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Monday, April 02, 2007

No April Fool's; Big Bill Threatens Another Special Session, Plus: Bill's Fundraising; What's Next For Manny, And: Blog Coverage; Unfair To Pete? 

Big Bill
Not again! After giving the Governor a fig leaf in the form of a couple of passed bills, lawmakers ended their disjointed special legislation session Friday night, only to learn Saturday that the Governor is threatening to haul them back to Santa Fe yet again to tackle ethics reform proposals that died a painful death not only in the regular 60 day session, but in the 11 day chaotic special. The question is will Governor Richardson learn to count any better before calling another special? And, if it is clear he doesn't have the votes, but calls a special session anyway, is that governing or grandstanding?

Hardly any meaningful ethics laws passed the Legislature which came as no surprise to our readers as the Alligators predicted such an outcome before the session began. Now, with the indictment of former Senate powerhouse Manny Aragon, the Guv apparently feels compelled to put some distance between himself and his old political ally, the one he appointed president of NM Highlands University, and will reconvene his ethics task force to recommend legislation for a possible special session.

The recent not-so-special cost taxpayers nearly $500,000 and undid the comity the Governor had built with opposition Republicans and conservative Democrats. If Bill calls another special that ends the same, the state's veterinarians will have to be rushed to the Capitol to treat a full blown case of lame-duck disease. Right now, the best friend of the Fourth Floor is an abacus. Won't someone use it?

WE'RE RIGHT ON THE MONEY

It's fun to be right, and boy were we on the money on January 25 when we polled the Alligators and predicted that Big Bill Richardson would raise $5.75 million for his prez bid in the first quarter of the year. Sunday he reported that he raised $6 million and has $5 million on hand. Those are respectable numbers for a second tier candidate. Hillary Clinton's $36 mil, including money raised for her senate race last year, is astronomical, but Bill will be able to stay around and be a presence if a top tier candidate fumbles. I'll go down to the feeding area and see what the Gators say Bill must raise in the months ahead to remain competitive.

COURTHOUSE CAPER

Will there be a full-blown federal trial of former Dem powerhouse Manny Aragon on charges that he stole 700 Grand off of the construction of the ABQ Metro Court? Most of my legal observers say they expect Manny to fight, but there is another school that says don't rule out a plea bargain. "Manny's health could be a consideration, He is known to suffer from diabetes and other health issues. Also, in the past when he was busted on minor charges--gambling and DWI--he ended up plea bargaining the cases," analyzed one our lawyers. In addition, legal beagles say there could be indictments coming over other public projects that allegedly involve Aragon and his influence and in which he could cooperate with the feds.

And what about indictments in the construction of the Metro jail and maybe other government buildings? The feds are saying don't rule them out. Also, attorney Billy Blackburn, who represents the indicted Toby and Sandy Martinez says to expect more. Stay tuned.

MANNY ARROGANT?

The political requiems are coming in.

WINNING THE PR WAR

Despite spilling gallons of ink, detractors of former NM GOP US Attorney David Iglesias are getting hammered in the public relations war and the war over the truth too. Take the testimony from the chief of staff of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez who told the Senate Friday that, in hindsight, he would not have recommended that Iglesias be fired. Now Dem Senator Charles Schumer is taking advantage by demanding that Gonzales apologize to Iglesias Iglesias for firing him. Just what Iglesias is demanding too.

The main problem for the anti-Iglesias campaign is what he's said is being borne out by the Republicans officials instrumental in his dismissal. Successful public relations efforts can influence the impact of the truth, but it can't change the truth.

OVER THE TOP?

Did we unfairly tie NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici to indicted Manny Aragon in writing of the problems of the two in our Friday blog? Quite a few readers think so. Here's a sample.

Marilyn Hannah of Corrales writes: "Joe, you are way over the top trying to compare the so-called charges against Pete with the stealing ways of Manny. If anything, this just proves Pete and Heather right to try to get (then- U.S. Attorney David) Iglesias off his butt. "

Marilyn was referring to the phone calls Pete and Congresswoman Wilson made to Iglesias last October, calls Iglesias says were made to pressure him into speeding up the Aragon indictment to benefit Wilson's re-election bid.

An anonymous reader piled on telling us: "The Democrats try to make everything equal when, in fact, it is their party officials who have robbed from the people of New Mexico for years. Your lame attempt to show parity is laughable, even for you."

John Gonzales, executive director of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council, also scored us harshly: "It is clear from today's blog you don’t really care for Senator Domenici, but you do have some affinity for Manny. You have tried and found guilty one of this state's (perhaps the greatest) US Senators of an offense equal in severity to what Manny is charged with. I think you owe an apology to Senator Domenici."

I don't know about an apology, John. It isn't Romper Room around here for either us or the politicians we cover. Also, I neither like or dislike Domenici or Aragon, nor do I find anyone innocent or guilty. But upon reflection I do believe I was careless in not making clear that I was comparing the political fortunes of Manny and Pete, not the alleged offenses that they are involved in. To make clear, Domenici is the subject of a preliminary investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee; it's an ethics charge, not a criminal charge. I was referencing the political standing of the two men when I lumped them together, not their legal standing, but I regret not making that clear and I apologize to those who were offended.

WILSON: SAVED BY THE BELL

Meanwhile, The Washington Post Sunday delved into the Domenici-Wilson relationship and how the Senator and his longtime chief of staff Steve Bell recruited her to run for the ABQ congressional seat in '98.' "She's a favorite child, absolutely," explained Bell whose role in NM GOP politics has been well-known to insiders and blog readers, but it is now being revealed in detail as the US Attorney scandal continues. Rather than helping Wilson anymore, Bell has his hands full trying to fend off rabid Democrats determined to force Domenici out. They're not the meek NM variety either, but Potomac feeders who don't let go.

Besides the troubles with his boss, Bell received more bad news recently. His old friend, David Stockman, who was head of the budget office under President Reagan in the 80's, has been indicted on securities fraud, among other charges. Stockman and Bell worked closely together when Domenic chaired the Senate Budget Committee. Later, Stockman helped Bell get a job with a major Wall Street firm, Salamon Brothers, where they worked together. He eventually returned to Domenici's side where some observers say his influence has grown as Domenici has aged and others say his influence has always been great, regardless of Domenici's years. Again, the Washington Post picks up on the Stockman-Bell connection.

MY BOTTOM LINES

Yes, former ABQ Mayor Ken Schultz, indicted along with Aragon in the Metro Court scandal, was a Democrat when he was elected in the 1980's to the city council and as ABQ mayor. But when we blogged Friday, we did not initially note that he has since become a Republican. Thanks to the reader emails for the correction...And Manny Aragon is now 60, not 59 years old as we reported. The AP says Aragon had his birthday last week...The Serrano & Sons construction ad on this site is now linked to the NM Crush football team, one of their many interests. Check it out...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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