Thursday, April 20, 2006
Riordan Aftershocks Sway Roundhouse & ABQ City Hall; Top D's Run For Cover; Will Give Up Campaign Cash; A Blog Special With Exclusive Insider Info
The full and fearsome prosecutorial power of the United States government set off more cries of "Abandon Ship" at the upper reaches of the New Mexican Democratic party Wednesday. Lieutenant Governor Denish, Attorney General Madrid, ABQ Mayor Chavez, ABQ State Rep. Al Park and Santa Fe Rep. Peter Wirth all announced they are donating to charity campaign contributions they received from securities broker Guy Riordan. Earlier, Governor Richardson announced he is giving to charity over $25,000 in contributions he received from Riordan and removing him from the state Game Commission. Ex-Treasurer Michael Montoya fingered Riordan as a kickback payer at the federal corruption trial of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil Tuesday. Riordan strongly denies the charges. He has been a prominent Democratic campaign contributor for decades.
Denish will donate to charity $10,000 of Riordan's campaign donations; Madrid $740; Mayor Chavez $1700; Rep. Park at least $500; Santa Fe's Wirth $500.00.
Montoya's stunner testimony was a worst case scenario for NM Dems, but the news could get worse. One top D told me the witness list for the trial contains the names of more well-known politicos who we will recognize and who have ties to the Governor and other office holders.
GUY'S IMPACT ON GUV
The news that prominent politicians were lining up to wash their hands of Riordan's money was broken by ABQ's KRQE-TV. In a special report on the scandal NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing posed to me the question that is most on the lips of the political community. "How is this going to impact the Governor?"
The most insightful answer, I told Knipfing, comes from a veteran Dem player. "The Governor's Teflon has been scratched."
A longtime Dem state legislator added: "There are a lot of people walking on egg shells. Wagons are being circled."
Knipfing wondered if the barrage of negative news for the Guv could create a tar baby for the state's most powerful leader in recent history. I put that one to our top D insider.
"This comes after a pile of other bad news. That's why I say his Teflon is scratched. But he is blessed with a weak opponent. The R's have not shown they can take advantage. This Guv is taking a a lot of of bullets and is still walking pretty strong, but if more names associated with him surface at the trial the damage could be more serious." He analyzed.
The Governor moved with brutal dispatch to sever his links with old friend Riordan. A source who was with Riordan as Montoya testified told me: "The Governor did not call Guy before his announcement removing him from the commission. Obviously, Guy was down in the dumps." He said.
SCANDAL AND VOTERS
As the aftershocks of the Montoya testimony swayed the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse and the 11th Floor of ABQ City Hall, the Senior Alligators of La Politica weighed the fallout on the coming election and a legal Gator was providing insight.
"It will be the congressional race between Madrid and Wilson most impacted. Heather Wilson again mentioned the state's many scandals in a speech before Republicans Tuesday. She was gentle, but the rhetoric will heat up. She will continue to charge that the scandals came under Madrid's watch. It could, if played correctly, be a decisive issue in the race." Said an experienced R.
A loyal Dem agreed that the Vigil and other scandals will be a key issue, but warned that if Wilson gets to gung-ho it could backfire.
"When she runs negative attacks her numbers could go down too. Madrid is not a direct player in the scandals, so how Wilson delivers the attack will be as important as what's in it." He argued.
But any way you look at it, the parade of alleged perpetrators is a body blow to the state's majority party which has been railing against the "Culture of Corruption" in Washington, only to see one of their most promising hopefuls in Madrid tied to the culture of corruption in New Mexico.
THE LEGAL BEAT
I consulted a top legal mind on the baffling question of why Riordan was not indicted by the Feds if he was involved in paying kickbacks to Montoya. He asked me if Riordan had testified before the federal grand jury. I checked with another very reliable source who told me that to the best of his knowledge Riordan was interviewed by federal agents several times and "told them everything he knew," but did not give grand jury testimony.
"If he was not called before the grand jury the most likely answer on why he was not indicted is that they do not have enough evidence against him--no phone calls, wiretaps, video or checks. They just decided to let Montoya testify to it and let it fall where it would." Our legal Gator informed.
U.S. Attorney Iglesias told KRQE-TV last night that he "will leave no stone unturned" in pursuing Montoya's allegations against Riordan.
The Vigil political earthquake was predicted when he was indicted, but predicting it and feeling it are two different things. What made it more pronounced has been the quiet as a door mouse behavior of GOP U.S. Attorney David Iglesias--until now. Not only does he have the Vigil trial underway, but federal indictments are expected in connection with the construction of two courthouses in Bernalillo county.
"It's been like a Cobra strike," said one stunned Dem.
MY BOTTOM LINES
In the days ahead expect more beneficiaries of Riordan's patronage to write checks to charity. And the Vigil trial will likely reveal even more troubling activity. Will the bevy of scandals roiling the state mark a turning point in our political culture, or will ex-Treasurer Montoya's infamous remark, "It's the way we do business in New Mexico," survive into yet another generation?
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author