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Pat Rogers, RNC Committeeman from New Mexico. Involved in emailgate scandal and Custer-loving remarks in nasty email to Gov. Susana Martinez
There's been much talk about New Mexico RNC member Pat Rogers this past week.  He has garnered a flurry of negative attention over his bizarre email correspondence, vilifying NM Governor Susana Martinez, a fellow Republican, for meeting with Native American tribal leaders. For some unknowable reason, he argues such meetings are disloyal to - of all people - George Armstrong Custer.  

This is wrong in so many ways, it's hard to know where to begin. For starters, Custer's untimely end on the Northern Plains had exactly nothing to do with the native peoples of New Mexico: Navajos, Apaches, Comanches, and the various Pueblo tribes. Then, too, tribal casinos are a significant revenue stream for the state, under compacts mostly negotiated with another Republican New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson.

The Custer-related aspects of this story have been thoroughly explored by Meteor Blades and others, so I'm going to focus on additional background on Rogers. Put the story in a broader context than it's received for the most part.

First off, consider the New Mexico numbers from the 2010 US Census:

2010 US Census, racial breakdown of New Mexico
The circled item shows only 40% reporting as non-Hispanic white.  
Source: U.S. Census 2010

Being as how New Mexico (like Hawaii) is a "majority minority" state, Rogers' Quixotic advocacy for Custer is puzzling. There is no apparent constituency for that stand. And with "Tea Party darling" Susana Martinez in the State House, a Latina who has been repeatedly mentioned as having a bright future for higher office, including frequent suggestions as Veep this time around, Rogers' intimation that she's some kind of a traitor makes no sense at all. Karl Rove must be pissed off.

Not long ago, Republicans had plenty of good will with New Mexico Indians, thanks largely to Richard Nixon, who did some real good for native people. That's mostly gone now, with many on-reservation precincts currently voting >90% for Democratic candidates in most races. Republican efforts for voter ID in New Mexico, to date unsuccessful, would hit especially hard on Indian reservations.

Historically, New Mexico's native people were amongst the last in the nation to be able to vote. Indians got redefined as citizens in 1924, but it wasn't until a 1948 federal court ruling that New Mexico was ordered to allow its native population to vote. Amongst other things, that meant that survivors of the Bataan Death March (involving New Mexico National Guardsmen stationed in the Philippines at the time of Pearl Harbor) came home from the war disenfranchised.

Native American veterans returning home from World War II were no exception. Young men who were considered capable enough to fight for their country, if they returned to their reservation, still weren’t considered worthy to vote in the elections that shaped the very country they had served.

But one Isleta Pueblo man forced the state to change. Miguel Trujillo, Josephine Waconda’s father, was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. In his post, he saw many young Native American men sign up to ship out, some never to return. Waconda says the experience steeled his resolve to get the vote for all Native people in the state.

It wasn’t until 1948, when Trujillo made the trip from his home in Isleta to register in Valencia County and was denied, that the vote came within the grasp of the original peoples of New Mexico. Trujillo filled a lawsuit against the state and Trujillo v. Garley, the case that would decide once and for all if New Mexico’s Native Americans could vote, was born.

It's not like relations between Indians & Hispanics in New Mexico have been harmonious. And now, Rogers insists the Governor shouldn't speak to Indians at all?  But that's hardly the only kind of trouble Rogers has been stirring up. For one thing, he's been obsessive on the subject of "voter fraud" for a long time now.

Voting Issues in New Mexico

Rogers has long held a flat-earth view about voter fraud, unshakably convinced that Democratic victories weren't legitimate for that reason. It's worth remembering that Al Gore won NM by only 366 votes, the closest margin in the nation. And in 2004, Bush won by less than 10,000 votes. It's also worth noting that while they were loudly arguing against recounts in selected counties in Florida in Bush v. Gore in 2000, Republicans asked for (and got) the exactly that in New Mexico at the exact same time.

Back then, New Mexico voted largely on electronic "black box" voting machines.  There were persistent problems with phantom votes, where more votes than ballots get recorded.  In New Mexico, the phantom votes occurred mostly in Republican areas, and masked larger rates of disproportionate undervotes in predominantly Hispanic and Native American precincts, as they were lumped together and reported as a single net figure statewide.  I was a poll watcher at Taos Pueblo precinct in 2004, and observed first-hand that one in seven voters who voted on election day had no vote recorded for President, much higher than in the state overall.

Phantoms are not new to New Mexico. In the 1996 canvass report we find 998 phantom votes in Chaves County - an astonishing rate of 5.57%. In 2000 in Dona Ana County, N.M. 5,509 absentee ballots somehow resulted in 6,456 votes. When Denise Lamb at the Secretary of State's office was asked to explain the 947 phantom votes, she blamed "administrative lapses." But wait a minute - no one would accept that sort of "lapse" on a monthly bank statement or a sales receipt from the 7-11. Why would anyone accept it in this, "the most important election of our lives" in which "every vote will count and every vote will be counted"?
Given the close contested races in New Mexico, and all the various election problems, activists on the ground worked the state legislature to pass a law requiring a paper trail for all voting. Gov. Richardson wasn't much interested, and dragged his heels on it. But once it passed, he did sign the bill. (And being a politician, he subsequently claimed credit for it.)  

The new paper trail voting law was in place statewide in time for the 2006 midterm elections. And the results were as good as one would hope. Phantom voting became a thing of the past, and undervoting dropped way down (2-page PDF) on the reservations and in heavily Hispanic precincts.

The upgrade in New Mexico voting systems deserves at least part of the credit for Obama's decisive victory in the state in 2008. It's also part of why Martin Heinrich's looking good for the Senate to replace Jeff Bingaman, over Abramoff-compromised Heather Wilson. The old system, for whatever reasons, acted as a thumb on the scale for Republicans. Despite all that, Pat Rogers has continued to beat his drum about what he calls "voter fraud."

The US Attorneys Scandal

In light of all the fuss and bother these days about so-called voter fraud, the solution in search of a problem, it's worth revisiting the U.S. Attorneys scandal from 2007.  In an unprecedented move, the Bush Administration removed several of the U.S. Attorneys appointed to office by Dubya.

As the saga of the fired U.S. attorneys slugs along, the focus is zeroing in on allegations of voter fraud in both Washington state and New Mexico, both places where the U.S. attorney was sacked late last year. White House officials are now suggesting that a resistance to investigating allegations of election manipulation by Democrats was behind the firings of the two attorneys in those states
Former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias was appointed by George W. Bush. He currently works as a prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, appointed to that position by President Obama.
David Iglesias (Source: US Dept. of Justice)
The case of David Iglesias, US Attorney for New Mexico, got a good deal of attention as that story unfolded. Thing is, Heather Wilson (R, NM-01) was in a tough re-election bid, and the White House political wing, led by Karl Rove with Monica Goodling in a pivotal role, wanted some assistance from the US Attorneys. Specifically, they wanted prosecutions on voter fraud. The U.S. Attorneys, including David Iglesias in New Mexico, went looking for cases, but didn't find prosecutable evidence.

On the NM side, in addition to calls from Republican office-holders Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, Custer advocate Pat Rogers was in on the action:

NOW: In one press account you're quoted as characterizing Mr. Rogers' interest in this issue as "obsessive."

DI: Yes. I was aware of grumbling within the State Republican Party. ...  I knew there was this belief that was I intentionally not prosecuting prosecutable cases. And I knew Rogers, as a prominent Republican, who had actually represented the State Republican Party in some civil litigation related to the voter ID issue ... I knew he was interested in the issue. And then I was also aware of the emails and phone calls he had been leaving with my assistant, who I had tasked with prosecuting this. So I knew there was a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction of me not prosecuting any cases.

Iglesias tried dealing with it head-on:
Around the same time Iglesias had lunch with Patrick Rogers, a lawyer in private practice with strong ties to the state's Republican Party. Iglesias says he arranged the lunch -- also attended by his executive assistant -- because he was aware of Rogers's complaints about his office and now wanted to clear the air.  "I wanted him off my back," says Iglesias.
As early as June 2006, Rogers was agitating against Iglesias:
Mickey Barnett and Pat Rogers, both prominent Republican attorneys in New Mexico, meet with Monica Goodling to vent frustrations about U.S. Attorney David Iglesias' handling of voter fraud investigations.
It's not like Iglesias didn't try, either:
David Iglesias, the Republican U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired by the Bush administration, said that he looked at over 100 claims of alleged voter fraud but found not a single prosecutable case. “We cannot prosecute on rumor and innuendo,” Iglesias told the Albuquerque Journal (3/15/07). (His refusal to prosecute cases that he felt were bogus was a central feature in his firing, as it was in the cases of nearly half of the 12 U.S. attorneys ousted by the administration—Washington Post, 5/14/07.) Iglesias’ findings are consistent with national data. Federal records “show that only 24 people were convicted or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005” (Project Vote, 3/5/07).
As the firing scandal unfolded, at least some of the truth emerged. March 14, 2007:
White House officials are now conceding that complaints by top New Mexico Republicans about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, including his refusal to pursue voter fraud charges in 2004 and his handling of corruption cases, played a part in his dismissal.
This was a hurried re-write, as Iglesias had good performance reviews and had not been short-listed to get removed from his job until then-Senator Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson (current Republican candidate for Senate) made calls to push for his ouster. It raised enough fuss at the time that Republican Domenici announced he would not be running for re-election. Wilson, also tainted by doing pay-to-play favors for Jack Abramoff client Sandia Pueblo, lost the GOP primary to nut-job Stevan Pearce.  And so we have Senator Tom Udall in office today.

Up to the Present Day

Long after Iglesias was out of the picture, Rogers was conducting his own personal campaign of voter intimidation in 2008:

Minority voters in New Mexico report to TPMmuckraker that a private investigator working with Republican party lawyer Pat Rogers has appeared in person at the homes of their family members, intimidating and confusing them about their right to vote in the general election.
Bojorquez said the man told her he wanted to make sure her mother knew that she shouldn’t be voting, and continued to ask for her mother’s personal information. When Bojorquez said that no information would be handed over unless the man revealed who he was employed by, he said he was a private investigator hired by Pat Rogers. He told Bojorquez his name was Al Romero, and left a number at which Bojorquez could contact him.
When it comes to Rogers, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

During his years as US Attorney, Iglesias had plenty of things to keep him busy.  In New Mexico, there's a variety of border-related issues for example. There's complicated jurisdictional issues on and around Indian reservations, too, where major crimes are prosecuted by the feds, not the tribes or local authorities.

US Attorney David Iglesias and other DoJ employees meeting with Zuni Pueblo Governor Malcolm Bowekaty
Then US Attorney David Iglesias and other DoJ representatives at Zuni Pueblo with tribal Governor Malcolm Bowekaty. The US Attorney's office is responsible for prosecutions of major crimes (e.g. rape, murder) on Indian reservations.
Back in the day, Iglesias was considered a strong Republican up-and-comer.  With special emphasis on "diversity", meaning he wasn't white, he was fast-tracked for advancement. The Republican obsession on non-existent voter fraud cost them some promising young talent. If they hadn't burned him, Iglesias might be the Republican candidate for Senate this year, rather than scandal-tainted Heather Wilson. And he might be near-impossible to beat.

Instead, he's back at Guantanamo, where he used to work with the JAG as a Navy attorney. President Obama appointed him as prosecutor for the detainees there.  Iglesias lost any interest in a politcal career:

"[David] was the golden child of the Republican Party," [Iglesias's wife] Cyndy says. "The same group that rallied behind him, helped him get the nomination, turned on him. For me it was a real sense of betrayal."
"What's been a shocker to me is people asking me if I'm planning to run for office, and the only thought that comes to me is, 'What planet are they living on?'" he says. "The local Republican Party would just as soon tar and feather me at this point.The rank and file probably think I'm the greatest traitor since Benedict Arnold. They expected me to remain quiet and not say anything, which would have been the wrong thing to do."
Karl Rove gets all POed about Republican crazy stances on immigration and other hot-button issues. Not so much out of principle or doing the right thing, but because he doesn't want to alienate broad swaths of the electorate from the Republican brand right out of the starting gate. He was appalled at the nomination of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware in 2010, and other marginal fringe candidates, complaining that it would cost the GOP control of the Senate. He was quick to drop media buys in support of Todd Akin in Missouri for the same reason.  

One can assume he's muttering to someone or other about the bigoted stupidity of Pat Rogers, too. But Rove was at the heart of the US Attorney scandal, which wasted one of their better up and comers in New Mexico. If they don't win the Senate seat this time - and with paper trail voting still on the books, their odds aren't good for the New Mexico seat - Rove doesn't have to look any farther than his own mirror for someone to blame if/when Martin Heinrich gets sworn in as Senator.

All of this is the Republican Party. Any attempt to lay it on new Tea Party influence is bogus in the extreme. The same people are still up to the same tricks they've been up to for decades now.

“Well, there’s an entirely different angle to this,” added Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer and chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. “I think you could argue that when Gov. Martinez met with Pat Rogers, she disrespected the memory of intelligent people everywhere.”
Some earlier related posts:

McCain/Heather Wilson tied to latest Abramoff Indictment

More on David Iglesias & NM "Voter Fraud"

US Attorney Scandal Player Crying "Voter Fraud" Again

Paper Ballots are Better (NM Case Study)

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 03:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by New Mexico Kossaks, Native American Netroots, History for Kossacks, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, and Pink Clubhouse.

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