How much is too much? NMDOH spends millions of dollars on vaccine commercials.

Preface: I do not have cable television. According to global market research and public opinion specialist Ipsos, only 1 in 5 Millennials (19%) use cable TV, compared to nearly half of all Baby Boomers (49%). I fit right in with the rest of my generation. Because of this, I was oblivious to the New Mexico Department of Health’s reckless commercial spending until I received an anonymous tip.

Last week, a Rio Grande Foundation supporter expressed concerns that the NMDOH was running commercials on local television stations encouraging New Mexicans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “Jane Doe” explicitly pointed to the repetitive nature of the commercials: sometimes they ran twice or more during the same commercial break.

After some digging, this version of the advertisement on NMDOH’s official YouTube channel was found. Confirming with Jane that this ad was indeed the same ad she had seen, an official request to inspect public records was submitted to DOH: how much money was spent on the production of the commercial and how much was spent on buying airtime?

One of several 15-second advertisements from the New Mexico Department of Health encouraging New Mexicans to get vaccinated against COVID-19

“I am seeking to inspect each and every receipt for payments made by the New Mexico Department of Health for placement of these advertisements on any television network between January 1, 2021 and February 22, 2022.”

During the 14 month period from January 2021 to February 2022, NMDOH spent $20,074,331.01 on production and distribution of the commercial. 100% of these payments were made to Real Time Solutions, a self-described web based business solutions provider in Albuquerque.

13 separate invoices ranging from $319,473.48 to $3,372,899.06 were paid by NMDOH. All of the original invoices have been made available for you to inspect yourself.

A revised request was submitted this morning to include all spending between January 2020 and February 2022.

InvoiceDateAmountDrive Link

Rio Grande Foundation Settles Public Records Lawsuit Against Bernalillo County

After thirty-two months of litigation and negotiation, the Rio Grande Foundation is pleased to announce the settlement of the lawsuit related to Bernalillo County’s lack of transparency and openness. The actions of the county have proven to be antithetical to the principles of open government.

In 2019, Bernalillo County considered enacting the Employee Wellness Act which would require businesses with a physical presence and at least two employees in unincorporated parts of the county to provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 32 hours worked. This was to be voted on by the county commission during the summer of 2019.

The Rio Grande Foundation requested Bernalillo county voters submit feedback in opposition to the policy. In order to track the sentiment of the population, the Foundation submitted a request to inspect public records on June 21, 2019. The requested records were emails sent from the public related to the ordinance.

After repeated delays and inaction from the county, the Foundation filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against the Bernalillo County Commission to halt any further action on the pending ordinance. Judge James Noel denied the temporary restraining order but considered the case to compel the production of records.

Eventually the county produced some records, although the records were improperly redacted. The responsive documents included emails from residents of Albuquerque. However, the residents in favor of the ordinance had their email addresses redacted from the responsive documents while those against the ordinance were not redacted, presenting the county’s bias.

In September of 2020, Judge Victor Lopez ruled that the county’s redactions were correct but the delays were not. This decision was appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled in the Foundation’s favor on issues of both timeliness and improper redactions in 2021, awarding the Foundation fines and fees in accordance with the Inspection of Public Records Act. The award included attorneys fees and a monetary settlement.

The Foundation’s President, Paul Gessing, applauded the decision: “This is a victory for transparency. Bernalillo County was clearly at fault in not providing timely access to public records. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals found in favor of the public’s right to know. We are hopeful that Bernalillo County adopts new policies and procedures to ensure that lawful requests to inspect public documents are promptly honored.”

Act NOW to prevent lame duck Albuquerque City Council from pushing subsidy scheme: final vote on December 20

“Lame duck” Albuquerque City Council is at it again. Fresh off a big giveaway to local labor unions, the “lame duck” progressives on city council are pushing a big subsidy for the University of New Mexico. Specifically, the subsidy is for redevelopment of property and the subsidy would be given to the university’s “redevelopment corporation.”

The vehicle for the subsidy is a “Tax Increment Development District,” or TIDD.

The deal works like this: Albuquerque diverts future property tax revenue increases from a defined area within the city toward the UNM improvement project. Because the subsidy is not appropriated directly from the city’s budget, the city will incur the immediate loss through forgone tax revenue. The funding is created by the borrowing against future increases in property-tax revenues. Long story short, it’s a bad idea: taxpayers and property owners all draw the short straw while UNM sees a major influx of cash.

Being considered is 2,491,300 square feet of building improvements–with $136,500,000 of $300,000,000 being tax-exempt and subsidized. This directly benefits UNM and its development arm at the expense of taxpayers throughout the city. Why is $136 million in “building improvements” being given to a tax-exempt university? Isn’t that the purpose of the bonds we already vote for?

The issue is being considered by vote of the city council on December 20th and I need you to write an email to Albuquerque City Council to urge their opposition to the deal. I’ve already drafted the email for you: all you need to do is click on the link and press send.

>> Click here to write an email to Albuquerque City Council. <<

Or you can write your own message using This email gets forwarded to all members of the city council.

A local activist has been working with the Rio Grande Foundation on this issue. He wrote an article in the Albuquerque Journal that identifies the major concerns with the proposal. I encourage you to read his piece here. (

Help us stop this “lame duck” Council from pushing through even more bad policy on its way out the door!

Tipping Point Episode 361: Lame Duck Council, Redistricting, No Merger for PNM and more

Last week saw the final runoff votes in Albuquerque’s City Council races. Wally and Paul discuss the results and the fact that another “lame duck” city council meeting on December 20 could result in a generous TIDD for UNM.

The special session is still going on in Santa Fe. What’s the status of those maps? Paul and Wally discuss. An issue regarding medical malpractice got added to the agenda. Wally and Paul discuss what is happening.

The full PRC has rejected the Avangrid/PNM merger on a 5-0 vote. Where to next?

A new Wallethub report highlights MLG’s ongoing failure on unemployment.

RGF files a formal complaint with the AG’s office regarding MLG’s travel to Scotland.

Covid cases really are declining now in New Mexico.

Polis: “The emergency is over.” 

MLG: Extends mask mandate to January 7. 

California re-imposes a universal indoor mask mandate. So does New York.

The ABQ Journal editorializes on vaccine mandate at Pit. While RGF does NOT support vaccine mandates, we DO question the double standard imposed by MLG regarding forced vaccination and boosters for UNM students and faculty, but no vaccine for basketball fans.

Rio Grande Foundation Files Complaint Against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for Failing to Disclose Travel Records

(Albuquerque, NM) – The Rio Grande Foundation has filed a complaint with New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) alleging that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has failed to disclose records relating to the governor’s attendance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

In their official capacity, Governor Lujan Grisham and members of her administration attended the conference as representatives of New Mexico. The expenses incurred for travel, food, and lodging are subject to inspection by the public, whether the expenses were paid for with taxpayer funds or otherwise. If special interests funded this excursion, the public has a right to know.

The Foundation submitted a request for records on November 1, 2021 asking for all documents related to these costs. On November 16, 2021, the request was improperly denied. The request to inspect records was expanded and a revised request was submitted on November 18, 2021 and was wrongfully denied on November 23, 2021.

According to the Inspection of Public Records Act, “public records” means all documents, papers, letters, books, maps, tapes, photographs, recordings and other materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that are used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business, whether or not the records are required by law to be created or maintained.

Patrick Brenner, Vice President of the Rio Grande Foundation, said “We requested all receipts and documents associated with the administration’s attendance at this international conference. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has acknowledged that her attendance was in her official capacity as a representative of New Mexico. As such, the records related to transportation are subject to inspection, especially if they were paid for by a special interest or foreign entity. No disclosure of any in-kind contribution can be found in the latest campaign finance report. The administration’s continued devotion to anti-transparency is deeply disturbing and undermines the public trust.”

The Foundation maintains that the Office of the Governor has improperly and wrongly withheld documents that ought to have been made available for inspection by the public. We look forward to a swift response from the Attorney General.

The original complaint can be examined here:

This press release is available in PDF format here:

Keller using shiny stadium to distract from rampant crime

This article first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on August 10th, 2021.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has decided that, despite rampant crime and a homeless problem that has grown dramatically worse on his watch, building a new soccer stadium for New Mexico United should be a top city priority. The stadium itself, to be located somewhere in the vicinity of Downtown, will cost taxpayers in excess of $70 million. That doesn’t include land acquisition, parking or inevitable cost overruns.

If the City Council approves the deal, Albuquerque voters will vote on whether to finance the project this November. It is difficult to see how financing a new soccer stadium is anywhere near the top of the city’s agenda. Albuquerque is a city with serious problems.

Recently the Journal reported on rampant crime along East Central. Of course, crime and homelessness are rampant along Central, Downtown and in many parts of our city. It would be far easier to name the few places in Albuquerque where there is not a significant crime and homeless problem than to name all the places that have issues.

In a recent report WalletHub identifies the city of Albuquerque as having the fourth-highest increase in homicides per capita in the nation (2020 vs 2021). Combined with Albuquerque’s already high crime levels before the pandemic, public safety would top most lists for local needs.

Notably, the Albuquerque Police Department budget has not changed substantially in recent years. By no means am I suggesting more dollars always result in better outcomes, but the perceived lack of prioritization on public safety implicates Mayor Keller’s belief that crime is not as important as building a stadium. Or, perhaps, as he heads into his reelection campaign, he is trying to change the subject from crime to stadium.

And then there is the Downtown location. State and local governments have spent decades trying to revitalize Downtown Albuquerque with little success. With safety and homeless problems only getting worse and Downtown businesses still not recovered from the one-two punches of COVID-19 lockdowns and protests, this is a particularly risky time to invest taxpayer dollars in a Downtown stadium.

On the other hand, New Mexicans, not just locals, have flocked to The Pit, Isotopes Park and UNM Stadium for decades. These facilities are all located in the same area of town, have abundant parking shared among the various facilities and little in the way of crime or homeless issues. United does extremely well in attendance at Isotopes Park, allowing the team to vault to the top of attendance rankings in the USL.

It seems Keller is a believer in “Mad Men’s” Don Draper school of thought: If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation. He has failed in the basic government task of public safety and keeping the city clean, so now he’s distracting voters with a shiny new stadium.

In the end, economists across the political spectrum agree that taxpayer-funded stadiums are economic-losers.

To that end, the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s May 2017 report “The Economics of Subsidizing Sports Stadiums” concluded, “Rather than subsidizing sports stadiums, governments could finance other projects such as infrastructure or education that have the potential to increase productivity and promote economic growth.”

I urge the City Council and ultimately the voters to heed their advice.

Rio Grande Foundation is New Mexico’s free-market research institute and think tank. An advocate for open government, the author leads the foundation’s government transparency and accountability efforts.

An Interest Rate Cap Will DEFINITELY Hurt Small Borrowers

Today, the Senate Banking Committee, led by Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), is hosting a hearing titled, “Protecting Americans from Debt Traps by Extending the Military’s 36% Interest Rate Cap to Everyone.”

Absolutely: ensuring affordable access to credit for lower-income families and workers is a noble and worthwhile goal. That goal is not achieved with legislative proposals such as the imposition of a 36 percent interest rate cap. Lower-income individuals rely on safe and affordable small-dollar lending offered by financial institutions to cover unexpected expenses. An artificial interest rate cap restricts incentives for financial institutions to provide such small dollar lending services to subprime borrowers. Without incentives, the institutions offering these products will simply stop offering them. Without access to these vital products, borrowers might find themselves with few, if any, options.

It should also be noted that top-down interest rate advocates fail to justify their proposals by merely citing the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of a loan. Context is critical to understanding the purpose of small-dollar high-interest loans.To suggest that small-dollar loans from reputable financial institutions are excessively expensive by pointing to their APR fails to recognize the reality of how such products are utilized. These small loans are designed to cover emergency expenditures and are often paid back by borrowers within a short period of time. To justify rate caps by discussing such a loan’s cost in terms of a year is, as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, “like saying that a $100 a night hotel room costs $36,500 a year, when virtually nobody rents a hotel room for a year.”

By considering this option, Congress is taking the role of “mother knows best”. They are effectively removing the decision making ability of borrowers. It’s easy to sit in your house with electricity and heat with a functioning car to take you to your place of work in the morning and pass judgement on people of lesser means who have been shut out by mainstream lenders. Given the events of the past year and the negative impact lockdowns have had, especially on low-wage workers, it would seem that the Legislature should have higher priorities than eliminating needed financial options for working people.

One-size-fits all interest rate caps will cut off access to credit and eliminate choices in lending products. We urge Congress to refrain from further restricting the ability of borrowers from accessing credit of their choosing when emergencies arise and pushing them to worse outcomes.

Senator Ben Ray Luján(202) 224-6621(575) 526-5475
Senator Martin Heinrich(202) 224-5521(505) 346-6601
Instant Loans: How to Get Instant Approval & Funding

An Interest Rate Cap Will Hurt Small Borrowers

Tomorrow, the Senate Banking Committee, led by Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), is hosting a hearing titled, “Protecting Americans from Debt Traps by Extending the Military’s 36% Interest Rate Cap to Everyone.”

Politicians often claim to be helping “the poor” with the policies they enact. But people with the resources to take extended time away from their work and spend months in committee hearings are inherently not “representative” of the people of New Mexico. They need to be reminded that most people live “paycheck to paycheck” and struggle to manage an expense from time to time.

If Congress and President Biden approve of extending the Military Lending Act’s (MLA) 36% rate cap for all consumers, not just military veterans, this would devastate the financially vulnerable by reducing their access to credit. It could very well push our most disadvantaged citizens to underground financial products in an unregulated, shadow economy.

“Proponents believe a cap on fees and interest would help consumers, especially subprime borrowers with less-than-perfect credit histories, by limiting what they pay on payday loans and other less-regulated short-term credit,” Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and other coalition members wrote in a letter to the Committee last week. “In reality, its impact would extend far beyond payday lenders to the broader consumer credit market to cover affordable small dollar loans (including “accommodation” loans) that depository institutions are being encouraged to offer, credit cards, personal loans, and overdraft lines of credit. As a result, many consumers who currently rely on credit cards or personal loans would be forced to turn elsewhere for short-term financing needs, including pawn shops, online lenders—or worse—loan sharks, unregulated online lenders, and the black market.”

Few banks offer personal loans and credit union loans designed for subprime borrowers. Referred to as “payday alternative loans,” these borrowers represent less than 1% of the 100 million Americans who make up the non-prime consumer market. The reality is that most traditional lenders simply will not or cannot make these loans to borrowers with lower credit scores.

One-size-fits all interest rate caps will cut off access to credit and eliminate choices in lending products. We urge Congress to refrain from further restricting the ability of borrowers from accessing credit of their choosing when emergencies arise and pushing them to worse outcomes.

Senator Ben Ray Luján(202) 224-6621(575) 526-5475
Senator Martin Heinrich(202) 224-5521(505) 346-6601
Instant Loans: How to Get Instant Approval & Funding

Sir Richard Branson Should Pay His Own Way Into Space Instead Of Robbing New Mexicans

The following appeared on July 21, 2021 in The Federalist:

The world is in awe that billionaire Sir Richard Branson has finally accomplished his 17-year goal of achieving spaceflight. On July 11, 2021, Virgin Galactic’s spaceship Unity reached 53.5 miles above the Earth with a crew including Branson. They spent a few minutes in zero gravity and returned safely to the runway of Spaceport America near the small town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Congratulations!

The international scene is abuzz with this latest and undeniably impressive addition to Branson’s resume: but at what cost? Branson launched his flight from Spaceport America, a project initially conceived as early as 1992 when the Southwest Space Task Force was formed to develop and advance New Mexico’s space industry. The project received seed funding through a taxpayer-approved initiative in April 2007 when voters in Doña Ana County approved the spaceport tax.

Almost every year since, supporters of Spaceport America have announced the “upcoming launch” from their facility or the need for additional tax dollars to expand the Spaceport and its capabilities. To bolster their claims for additional tax money, Spaceport America commissioned a study by the consulting firm Moss Adams of Albuquerque. The study made headlines with the implausible claim that Spaceport America began producing net benefits for New Mexico as early as 2013.

In March 2020, the Rio Grande Foundation tallied up the total costs to taxpayers, determining that New Mexicans have borne a total project cost of $275 million, while revenues approach only $54.3 million for the state over the last 12 years. The vast majority of taxpayer-funded spending related to capital projects and nearly $10 million in operational expenditures. In fact, new information shows New Mexico shelled out an additional $1.5 million in advertising expenses related to the Virgin Galactic flight.

Branson is already a billionaire. Why are New Mexico’s politicians lining the pockets of these already wealthy and successful entrepreneurs through taxpayer-funded, industry-specific subsidies? The impact of corporate welfare disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged, especially in impoverished communities like Doña Ana County and New Mexico as a whole.

In 2019, the state suffered from one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding economic lockdown of the past 15 months has certainly exacerbated our financial woes.

In fact, New Mexico trails the southwest in employment recovery. A recent report by WalletHub highlights the state’s 620 percent increase in unemployment claims, referring to the change in the number of initial unemployment insurance claims in the week of July 5, 2021 compared to the week of July 8, 2019. How can a state in this state afford to help send a billionaire to space?

Sir Richard Branson is now an astronaut. But from my perspective as a New Mexican and taxpayer, he sure seems like a wild-west robber baron, holding up taxpayer stagecoaches of the poorest state in the country to fulfill his personal vendetta of beating fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in the billionaire space race. He’s “Six-Gun” Branson, 21st-century robber baron, a stark reminder of our 19th-century industrial past.

In the end, his mission was accomplished. But Six-Gun Branson has only proven that he can launch his spacecraft from any airport with sufficient runway length. I’d hazard a guess that soon he’ll be riding off into the sunset while my fellow New Mexicans are left holding the $275 million bag.

State secrecy goes beyond executive team

On July 7th, Santa Fe New Mexican Government Reporter Daniel Chacón penned an article criticizing Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s staffers for using private messaging apps on their government-issued cellphones that use end-to-end encryption designed to keep conversations secret.

This is a good step in acknowledging the ongoing transparency debacle currently plaguing the Lujan Grisham administration. In response, Patrick Brenner wrote the following complement to Chacón’s column.

The following appeared on July 13, 2021 at the Santa Fe New Mexican:

In Daniel J. Chacón’s recent article (“Encrypted apps appear active on employees’ work phones,” July 8) he alleges that members of Gov. Michelle Luan Grisham’s administration have private messaging apps on their government-issued cellphones.

I’ll call your bet and raise you: It’s not just the staff of the executive branch; it’s dozens of state agencies. They are using encrypted messaging platforms, and they’re also enforcing the automatic deletion of messages after 24 hours.

I grew suspicious in the aftermath of the Searchlight New Mexico report on the Children, Youth and Families Department. The report was solid, but left some loose ends that needed tidying up. Specifically, I had questions about the official document retention guidance and how it was developed.

The document itself is disturbing. The bottom line is that the administration allows any employee to “delete any text message that is a routine communication and is not ‘required to control, support or to document the operations of government.’ ”

This record deletion allowance is antithetical to the principles of transparent and open government. Aren’t all routine communications necessary to document the operations of government?

Several official public records requests were submitted to a number of state agencies to ascertain the origins of this document. Eventually, we came across another interesting piece of documentation, from New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology. This is the agency responsible for deployment of resources like Microsoft Office and the corresponding productivity suite.

This email was a directive coming from the executive branch. Certain configuration changes were being implemented that would affect the Teams chat functionality. Microsoft Teams is a business communication platform that allows employees to instant message each other. Teams is currently utilized by over a dozen state agencies, including CYFD and the Department of Information Technology.

New configuration changes included a policy that all Teams chat messages would be deleted after 24 hours.

Chacón reports that Nora Meyers Sackett said “only one of the staffers has sent a message on such an app.” I can’t contest the validity of this statement, pertaining explicitly to Signal and WhatsApp. However, I can say that numerous state agencies are using Microsoft Teams, which is essentially just another messaging app by a different name.

Sackett and others routinely delete text messages. I requested all the text messages that Sackett sent or received during the month of April. The official response, from an attorney with the Governor’s Office: “We have conducted a search of records maintained or held by the Office of the Governor and we have located no records responsive to your request.”

By the time I submitted my public records request, the records were already deleted. Since then, I have been submitting new records requests daily, requesting all the text messages sent by Sackett for the previous 24-hour period.

Daniel, it’s worse than either of us could have imagined. State agencies are still using encrypted messaging platforms, and the administration is encouraging periodic destruction of documents by redefining records classifications and subjecting these newly classified records to document retention periods that facilitate their automated deletion with alacrity.

State Secrecy Goes Beyond Executive Team