Monday, December 22, 2008
Hazy Political Futures For Pearce & Wilson, Plus: More Bill, Commerce & Grand Jury, And: The Photo That Has Them Talking
The political futures of New Mexico's two outgoing Republican US House members appears hazy at best. Southern Congressman Steve Pearce bowed out of a fight (see our Saturday blog below) for the chairmanship of the Republican Party, with his supporters saying he will weigh a run to get back the seat in the House he will give up to Democratic Harry Teague in January. Pearce did not seek re-election to the seat, choosing instead to run for the US Senate. He beat ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the primary, but suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Democrat Tom Udall. Pearce, 61, will also weigh a 2010 run for Governor. The issue for Pearce may be money. He became independently wealthy from his Hobbs oil services business, but refused to write a check for his Senate campaign. He may be faced with the same issue if he wants to try to stage a political comeback.
Heather Wilson is also on hold. She has taken two potshots at Big Bill recently, prompting talk of a 2010 Governor run. But her unfavorables are high and running for Governor is probably a $5 million deal, money that will be hard to come by. Both Wilson and Pearce have high name ID--which is worth its weight in gold--but only if the incumbent Dems they would run against falter. A Guv campaign by either would have to be kicked off by mid-2009 in order to raise necessary campaign cash.
THIS ISN'T NIGERIA
So says a rep for the California bond company at the center of a federal pay to play probe that asks whether Big Bill's administration exercised undue influence in getting the California financial firm CDR state work. While we may not be Nigeria, former Governor Toney Anaya once said NM is a "banana republic." Anyway, the New York Times on Friday hit with the latest on the investigation.
The ABQ Journal wondered Saturday if and how the federal probe would impact Big Bill's Senate confirmation hearings for Secretary of Commerce. The paper says those hearings are tentatively set for the second week of January. Those who follow such things say Bill could be out of here by the first week in February. However, the waters remain murky on how the grand jury probe will play into all of this. Will it heat up after the holidays? Will there be new developments that prompt GOP Senators or President-elect Obama to rethink the Bill deal?
And you thought 2008 was a wild year. The way 2009 is set to start off, it may challenge it for the "wild" title.
THE GUV'S SIDE
The Guv's office isn't commenting on the investigation, but that doesn't mean Bill's operatives aren't working the circuit. They are recirculating a NM Finance Authority August memo that says hiring CDR saved the state over $8 million:
"CDR (in 2003) was designated as a sole source provider to perform restructuring when market opportunities arose. CDR's (restructuring) resulted in a commission of $443,265 being paid to CDR...at the conclusion of each transaction. These transactions resulted in a benefit to the Department of Transportation of $8.863 million."
CDR was paid a total of $1.4 million in connection with the bond deal for the Guv's road improvement program known as GRIP. But the central question is not if CDR saved the state money, but whether they received contracts because of political influence out of the Governor's office.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The line between campaign contributions and contracts has become blurred at all levels of government. Governor Bill raised an astounding $13 million for his 2006 Guv campaign, not to mention the big money raised for his 2008 Prez effort which is what CDR contributed to. With this kind of money in the system, possible conflicts of interests abound--intentional or not. It's just a question of someone asking questions. Now someone is--before a federal grand jury.
A MESSAGE TO DI?
Thompson, Kilmer & Peters
What do we make of this now famous photo of actor Val Kilmer, lobbyist Joe Thompson and business heavy and major Big Bill backer Gerald Peters at a basketball game at the ABQ Pit? Well, Peters told the ABQ Journal, which snapped the photo, that he is an ardent supporter of Lt. Governor Diane Denish. Kilmer has flirted in the press with a possible 2010 Dem Guv run. Thompson, a former Republican state rep and lobbyist for Peters, has a long list of lobbying clients, thanks, in part, to his cozy relationship with Big Bill. Will those clients stay around in a Denish administration? Will Peters' business get the same open arms greeting from Di that they got from Bill? Are these two sending a message to the Governor-to-be that Kilmer waits in the wings if she doesn't want to play ball with them? And was Di off her game when she named Kilmer to her list of 89 citizens to help guide her transition to Governor? If the other side is playing hardball, what are you doing with a softball? So go the musings in La Politica this holiday week of 2008...
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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