Saturday, February 16, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Audit Finds Signs of Fraud in New Mexico House Race

An audit of absentee ballots suggests fraud may have occurred in one of the closest House races in the country, The Daily Signal has learned. Democrat Xochitl Torres Small squeaked by Republican Yvette Herrell in the final results of the Nov. 6 election. On election night, Herrell declared victory in the race to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. But as more votes were counted, Torres Small secured the win. The roughly 3,500-vote victory for Torres Small—out of about 200,000 cast in the southern New Mexico district—relied heavily on absentee ballots from Doña Ana County, the largest county in the district, including the Las Cruces area. A new audit report obtained by The Daily Signal alleges a “concerted effort” to push for absentee votes where New Mexico voter ID laws are not enforced. It also points to potential fraud in applying for absentee ballots, and says a significant number of absentee ballots were time-stamped after the 7 p.m. deadline election night. The report was prepared for the losing Herrell campaign by Full Compliance Consulting LLC and Herrell campaign lawyer Carter B. Harrison. Herrell’s campaign is not contesting the outcome of the 2018 contest, but sought the review based on its concerns that extra votes appeared to pour in. The report says the consulting firm reviewed about 12,000 requests for absentee ballots, 8,577 outer envelopes for absentee ballots, and hundreds of rejected applications from Doña Ana County. “There were not enough irregularities in Dona Ana County alone to alter our race (though local races could have been altered),” Harrison, the Herrell campaign lawyer, told The Daily Signal in a written response. “But if other counties were to be found to have similar irregularities, the race certainly could have been altered by them.” On election night, media outlets called the race for Herrell, 54, who has been a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2011. But well after midnight, Harrison said, the office of New Mexico’s secretary of state informed the Herrell campaign of 4,000 absentee ballots in Doña Ana County still to be counted, which would not have flipped the race to Torres Small, who previously had not held elective office. However, the state informed the campaign of another 4,000 absentee votes that had been counted but not tabulated, which was enough to change the outcome. The report says nongovernmental groups “are almost certainly engaging in at best aggressive—and at worst fraudulent—procurement of absentee ballot applications.”...MORE

Jessica Vaughan: Border Bill ‘Will Make the Border Crisis Worse’

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the proposed spending bill presented to President Donald Trump “will make the border crisis worse” if signed into law. “I think it makes things worse,” judged Vaughan. “I was prepared to grudgingly accept it based on the summaries of it that were distributed on Monday and Tuesday, but we all kept saying, ‘We really have to read it first,’ but nobody had time to read it.” Vaughan continued, “As it turns out — surprise — there are a lot of landmines in this bill. It is too big to be passing in such a rush. It’s not necessary, and it’s good to get the funding for the wall, but it doesn’t even seem that the funding is necessarily going to matter, because — for one thing — it gives a veto over the building of the wall in the areas that are prescribed in the bill, and the veto power is with local and municipal officials in the Rio Grande Valley, in particular.” Vaughan went on, “So the building of the wall is far from guaranteed. And this is really unprecedented in this kind of project, up to this date. [Donald Trump] is not even getting the wall, really, and losing a lot of other policy measures that will make the border crisis worse.” Mansour noted how border localities afforded veto power over wall construction via the spending bill are “predominantly democrat-controlled areas.” “Some of these areas have cartel ties — officials caught working with the cartels, on the cartel take,” said Mansour. Some of the spending bill’s provisions will amplify incentives for illegal immigration, Vaughan then warned: She said:

There are several provisions in here that would exacerbate the problem of catch-and-release, particularly of families and children. One provision is that the bill increases funding for the resettlement of newly-arrived family illegal immigrants, and kids as well, and increases what they call ‘alternatives to detention,’ which is basically catch-and-release with a monitor and with a check-in. For those that don’t immediately abscond and take off, the ones who remain in the program thinking that they’ll just sort of milk the asylum process for awhile, and then abscond when they’re ordered removed, that whole charade of enforcement is funded to a greater degree, which means people will be resettled in communities all over the country. They won’t have work authorization, but they do work illegally.
I’ve seen this myself through visiting some of these facilities, but their kids get to go to school, they get access to health care and other welfare programs. They work illegally. They get driver’s licenses. So they’re basically settled here in plain sight. More funding to accelerate that resettlement process is going to encourage more people to come.
Vaughan described the spending bill’s proposed establishment of a de facto legal “force field” shielding sponsors — many of whom are illegally in the country — of unaccompanied minors:
There’s this other provision where the bill says that no money can be used to initiate removal or deportation proceedings against anyone who is a sponsor, a potential sponsor, a household member of an unaccompanied minor — kids who arrive under the age of 18 without their parents.
Most of these kids are coming here because their parents — who are here illegally — paid for a a criminal smuggling organization to bring them here, and then they get reunited with their families here.
Vaughan continued, “Eighty percent of the sponsors of unaccompanied minors are in the country illegally. This bill says ICE cannot take any actions against them if they got the information through HHS, which is the agency that resettles them. … If ICE tries to take action against them, all they have to do is say that they’re a sponsor so ICE can’t do anything. … or just claim to be in a household with an unaccompanied minor. There’s no requirement that they participate in their due process that we’re giving them. Nothing to encourage the actual legal process of dealing with these kids. It basically creates a force field around anyone who is a sponsor of or in a household of unaccompanied minors. This is a huge problem.”
Vaughan determined, “Now there is a huge incentive for them to have their kids brought here with smugglers. … On a practical level, ICE will not be able to take any steps against them.”

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Rodeo Days controversy may have helped La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. Here's why.

At a recent Tucson Rodeo committee meeting, one of the board members asked general manager Gary Williams how to explain a 13 percent increase in advanced ticket sales. “Your general manager is doing a great job,” Williams joked. “I don’t know if that’s going to buy me a raise or a pink slip. Some people laughed; some people sat there and looked.” Williams sure is tickled about the added interest for the 94th edition of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, which begins Saturday at 2 p.m., even if they don’t exactly know the root cause. Williams has an idea. In the summer of last year, Tucson Unified School District put out a survey about renaming Tucson’s stalwart Rodeo Days, which date back to 1925, in response to a petition from a local animal rights organization. “They did an online poll and 87 percent said leave Rodeo Days alone,” Williams said. “Rodeo Days has been Rodeo Days since 1925. A lot of the comments were: ‘Hey, this is ours. This is our history. We’ve lost so much other history, don’t mess with this.’ From the local standpoint, that may have had a bearing, like, ‘My God, I haven’t been to the rodeo in a couple years, I’m gonna buy tickets this year.’” It could also be the appearance of nine members of the legendary Wright family, immortalized in one of last year’s great books, The Last Cowboys, by the New York Times’ John Branch. Or perhaps it is the attention paid to detail, a staple of the longtime rodeo. Even with the expected increased turnout — or maybe because of it — Williams said that the rodeo’s infrastructure has undergone improvements. He pointed to an improved warmup area for timed racers, and a redone chute system in the scored events. Williams said the rodeo also bolstered its Wi-Fi capabilities this year, particularly to execute a live stream of the final two days, including championship Sunday, on the Wrangler Network...MORE

Last division of Swenson Family Ranches near Stamford on the market for $49.2M

The final chapter of the legendary Swenson Family Ranches west of Stamford is about to be written. Flat Top Ranch - the last major division of the ranch established by Svante Magnus Swenson in 1853 – is on the market for $49.2 million. Seven generations have ties to the ranch, which encompasses 41,000-plus acres and includes seven miles of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. “That’s a good stretch of live water. It’s got some big ponds and man-made lakes and seasonal creeks on it. It’s a nice ranch,” said Sam Middleton, owner/broker of Chas. S. Middleton and Son company, which is handling the sale. "It’s very well watered. It’s blocked up very good. It’s productive country, and I think it will interest a lot of folks,” The listing price is about $1,200 an acre. Family members began exploring the process of selling the ranch about a year ago. “It really wasn’t, ‘Let’s sell Flat Top.’ It was more, ‘How do we get increased liquidity for those that want it? How do you get some people out who want all the way out?’” Swenson said. “It’s some anguish for some of us, but we are holding on to some land as well.” That land is about 15,000 acres in Throckmorton County to the east of Stamford.
Seven years after launching his ranch, Swedish immigrant Svante Swenson’s Texas land holdings surpassed 680,000 acres. He donated some acreage to start the town of Stamford, where the ranch headquarters are located today, and for the town’s Texas Cowboy Reunion, which is the world’s largest amateur rodeo started in 1930. “Historically, this was one of the first operating ranches in the state of Texas,” Middleton said. In 1978, the ranch was divided into four family divisions. Three of the divisions have since sold, and Flat Top Ranch is the last division in family hands, Middleton said. He also facilitated the sale of the 535,000-acre Waggoner Ranch near Wichita Falls in February 2016. Flat Top is a working cattle ranch that also has extensive farming operations, hunting opportunities, potential wind farm development and the possibility of a portion of future mineral income, Middleton said...MORE

IT'S OFFICIAL: Trump declares national emergency to build his border wall

  • President Trump has officially declared a national emergency to unilaterally build physical barriers along significant portions of the United States-Mexico border.
  • The Justice Department has warned the White House the emergency declaration will be temporarily blocked by the courts.
  • Trump will also sign the border security compromise package passed by Congress, which provides for $1.4 billion of new wall construction. 
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to address the ongoing issues with border security on Friday in order to unilaterally build physical barriers along significant portions of the United States border with Mexico. The action ventures into new territory to circumvent Congress and redirect military funding for other purposes, drawing condemnation and confusion from lawmakers across both political parties. In a conference call with reporters before the announcement, senior administration officials detailed the specifics of the plan. In addition to the $1.4 billion for wall construction appropriated by Congress, approximately $6 billion will be taken from Title X funding and $600 million will be tapped from the Treasury forfeiture fund...MORE

Remote Nevada Ranch, Once Bing Crosby’s Hideaway, Goes Up for Sale

In the 1940s, Bing Crosby helped put the small city of Elko, Nev., on the map when he made it his family’s refuge from Hollywood. Now, one of the singer and actor’s former ranches is on the market for $7.28 million. The property is located about 45 miles north of Elko, which is about 420 miles north of Las Vegas and has a population of roughly 18,000, according to the 2010 census. One of seven ranches Mr. Crosby operated in the area, the mountainside property spans about 3,000 acres and includes a working cattle ranch, a private airstrip and airplane hangar and various structures for ranch operations and hay barns, according to the seller Jim Boyer, a Lake Tahoe-based retired telecom entrepreneur. The main home, a modest wooden property, comprises about 5,000 square feet with six bedrooms. The tiny original homestead on the property dates back to the 1860s and is preserved "like a museum piece," according to the listing. Mr. Crosby had a number of homes over the years, including properties in Palm Springs, Calif., and Palm Desert, Calif., but his properties in Elko served as an escape. "It should be obvious that my reason for buying the ranch in Elko and a summer home at Hayden Lake, Idaho, had to do with a search for seclusion and remoteness," Mr. Crosby wrote in his autobiography, "Call me Lucky."
"I wanted my family to have a chance to lead a normal life away from the limelight which is inescapably their portion because of their dad’s way of earning his daily bread." Mr. Crosby, famed for songs such as "White Christmas," was named honorary mayor of Elko in 1948, according to the book "Elko County" by Claudia Wines. He arranged to have the world premiere of his movie "Here Comes the Groom" in Elko’s Hunter Theater in 1951. Ms. Wines wrote that Mr. Crosby never missed a Silver State Stampede rodeo. Mr. Crosby put his sons to work on the land, drawing criticism from his friends, who said he was working them too hard, according to his autobiography. Mr. Crosby was one of a few Hollywood heavyweights who bought property in Elko. Others include actor Jimmy Stewart, who owned the Winecup Gamble Ranch in northeast Elko County in the 1950s, according to the ranch’s website...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

TGIFF! Its Fiddle Friday and Tommy Jackson 's 1959 recording of 14 Days In Georgia is our fiddle tune today and becomes the 12th tune by Jackson available on Ranch Radio. THE WESTERNER

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Legal fight expected for Trump’s national emergency declaration

President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency at the southern border to redirect military funds to his border wall project after lawmakers gave him $4.3 billion less than his $5.7 billion ask. But the move is expected to bring court fights that could sink his plan. A House-Senate conference committee could only agree to give the president just shy of $1.4 billion for the barrier project as conferees struck a deal needed to avert another partial government shutdown. The president — who earlier this week said he couldn’t say he was happy about the contents of the compromise — reluctantly agreed to sign it into law after the Senate and House sign off during floor votes Thursday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday afternoon she “may” file a legal challenge to Trump’s national emergency declaration, adding that she didn’t support “any president doing an end-run around Congress.” In a statement issued after her press conference, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer were more explicit in threatening a legal fight. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities,” the duo said. Trump’s top spokeswoman, however, brushed off the threat. “We are very prepared, but there shouldn’t be. The president is doing his job. Congress should do theirs,” Sanders told reporters outside her office Thursday. Public Citizen, a left-leaning consumer rights advocacy organization, said in a statement Thursday that it would sue Trump if he takes that action. “If this invocation of emergency on false pretenses is tolerated, it could justify almost limitless abuses of presidential and military power, including far-reaching clampdowns on civil rights,” the group said. Mark Rom, a Georgetown University professor, said that should the matter get to the U.S. Supreme Court, he wouldn’t expect the justices to “challenge the president’s ability to declare a national emergency.” “Now, on the question of whether the president’s claim that an emergency allows him to move the money around, it’s anyone’s guess just where the court might come down,” Rom said. “My expectation is this will play out like Trump’s initial travel ban: He will keep tinkering and keep tinkering until the courts decide it’s just within legal boundaries.” Trump’s power to declare the emergency stems from the 1976 National Emergencies Act, which “makes no attempt to dictate conditions for when this can be done, according to Bobby Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Thus, if Trump wishes to state that the border is in such a state of disarray or exposure that it constitutes a national emergency under the NEA, he is mostly free to do so...MORE

Trump has up to $21 billion to use for emergency wall building

President Trump has a pool of roughly $21 billion in military construction funds he can use to build the border wall by emergency declaration, congressional aides said Thursday — though much of that is already destined for other projects that would have to be put on hold. The White House said Thursday that the president will follow through on his threat to declare an emergency and use the Pentagon to build fencing, going around a Congress that just denied him most of the money he had sought. “President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Details on the plans were scarce, though. It wasn’t clear how much money he would need, where he would build the wall, whether he will use new designs, or whether he’ll be able to overcome private property and environmental hurdles...MORE

Senate passes spending and border security bill - Trump will sign but also declare a national emergency

The Senate on Thursday passed a broad spending and border security bill that will end a funding stalemate that has dragged on for nearly two months and caused the longest government shutdown in history. In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation that will fund dozens of departments and agencies for the rest of the fiscal year, and let the Trump administration spend $1.375 billion for fencing at the southern border. The fight over border barriers is what led to the 35-day shutdown, but the inclusion of new money for fencing wasn't enough to satisfy President Trump. The White House made clear just before the Senate vote that Trump would sign the bill, but also declare a national emergency in order to get access to more money. That move is likely to lead to legal challenges from Trump's opponents, but in the meantime, the funding legislation is expected to be passed by the House and then signed by Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will clear the spending bill later today but said Trump risked setting a precedent by acting unilaterally to build border wall because any president might use it for initiatives the GOP opposes...MORE

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Imperiled Lesser Prairie Chicken

Conservation groups filed a notice today of their intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect severely imperiled lesser prairie chickens under the Endangered Species Act. The groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the birds in September 2016. The agency promised to make a decision on that protection by the end of summer 2017, but failed to do so. In 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. But protection was overturned on procedural grounds after a lawsuit from the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four counties. The bird lives in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It is severely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation caused by oil and gas development, cropland conversion, livestock grazing and roads and power lines. “Listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened or endangered is the first step toward recovering this iconic species,” said Jason Rylander, senior counsel at Defenders of Wildlife. “The lesser prairie chicken has waited long enough for Endangered Species Act protection. It’s time for the Trump administration to act.”...MORE

Energy Revolution Unleashed: Interior Shatters Previous Records With $1.1B In 2018 Oil And Gas Lease Sales

$500M of that revenue has gone back to states, providing support to key institutions like hospitals and public schools

Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt recently announced that Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state offices generated $1.1 B from oil and gas lease sales in calendar year 2018, an amount nearly equal to the BLM’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018, and the highest-grossing year on record, nearly tripling what had been the agency’s highest year ever in 2008, which generated approximately $408M. Bonus bids from the 28 oil and gas lease sales held in calendar year 2018 came to $1,151,109,064 in preliminary figures released today by the BLM. Among these, a total of 1,412 parcels, covering almost 1.5 million acres, were leased.

...BLM New Mexico had the largest lease sale of 2018, generating approximately $972M in bonus bids for 142 parcels. The two-day lease sale, held in September, brought in more revenue than all BLM oil and gas lease sales in 2017 combined and broke all previous records. A bonus bid is a one-time payment in exchange for exclusive access to explore for hydrocarbons on a parcel and grants an exclusive lease for a set period of time.

Individual states also benefit from the BLM’s lease sales. Forty-eight percent of lease sale revenue goes to the state while the rest goes to the U.S. Treasury. The state also receives half of the revenue from royalties if oil and gas is developed on the lease...MORE

Migrants waiting in a Mexican shelter riot over long waits, poor conditions

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — Tensions flared as roughly 1,800 Central American migrants lost patience as they waited in an improvised shelter in Mexico for a chance to apply for refuge in the United States. On Wednesday, some two dozen people broke through security barriers and rioted inside the abandoned factory complex where the Piedras Negras shelter is located, just across from Eagle Pass, Texas. Some threw pipes, tables, chairs and parts of a tent toward the Mexican officers. Mexican authorities and riot police have been present since Tuesday night after a smaller riot broke out at the facility. Migrants are complaining of harsh conditions at the shelter where they have been for more than a week. Federal and state officials are not allowing the migrants to leave the shelter unless they have a Mexican humanitarian visa, and those allowed out temporarily were taken in vans under police escort in groups of about a dozen to a nearby store to buy supplies, or to the U.S. border to file asylum claims...MORE

Wildlife advocates say traps harm Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts in New Mexico

Four endangered Mexican gray wolves have been caught in hunting traps in New Mexico in the past two months, leaving one dead and another with an amputated leg. Troubled by those numbers, wildlife advocates say the traps are a poorly recognized threat to rehabilitating Mexican gray wolves. Since 2002, 38 Mexican wolves have been caught in traps in New Mexico — compared to just four trapped in Arizona in the same period. Of those, 18 were injured or required amputation and another five died as a result of the trap. The data was compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and analyzed by animal advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife. Bryan Bird, the Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, called the number of animals trapped each year “a bad sign. We have to get a handle on that.” He said the data do not indicate whether the wolves that are injured or killed by traps are those with valuable genetic diversity — a crucial factor in helping to rebuild the largely inbred Mexican gray wolf population. Arizona and New Mexico share the habitat for the animals, with 114 wolves counted in both states as of January 2017. An updated count is underway...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Room Full of Roses, written by Tim Spencer of the Sons of the Pioneers, was first recorded by George Morgan, and it went to #4 on the country charts. Later that same year the tune was recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers and went to #10 on the charts. THE WESTERNER