ProgressNow New Mexico, a not-partisan watchdog group, has obtained records of a contract, payed for with New Mexico taxpayer funds, between Governor Susana Martinez and a group tied to voter suppression in Florida.
The full story by ProgressNow New Mexico is below:
The firm managing Governor Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign is now under investigation in Florida after sources tipped off law enforcement that employees of the company were disregarding Democratic voter registration forms they obtained in registration drives. The firm’s owner, Arizona Republican operative Nathan Sproul, was a partner in Lincoln Strategies, the Jay McCleskey-managed firm behind Martinez’s 2010 campaign.
The LA Times reports that Sproul and his companies are no stranger to investigations into their political antics, “In 2004, there were allegations in states such as Nevada and Oregon that employees of his firm — which had a similar contract with the RNC — registered Democratic voters and then destroyed their forms.”
ProgressNow New Mexico has learned that other Republican political opposition researchers with ties to Florida minority voter suppression were hired by Governor Martinez’s office, with taxpayer funds, to train state staff on “research.”
In May 2011, just five months into her term as governor, the governor’s office gave a Republican-centered opposition research firm a $7,900 contract to train the governor’s non-political staff to do what the firm’s founders promote as the type of political research they perfected at the Republican National Committee.
Business records show that the firm, M Street Strategies, LLC was founded in February 2011 in March 2011 (see CA Sec. of State Business Registry) by Dan Comstock and Shawn Reinschmiedt, veteran Republican opposition researchers.
Shawn Reinschmiedt is the former director of research for the Republican National Committee and led opposition research operations for campaigns for Republican candidates including Meg Whitman (CA, Gov), John McCain, and the 2004 George W. Bush presidential race. In interviews with DC insider publications to promote their new firm, they both speak proudly of their ability to comb through mountains of research to find statements, campaign finance issues and other opportunities to exploit against opponents. The team reported that they formed to fill “a void in the marketplace” when it came to political research.
They neglect to mention that in 2004, Reinschmiedt was implicated in a voter suppression scandal after senior Bush campaign staffers accidentally emailed lists of legal Florida voters in minority communities they intended to remove from voter roles, to the wrong email address.
By 2011, Reinschmiedt and Comstock had founded a new firm focused on what they called “political intelligence” and landed an unpublicized no-bid contract with Governor Martinez’s office to provide “research training” to the governor’s staff.
Why did Martinez’s state-funded staff need training on political and opposition research? And why did they need Republican operatives with a history of implementing voter suppression tactics to do it?
ProgressNow NM initiated a series of public records requests to the Office of the Governor, Secretary of State and DFA to obtain the contract, invoice and notes and training documents from those training sessions.
While the scope of work to be performed was limited to “policy research,” copies of notes from the training obtained through public records requests show that the training provided is a template for conducting opposition research against political opponents. Hand written notes include how to search court records and content of YouTube videos and speeches.
In the documents provided by the Office of the Governor, two different staffers (whose names were not disclosed) added handwritten notes to the templates provided by M Street.
The search templates provided by M Street were targeted exclusively towards prominent Democrats and hand-written notes by Martinez staffers show that the research is targeted at understanding the history of candidates for office and dismantling policy proposals of opponents.
Based on the documents obtained, the training M Street provides is based only on the use of Lexis/Nexis, a service used by media outlets, attorneys and scholars across the world everyday. L/N provides basic and customized training to clients (of which the State of New Mexico and the Governor’s Office both appear to be). But, instead of using the vendor’s experienced trainers, the Governor’s Office chose to use highly partisan Republican opposition researchers to train staff to use the L/N service. This leads a reasonable New Mexican to wonder what value these political operatives bring to the table and why the governor’s office chose to use one of the nation’s most prominent and sought after partisan political research firms to train non-partisan state staffers.