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Monday, August 31, 2009

Manny Behind Bars: How's He Doing? An Insider Report, Plus: Lingering Questions In Aftermath Of No Indictment Day 

Unlike Big Bill and his top aides, former State Senate powerhouse Manny Aragon did not escape indictment---or prison. He is now serving a 5 1/2 year sentence at a prison in Florence, Colorado for his corruption convictions stemming from the construction of the Bernalillo County Metro Courthouse. But according to one of our insiders the legendary Aragon is holding up pretty well considering his circumstances. In fact, the prison stay he began in June may be a health improvement for him.

Manny has lost a lot of weight. He has had to quit smoking because it is not allowed at the prison. He is also in programming at the prison. He is learning typing. I don’t know if he is doing any jailhouse lawyering, but will check. Overall, he seems to be adjusting better than I thought, especially for a man who once controlled the universe of New Mexico politics.

Losing weight while also quitting smoking is probably a feat best accomplished only behind prison bars. Aragon suffers from diabetes and listed a litany of health problems prior to his sentencing. A going away party thrown for attorney Aragon by his friends, news of which was broken on this blog, drew a flurry of criticism. But the way things are around here it might not be the last going away party we hear about that involves one of our politicos.

FIRE FOURATT?


Keep Don HarrisSince when do prosecutors put out critical letters of the people they investigate after they decide not to indict them? That's what GOP US Attorney Greg Fouratt did last week when he accused Big Bill of "corrupting the procurement process" even as he said that the Guv and his his top aides will not be indicted. In a statement that went largely uncovered by New Mexico media, Joseph diGenova, a former GOP US Attorney during the Reagan administration told the AP that the letter is reason to fire Fouratt:

...diGenova called Fouratt's letter "stupid" because it makes allegations of corruption after the case is over. "That letter is an outrage and the U.S. Attorney who wrote it should be fired. The case is closed. If he had charges, bring them. Otherwise, he should shut up. He's being a politician now, not a prosecutor.

Now that the CDR case will not result in indictments, it is less complicated for the Democratic White House to get on with appointing a new US Attorney. That unusual letter from Fouratt would seem to make it even easier.

KEEP FOURATT?
Greg Fouratt
Not everyone thinks Fouratt should be replaced, even though it is traditional for a new US Attorney to come aboard with a new administration. The liberal editorial pages of the Santa Fe New Mexican give him a plug.

Greg Fouratt, is something of a hybrid: Republican-appointed during the last throes of the George W. Bush administration, he was merit-selected by a panel of federal judges. Fouratt managed to nail former state Sen. Manny Aragón and some cronies in a separate bribery case. He should be kept in office.

The Democratic White House keeping Fouratt is a long, long shot. And a case can be made that he does not deserve to be kept after the lengthy and expensive CDR probe and the above mentioned ethics issue, but if Fouratt were to be kept in office he should have his name submitted for confirmation by the United States Senate. That is the check and balance on the judiciary that was side-stepped by the rare circumstances under which Fouratt became US attorney.


LEARNING SOMETHING

We've wondered here why the feds can't indicate to those being investigated when an investigation has concluded. In the Big Bill pay-to-play case, Fouratt not only did so, but according to former US Attorney diGenova, he crossed the ethical line. The AP ran a story that said those being investigated are not notified when a probe concludes because prosecutors want to have the option of re-opening the case in the future. That seems to answer our question, if not the matter of how fair that is to those who have been subjected to investigation.

TO THE TUBE

We explored the big pay-to-play story with KOB-TV anchorwoman Nicole Brady and veteran reporters Stuart Dyson on the Sunday morning broadcast "Eye On New Mexico." We covered a range of other political issues as well. The program is posted here. It is lively.

WHAT MATTERS MOST?

Yes, corruption and ethics will be issues in the 2010 election, but they won't dominate if the economy is still down and out. This latest jobless report from the state illustrates the point:

The decline in the number of jobs is the worst the state has experienced since 1954, when jobs declined by an even greater 3.6 percent at the lowest point. This 1954 decline followed a decade where job growth averaged more than 6 percent. Back in the 1950s, New Mexico had a much smaller economy and such variability was fairly normal. This kind of a drop in employment is unprecedented in recent times.


CONSPIRACY CORNER


This corner into political conspiracies? Perish the thought. But we couldn't resist this one from an avid reader:

Do you want to give the conspiracy theorists a little bit of agita? US Attorney General Eric Holder is the honored guest at the Hispanic Law Conference in ABQ next month for judges and lawyers. And (former NM US Attorney) David Iglesias is one of the listed speakers for the conference. It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at that event.

Maybe if David makes a good speech Holder will tell Obama and the Dems they have that "new" US attorney they're looking for.

THE MAYORAL VOTE

It appears the first votes in the ABQ mayoral election will be cast next Wednesday, September 2. The City Clerk began sending out applications for absentee ballots August 18 and will mail the first round of absentee ballots September 1. Many of those will hit the mailboxes the following day and early-bird voters will fill them out right away and mail them back. You can request an application for an absentee ballot by calling 768-3030. Absentee balloting will continue until Oct. 2.

Early voting seems to get more popular each year and the campaigns will work hard to get those votes in the bank early. That’s where organization and experience pays off and that’s where incumbent Dem Mayor Chavez has excelled. But Republican contender Richard Berry can expecy some help from the NM GOP and Dem Richard Romero can seek to tap into the Obama organization to motivate the early vote.

JANICE JOINS

ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones joined the race for the 2010 Guv nod Sunday. TV coverage here. Her platform here.

COLON SEEKS CASH

Former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon holds his first major fundraiser for his campaign for the Dem nod for lieutenant governor today at the Hotel ABQ at 5: 30 p.m. Ticks go for $100 to $1000. Longtime Dem activist and attorney Cate Stetson is among those on the host committee. Colon, 39, is making his first run for elective office.

MEET A MAYOR

The new ABQ West Side Chamber of Commerce is getting in on the mayoral action. They'll have a mayoral race forum as well as one for West Side city council candidates Tuesday night at the Ladera Golf Course Clubhouse from 6 to 8 p.m. We'll be on hand to moderate the event. We won't talk about national health-care so you don't have to bring any tomatoes to throw....

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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