He says there is letter of apology from drafters of anti-abortion bill by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, but holds back the actual evidence
State Rep. Don Bratton believes in secrecy, selectivity and media manipulation.
That makes him a politician. But he is a clumsy and arrogant one at trying to manage the news.
Bratton wanted to plant a news story in the home district of state Rep. Cathrynn Brown to improve her standing with voters in Carlsbad.
Bratton, R-Hobbs, is the minority leader in the state House of Representatives. Fellow Republican Brown is one of his members, and she recently took quite a beating in the press.
Brown introduced an anti-abortion bill last month. Its wording was explosive. The most common understanding of her bill was that women who were victims of rape or incest would have to carry pregnancies to term to preserve the fetus as evidence.
A storm followed. Soon after, Brown told us the bill drafter with the Legislative Council Service did a poor job of putting her concept into words.
Brown, 55, herself an attorney, said the bill was supposed to be directed at perpetrators of sex crimes, not their victims.
Brown, right, also blamed herself for what she described as a badly written bill. She said she typically pores over her bills before they are introduced, looking for errors, inconsistencies or lack of clarity.
This time, she said, the imprecise wording slipped by her. She said that, as a part-time legislator, it can happen.
Then Bratton stepped into the controversy, though he tried to cloak his involvement so it would be limited to a particular geographic area of New Mexico.
Bratton had the Republican press aide send a news release to Brown's hometown newspaper, claiming she had received a letter of apology from the Legislative Council Service because the bill was drafted inaccurately.
Here is the news release Bratton authorized and then ordered sent to the Carlsbad Current-Argus:
New Mexico House Republican Caucus
For Immediate Release: January 30, 2013
Contact: Jamie Dickerman Phone: (505)-986-4763
Cathrynn Brown Receives Apology from Legislative Council Service
SANTA FE -- In a letter of apology addressed to House Minority Floor Leader, Donald Bratton-R, Raul E. Burciaga, director of the Legislative Council Service whose attorneys draft bills on behalf of legislators, admits that HB 206 was written in a way that did not accurately reflect the objective intended by Rep. Brown.
Cathrynn Brown (HD-55), endured a firestorm of national criticism last week, when language in a bill proposed by her was interpreted to mean that impregnated victims of rape and incest who received abortions would be subject to felony criminal punishment for destroying evidence. As it was written, the clause that caused the reaction seemed to preclude the rape victims from being charged, but leftist groups read the bill as possibly including victims.
Brown maintained all along that the objective of the bill was to punish perpetrators of rape or incest who would then coerce their victims to obtain an abortion if a pregnancy resulted, as a way to “cover up” the crime. It was intended for the perpetrator, and NOT the victim. She subsequently revised the bill to include a clearer statement to this effect.
In his letter of apology dated January 28, 2013 regarding his staff, Burciaga stated, “We do our best to accurately and precisely capture a legislator’s intent when we draft legislation but, of course, we are not perfect. While I do not believe the legislation we drafted for Representative Brown has been accurately characterized, the bill that was provided to her did not clearly articulate the objective she has stated.”
** Burciaga would not comment when I asked if this excerpt from the Republican leader was an accurate representation of the entire letter.
"The letter speaks for itself," Burciaga said. He would not discuss it any further.
He and his staff try to be apolitical. They do not want to be at odds with anyone in the Legislature, Republican or Democrat. Burciaga would not release the letter.
I then asked Bratton for a copy of the letter. He first said he would not provide it. He said the news release was only intended for Brown's hometown newspaper. The Current-Argus is one of the eight newspapers for which I am the Santa Fe bureau chief. All are owned by the same company, the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership.
Hearing that, Bratton said he would think about providing me a copy. He apparently is still thinking.
What stops you from releasing the letter, Mr. Minority Leader?
One possibility is that Bratton selectively drew from it to take heat off Brown with voters back home.
Bratton complained about "leftist" groups twisting Brown's words.
Is he now twisting Burciaga's for political purposes? The only way to know for sure is if Bratton steps up and releases the letter.
His back-room dealings in this case -- sending the press release to only one paper, then concealing the actual letter it was based on -- show anything but leadership.