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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bibb Seen As Likely Pick For U.S. Attorney; Dems Fret He Will Turn Up Heat, Plus: Big Bill In Action, And: My Bottom Lines 

Bibb
State politics could be in for a shaking up and new attorney general Gary King could feel some breathing down his neck if the insiders handicapping who will become the next United States Attorney for New Mexico have it right. They tell me Jim Bibb, who ran and lost to King for attorney general in the '06 election, is the leading pick from the four names sent to the White House for consideration by GOP Senator Pete Domenici. The President should make a decision in the next several weeks.

Bibb, 36, ran an aggressive campaign against Democrat King, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from out of state interests, but getting landslided--57% to 43%--and being dubbed the purveyor of "Bibb's Fibs" in King's TV ads. But Bibb's chances in the elite race for U.S. attorney are better, according to the legal beagles, who point out that another of those on the list, ABQ attorney Pat Rogers has already declined the job. The other two candidates for the $143,000 a year position are lawyers Glen Ellington of Santa Fe and Charles Peifer of Albuquerque. (On Dec. 20 the Alligators named Bibb and Rogers as likely to make the final list, and they were right.)

Bibb, the son-in-law of former Dem NM Governor Toney Anaya and the father of five, needs a job and has an obvious interest in public life. If he gets the post, his ascension would closely follow that of outgoing U.S. Attorney David Iglesias who also ran unsuccessfully for NM attorney general (against Patricia Madrid in '98) and was later appointed to the post at Domenici's urging.

One of the ironies is that Anaya ran against and was beaten by Domenici in his '78 when Pete made his first bid for re-election. Now, nearly thirty years later, Pete and Toney may have found something they can agree on--Jim Bibb.

BEHIND THE SCENES


Pete and company have been disappointed with Iglesias and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave him his walking papers recently. The Alligators say that took place at a Washington meeting and that Iglesias was reportedly "shocked" by his firing.

But he shouldn't have been. Unhappiness with his prosecution of corruption cases was widespread during last year's campaign and insiders say GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson was among those pushing for a change in the office.

Now, top Republicans are hoping that Bibb, who served for two yeas as an assistant U.S. attorney, can do what Iglesias could not--conduct aggressive public corruption probes and get better trial outcomes than Iglesias who went after ex-Treasurer Vigil but who was found guilty on only one count after two expensive trials. Democrats say if that were to be Bibb's charge he would be walking on thin ice as such cases are not difficult to bring, but could smack of a political vendetta.

During his campaign, Bibb, a UNM law grad, made the corruption issue his focus. One of my insiders analyzed Bibb's situation this way:

"Bibb is probably the easiest choice because his background investigation has already been done twice--once for the FBI and once for the U.S. attorney's office. His military background (Major in NM National Guard; Afghanistan veteran) doesn't hurt. But he really isn't that experienced once you get past the resume. This job is a double edged sword for a guy with future political possibilities. We don't know how badly other corruption cases may be screwed up. In fact, the amount we know is really minuscule."

And advocates for lawyer Peifer say he has the experience, a very sharp legal mind and old ties to Domenici, all of which make him the superior choice for the job. They say Bibb would be in over his head in the high-pressure position.

BIBB'S CHANCES


Bibb's experience is light, but the position is a political one and on that score he makes the grade. He has ties to former NM GOP National Committeemen and lawyer/lobbyist Mickey Barnett who in turn has close ties with Domenici chief of staff Steve Bell. The wild card is Bibb's Democratic father-in-law who was not shy about supporting Bibb last year. Would Anaya, a former NM attorney general, have any sway with his U.S. attorney son-in-law? It concerns some R's.

But of more immediate concern is the prosecution of the corruption cases involving the building of two courthouses in Bernalillo county. Indictments are expected early his year and then high-profile trials, possibly involving former NM State Senate powerhouse Manny Aragon who has been a target of the federal grand jury investigating the case.

And then there is the matter of investigating other corruption. That scenario can not please Big Bill who is expected to be on the presidential campaign trail in '07. The last thing he needs is a U.S. attorney poking around for wrongdoing. Of course, it's the first thing the Republicans think they need.

If Bibb is tapped, it could be a short ride if the Democrats take the White House in '08. The Dem Prez would get to name an appointee. But that's later. For now, Bibb as U.S. Attorney could increase the pressure on Attorney General King to ferret out state corruption and also make life more uncomfortable for Big Bill.

The insiders are not always right, but the stars do seem to be aligning for native New Mexican Bibb. We'll keep you posted.

BIG BILL DIPLOMACY

Here's Big Bill pictured Monday with the president of the Sudan who he is meeting with in an effort to get U.N. peacekeeping forces into the war torn nation. He reports
"some progress" and will stay in Africa for several days. Upon his return, he is widely expected to announce an exploratory committee for the 2008 Dem Prez nomination. Next Tuesday he will deliver the state of the state address to the opening session of the NM Legislature as both Governor and apparently a presidential contender.

A JOLLY JEFF


It's term #5 for NM Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman who looks plenty pleased here as he poses with wife Anne, an attorney in private practice and son John, who works for a New York investment firm, for a mock swearing-in ceremony with Veep Cheney on Capitol Hill.

With the D's in power, Bingaman is now chairman of Senate Energy, replacing Sen. Domenici. But his streak of conservatism when it comes to the oil companies has not gone away. Bingaman is not anxious to repeal tax cuts given to them in the big energy bill he signed on to in '05, nor is he encouraging talk of a windfall profits tax on Big Oil. These positions are not atypical for a western senator, but may rankle his supporters on the left some.

MY BOTTOM LINES

One of my favorite writers, Peggy Noonan, reaches lyrical heights in a recent column for the Wall Street Journal as she brings together the two recent major political events--the death of President Ford and the Democratic takeover of the Congress. Sometimes we can all get along, and it's magic when it happens...If you are into what's happening in the world of NM talk radio, check out my piece in the February edition of NEW">New Mexico Magazine. It explores the ins and outs of this particular chattering class, but its not posted online, so look for it at your local newsstands...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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