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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pete Looks To Campaign Kitty To Pay Legal Bills, Plus: Enigma Over TV Anchor Erika, And: The Bottom Lines You Won't Want To Miss 

Sen. Domenici
There's always one sure winner in the rough and tumble world of Washington politics--the lawyers. The latest example is a request by retiring NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici that he be allowed to use campaign funds to pay for the high-priced barrister he and his staff used to defend themselves in a preliminary Senate Ethics Committee probe relating to the US Attorney scandal.

The request will likely be approved, and even after paying high priced criminal defense attorney, Pete's campaign kitty should still be bulging. The latest federal report puts his cash on hand at nearly $2 million, or $1,781,000 to be more precise.

As for the ethics probe, the last we heard was that majority Dems were happy to end it now that Pete is no longer seeking re-election.
That news was leaked shortly after Pete announced in October that he would not seek another term to the Senate because of his incurable brain disease. The probe never really got off the ground, but there was enough preparing to be done to call in the lawyers.

In years past retiring politicos could take their bulging campaign bank accounts with them, but no more. They can give the money to charity, to other candidates or to a political party.

HARRY'S HEDGE

That was an interesting play Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya made on the hot-button abortion issue as he announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for the Northern Congressional seat yesterday. Montoya said he supports abortion rights as stated in the Roe Vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling, but added he could see himself voting for legislation to restrict abortion. The position may irritate some Dems, but will have appeal with many Hispanic Catholics as well as Eastside and Four Corners Dems. Montoya needs to do something to differentiate himself. He faces a tough battle with Public Regulation Commission Chair Ben Ray Lujan who announces tomorrow at noon at the Capitol and again in Rio Rancho at 6 p.m. Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott is also running and Indian Affairs Secretary Benny Shendo says he is coming in.

THE ERIKA ENIGMA

Why is Erika Ruiz no longer the co-anchor of the state's #1 rated TV newscast? It's not an easy question to answer, even after talking with the Media Mavens (those are my insider experts) and Erika herself. The Mavens claim Erika was in negotiations for a new one year contract with KRQE but progress was not being made on salary. Erika says "that is absolutely not true. No negotiations were talking place. I was called in by the general manager and told my contract would not be renewed." She said no specific reasons were given. But there had to be some reason, right?

While the Mavens maintain ultimately it was about the money, Erika says "there are reasons but this is not the time to discuss them." The 42 year old TV veteran did say that KRQE has voided her non-compete clause, which would have prevented her from pursuing another on-air job here for one year. However, timing for another anchor gig is not good, Both KOB-TV and KOAT-TV just put in place new female co-anchors for the evening newscasts to replace the retiring Carla Aragon at KOB and the departing for Dallas Cynthia Izaguirre at KOAT.

Ruiz, who I caught up with while she was shopping for her three daughters at a local mall, could still be hired at one of those stations to anchor news other than prime time. She was to stay on the job at Channel 13 until January 10, but when she used her attorney, Sam Bregman, to announce that her contract was not renewed, station management showed her the door.

Whatever the reason for the parting of the ways, Ruiz gets credit for helping to take the station to the top of the heap. She came in from Texas when KRQE's flagship newscast was lagging badly. Today it is a dominant #1. "I've always heard you get the hammer at least once in this business. I never had, until now." Said Ruiz.

THE BOTTOM LINES
Sally Mayer
Former ABQ Mayor Harry Kinney was famous for his taxi driver job. Now, we may always remember ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer, not for her crusade to protect pets, but because of her new job---a laborer at a local K-Mart for $7 an hour. Sally led a walkout of four councilors earlier this month that drew widespread criticism, but she won't be walking off the K-Mart lot. She says her investment income is shrinking and the real estate business is slow. Hey, maybe new Council President Brad Winter can help. It was his election as council Prez that caused Sally and the other councilors to walk. Maybe he would be willing to float Sally some Christmas cash. As President he gets double the salary of the other councilors. Come on, Brad. You might get early notice of those "Blue Light Specials."...

ABQ Mayor Chavez made official this week what readers here have known all along--he will not seek the ABQ Congressional seat. But, more important, what does he think about his ex-wife Margaret floating her name for the Mayor's job in 2009? Apparently not much. "I'm not going there with you guys," remarked Chavez to a gaggle of reporters. He is also saying he received no recent pressure from national Dems to drop his bid for the Dem US Senate nod. That may be so, but it was the pressure that was to come that kept the heat on the mayor.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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