Monday, February 07, 2005

All In The Family: Sister Of Big Bill's Lawyer Up For Judgeship; Plus: D's Chase Heather On Social Security, But She Escapes 

Is the sister of Big Bill's top lawyer about to land a district court judgeship in ABQ? That's the question buzzing in insider legal circles as word is out that three names have been recommended to the Guv to replace retiring ABQ Judge Wendy York. One of those names is the sister of Geno Zamora who just happens to be the chief legal counsel in the Guv'office. Geno's sister is 44 year old Monica Zamora, a UNM Law grad.

"It has some teeth grinding for sure," commented one legal beagle. Also raising eyebrows is that just three names, not the usual five, have been submitted to Big Bill for his decision on the judge vacancy."That increases her chances," said one legal beaver.

When a vacancy is created in a district judgeship the Judicial Selection Commission recommends names to the Guv. Do you think the Guv has an inside track to that commission? Nah, no way!
Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, Geno Zamora is also surfacing in the conversations of La Politica as a possible Dem candidate for Attorney General this year. It is talk that he is not discouraging. The legal sharpie is well-respected in Dem party circles. If he makes the run he would face-off with, among others, ABQ State Rep Al Park who has all but announced his intentions. Big Bill raised big bucks for Al's run for State House last year. Where will he be on the AG's race if Gino runs?

Dems thought they had an opening when ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson went before the Legislature and called for an overhaul of Medicaid but did not even mention Social Security. The D's immediately fired off an e-mail: “When it comes to her position of upholding the promise of Social Security, Heather Wilson has waffled like a Belgian baker. Congresswoman Wilson needs to explain her preference to line the pockets of stock brokers instead of seniors, ” fired D state Chair Wertheim.

But the D's were shut out on this one. Heather told the ABQ Journal's Mike Coleman that she is against Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security. She was smart to do so. A defining moment of her last campaign against Dem Richard Romero came when Romero tried to trip her up on the issue, one in which she has changed positions on since first running back in 98.' But Heather flattened Romero on live TV with a one word answer on privatizing: "No."

For popular Senator Pete it's easy to come out for the Prez's controversial plan, but for Heather a misstep on the issue could spell the end of her political career. Pollsters tell me her strongest backers are those over 55 and that's the group most opposed to Bush's plan. Heather also has to worry about splitting with the White House on yet another major issue; She did the same on a Medicare bill and observers say it cost her a seat on the House Armed Services Committee. But Wilson did what had to be done and while Wertheim's hasty hit shows the Dems are lying in wait, it also shows she remains elusive prey.


Rep. Steve Pearce has been added to the Homeland Security Committee and the House Financial Services Committee, say the Washington insiders....Pete Ross, an assistant district atttorney in Sandoval County passed away over the weekend, acccording to my insider e-mail. Ross lost a bid for D.A to Dem Lemuel Martinez, who is now on that list of possible contenders for Atttorney General in 06.’

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Big Bill's Press Stable: What's The Impact? Plus; Dendahl Still Plays, But The Dance Floor Is Not As Crowded 

What exactly does it mean for Big Bill to have all those former reporters on the state payroll? There's been a lot of talk about the number of ex-scribes he has hired, but not much discussion of just what it means in terms of what New Mexicans see and hear about the Guv. The subject caught the eyes of the editors of the American Journalism Review (AJR) who called on former ABQ Journal reporter turned freelance writer Leanne Potts to take a look for a national audience. During an interview, I agreed with Leanne that the hirings may have had more of an impact than just getting more press for Big Bill, but may be shading the coverage a bit in his favor. Other New Mexico journalism observers disagreed. Here's the full article hot off the press.


GOP political consultant Jay McCleskey, part of the Dendahl/Barnett faction of the state GOP, was laying low after an intraparty feud raged last year. It ended with the resignation of Ramsay Gorham as GOP Chair and the installation of Dendahlite Allen Weh. But now Jay is back with a high-profile, according to insider sources. They say he is a regional coordinator for the national GOP. His patron, Mickey Barnett, was ousted as GOP national committeeman last year by ex-State Rep. George Buffett.

McCleskey came under fire in the 03' ABQ CIty Council elections for running a highly negative campaign on behalf of Barnett candidates. They lost. Previously, he helped manage John Sanchez's campaign for governor.


Former GOP Chair John Dendahl remains an articulate critic of Big Bill via a syndicated newspaper column. He is saying the things that the current chair can not or will not. But Dendahl had his run and no matter how much he plays the music, much of the GOP will not dance, not after the divisions he helped create in the party in his final years.

Dendahl will always be remembered for resurrecting the party and making important gains in the Legislature and capturing the governors chair. He will be equally remembered for allowing a faction to be created that feasted on party largess and advocated the losing position of legalizing drugs. That Dendahl remains one of the most effective critics of Big Bill, even from his out-of-power position, says it all about the need for new blood in the Grand Old Party.


Our initial report regarding Deanna Sauceda's return to the KRQE-TV anchor chair has now been confirmed by a couple of inside sources. Sauceda, recently of Intel, returns to 13 as anchor for either the noon or 4 p.m. news or both, say the inside sources.

13 recently took the top spot in the 10 p.m. November news ratings for the first time in memory. But that hasn't stopped former 10 p.m. #1 KOB-TV from trying to hold on. The station ran a promo pointing out that in an overnight rating they took the top spot--for one night! Come on promo writers, give the other fella their due. When you take a sweeps period--a month--your top dog---one day doesn't cut it. But then again in modern TV "news" just about anything goes.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Part II Of Our Exclusive Report On The Wages Of Capitol Hill; Today, NM's U.S. Senate Staffers, Plus: Some Notable Passings  

Pete & Jeff
They call it the "world's most exclusive club," but the bottom line is that it's a hundred guys and gals and thousands of staffers who are supported by your tax dollars. That's the premise of our two part series on what the top aides for the NM Congressional delegation pull down each year. And judging from the reaction to part one, most of you agree.

Old-timers chuckled via e-mail that this stuff used to be common knowledge and they were glad to see it out there again. Others warned that it costs a lot more to live in D.C. than NM, so don't begrudge the higher pay. We don't. We just begrudge the amateurish secretiveness of the Congress in trying to keep this info hard to find. So in that spirit let's go to part two of the wages of Capitol Hill.


As in the House, Chief of Staff is the top job in a U.S. Senate office. But the job pays a lot more if you manage to get in thick with one of the 100 Senators. Surprisingly, it appears from the digging we did, that the Chief of Staff for Dem NM Senator Jeff Bingaman noses out his counterpart in the office of GOP NM Sen. Pete Domenici. Figures from mid-2004 show Bingaman Staff Chief Stephen Ward taking in $152,852 compared with Domenici Chief of Staff Steve Bell who, by our calculations, was making $151,492.

Bell is the longtime alter ego of Domenici and one of the Hill's more powerful staffers, speaking for Pete with authority. He made a lot more money when he left the Senator's staff in the the 90's and went to work at a Wall Street investment bank. Now, instead of big pay for Bell, there is the lure of power that can only be found at the center of government. There may have been pay raises since our count, so Ward could be behind Bell. If not, Steve may have to call Pete and use some of his persuasive powers to get up to par with his rival.

Both Bell and Ward are close to the cap of what a staffer is allowed to make. This year it goes to the $156K area with Rep's and Senators making $158,100. Never have staffers been able to get that close on the wage scale to their bosses.

If a Senator is chairman of a committee, or in the case of the minority Dems, a "ranking member" on a committee, they get to name staff. For Bingaman, ranking member on the Senate Energy Committee, he has put in place Robert Simon who appears to be the highest paid staffer associated with the NM Congressional delegation at $153,164. "Committee is where a staffer can make the good money," said one former Hill aide. Alex Flint, a Domenici staffer on Energy, started off last year at $138,940, but, according to my Alligators, has probably already risen to the Simon area.


Legislative Directors

Edward Hild, Leg. Dir.--Sen. Domenici--$94,520
Trudy Vincent, Leg. Dir.--Sen. Bingaman--$114,336
Randall Soderquist, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$70,516
Daniel Alpert, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$85,626
James Dennis, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$80,590


Chris Gallegos--Domenici--$92,044
Matthew Letourneau--Domenici--$36,136
Lisa Breeden (NM)--Domenici--$68,788
Shaye O'Donnell--Domenici--$26,694

Jude McCartin--Bingaman--$75,552
Maria Najera--Bingaman--$30,222


Terry Brunner, State Dir.--Bingaman--$71,386
Joe Trujillo, Field Rep.--Domenici--$75,072
Poe Corn, Roswell--Domenici--$66,476

Other Salaries

Lynden Armstrong, Admin/Systems Dir.--Domenici--$96,172
David Pike, Dep. Chief of Staff--Bingaman--$69,682
Joyce Pullen, ABQ Off. Mgr.--Domenici--$44,200
Virginia White, Ex. Asst.--Bingaman--$71,698

And there you have it. Not a complete list but the highlights. A couple of staffers listed in our reports the last two days are now gone, but their positions continue. Pay raises may have been given to some staffers since these mid-2004 numbers were compiled.


While we were putting together our D.C. salary report, word came to us of the death of Peter Wellish, onetime press secretary to Senator Domenici. Wellish, a radio news reporter, worked the ABQ market before signing up with Pete in the late 70's. He went on to become Rev. Peter Wellish and executive director of the Hospice of Saint John in Lakewood, Colorado. It's reported that Wellish had heart problems. He died December 8. He was 54.

New Mexico also took note of the passing of a veteran former state senator this week. W.S. "Smitty" Eoff, a 12 year member of the senate from McKinley County, died at his Pagosa Springs, CO ranch January 25. Eoff was 84.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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EXCLUSIVE: Salaries of Top NM Capitol Hill Aides: Why So Hard To Get? Alligators Guide Me; Info Released Here Is First In Years, Part One Today  

What government info is some of the hardest for regular Joe Citizen to come by? Spy satellite locations? Nuclear weapons design? Nah. That's all floating around the Internet. But what isn't and takes the prize for hardest to find is the salaries of those who toil on Capitol Hill on behalf of our congressmen and senators. It's not on the Net or in the newspapers or on the blogs...until now.

With the help of several Alligators, I prowled the federal bureaucracy in search of this prized info. I soon found myself traversing through rarely seen catacombs and did not give up until I found my elusive booty. I found it alright. But it wasn't easy telling just what I found. The Alligators and I needed a calculator to figure it all out because only quarterly pay is reported. And then there's the "Christmas" bonuses on the U.S. House side. But we spent some hours parsing and are confident that our numbers are on the money so to speak. If they are off it's only by a little.

Oh yeah, we earned our keep on this one. Not to mention that my nice two-ply cashmere sweater now has big gray elbow dimples on it from crawling on my hands and knees on a dusty concrete floor to retrieve the most recently available "Statement of Disbursements of the House," and the one for the U.S. Senate too. This thing has literally thousands of pages and lists every congressional office expense (in the finest of fine print, of course) including bottled water bills.

But what good is a blogger if he doesn't get out of his pajamas once in a while and dare to go where he is dared not to? So here we go. Part one of my exclusive report on the wages of Capitol Hill. Today the U.S. House. Tomorrow the Senate. Does it sound like we're taking over?


Bryce Dustman
The highest paid staffer in a congressional office is the Chief of Staff. That's the guy or gal who bosses the other 20 or some employees in the office. Congressmen and Senators are paid $158,100 a year. Under new rules, a staffer can max out at over $156k. almost as much as the big boss! None of our NM Chief's of Staff in the House neared that total, but they are doing pretty well. Our figures are from mid-2004 when the maximum was about 154k.

Bryce Dustman, top dog to GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson of ABQ appears to take the prize for highest paid NM House staffer. He pulls down about $127,300, according to our calculations done on a solar-powered calculator in the dank and dark rooms where we scoured the reports. Jim Richards, chief to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) is right behind, getting about $126,000 a year. Pulling up the rear is the chief for the only Dem in the NM delegation, Rep. Tom Udall of the North. He's Tom Nagle and he makes $95,000. A Capitol insider tells us the average chief of staff on the Hill pulls down $108,000.


: Erik Einerton---Rep. Wilson--$52,000,
Michael Collins--Rep.. Udall--$50,000, Matthew Meagher--Rep, Pearce--$61,000.

DISTRICT OFFICE MANAGERS: Julie Dreike--Rep. Wilson--$65,000, Michelle Jacquez-Ortiz--Rep. Udall--$66,000, Peggy Mallow--Rep. Pearce--$66,000

: Enrique Knell--Rep. Wilson--$53,000, Joel Hannahs, Press Asst.--Rep. Wilson--$44,000, Glenn Loveland--Rep. Udall--$46,000, Gail Gitcho--Rep. Pearce--$53,000 (Gitcho recently left Pearce's office)


Johanna Polsenberg, Sr. Leg. Asst.--Rep. Udall--$50,000,
Donda Morgan, Off. Manager--Rep. Udall--$57,000

Ricardo Bernal, Sr. Leg. Asst.--Rep. Pearce--$55,000,
Barbara Cohen, Ex. Asst.--Rep. Wilson--$45,000


Chief of Staff is the plum Hill job, with a pretty steep- fall-off after that. But the other salaries aren't shabby and for New Mexicans who labor in a low-wage state, they aren't exactly lemons. Now, if my Alligators and I are off by a couple of hundred bucks I am sure we'll hear. To that we will respond: why not just make it easy for us Congress folk and release, as was done years ago, salary info in an annual salary report? If not, don't worry. Every once in a while a field trip is good for us bloggers. We have to launder those pajamas sometime.

Be here tomorrow for Part Two of my exclusive report on congressional wages when we look at the U.S. Senate!

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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