Ben Ray Lujan Slammed for Deception + A Report On Packed Retake Input & Strategy Session, A Plan for 2019-20 Is Emerging

We had 12 RSVPs, but 47 folks showed up and were brimming with enthusiasm at Thursday’s meeting. Next meeting: June 5, 6:30-8:30pm. Also, Milan Simonich absolutely nailed Rep. Lujan for his fundraising emails, which are clearly annoying, but also apparently riddled with lies. We summarize Simonich’s piece and provide a link. Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Retake on KSFR today.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Retake Our Democracy on KSFR 101.1 FM, Saturday 8:30 am,  streaming statewide and available on podcast with 15 minutes of bonus coverage. So, today you get a double feature focused on New Mexico’s US Senate race, a compelling interview with our Secretary of State and a report on Milan Simonich’s body slam of Rep. Lujan’s campaign strategy. Maggie’s interview went well over the 30 minute show. The full podcast will be posted on Monday morning, but you can listen in to most of the show at 8:30 this morning..

Now That Is What I Call a Great Organizing Meeting. Almost 50 folks showed up on Thursday, with people coming from Taos, Dixon, Embudo, and Albuquerque. Everyone had several opportunities to offer input on how our Roundhouse advocacy strategy worked and where it could be improved. We then spent an hour laying out future plans and priorities. The enthusiasm was pulsating; the ideas bold.  And when we noted that all the great ideas don’t amount to much if there aren’t folks willing to lead and others willing to work, no one backed down. We hatched strategies for advocacy at the PRC, during the Roundhouse Interim Hearings and the 2020 legislative session to follow, and in preparation for the June 2020 primaries.  While 2/3 of those attending clearly have climate change as their number one and most urgent priority, there was also recognition that budget, tax and revenue and other justice issues need our support. Pretty much everyone felt that our Rapid Response Network was our most effective legislative strategy with one person after another describing how it had empowered them and had been shared far and wide. And there was a recognition that for Retake to achieve its full potential, we need to vastly expand our base. There seemed to be energy in the room to start that work. We invite others to join us on June 5th to advance this work. See below.

Wednesday, June 5, 6:30-8:30pm. Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos, Santa Fe.  Snacks and serious planning. We will begin filling in the details on plans for an emerging climate action group, statewide organizing, Interim Hearing strategies and others. We had almost 50 folks join us on Thursday, and between now and the 5th we will have received more input from colleagues in CD-2 and others. On June 5 we will hit the ground running to lay out bold plans. Please plan to join us and RSVP by writing to me at

Milan Simonich Body Slams Ben Ray–Big Time

I am guessing most all of you have gotten Ben Ray’s fundraising emails.  They come daily and always convey some kind of urgent crisis where either he needs you to take a poll or sign a petition and always stresses the urgent need for your donation….now.  I have been alternately annoyed and amused by these emails and had wondered at the truthfulness in some of them, specifically when he was making histrionic claims of being targeted by the GOP. In truth, it hadn’t occurred to me that in all these emails, Lujan entirely bypassed the fact that he actually has a formidable Democratic challenger in a primary, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.  The emails were all about how the GOP was targeting him personally.  Milan Simonich obviously had a similar reaction to these emails, but did a bit of research and what he found is compelling. He begins with two quotes from recent Lujan emails.

I’ll make this quick,” Luján wrote in one of his solicitations for money. “FIRST: Trump’s hand-picked puppet announced he was running against me for Senate. and “THEN: Mitch McConnell announced he raised $2.1 MILLION to defeat me and hold the Senate.”

The problem with the claims: neither is true. Simonich calls them “laughable.” Simonich points out that Lujan’s obvious ploy is to make the case that he is being targeted by McConnell and Trump and he badly needs your help to preserve the nation. Taking Lujan’s assertion that Trump has “hand-picked” a “puppet candidate, Simonich noted that the “puppet” Republican challenger is Gavin Clarkson, and after Simonich exposes the numerous problems with his candidacy it is hard to believe that any big money GOP donors would invest in him. As a start, Clarkson managed to lose two NM elections within five months in 2018,  finishing a distant third in the primary for the GOP nomination for CD-2 House of Reps and then just five months later lost again by a huge margin in his challenge of Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Not the resume of a formidable, “hand-picked” candidate.

This bit of hyperbole is troubling and feels manipulative, but the reference to McConnell is not just troubling, it is a fabrication. Lujan’s email claims that McConnell is building a fund that explicitly targets Lujan’s campaign. “McConnell announced he raised $2.1 MILLION to defeat me.” The $2.1 million is true, but as Simonich points out, those funds are for McConnell’s own re-election campaign and last I checked McConnell is running for re-election in Kentucky not New Mexico. There is no hand-picked opponent; there is no seven-figure campaign fund targeting Lujan. Simonich closes with the following:

Luján’s fabrications and distortions don’t add up to Watergate, but they are bothersome. His party’s leaders talk about Trump’s many lies as a reason the president is unfit for a second term. Luján, like every politician, will say honesty should be a requirement to hold office. If he means it, he will reform his campaign. I am confident that Luján’s apologists will mount a spirited defense of him and his methods. They haven’t got much to work with.” 

Ouch. Click here to review Simonich’s article. The comments that follow the article, while a small sample size, provide some sense of New Mexican readers’ reactions.
Here is my issue with Lujan’s emails:  At best, he is playing fast and loose with the truth and is trying to manipulate his own supporters.  At worst, he is lying to manipulate his supporters. Neither is the kind of character one seeks in a Senator where your word is your most important asset. Retake Our Democracy is not taking a position on the Senate race at this point, but accepting PAC funds will certainly be a factor. Yesterday, Lujan announced that he would no longer accept corporate PAC funds, but this claim was undermined by evidence that he had already accepted $180,000 in donations from pharma, oil and gas, telecom, and other corporate PACs.  As noted by Heather Brewer, campaign manager for Toulouse Oliver: “We think it would be a show of genuine commitment to these progressive values if the congressman would return the nearly $200,000 he has already accepted from oil & gas, pharmaceutical companies, telecom and other big corporations since the beginning of the year.” From Steve Terrell in the New Mexican:  “She went on to list more than $180,000 in contributions Luján took in between Jan. 1 and March 31. These included $30,000 from drug companies and pharmaceutical PACs; $22,000 from telecommunications PACs; $18,000 from insurance company PACs; $15,500 from banking PACs and $14,500 from committees for large retail companies.” 
Simonich suggested that Lujan needs to reform his campaign messaging. We believe a part of that would be to back up claims of adherence to core values with the action of returning the PAC funds he has collected since January.  When asked to comment on whether this might happen, Lauren French, Lujan’s campaign manager offered up:  “Nah.”  Not exactly the actions we were hoping for. 
As noted above, Retake has not, as yet, taken a position on the race, but we will be reporting on developments, campaign commitments, and other factors important to a voter’s decision making process.
In solidarity,
Paul & Roxanne.

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics, Personal & Collective Action

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5 replies

  1. I am on your email list and read your posts regularly. While I have my problems with Lujan, I also take issue with this post. I am sure you are on many candidates lists….they all work this way. With equally crazy crisis every few hours. Heinrich was no different when he ran. What I also might point out is, I have signed up a few times for Lujan’s newsletter, which I assume is his email list, and have never gotten anything. So no fundraising emails either. I just wonder how organized he and his staff are.

    I do appreciate all your efforts.

    • I thought about whether to call out Ben Ray or just to let it pass, but I think there is a pattern of his being aligned with corporate dems and then when he announced he would not take PAC funding after having already amassed almost $200K in those funds, I decided to publish this. I think that if we want to have politics free of the influence of money, we have to be rigorous in calling it out as unacceptable.

    • I agree with Ann Marie. While I don’t like this kind of email, many (if not most) of the fund-raising emails I get (and since we’ve given to a lot of candidates over the years, we get loads of emails) are at least deceptive, if perhaps not blatantly so. They turn me off – I wonder how effective they really are, but they keep coming, so perhaps people respond to this kind of stuff. I’ve also noticed that establishment candidates and front-runners (often the same, of course) rarely mention that they are opposed in a primary – they often put themselves forward as if it’s a foregone conclusion. So in this Ben Ray is also, unfortunately, not alone.

      • We are essentially on the same page in our thinking if we subscribe to Retake so I am not being critical in my response to your post. I just want to reiterate, what Paul stated just above your post, and that is we are trying to actually change this very system that has led our country into the veritable gutter of political pay to play and outright lying. To do that we must first clean up our own house and that means being honest about those Democrats who are a part of or behave as if they were a part of this broken system, because it is “just” the way everyone does it.

        That is what we are facing on every area of our inability to govern and why it is so important to call out these politicians and hold them accountable. We reject climate change, which is destroying our earth and will continue to kill millions across the globe in the coming years, some using the excuse that if China did more then we would, but we will not start because they won’t. Well, that argument translates into I am willing to potentially kill my grand children because I will not change until you do, much like a playground argument. Our problems are real and we all need to force those in power to change this system or else we all lose.

  2. I stopped subscribing to these politicians, solicitations and newsletters years ago. Some of us initially thought we could stay informed, instead they are even taking names off of petitions to send campaign solicitations. Their newsletters have become more PR releases, than serious policy discussions or informational over the years. Lujan is not the only one, yet this onslaught of deceptive fundraising e-mails, shows how out of touch with his constituents he is. Leave it to that columnist to pick out a no doubt annoying but trivial point, to give the appearance of “Holding them accountable” or speaking truth to power. The kind of trivial Gotcha stuff that appeals to local readers.

    I was much more concerned by that article,
    about the findings of the Legislative Finance Committee, about Medicaid. Of course there will be no in depth coverage of how all of that effected real people, or how that dysfunction and lack of accountability was monetized here and misreported. People died or suffered because of this mismanagement, the real costs were not in the report.

    Here is an example of why no one cares about Global Warming, It might be true that homes don’t use that much water, but the roads, infrastructure, transportation and basic living do. Especially when the Mc Mansions require more roads, deforestation, fire suppression, materials, and golf courses. The water table is dropping in spite of ground water re injection. In Santa Fe the majestic cottonwoods are gone, leaving communities bare, and increasing the demand for air conditioning. Continuing paving leads to more storm-water run off, deepening arroyos, flooding and environmental degradation. All of those people conserving water by sponge bathing, does not offset any of the environmental damage. It has not slowed down the swimming pools and water features for the rich either.

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