Thursday, April 09, 2009
Gary's Double Dip: Both Blocks Chipped By Grand Jury; Plus: The Hit Music Video: "Block Around The Clock": Also: Mayor Race Update & More
Jerome Block Jr. & King
You could almost hear the chest thumping at the NM Attorney General's office. The double-dip indictments of Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. and his dad, Jerome Block Sr., himself a former PRC commissioner, were the first substantial public corruption charges AG Gary King has produced from a state grand jury since taking office in 2007. (Read the indictments here.)
"We prefer to to do our talking in court," declared a spokesman for King as he declined comment on the indictments, perhaps with a bit too much swagger.
But the AG and his minions have reason to be over-sensitive. When we interviewed King in early March he responded to critics who said he was not active enough in exposing official wrongdoing.
"This isn't CSI on TV and we don't do things in an hour, but in the next two years you are going to be hearing more about our efforts. Pay to play is not going to be tolerated in New Mexico." He declared.
The block case is not a pay to play case and at its roots it is a garden variety corruption case--alleged misuse of campaign money given to Block under the state's public financing system for PRC candidates. Block has already admitted he lied about the use of the funds when he made restitution to the state.
Still, this will be a major deal for King who will now be under pressure to get a plea or win at trial. The Blocks are not known for backing off and Jerome Jr. immediately rejected any suggestions that he resign his commission slot and let Big Bill appoint a replacement. The 32 year old Block, the father of two sons, also gave the TV sleuths the slip when they sought his comment, leaving PRC Chairman Sandy Jones to do damage control.
Block was was elected in 2008 and his term runs until the end of 2012. The power of his position was reinforced on the day of his indictment. The PRC was holding a hearing on a rate increase request from electric utility PNM.
The attorney general told us in early March he was cool to a possible 2010 Dem guv run. We believe it, and see him going for re-election as AG next year. The indictment of the Blocks and perhaps some to come in a state housing scandal could calm concerns that ethics watchdogs have had over Gary's zeal and make the notion of a Dem primary challenge to King even more remote.
State R's would like to take advantage of Block's woes, but one of our Dem readers was quick on the trigger on that angle:
Am I the only one that laughed out loud when I read this statement from GOP Chairman Harvey Yates?
“Jerome Block’s indictment serves as yet another example of how the Democrat grip on the state of New Mexico has eroded trust in public officials...Citizens of this state deserve elected officials who are honest and promote transparency, not officials who abuse their position for personal gain...What we need is a true two-party system which will bring checks and balances to our government.”
That from the party that didn’t even run anyone for the open seat on the PRC last year that Block now holds. The R's want a two party system, but their party is so weak they don’t have anyone to run for anything. Where are those candidates to challenge Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague to give us our much needed two party system?
Well Harvey, the Dems have a point. No R ran against Block last year and there are few on the playing field. If we are to have a two party system in New Mexico, reformers say we need a Republican Party that attracts moderate as well as conservative voters and sheds the consultants, pollsters and hangers-on who have helped bring the party to this imperiled point.
Block did get election opposition--from the Green Party's Rick Lass who managed to hold Block to about 56 percent of the vote in the heavily Dem Northern PRC seat.
BY POPULAR DEMAND
Okay, it's back by popular demand, even though it needs to be updated because Jerome makes so much news. It's Jim Terr's version of "Block Around the Clock." It's all yours, Jim....
Jim, we're out of seat and bloggin' while dancing....Oh my!
US ATTORNEY SCRAMBLE
Careers are at stake in the scramble over who will become the next US Attorney for NM. Santa Fe attorney John Pound has been mentioned as a leading prospect. His law firm popped up in the papers recently when it was reported that it had received a contract to defend the state against pay-to-play charges leveled by Frank Foy, a former investment officer for the state.
Replacing the GOP US Attorney with a Democrat has been a go-slow affair as the pay-to-play investigation into Big Bill's administration continues. A Sunday newspaper article threw out yet a new timeline for possible indictments in the case---the end of April. The probe has been going on since August
Expect more on the legal beat if Big Bill signs a measure that puts restraints on state government "double-dippers"--employees who retire for a couple of months and who are then rehired with both their government salary as well as their pension. The double-dipping has caused a lot of outrage and deserves the Guv's signature but he is hesitating because of lobbying from state employees. Meanwhile, the legal beagles say lawyers are already being lined up to challenge the measure if Bill doesn't cast a veto. Not just a few state government workers are pulling down over $100,000 a year by double-dipping--not a pretty sight in this economic mess.
Romero & Friends
On the ABQ mayoral campaign trail, Dem Richard Romero reports:
To place my name on the October ballot, we must collect 6,574 signatures -- 2% of registered voters -- by the end of April. We've already collected about 7,000 signatures, but we need to get to 10,000 to ensure qualification. With your help, we can do it. We expect to turn in the remaining signatures in the next two weeks. On Saturday, April 17, you are invited to my home for a "Volunteer Appreciation" potluck and party.
Mayoral hopeful RJ Berry, the one Republican to qualify for public financing, is out with one of his first policy proposals:
A top priority of a Berry Administration will be to...create a user-friendly, searchable web site at that will allow citizens to track government spending.
Searchable information to be targeted will include: The City's "Checkbook" and General Ledger Accounts Contract Amounts and Vendors; Government Salaries; and Study and Program Data.
The Journal picked up on our Monday blog on Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza weighing a Dem primary challenge to Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Here's that take.
PAY TO PLAY
How about some pay-to play--Pennsylvania style.
THE BOTTOM LINES
Thanks to our Alligators and other sources we had quite a busy week around here leading up to the Easter holiday. Monday we had the exclusive that Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza is weighing a 2010 primary challenge to incumbent Dem Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Man, did that one race around the state....On Tuesday the intrepid Gators were at it again breaking the news of where the money came from for Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's committee to repeal the repeal of the state's death penalty...Also Tuesday, an Alligator who may now be eligible for Senior status, helped us break the exclusive news of Ned Farquhar's appointment to a high-ranking post at the Interior Department...On Wednesday there was even more breaking news courtesy of our insiders--that ABQ police commander Conrad Candelaria has been among those interviewed for the US Marshal's position and that GOP State Rep. Kathy McCoy is likely to give up her legislative seat to make a 2010 run for the Bernalillo County Commission.
That's the kind of stuff that greases the wheel of La Politica. And it's a whole lot of fun, too. Thanks for hanging with us.
From Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan reporting.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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