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Thursday, February 05, 2009

First Bill, Now Pete; Report Says Federal Grand Jury Probing Domenici, Plus: Val In The House--Literally, And: More NM Politics On The Thursday Blog 

Domenici
New Mexico politics has become even more surreal with word that retired NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici is being investigated by a federal grand jury for his part in the firing of former NM US Attorney David Iglesias. If so, the state's two most prominent politicians of the past generation are both caught up in federal probes. A federal grand jury in ABQ has been meeting since August, investigating alleged pay to play schemes in Big Bill's administration. The news of the Pete probe was cracked open by the national political blog Talking points Memo:

A federal grand jury probe of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration is focusing on the role played by recently retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former senior Bush White House aides in the 2006 dismissal of David Iglesias as U.S. attorney for New Mexico, according to legal sources familiar with the inquiry.


The federal grand jury is investigating whether Domenici and other political figures attempted to improperly press Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against New Mexico Democrats just prior to the 2006 congressional midterm elections, according to legal sources close to the investigation and private attorneys representing officials who prosecutors want to question.

Just when he thought he was out--they dragged him back in. The Senate Ethics Committee "admonished" Pete for his involvement in the US Attorney scandal and everyone thought that was that. Now Domenici, 76, faces the prospect of expensive legal fees and a disrupted retirement. Pete's lawyer did his best to knock down the TPM report, but he didn't sound too convincing in his interview with the ABQ Journal. Pete told the paper he is not aware of any grand jury probe. But TPM has been on the story for years and has not had a major miss yet.

Only Monday, Domenici, the state's longest serving US Senator, formally announced he would join the Bipartisan Policy Center in D.C. as a senior fellow. Steve Bell, Domenici's former longtime and once powerful chief of staff who was also embroiled in the US attorney scandal, is listed as a "visiting scholar" at the center. The TPM report indicates Bell is also being investigated by the federal grand jury and that the focus is on whether Domenici and Bell obstructed justice in their efforts to get rid of Iglesias.

And what about Governor Heather...er...we mean former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson? She also put the heat on Iglesias. Well, Talking Points Memo does say "other political figures" are part of the probe. We'll see.

Domenici and Richardson, 61, have sparred for years for top dog position in state politics. Now both have fallen to the same depths. Can we even contemplate the prospect of indictments of either of these two political giants without making the room spin?

THE NEWS FLOOD

If we weren't blogging, we would be looking for a work as a headline writer. Just some of the recent shockers:

Richardson-Domenici Both Under Investigation By Federal Grand Juries

New Mexico Slashes Budget as Oil and Natural Gas Prices Crash

State Unemployed Jam Phone Lines For Help As Layoffs Mount

20,000 Los Alamos and Sandia Labs Jobs in Balance As Military Weighs Takeover

Batman Actor Val Kilmer Eyes State Governorship

The news flow is simply mind-bending, and we've been in the game since Watergate in '74. It is with a sense of morbid fascination that we await what comes next.

VAL IN THE HOUSE--LITERALLY
Kilmer & Campos
Val is in the House! So went the cry in the circular corridors of power at the Roundhouse Wednesday, as actor and prospective 2010 Guv candidate Val Kilmer made yet another appearance that had the wall-leaners standing erect. Val was indeed in the House--the state House of Representatives. And perhaps to the chagrin of Lt. Governor Diane Denish, a prospective opponent of Kilmer's in the Dem Guv contest, House Speaker Lujan honored Kilmer by introducing him from the Speaker's rostrum. How do you like that, Di? These guys know how to put the needle in, don't they?

Well, is Val running or not? Or do we need to take the anti-Kilmer coverage oath being administered to bloggers and reporters by the ABQ Journal's Bruce Daniels? That oath states:

I, (errant blogger/reporter) pledge not to mention in any way, shape or form the prospective gubernatorial candidacy of Val Kilmer until Batman himself announces he is indeed a candidate, so help me Diane.

Well, we can't help ourselves (surprise) so find posted here an exclusive photo of Val at the Roundhouse posing with Jose Campos, director of Valencia County's Older American Program.

According to Jose, "I asked him if he was running for Governor and he nodded yes."

But a nod is not a declaration and the New Mexican's Steve Terrell, while getting Val's autograph of his "Morrison Hotel" album, reports Val told him that he remains officially noncommittal. In his first appearance on statewide TV news since flirting with a Guv run, KOAT-TV ran an interview with Kilmer who came across as soft-spoken and thoughtful. (Can't KOAT get this stuff posted on their Web site the same day they broadcast it?) And while he said he has no current plans to run for Guv, he cited his work on a bill that helped bring more movie production to the state. Sounds like someone is starting to build a platform.

Val's Roundhouse appearance comes on the heels of last weekend's Val sighting at the annual bash for ABQ's Hispanic biz community. Seems Val is digging the band, but waiting to ask the girl to dance.

So there you have the Val watch. Let Daniel's and company wallow in grim reality and swear off of Kilmer coverage. We refuse the oath! In times like these we much prefer the world of political fantasy. Besides, there's no grand jury investigation going on there.

DI's DOUGH


Readers have been going over the campaign money report released by Lt. Governor and 2010 Governor candidate Diane Denish. Here are some of the more interesting thoughts.

(Former conservative Democratic state Senator) Aubrey Dunn contributed. And so did (race car driver) Al Unser. Diane might have the inside track on the conservative good old boy money.

(NM Democratic Party chairman) Brian Colon contributed. Call me old fashioned, but aren't party officials supposed to stay neutral in races until after the primary?


On Denish's expense side, she is using Meyners + Company for accounting services. She might want to re-think that one, in light of the Foy lawsuit over state investments.


SAY WHAT?

Those who remember the days of Governor Johnson (1995-2002) will get a kick out this. Diane Kinderwater was press secretary to Gary who became notorious for advocating drug legalization. That was then. Today, Diane is writing news releases for state Senate Republicans and she recently came with this:

It might sound ridiculous, but taking illegal drugs is not illegal in New Mexico. A bill sponsored by Senator Steven P. Neville could change all of that. And if passed, the law could become a needed and necessary tool the drug treatment community needs...Senator Neville said currently it is illegal to possess controlled substances. But if a person consumes illegal drugs and is under the influence of a controlled substance, it is not necessarily illegal.


Johnson's advocacy for loose drug laws will always be a major part of his legacy, but his plans didn't make it into the future.

E-mail it in--news, comments and insider legislative stuff, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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