The Executive Summary: Fake audit caught in New Mexico; election updates from West Virginia and Missouri

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July 26, 2012

Edited by Lauren Rodgers

There are no primary elections or candidate list updates to report on, but we have plenty to satisfy your craving for the latest state executive news. This edition of The Executive Summary has the scoop on the new Facebook app Washington state will be using to help encourage voter registration, the latest developments in two key races this election season, a fascinating discovery made by the New Mexico State Auditor and changes in the structure of Connecticut's state government. As if that weren't enough, we also take a look at the historical events that led to the development of the statewide office of labor commissioner across the country.

Elections and filings

This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 6, 2012.

Thus far, 13 states have already held primary elections. Candidate filing periods have closed in nine other states. Louisiana is the only state that has not had any election-related deadline pass. No filing deadlines or elections have occurred since the last edition, so instead of the usual election reporting, we have updates on a few of the races and other election-related happenings to keep an eye on:

Missouri’s GOP primary for lieutenant governor

The re-election campaign of incumbent Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has filed an ethics complaint against Brad Lager, Kinder's most formidable primary challenger. The complaint accuses the Lager campaign of being behind the website KinderReport.com, a site launched on June 1 attempting to "highlight Kinder's previous personal involvement with an adult entertainer."[1] In the complaint, the Lager campaign is accused of "purposefully violating" the state's campaign finance laws which require truthful disclaimers be placed on all websites and materials associated with the campaign.[1] The website (the content of which has since been removed) claimed it was "not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee," but as Kinder's filing points out, it was registered to former Lager staffer Jefferson Thomas, who had served as Director of Operations. The complaint suggests the Lager campaign is responsible for the content of the site, even if Thomas is no longer employed by the campaign, because of his earlier involvement.

Lager's campaign denies any connection to the website and issued a statement in which campaign manager Ray Bozarth explained "Jefferson Thomas resigned from the campaign at the end of May. I take him at his word that he isn't responsible for the site."[2] The campaign also released a copy of Thomas' resignation letter, dated May 31, in which Thomas explained he was leaving to "pursue other options."[2]

West Virginia's race for attorney general

When Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan emerged in the Vermont attorney general primary race this year, he looked more like incumbent Bill Sorrell’s protege than his immediate replacement. Sorrell endorsed Donovan's 2010 campaign for re-election as Chittenden County State's Attorney, a position once held by Sorrell prior to his appointment as attorney general in 1997 by then-Governor Howard Dean. At the outset, Donovan referred to challenging Sorrell as an “uphill battle” and insinuated having low expectations for winning the nomination this year.[3]

In the months of campaigning that followed, however, Donovan proved to be a bigger threat to Sorrell’s re-election than anticipated, as he gained an over 30% lead in fundraising and scored a host of important union endorsements. His momentum appeared to have peaked with an endorsement from the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee in May.[4]

Then, last weekend, The Democratic Committee announced that Sorrell fell three votes short of earning its endorsement this year. The announcement left many committee members "stunned," given the long-serving AG's solid Democratic credentials, which Donovan subsequently affirmed in a public statement.[5] According to some committee voters, the snub may have resulted from Sorrell's inadequate communication and lobbying efforts with the party throughout the campaign thus far.[5] The Democratic Committee, which comprises 28 voting members and is allowed to endorse more than one candidate, awarded its endorsement to Donovan over two months before denying it to Sorrell. At the time Donovan received his endorsement, the consensus among state party members and operatives was support would be likewise extended to Sorrell soon thereafter.[4]

The increasingly heated primary race will be settled on August 28, with the nominee going on to face Burlington businessman Jack McMullen (R) in the fall.

Mark your calendar
DateEvent
July 31Georgia’s primary election
August 7Primary elections in Missouri and Washington
August 17Louisiana filing deadline


Washington state to launch Facebook voter registration app

Since last fall, the state of Washington has been collaborating with Facebook and Microsoft to develop a voter registration application (or “app”) for users of the social media website. The idea is to capitalize on the already proven success of Washington's online registration capability, which has resulted in the processing of nearly "500,000 voter registrations or address changes,"[6] since its introduction in 2008. Facebook and Microsoft may not be your typical purveyors of creative methods to enhance democracy through broader voter engagement (indeed, Facebook came up with the idea primarily to induce more people to visit, and give their basic personal information to, the site), but Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed (R), as the state’s chief elections officer, serves precisely to that end.[7] A spokesperson from Reed’s office said that the new "MyVote" app could be ready to launch as early as July 29, at which time it will be accessible through the Washington Secretary of State's Facebook page.

The first ever of its kind, the MyVote app will allow Washingtonians to update personal information, view customized voter guides, and register to vote.[8] With the state’s August 7 blanket primary election rapidly approaching, the launch is arriving just in the nick of time.

Down ballot office news

New Mexico Auditor uncovers fake NMFA audit

On July 12, 2012, New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas (D) announced that his office had uncovered that the 2011 FY independent audit of the New Mexico Finance Authority had been faked. A few months earlier, the NMFA had been designated by the State Auditor's office as "at risk" for fraud for failing to submit the audit. They looked into the matter and discovered the fake report, which had apparently been provided to credit agencies and lenders but not to the State Auditor.[9]

Balderas stated, "I am moving aggressively to determine the full extent of this fraud perpetrated against New Mexico's taxpayers. I'm extremely concerned that a report was fraudulently created in order to misrepresent the Authority's financial condition to agencies, investors and the public."[10]

Created by the state legislature in 1992, the NMFA assists local governments with infrastructure projects.[11] Balderas ran for the state’s open seat in the U.S. Senate this year, but was defeated in the primary.

Connecticut departments merge

After a year of preparation, a number of departments have merged into the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The Department, which was officially launched on July 1, 2011, combines the former Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Utilities Control, along with other related agencies. As DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty explained when the Department was announced, “By bringing together energy functions that have been scattered around state government with our environmental agency we have created a platform that will allow Connecticut to tackle critical issues we face in the 21st century."[12]

Among those agencies affected was the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which was previously part of the Department of Public Utility Control. Earlier this month Gov. Dan Malloy (D) named Michael Caron as the interim Director of the Agency. He will remain interim until confirmed during next year’s legislative session.[13]

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Featured office: Labor Commissioners

Quick facts about Labor Commissioners
  • Appointed by the governor in 46 states.
  • Elected in: Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oregon
  • Oregon’s Brad Avakian is currently the only Democratic, publicly elected labor commissioner.
  • Salary range in 2010: $70,000 (West Virginia) to $175,000 (California)

A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City claimed the lives of 146 workers on March 25, 1911, mostly teenage girls. According to Department of Labor lore, the fire, and the treacherous working conditions which led up to it, “transformed how government protects workers.”[14] That year, a woman named Frances Perkins began an advocacy campaign for raising safety standards in factories - she was named one of New York State’s first Commissioners of Labor in 1929, and the first female cabinet official. Like New York, many states can trace their labor department histories back to the Industrial Revolution, and, in some cases, to a specific turning point like the Triangle Fire.

The labor commissioner is a state level position in all 50 states. The titles and duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is to oversee the administration of state laws relating to labor and the workforce. The National Association of Governmental Labor Officers website lists a handful of responsibilities commonly ascribed to the statewide office, including regulatory and enforcement authority over:

  • The Unemployment Insurance system, and/or,
  • The Workers Compensation system, and/or,
  • The Workforce Development/Job Training programs in their respective states, and/or;
  • Wage & Hour issues, such as setting the state's minimum wage, insuring that employees receive the compensation guaranteed to them under state and federal statutes, and insuring that employers comply with federal statutes such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, and/or,
  • The state's Welfare-to-Work plan.[15]

Recent news articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Politic MO, "Kinder files complaint accusing Lager of involvement with scathing website," July 20, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 St. Louis Today, "Kinder files ethics complaint over smear site," July 20, 2012
  3. WPTZ.com "Donovan v Sorrell for Vermont Attorney General," March 20, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Burlington Free Press, "Donovan earns his party's endorsement, but his primary challenger will likely, too," May 14, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 Burlington Free Press, "Democratic Committee votes against endorsing Sorrell," July 21, 2012
  6. ‘’WTSP.com,’’ “Washington to offer voter registration via Facebook,” July 23, 2012
  7. ‘’Washington Secretary of State,’’ “About the Office,” accessed July 25, 2012
  8. ‘’Facebook,’’ “Washington State Elections-My Vote,” accessed July 25, 2012
  9. New Mexico Watchdog, "$1.26 Billion in New Mexico Bonds Face Downgrade After Discovery of Fraudulent NMFA Audit/ Updated: NMFA Calls Emergency Meeting," July 14, 2012
  10. Office of the New Mexico State Auditor, "State Auditor Balderas Confirms and Uncovers Fraudulent Financial Audit Report of the New Mexico Finance Authority," July 12, 2012
  11. San Francisco Chronicle, "NM Finance Authority's ex-accountant pleads guilty," July 20, 2012
  12. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, "Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Launched," July 1, 2011
  13. New Haven Register, "Malloy names new member of Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority," July 12, 2012
  14. ‘’New York Department of Labor,’’ “Our History,” accessed July 26, 2012
  15. ‘’National Association of Governmental Labor Officers,’’ “About,” accessed July 25, 2012