Ivey-Soto campaign mail featured photo that includes one of his accusers

Three-term Democratic state senator Daniel Ivey-Soto already faces a stiff headwind in his bid to win re-election.His campaign might have made his quest harder when one of its fliers hit mailboxes Saturday and Monday. 

At the top-left corner of one of the photos in the campaign literature stands a smiling woman at a bill-signing ceremony with Ivey-Soto and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The woman, Miranda Viscoli, is one of several women who in 2022 alleged unwanted or abusive behavior by Ivey-Soto to a special counsel hired by state lawmakers looking into a complaint that the Albuquerque Democrat had violated the Legislature’s Anti-Harassment policy. The special counsel later produced a 27-page report.“After what I went through with him, that’s not OK,” Viscoli said of her appearance in Ivey-Soto’s campaign flier during an interview Wednesday afternoon. “He could have cropped me out of that picture.”

Viscoli and her husband, Steve Lipscomb, are supporting Ivey-Soto’s primary election opponent, Heather Berghmans. Lipscomb was quoted in a New Mexico In Depth story published Tuesday as saying “I hope everyone will do everything they possibly can … to say,  ‘It’s not ok, it’s not ok to abuse women in the Roundhouse where government conducts business in our state.’”Berghmans’ campaign sent out a press release early Wednesday afternoon criticizing Ivey-Soto’s inclusion of Viscoli and one other woman in his flier.

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure and sever ties with him over sexual harassment and assault allegations, many of which were made by advocates of liberal causes. 

A spokesperson for the party confirmed last week the party has continued to bar Ivey-Soto from participating in its internal activities, a position first made public last August. But the party has stopped short of calling for him to resign. 

However, senior Democratic senators – including some of the most liberal – have thrown Ivey-Soto a lifeline in his contest with Heather Berghmans with big campaign contributions even as changing mores of the #MeToo era test the gender dynamics in the Roundhouse. 

Some of those senators say they support Ivey-Soto in the June 4 primary election because of his open mind and attention to detail in lawmaking and parliamentary procedure. The accusations, made public in February 2022 when progressive advocate and lobbyist Marianna Anaya issued an open letter saying Ivey-Soto groped her at a teachers union reception at a downtown Santa Fe hotel in 2015,  humbled the Albuquerque attorney who is known to toss invective in legislative debates, they say. 

Ivey-Soto has denied Anaya’s allegation — as well as another that he held up a voting rights bill Anaya lobbied for in January 2022 after she refused his advances over drinks at a downtown Santa Fe restaurant. 

But Anaya’s accusations set off cascading events that have Ivey-Soto scrambling to retain his Senate District 15 seat to represent Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. 

An attorney retained by a Senate ethics subcommittee to investigate a formal complaint by Anaya concluded in 2022 that probable cause existed in two of the three allegations to trigger a public hearing by the full Senate ethics committee. But the subcommittee — composed of four of his fellow senators — instead closed the case. It’s unclear what other information they considered.

Lobbyist transparency takes a nosedive

In our society, money buys things. That includes at places like the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, where the textbook ideal is an informed citizenry empowered to ask elected officials educated questions about how decisions are made but where the reality often is more muddy.

What money buys in Santa Fe is a pressing question these days in New Mexico, where in the past three years, a former secretary of state has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and a former state senator has been convicted of bribery.

Martinez vetoes bill to close lobbyist loophole

Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required lobbyists to return to disclosing more information publicly about money they spend on public officials. The Legislature passed a law that weakened those rules last year but sought to correct what some lawmakers called an inadvertent mistake during this year’s 60-day session, which ended last month. Martinez’s veto means lobbyists won’t need to report expenses on lawmakers and other public officials under $100, as they did prior to the current law taking effect. Martinez explained her reasoning in a one-page veto message. “Various interpretations and ambiguity of the bill became clear” after discussion with the bill sponsor, Martinez wrote in her veto message, although she didn’t detail that ambiguity.

Lawmakers won’t get cut of infrastructure funding pie in 2017

There won’t be any local road repairs, senior center vehicles or shade structures at schools coming from New Mexico lawmakers this year. There’s simply not enough money to sell more than about $63 million in severance tax bonds this year because of the decline in oil and gas revenue nationwide. That’s according to the sponsor of the annual capital outlay bill, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa. “It would be a frivolous attempt for us to try to distribute that among 112 members,” Cisneros said. “If anything, right now we’re looking at using it for statewide needs.”

And the amount available won’t go far on statewide requests, which total $359 million.

Lobbyist loophole fix stalls in Senate committee

A state Senate committee failed to muster enough votes Wednesday morning to pass a bill that would fix a transparency loophole the Legislature created last year. But the bill sponsor said he’ll try again to get the measure through the Rules Committee. The loophole allows lobbyists to disclose much less about how they spend money on public officials than they used to. It removed a requirement for lobbyists to report expenses spent on individual lawmakers below $100. Previously, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per lawmaker and reporting the cumulative amount of expenses below $75 per lawmaker.

Capital outlay funding transparency passes first test

A bill requiring disclosure of legislative earmarks for infrastructure projects took its first step Monday. The Senate Rules Committee approved Senate Bill 25 in a 7-1 vote. It would require individual lawmakers’ allocations for capital outlay projects to be posted on the internet 30 days after the session ends. The Legislature typically divvies up a portion of the available infrastructure bond money among individual lawmakers. The House and Senate get equal amounts of money, with those amounts divided equally among members of each chamber.