Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Bill: Chasing The Blues Away & Looking Ahead, Plus: Val's Ranch Sale, Our Media Notes & A Nonprofit Boss Gets Lockjaw 

He still has a finger in the power pie and you have to wonder if there's still a chance for beleaguered Big Bill to get a slice. Insiders assigned to the Bill watch had fallen asleep due to a lack of activity, but they were suddenly jolted awake by the news that he "talks regularly" with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and, according to a Washington Post missive, "continues to serve as a kind of ad hoc diplomat with difficult governments." And there's some whipped cream on the pie--kind speculation from the Post reporter in this audio interview in which Bill's name is dropped as a possible cabinet pick in a "second round" of appointments or for a "diplomatic role" as an ambassador or envoy. Did you get that Hillary? If not, just check your e-mail box. Bill's boys have sent that one to you posthaste.

It does seem Bill's Blue Period has come to an end, although whether there will be a new political beginning may largely hinge on that pesky federal grand jury probe into pay to play allegations in his administration. There is an inkling of good news for the Guv on that front. The fiasco that befell the Justice Department over its prosecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens could mean the bar could get raised in the New Mexico case.

Regardless of the feds heavy breathing, Richardson, 61, has to get on with things, and he is. While not speeding at 100 miles per hour plus with the Post reporter as he did in 2003 and which became part of Richardson lore, Bill did treat this press escort to four--count 'em--four round trips in one day between ABQ and Santa Fe. Throw in prep work for his trip to Rome and a heavy schedule aimed at boosting his low 40 percent approval ratings and you had one busy First Dude presented to the East Coast's dead-tree emissary.

Despite his best efforts, at this stage there is not much Richardson can do to influence his New Mexico legacy. His first term will go down as one of the most significant in state history. His second term not so much.

Our governor is a man who wouldn't take no for an answer when pushing his ambitious first-term agenda, but he is the same man who could not say no to those who gave him big money to fuel his political dreams. His unpleasant task now is to downsize government and perhaps undo some of what he helped build. History appears to be through with Bill Richardson in this sleepy corner of the world, but the larger stage still beckons. Getting back on it is his final campaign.


Word began circulating over the weekend that Big Bill could be headed for North Korea to try to help secure the release of two American reporters being held there. If so, that would be his first public steps back on the international stage since he withdrew his nomination as Commerce Secretary.


If he can convince someone to pay $33 million for his Pecos, NM ranch in this economy, maybe actor Val Kilmer actually could have a shot at building a political career in the state. Which is the longer shot at this point is hard to say, but political insiders report there have been no sightings of Kilmer operatives at recent Democratic Party meetings or any other signs that he is about to inch into the 2010 race for the Dem Guv nod. Val is saying he will keep a home in NM if and when he sells his nearly 6,000 acre ranch. (In case you're interested, it has a cool tree house the actor had built.)

Kilmer or no Kilmer one still wonders if after eight years of a professional politician the New Mexican public will be more open to a non-political type. They were when they elected Republican Gary Johnson in 1994. To that point, blog reader Larry Rice asks:

I wonder if he is being told to downsize so he looks more like the “common man” in a possible bid for NM governor?"

If Larry's name sounds familiar that's because for years he was the lead weatherman on KOB-TV. He recently left the station and is back on his old stomping grounds in the Seattle area where he is a staff meteorologist for radio station KIRO-FM. Taking the political temperature is also in Larry's repertoire.

Here's the official listing for Val's spread, complete with photo galleries.


Also on the media front, KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson returns to Sunday morning's "Eye on New Mexico" public affairs program. Dyson was a longtime presence on the public affairs broadcast years ago. He returns to replace co-host Dennis Domrzalski, who, you may have heard, made some news of his own recently. He was let go as spokesman for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District after he called up a KRQE-TV reporter and left this audio message on his answering machine. In it he raged over a story the station had run:

"I'll come over and burn your fuckin' house down. I'm sick of this shit. Call me back!' Scorched Dennis who will now never have to wonder what will be in the first line of his obituary.

By the way, Eye on New Mexico is co-hosted by KOB-TV anchor Nicole Brady whose great-great- great grandfather was the Sheriff of Lincoln County and killed by Billy the Kid in the famous Lincoln County War in the 1870's. Dennis didn't mess with her.


There's a change in tone from the state's senior senator when it comes to the budget for Los Alamos Labs. Is this the beginning of an "adjustment of expectations" by Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman?

“I’m sure changes will be coming,” said the Silver City Democrat. “The question is, ‘Are they good changes or are they bad changes?’ And we just don’t know.”

Bingaman's statement to KOB-TV follows a Los Alamos and a Sandia Labs visit by US Energy Secretary Chu who shied away from the budget issue but did sing Hosannas to the scientific outposts.

That Bingaman is starting to shape the budget story in a new form could signal a continued downsizing when the Obama administration releases its budget next month. The labs were Senator Domenici's babies. With big daddy gone, Los Alamos, already taking budget hits, is most vulnerable, but Sandia also may be in store for some of those still undetermined "changes" Senator Jeff is pondering.


No surprise. Political consultant Eli Lee doesn't want to talk to the ABQ Journal about the nonprofits he runs and their possible role in the upcoming city election. Meanwhile, a City Charter task force is considering sending a proposal to voters that would require that everyone--including the nonprofits---disclose the source of their campaign donations and their expenditures. Similar efforts did not make it off the ground in the recent legislative session.

However, if there is to be a tougher disclosure provision, it would go on the ballot in October and not take effect for this election. There is confusion on what to do if Lee starts flooding the system with unchecked dollars. Will that trigger matching funds for the other candidates under the city's new finance law? That's just one of many questions.

It really is the next big ethics issues in New Mexico. Are we going to continue to have millions of unknown dollars--much of it from out-of-state-- flooding in here under the guise of "advocacy" when it is clearly political? Right now, it is liberal causes getting the cash, but GOP NM Chair Harvey Yates is making noise about having nonprofits for conservative causes so they can keep up. (We blogged this April 7.) Attorney General King is in federal court over the issue with the nonprofits, who argue it is a freedom of speech issue as they fight to keep their federally protected tax exempt status. That makes Lee's refusal to talk to the press even more bizarre.

Meanwhile, if Lee and his Center for Civic Policy and its affiliates come with support for mayoral candidate Richard Romero--as some expect-- it could backfire. The story will be who is paying for the stuff and why--not just what it says. Don't say we didn't tell you.


A broadside leveled by Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas against the Rio Grande Sun in a blog edition last week is answered today by one of the paper's ink-stained wretches. Sun News editor Kevin Bersett:

To list the problems that have cropped up or have continued during Mayor Maestas' tenure would take several days' worth of your blog. And instead of getting into a tit-for-tat with him, I just wanted to write that we stand behind our reporting and appreciate the fact that the mayor continues to be an attentive reader of the Rio Grande Sun despite his low, but we believe misguided, opinion of our newspaper.

That's really pretty gentlemanly Kevin. If you wnat to get tougher, you could consider bringing in Dennis Domrzalski to deliver your messages. He gets results.


It's more than just a rumor that famed road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong will be a part of this year's edition of the Tour of the Gila in southwestern NM. One of our political Gators comes with that sporting news. The 23rd edition of the race kicks off April 29th. It hasn't been easy raising prize money for the event in the weak economy but the addition of Armstrong, who won the Tour de France a record-setting seven years running, is a major shot in the arm for the Gila and probably for the tourist business. The region has been hit by layoffs in the mining industry.

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