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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Worst Case Scenario For Pete & Heather Outlined In US Attorney Mess, Plus: Is Iglesias Changing His Tune? And: Fallout For Bill On Poor MTP Performanc 

You know that the US attorney scandal has prompted NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici to hire a top criminal defense attorney while ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson has not said whether she will lawyer up. Does she need to? One of the fired US attorneys, John McKay of Washington state, lays out the worst case scenario for Domenici and Wilson telling the Seattle media: "I think there will be a criminal case that comes out of this."

McKay believes Wilson's phone call to NM US Attorney David Iglesias last October during which she inquired about the status of a grand jury investigation into the construction of Bernalillo county courthouses, could lead to obstruction of justice charges. He said such charges would be filed if investigators conclude that the dismissal of any of the eight prosecutors was motivated by an attempt to influence ongoing public-corruption or voter-fraud investigations.

But that's the worst case scenario for Pete and Heather, given by a fired US attorney with a motive to paint a dreary picture. Most political observers have not taken seriously the prospect of criminal charges against Domenici or Wilson, seeing the senator's hiring of a criminal defense attorney as preparation for a Senate Ethics Committee inquiry, not a criminal probe. Wilson could be subject to a House ethics probe if a fellow member asks for one. So far, none has. Also, in a recent interview with the ABQ Alibi, Iglesias did not share the dark outlook for his former Republican allies.

"Domenici has retained a good criminal defense lawyer. Could his phone call to me [concerning the timing of charges in the court house corruption investigation] constitute a criminal offense? I’m not sure. I suspect ethics charges are more likely than criminal charges as I doubt he called me to interfere with the courthouse cases. Having me removed for not prosecuting voter fraud cases or [not] prosecuting cases fast enough probably does not constitute obstruction of justice." Iglesias said.

IGLESIAS CHANGING HIS TUNE?

Critics of Iglesias have seized upon the line "I doubt he called me to interfere with the courthouse cases." Iglesias said in March congressional testimony that the calls from Wilson and Domenici made him sick to his stomach and that he felt "leaned on" by the two lawmakers to speed up the courthouse case involving top Dem Manny Aragon in time for the November election. Indictments finally came, but not until this year.

Has Iglesias changed his tune? I don't recall him saying before Congress that Wilson or Domenici may have violated criminal statues or that he believed the calls constituted an obstruction of justice, so there does not appear to be any direct contradiction there. But if Domenici did not call him "to interfere with the courthouse cases" as Iglesias told the Alibi, did he call to simply get an update, not meaning to put any pressure on Iglesias? Did Iglesias, as the senator argues, misconstrue his intent? Is Iglesias softening his tone for future political reasons? Whatever the case, Domenici's high-priced lawyer is sure to put as much of his foot in the door Iglesias has opened as he can fit.

Iglesias has won the public opinion battle on the scandal, but his near fetish like attraction to the media is not without risk. Unlike courts of law, the court of public opinion can be a fickle forum. And everything you say can and will be used against you.

HEATHER OUTSPENT PATSY

How much did the R's outspend the D's on in last year's nail biter between Rep. Heather Wilson and Dem Patricia Madrid? According to a report from an UNM professor writing in the new publication, Capitol Report, Wilson's side outspent Madrid by about $1.4 million.

"..When we consider total spending--parties, the candidates, and interest groups..Wilson outspent Madrid supporters. Total GOP and ally spending amounted to $6.577 million and Democratic and ally spending amounted to $5.199 million."

That jives with our reporting and, I think, sets the record straight for Wilson operatives who said Madrid had it wrong when she told us in a recent interview that Heather had outspent her.

BILL BASHING


You ain't in Tucumari, Bill. The national press has sunk its jaws into our Governor's poor showing during his one hour interview on Sunday's Meet the Press program, and they are enjoying the taste. Slate magazine, in a headline over a very critical review, claims he self-destructed. Here in our Enchanted Land, the Alligators were also feasting. An example: "Bill made an F on the Tim Russert show. He should call (Bernalillo County Commissioner) Teresa Cordova for a grade change!" So chimed in one of the Gators, using Teresa's recent controversial interference to get her son a passing high school grade as his jumping off point. Don't worry, Guv. It will get better, but we can't tell you when.

JIM IS IN
Jim Hannan
We blogged Tuesday that there is no announced Democratic foe running against Senator Domenici. We should have said there is no major Dem candidate on the field. Jim Hannan of Santa Fe reminds us he is one of two second-tier candidates who have emerged. But he told me when he got in he did not expect to spend much time raising money, so his candidacy slipped from our radar. He has done some newspaper ads, but Dems still await a major challenger who can raise sufficient funds, grab the public imagination and give Pete a serious run. In that regard, there is still no "announced" Democratic candidate. But maybe Hannan can take it to the next level. If a good sense of humor has anything to do with it, he's got a shot. He emailed this funny: "Naturally, I'm taking credit for the sharp decline in Pete's polling numbers. It's amazing what a few newspaper ads and my flyers placed in just the right laundromats can do." He's right, of course. Dems use the laundromats; R's the dry cleaners.

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