Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blogging With Bingaman: Still Playing After All These Years; Poised For Six More? It's Chicken Sandwiches And La Politica On Your Thursday Menu 

Sen. Bingaman
First, I checked with the Blog Ethics Board and they approved the free lunch Jeff Bingaman bought me the other day. So all you holier than thou types who feel I can be bought for a chicken sandwich, well, you may have a point. In any event, read on as I clue you in on the latest as NM's Democratic U.S. Senator gears up for a run for a fifth, six year term in 2006.

The most important stuff first. You and I may think the race will be about the usual suspects; health care, jobs, education, but Bingaman is preparing for a full frontal assault from the GOP on the terrorism issue. "They used it successfully last year and I have no reason to think they won't bring it up again against Democrats," he speculated.

He also flatly declared that he expects no cuts whatsoever to any of NM's military installations when the base closing announcements are made later this month. He was so matter of fact I probed a bit citing the near hysteria over a possible shutdown of some of ABQ's Kirtland AFB. Again, he deadpanned that he "has heard nothing" that makes him think NM will lose anything. We shall see.

Back to the campaign, just who will be around to use terrorism or any other issue against Bingaman is an open question. Gadfly Tom Benavidez who ran as a Dem against GOP Sen. Domenici in 96' is back this time as an R and running against Bingaman, but no heavyweights have emerged. Still, the Silver City native is staying in shape, jogging three to four times a week and stepping up his travel schedule and money raising. He now has half a million tucked away.

Anne Bingaman
Bingaman has not changed much since I first covered him back in 78' when he ran successfully for attorney general. He is an "L" guy: laid-back, low-key, likeable, laconic and liberal. The critics have been saying he is disinterested in the job and was an unlikely candidate for re-election. But at lunch he described the intricacies of Senate Finance Committee politics, his winning fight last month to restore Medicaid funding to the federal budget and reminisced about old political times in New Mexico. If disinterested, he keeps it well-disguised.

His concerned supporters may be on more solid ground when they pine for Bingaman to be more engaged with the media, and not let Sen. Domenici have so much of the limelight. But his way has worked for two decades. However, you will see more of him on TV as the election cycle begins.

Bingaman's high-powered wife Anne, an attorney and businesswoman, will again be a key strategist and player in his re-elect. "If she tells me she can't support me, it will be time to go," he joked.

But more important, will a credible Republican emerge to tell the soon-to-be 62 year old Jeff it is time to go? I am not privy to the latest polling, but as the political pendulum swings a bit conservative here it would seem Bingaman would be ripe for at least a stiff challenge, if not an upset. But voters, including many Republicans who might suffer cardiac arrest if they examined the junior senator's voting record, have bonded with him. For a good number of New Mexicans, sometimes it's more about the person than the politics. Not often, but sometimes.

As we polished off our tasty sandwiches, Bingaman agreed that it was raising the millions of dollars for yet another campaign that is the most distasteful part of politics. He then proceeded to pick up the tab. I tried desperately to stop him, but thoughts of using my lunch savings to buy those new blogging pajamas took over and the larceny in my soul prevailed. Should I declare my candidacy for something?


If a group of citizens circulates petitions for a grand jury investigation into the ABQ police department evidence room scandal is a district court judge obligated to accept those petitions and empanel a grand jury? I blogged the other day that the judge may have some discretion. Readers say no, the judge has no discretion and must act on the petition. Can some of our legal beagles in the audience help us out on this one? No one has yet announced such an action. It probably should be the police themselves who do it.

Have some news, gossip, intrigue about NM politics? E-mail me from the link at the top of this page and let's keep the news of La Politica flowing.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Power Lunch With Pete & Weh Fails To Persuade Potential Mayor Candidate, Plus; Wife Of Sen. Cisneros Attacks Him With Hammer; Smashes Car of Gal Pal 

Ann Rhoades
A political power lunch Tuesday at the downtown ABQ Hyatt hotel featuring NM GOP senior U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, NM GOP Chair Allan Weh and the object of their charms, GOP businesswoman Ann Rhoades, failed to give birth to a mayoral candidacy, report Alligators directly on the scene.

"It's late in the game and apparently Weh is trying to get something going. The R's have no candidates for U.S. senate, governor or mayor. Rhoades may have been a last-ditch hope to get in on the main political action this year. But Rhoades is not biting. She is a successful businesswoman and does not see the point of making a run for a job that takes much and gives back little," reported one reliable source.

The mayoral election is October 4. No Republican has entered the race. Mayor Marty is the secure frontrunner with $400k in the bank and total name ID. That is making it difficult for the R's to find a candidate.

I spoke briefly with Rhoades' husband over the weekend. He told me running for mayor "isn't something we plan on doing." The reports from the power lunch confirm that Rhoades, a leading human resources consultant who made a ton of money when she got in on the ground floor of Jet Blue airlines, is not about to be lured into the $95,000 a year mayoral chair.


GOP Gators report Rhoades has never held elective office and is the daughter of the late lobbyist Harold "Doc" Weiler. She served with Weh on the board of the University of New Mexico Foundation. But it appears Chairman Weh will have to go back to his rolodex if he is to find a viable GOP candidate for the top job in NM's largest city. Pete, of course, is no stranger to city politics having started his career on the old ABQ city commission in the 60's and later having a hand in city hall thru onetime aide and two-term Mayor Harry Kinney.

But the path to renewed city hall power for Pete and the R's is blocked by a well-financed incumbent, fear that getting elected mayor is the end of a political career, not the beginning, and by the simple lack of interest in trying to run a city whose politics have become very nasty. Still, a few sands are left in the hourglass for Pete and Weh. But they are falling rapidly.


Sen. Cisneros
There's a new entry in the category: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." It's Patsy Cisneros, wife of Taos area Dem State Senator Carlos Cisneros. Cops say she attacked Carlos with a hammer Monday night and then proceeded to smash up a car belonging to the husband of the senator's lady friend outside of a Taos area cabin. The senator was not seriously injured. No, I do not make this stuff up!

A Taos police report says 50 year old Patsy was arrested at a cabin belonging to Molycorp, the company at which Cisneros works. The senator was apparently sharing company there with one Denise Ortega. The gal pal was was uninjured in the fracas, but Patsy is alleged to have smashed in a car windshield and back windows. And that's not all. Cops report Patsy "The Hammer" Cisneros also flailed away at the bedroom door of the cabin.

Carlos must be one hard-headed guy to go unharmed from a hammer attack, but no matter how tough he is he has met his match in Patsy. She's a keeper, Carlos, so get with the program. Viva La Politica! Viva Nuevo Mexico!

Have some news, gossip, intrigue about NM politics? E-mail me from the link at the top of this page and let's keep the news of La Politica flowing.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On The Cop Beat: What's Next In APD Evidence Room Scandal? Anything? Plus: Margaret Chavez And The Days Of Our Lives; Welcome To La Politica! 

U.S. Att. Iglesias
The ABQ Police Department evidence room scandal may, as the cynics claim, die a peaceful death with the wrongdoers laughing all the way to the bank. But our Monday report noting that top cops now believe as much as $200 grand in cash was ripped off, along with other evidence, still prompted outrage and calls for action.

"What about citizens petitioning for a grand jury investigation? If the authorities won't do it how about the people? Emailed a reader. It's a possibility. Petitions would have to be presented to a district court judge who would certify that there was enough of them and that an investigation was warranted. Would any judge have the huevos to say no?

And we had this political spin put on the scandal: "(GOP Bernalillo County Chairman) Ken Zangara has had his share of troubles with Attorney General Madrid. She came up empty handed on the police scandal. What if Zangara led the charge to empanel a grand jury?" wondered an mischievous emailer who referenced the AG's investigation of Zangara's ABQ auto dealership.

Mayoral candidate and City Councilor Eric Griego was calling for a federal investigation late Monday. That would mean Republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who ran a close race against Madrid for AG in 98' and who said he would wait for completion of her probe. That investigation is done and already gathering dust as the perpetrators walk. How about it David?

Meanwhile, sources say APD Deputy Chief Ed Sauer, placed on leave while under investigation, may get his old job back from new APD Chief Ray Schultz. If so, is there a message there we don't get Chief? Shouldn't all the top cronies of disgraced former Chief Gallegos be hitting the exits?


Who needs "Days Of Our Lives," when New Mexico has Margaret Aragon de Chavez? Margaret, ex wife of Mayor Marty, was back in the headlines Monday explaining how the couple's 14 year old daughter had been cited for drinking with another teen at a backyard party in the ABQ NE Heights. And just a day or so before that Margaret was pulling herself out of contention for the upcoming ABQ mayor's race after publicly flirting with the idea. As for the mayor, his head must have been spinning from all this. He offered up a simple "no comment."

As for Margaret, when I ran into her at Starbucks the other day she wistfully told me she looked forward to resuming "a normal life away from politics." But apparently not right away. Last night she chided the mayor for not being immediately available when she was calling with the news of their daughter. And Margaret's dad, ex-state Rep. Bennie Aragon, remains on the warpath telling anyone who will listen why they should not vote to re-elect his former son-in-law.

And you think I make this stuff up? The book of La Politica is non-fiction, a never ending work in progress and always a bestseller. Only in Nuevo Mexico!

Have some news, gossip, intrigue about NM politics? E-mail me from the link at the top of this page and let's keep the news of La Politica flowing.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

APD Shocker: Sources Now Say $200 Grand Stolen From Evidence Room; Weak Response Has Alligators On Attack; The Tough Questions On Your Monday Blog: 

Chief Schultz
Reliable sources at the highest levels of law enforcement tell "NM Politics with Joe Monahan" that they believe the cash missing from the scandal-ridden Albuquerque Police Department evidence room totals in the $200,000 area, not the $58,000 that investigators have made public. Despite the wads of missing cash, drugs, confiscated property and other evidence, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid has announced she is unable to bring the perpetrators to justice. And that has the Alligators baring their teeth.

Veteran politico and Green Party activist Steve Cabiedes was one of the first to predict that the scandal would end with a whimper and not a bang. He made that prediction here right after the forced retirement of APD Chief Gil Gallegos. Cop critic Cabiedes says even he is surprised that no one will apparently even get a slap on the wrist in connection with the biggest police corruption scandal in ABQ history "unless you consider Gallegos getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement money as punishment."

Some Republicans are using the scandal to slam AG Madrid and saying that ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who Madrid may run against next year has been handed an opportunity to show the AG as ineffective. Others say Heather won't play with it either because politicians of all stripes fear criticizing the boys in blue.

"A lot of people cower in fear as they watch the crime shows, called the 10 o'clock news. They support the cops no matter what and this failure to address police corruption is reflective of that," carped Cabiedes.

AG Madrid
Informed legal critics of the Madrid investigation claim she should have sought indictments and then put the pressure on those indicted to tell the truth. But the AG's supervising attorney on the case, Michael Cox, did not push it and is also taking a hit as outrage surfaces. "They went through three different chief investigators during the course of this. That sure didn't help keep it on track. And they subpoenaed dozens of people, way too many to focus the case. It wasted a lot of time. In the end, they threw in the towel. It's a sad chapter in state legal history," analyzed a legal eagle with insider knowledge.

Other Gators following the action claim it leaves the door open to more police misconduct and corruption. "What is the incentive for them to stop? You tell me $200 grand is stolen and a bunch of drugs and other stuff and no one is arrested? That's a license to steal," fumed another insider.

Even the venerable former Bernalillo County Sheriff Joe Bowdich who has been hired at $90,000 a year to help the new chief clean-up the mess is not exempt from the wrath of the Gators. "Here we go again. New Mexico gets a public corruption scandal and what do we do? We create a high-paying job out of it. What about all the well-paid staff already at the APD who failed? We should be letting people go, not adding them," commented a retired high-ranking city employee.

But for now blatant criminal activity that occurred within the state's largest and most important police agency goes unprosecuted and unpunished. The criminals hide in the hallowed halls tarring their brave and honest colleagues with suspicion.


And what of new APD Chief Ray Schultz? Will he seek out the wrongdoers despite the failure of investigators and prosecutors? Or is he a captive of the same system he served in for so many years and that caused this depressing episode that illustrates why so many fine people have simply given up on poor New Mexico?

Have some news, gossip, intrigue about NM politics? E-mail me from the link at the top of this page and let's keep the news of La Politica flowing.

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