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Monday, July 27, 2009

AG Holder On Hold: NM Fed Indictments Or Not? Plus: The Econ Beat: Sally Mayer's Credit Crunch & More Lab Layoffs, Also: Something New: "The Why File" 

AG Holder & Fouratt
To answer the most popular and potentially menacing question in New Mexico politics for the umpteenth time: We don't know if and when there will be indictments in the federal investigation into the state's GRIP transportation program. But we can tell you that speculation again went off the charts this weekend when the US Attorney's office did not come with any indictments. That's because the Legal Beagles say an apparent three month extension of the federal grand jury investigation expired last week. Federal white-collar crimes have a statute of limitations of five years, but potential defendants can waive that statute to gain time to develop arguments that their activities were not illegal.

It was GRIP bonds sold over five years ago with the aid of California financial firm CDR that brought the statue into play. Insiders said an extension was agreed to by potential defendants (Our complete May 4 coverage is here). Now that that extension has apparenlty expired a whole new round of questions has been sparked by this story that is having a major impact on the shape of the 2010 election, as well as the perception of New Mexico around the nation.

And those questions are: Have indictments been issued, but remain sealed? Has yet another extension of the grand jury probe--this one for perhaps a month or so--been engineered? Or is it all over? Has the probe that started a year ago last August sputtered to an end and temporary US Attorney Greg Fouratt come up empty-handed?

Top Big Bill aides Dave Contarino and David Harris are the most frequently mentioned potential indictment targets, but even an indictment of the Governor has been the subject of speculation. A state official recently confirmed that the CDR case was on the desk of US Attorney General Eric Holder awaiting his assessment. That would seem to indicate that the grand jury probe into the CDR matter is complete, and no further grand jury extension was given. But who knows?

To do their jobs, Mr. Fouratt and AG Holder want (and need) to be oblivious to the political implications. No one wants to discourage the weeding out of wrongdoing. But if the decision on where to go from here is indeed on the desk of Mr. Holder, isn't it time to act on CDR? Remember, this case is just the beginning. Even after CDR is acted on, there are other federal investigations into possible campaign pay-to-play schemes to complete.

Our state motto is "It Grows As It Goes." But we aren't going anywhere until the plodding pace of justice picks up some speed.

SALLY'S CREDIT CRUNCH

Sally Mayer
That $5,600 late credit card bill owed by GOP ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer who is seeking re-election October 6 was not all rung up at a Target store, contrary to the impression she thinks may have been left here and by other news reports. Mayer did not go on a shopping binge at the popular discount outlet, but says she received a Visa card from Target National Bank which she used for various purchases at various stores, just like everyone does with their credit cards.

Mayer said she continues to job hunt but it's not easy. I reminded her ABQ can be a tough place to find a job, reminiscing that former ABQ Mayor Harry Kinney, an engineer by training, resorted to driving a cab when he left City Hall. Sally said cab driving is not in her future. "My kids don't think that's a good idea," she told me.

Mayer is seeking her third term to her NE Heights council seat and is opposed by fellow Republican and financial planner Mike Cook. The district includes the upscale Uptown shopping center that houses stores like the Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, places that Sally won't be seeing the inside of until she pays off her bills. But judging by the traffic in most retail stopes these days, she has a lot of company.

THE ECON BEAT

More from your blog on the New Mexico economic story. This time on the flattening and/or outright reduction in funding for Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, huge drivers of the state's economy. From the Los Alamos Monitor: Up to 18 layoffs in the security force:

SOC Los Alamos, the company that provides uniformed protective force services to Los Alamos National Laboratory, is executing workforce restructuring as a result of a reduction in funding, according to a company e-mail forwarded by SOC General Manager Ken Freeman...


Sandia Labs recently announced layoffs of 25 of its specialized security force and earlier laid off 100 highly trained machinists. The union says Lab contractor Lockheed-Martin is outsourcing those union machinist jobs. The ripple effect of these layoffs among the well-paid will hit in the months ahead in real estate and retail. Sandia says it will try find other positions for the newly jobless, but admits there is no guarantee that jobs will be found or, if they are, that pay would be comparable.

MORE ECON BEAT

New Mexico's large arts community is holding on and hoping for a bounce, but it hasn't come yet--here or elsewhere. From The AP:

In Santa between 10 and 15 galleries have closed this year, said Christy Walker, managing director of the Santa Fe Gallery Association. "A lot of people have this idea that running a gallery, the owners make a lot of money, when it's just a lot of effort to make a living off of it," she said. "It's a hard business to be in, and when things are good, things are good, and when times are tough, it's a really tough business to maintain."

DI IN LOS ALAMOS

She says:

“To date I’m the only declared candidate (Democrat) and I’d like to keep it that way...."

The only other possible 2010 Dem Guv nominee to surface is State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who in late May formed an exploratory committee, but has not been heard from since. That brought this from an ABQ South Valley Senior Alligator:

Michael Sánchez' exploratory committee went into the woods, got lost, and will never be seen again.

Maybe that riposte will get him out of the woods.

THE WHY FILE

Why has downtown ABQ been turned into an unofficial drunk park? Contrary opinions are welcome...Why can you drive from ABQ to the Arizona border without seeing one NM state police officer giving a ticket, but within minutes of entering Arizona, state cops are ticketing and managing traffic, not to mention the revenue they are raising for their state?...

Have something for the why file? Email it in. In fact...

E-mail in all your news tips and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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