Monday, October 17, 2005
The Impeachment Insiders: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Details On This NM First; It's From The Heart Of The Roundhouse To You
When will our long nightmare end? Day after day Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico are pounded with more allegations and sorry developments in the biggest corruption scandal in state history. Treasurer Robert Vigil, throwing all caution to the wind, has imperiled the credibility of the entire government by refusing to step aside while federal corruption charges against him make their way through the courts. His decision is about to encounter the full wrath of the people. Impeachment is inevitable.
According to key insiders, recent focus groups conducted with voters show the public is blaming all politicians not just members of Vigil's Democratic party. "The scandal has taken a severe toll. New Mexico already had a tarnished reputation for government ethics, now the public is being pushed to the brink. Vigil's decision to stay is causing damage that will take years to repair," offered one of those insiders.
DEEP ON THE INSIDE
Today I take you deep into the inner sanctum of La Politica where for the first time in the nearly 100 years of state history plans are afoot to impeach an elected state official; where political operatives and legislators are so nervous they wince at the sound of an egg shell cracking; where the fate of the federally indicted Vigil and the credibility of the New Mexican government hangs in the balance. It is the highest possible stakes political poker game.
More than ever, my sources must remain completely anonymous, embedded as they are so deeply in this process. But they are political animals who know of the thirst for first-hand, insider information on this once-in-a-lifetime event. Thus, the following report from my unimpeachable sources as the State House prepares to meet to impeach October 28.
WILL VIGIL BE IMPEACHED?
It is almost definite. But there is a twist. One insider source says: "It will take a majority of the House--36 votes to impeach and all 70 members do not have to be there. No matter how many show, we need 36 to impeach. We anticipate that if the House does impeach Vigil will file court action to challenge the vote. The courts will likely defer to the political process, but this may buy Vigil additional time in office. It will also give him a chance to cast doubt on the House action, and try to minimize the harm to a criminal case."
A KEY MOMENT AND A MYSTERY
"(Vigil lawyer) Sam Bregman insisted that his client have the right to testify in any impeachment process. He will regret that since the House will now accept his invitation. Bregman and Vigil are trapped. After insisting on the right to testify, a decision to now rely on the 5th Amendment and not testify, will make both look foolish. On the other hand, allowing Vigil to testify could have serious consequences to the criminal defense case. In any event this is the one significant mystery of the House process--will Vigil testify or not?" comments another Roundhouse regular.
WHO REPLACES VIGIL UPON IMPEACHMENT?
"The constitution only provides for the Governor to replace a "vacancy" in the office. Whether impeachment produces a "vacancy" is not established in NM law. A "vacancy" can not be self-imposed, and this is precisely what (Big) Bill, (Attorney General) Patsy and Robert were attempting when they went to the Supreme Court with the deal for him to step aside. On the other hand, impeachment, in my opinion, does produce a "vacancy", which is clearly not self-imposed. Bill would have the opportunity to appoint and fill the vacancy." Detailed another authoritative source at the Merry Roundhouse.
WILL THERE BE A SENATE TRIAL?
"No. If the House impeaches, there should not be any significant pressure to conduct a Senate trial. Since an impeachment vote would effectively suspend all activity by Vigil, there should be no pressure from the public, Gov. Bill, or investors, to expedite a Senate trial.
"I doubt there will ever be such a trial. If the House impeaches, there is no required timetable by which the Senate must conduct a trial. The Senate would simply decide to wait until after the criminal trial. This way the Senate does not need to worry about interfering with the criminal proceeding, and would be able to rely on the criminal verdicts instead of conducting its own trial. By the time all of this is resolved Vigil will be at or near the end of his term." analyzed another source.
THE BOTTOM LINES
And there you have the plot lines being drafted deep in the inner sanctum of the New Mexico government. The one fly in the ointment thus far has been the possibility of closing some of the process to the public. That would surely raise suspicions of the legislators themselves and whether they had any involvement with Mr. Vigil. Pressure will and should mount for complete openness as the hour of decision draws near. Meanwhile, the state apparently has to suffer through two more weeks of dysfunction in the office entrusted with investing $5 billion.
It is an unprecedented mess: a Treasurer conducting business over his home phone while under federal indictment, security guards called out by the Governor to protect the office from looting, fear and retribution among the office employees and a collapse in public confidence in the ethics and integrity of their government.
The wisdom of the impeachment clause has never been clearer.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author