. “The poorly managed fiscal operations were a colossal failure to low-income citizens and the state of New Mexico.”

The attorney general’s office has already been investigating — most of the housing authority system collapsed in 2006 — and plans to take its case before a grand jury next month. How the auditor’s work might affect the attorney general’s plans is not immediately clear, and the AG’s office does not comment on or even confirm grand jury proceedings because they are secret.

In addition to referring the audit to the AG, Balderas is referring it to the FBI.

The scandal began when one of seven regional housing authorities in New Mexico, the Albuquerque-based Region III authority, defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state in mid-2006. Soon thereafter, the State Investment Council released a report that found widespread misuse of the bond money, which was supposed to be spent on houses. Instead, almost $600,000 went to former Region III Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos as salary and benefits. Almost $700,000 was loaned to the Las Cruces-based Region VII authority, which did little to provide affordable housing and has since shut down.

Perhaps the most intriguing misuse of money revealed in the investment council report was a $300,000 loan the housing authority made to a private company owned by Gallegos under the guise of purchasing more than 30 lots in Las Cruces — lots that had already been purchased by the authority.

In 2007, the Legislature gave Balderas’ office $200,000 to perform an accounting of all Region III assets, because the situation was such a mess that it was difficult to even determine what had happened and how much was lost. Last year, the Legislature extended the appropriation and asked Balderas to conduct a special audit.

Balderas’ office had to conduct 15 financial audits for the regional authorities that had never been completed before conducting its larger, special audit of the system.

In today’s news release, Balderas said his office found that two of the seven regional authorities are current with their audits and fiscally sound. He referred in the release to the other five, including regions III and VII, as “troubled.” Most have shut down since the scandal began.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov Diane Denish and Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, are pushing a bill in the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday that would reform the housing authority system to restructure them and expand oversight.

NMI hopes to have a more detailed report on the audit findings later today.

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Udall votes for auto bailout; Wilson, Pearce vote against it

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall voted for a $14 billion bailout for American automobile companies Wednesday evening, while U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce voted against it.

The bill was approved on a vote of 237-170 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Interestingly, Udall, a Democrat, joined the Republican Pearce in voting against the $700 billion financial bailout earlier this year, while the GOP’s Wilson voted for that bailout bill.

In explaining today’s vote, Udall said the bill will prevent the collapse of the American automobile industry. He said such a collapse would cost an estimated 10,500 jobs in New Mexico — or 1.4 percent of the state’s total work force — that pay a combined $58.5 million in wages each year.

“Today, the House decided whether or not to let two of America’s largest companies collapse and take thousands of New Mexico jobs with them,” Udall said in a news release. “I voted to protect American workers, to reform the auto industry and to produce millions of cleaner, greener cars.”

Wilson, meanwhile, said in a statement that she voted against the bill because it “adds another level of government bureaucracy. It does this without providing sufficient guarantees that the auto manufacturers will follow their promises to restructure their company’s business practices and contractual obligations.”

“Nothing in this legislation is sufficient to prevent these companies from demanding another bailout several months down road,” Wilson said. “Congress should support legislation that protects the American manufacturing jobs without harming the taxpayer.”

The bill doesn’t appropriate any new money for the bailout. Instead, according to The Associated Press, it redirects funds already set aside to help carmakers make changes in their factories that are necessary to build more fuel-efficient automobiles. The bill would almost immediately provide cash to General Motors and Chrysler. Ford would also be eligible for money.

There’s no certainty the bill will pass the Senate, but if it does, the president is expected to sign it. Many senators — most Republicans — have already voiced their opposition to the bill.

Udall, who is joining the Senate next year, said the bill contains oversight and strong checks on use of the money.

“This legislation does not spend one additional taxpayer dollar. These funds were previously appropriated to modernize the auto industry,” he said. “More importantly, the bill provides increased oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars help American workers and drivers, not stockholders or executives. It mandates that our money will not be spent on executive salaries, dividends or corporate jets. It institutes unprecedented controls to protect the people’s money from misuse. Most importantly, it ensures that Detroit can no longer continue with business as usual.”

Pearce did not release a statement following today’s vote.

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Wilson, Pearce square off | New Mexico Independent

The May 17 debate, televised by KNME, was sponsored by the Chaves Count Republican Women and the Chaves County Republican County.

Early on, there was some interesting squabbling over debate format, with U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, an Albuquerque Republican, pushing for rebuttal time. Fellow U.S. Rep. Pearce, on the other hand, a Hobbs Republican, seemed content to stick with whatever prevented Wilson from rebutting his most recent charge.

“Could you explain the rules?” Wilson asked at one point with an edge to her voice. “They seem to have changed.”

The debate featured a surprising about of disgreement between the two Republican Senate hopefuls. Wilson chided Pearce for recently voting against the so-called Farm Bill, saying that bill would harm the state’s dairy industry.

Pearce, not to be outdone, pressed charges of his own. Among them, he said Wilson had broken a no-new-taxes pledge (a charge she denied), that she opposed the troop surge in Iraq, and that she supproted “drivers’ licenses for illegals.”

Wilson’s response: “We shoudln’t have drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens,” adding, however, that she does not favor a national ID card.

There were more sharp exchanges, like Peacre’s responce to a question about high gas prices. “We must drill,” he said. Wilson, on the other hand, said she supported a “balanced energy policy,” that includes both increased production and conservation.

One issue on which both candidte’s agreed: they both support the USA Patriot Act.

And all that happened during the first half of the debate!

The AP’s Heather Clark wrote this dispatch follwing the debate, including the thoughts of a couple Republican voters who are beginning to make of their minds, in addition to each candidate’s own electibility argument.

In case you missed it this past weekend, watch the debate here.

The debate is split up over two parts. The above video is the first half; the second half is below.

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New Mexico Independent » Udall says opponents using push polls

Though Democratic Senate candidate Tom Udall faces no primary opposition, he is still facing some opposition of a different sort in the weeks leading up to the June 3 primary.

According to an e-mail to supporters from Udall campaign manager Amanda Cooper, a group from Ohio is using “push-polls” to spread information about Udall.

We’ve just received some disturbing news from one of our staff—the GOP “Swift Boat” attacks on Tom Udall have begun here in New Mexico. She got an automated “push-poll” phone call from an organization misleadingly calling itself “Common Sense Issues” this weekend. This group has been caught push-polling for Mike Huckabee in Iowa and the firm they used to make those calls has been fined in multiple states for violating the law. Now they’re here slinging mud at Tom Udall.

Neither Amanda Cooper nor Common Sense Issues was available for comment.

According to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a push poll “is an insidious form of negative campaigning, disguised as a political poll.”Some attributes of a push-poll, as opposed to a legitimate poll, include:

  • One or only a few questions are asked, all about a single candidate or a single issue.
  • The questions are uniformly strongly negative (or sometimes uniformly positive) descriptions of the candidate or issue.
  • The organization conducting the calls is not named, or a phony name is used.
  • Evasive answers are given in response to requests for more information about the survey.

There can sometimes be a fine line between message polling and push polling. Mark Blumenthal, editor and publisher of Pollster.com, writes of examples in New York’s 20th Congressional District and Arizona’s 8th District as well as polls by Clinton in Iowa that toe the line between push polling and message testing.

It seems all outside observers agree, however, what Common Sense Issues is known for is push polling.

TPMMuckraker looked into the group while they were making calls in support of Mike Huckabee. The group’s tactics included accusing McCain of voting “to allow scientific experiments to be done on unborn children.”

While Cooper referred to the calls as ”’Swift Boat’ attacks,” Common Sense Issues is different from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT), the group created to attack John Kerry, D-Mass., in the 2004 presidential election against George W Bush. SBVT was a so-called 527 organization, groups that are named for the tax code under which they filed. In this case, Common Sense Issues is a qualified non-profit, which are, according to Public Citizen, “incorporated non-profits that accept little or no corporate or union treasury funds, are not affiliated with any corporation or union, and whose exclusive purpose is political rather than business-oriented.”

The groups can advocate on behalf of a particular candidate, but cannot coordinate with that candidate’s campaign in any way.

Newsweek reported on Common Sense Issues and their work in support of Mike Huckabee.

Common Sense Issues is a tax-exempt group registered in Delaware whose organizers have acknowledged the use of controversial telephone polling tactics to promote Huckabee’s presidential bid — and allegedly to trash the campaigns of the former Arkansas governor’s rivals. The nonprofit also helped set up and run Trusthuckabee.com, a Web site that was involved in front-line efforts to recruit and mobilize Huckabee supporters to turn out for the Iowa caucuses.

Rival candidates have criticized Common Sense Issues’s tactics, questioning whether the group’s ties to the Huckabee campaign are really arms-length — as required by federal law. Huckabee has distanced itself from Common Sense Issues, renouncing its support and joining his rivals in calling for investigations into the nonprofit’s activities.

While the group gained the most notoriety from their work in the presidential election with the phone calls, they have also done work in Senate races, including against U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. Mark Udall is a cousin to Tom Udall and is running for Senate against former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo. The group aired two TV ads in Colorado targeting Mark Udall in December, according to The Denver Post.

The ads against Mark Udall focused on his support for drilling off the coast of Cuba and for his support of the Department of Peace bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Common Sense Issues is not the first qualified non-profit to be involved in the New Mexico Senate race. Lilke Common Sense Issues, the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is not a 527 group, but a qualified non-profit and launched the Two Bad 4 New Mexico campaign, which includes two TV advertisements, a radio advertisement and a Spanish-language radio advertisement. The group is also actively canvassing in Albuquerque on behalf of Tom Udall.

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is actively opposing both Republican U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Wilson and Pearce are both vying for the Republican nomination and the chance to face Tom Udall, who is unopposed by any other Democrat, in the general election in November.

The Common Sense Issues Web site, which seems to still be under construction, lists among its issues, “Life Issues,” “Liberty” and “Radical Islam.”

Update:  Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican writes the push poll is on behalf of Steve Pearce and also takes shots at Heather Wilson:

An automated “push poll” being conducted by a national conservative group in New Mexico’s U.S. Senate race is praising Republican candidate Steve Pearce while saying negative things about his Republican opponent Heather Wilson and the unopposed Democratic candidate Tom Udall.

https://web.archive.org/web/http://newmexicoindependent.com/1250/udall-says-opponents-using-push-polls

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Obama, McCain in Dead Heat « New Mexico Independent

SurveyUSA released a KOB-TV commissioned poll today looking at the presidential race.

The poll, vastly different from the Rasmussen poll from this weekend, shows Barack Obama and John McCain in a dead heat for New Mexico’s five electoral votes.

Both candidates receive 44 percent of the vote, with 12 percent undecided, according to SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA polled 600 registered voters  May 16 -18. The margin of error for the poll is ± 4.1 percent. SurveyUSA will poll the same matchups in 17 states; New Mexico was the first, and Pennsylvania is the second.

Interesting numbers include high percentages of undecideds among Democrats and independents. A full 14 percent of Democrats are currently undecided, while 17 percent of independents responded the same way. Only 7 percent of Republicans reported being undecided.

Also, Obama leads in Bernalillo County, where about one-third of all New Mexicans live, 47 percent to 42 percent.

The survey also began looking at potential vice presidential match-ups in the state.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were all polled as potential running mates for McCain. All but independent Lieberman are Republicans. For Obama, the potential running mates were former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. Hagel is a Republican and the rest are Democrats.

McCain polled strongest with Huckabee as his running mate. Obama polled strongest with Edwards on the ballot. This may be a function of high name recognition for the two former presidential candidates, however.

Edwards also appeared on the ballot with John Kerry in 2004.

In that election, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney defeated Kerry and Edwards by just over 6,000 votes. It was the closest margin of victory in the presidential election of any state in 2004.

Obama lost the New Mexico caucuses to Hillary Clinton by fewer than 2000 votes. The Republican primary will occur on June 3.

https://web.archive.org/web/http://newmexicoindependent.com/1207/nm-poll-obama-mccain-in-dead-heat

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