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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will Heather Hang In? US Attorney Scandal Raises Doubts On Guv Run, Plus: The "Wuss" E-Mail From Adair To White House, And: NM Change In DC 

Heather Wilson
So after all the sound and fury resulting from the House Judiciary Committee document dump on the US Attorney scandal, where do we stand? And more pressing, where does potential 2010 GOP Guv candidate and former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson stand? Well, for the first time there are media reports--national media reports--analyzing what legal peril, if any, Heather faces. Could she face charges for her role in encouraging the ouster of NM US Attorney David Iglesias? The Hill let the indictment genie out of the bottle with this report:

A former Justice Department official said Rove, Miers, former Sen. Pete Domenici (D-N.M.) and ex-Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.) could face criminal charges for their role in the firings of Iglesias and eight other U.S. attorneys in 2006.

“There’s real potential here at a minimum to be investigated for obstruction of justice … they attempted to influence the due administration of justice,” said Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center and a 21-year veteran of the Justice Department.

A special prosecutor has been investigating the role the lawmakers and former White House aides played in the U.S. attorney oustings that sparked a national political furor, Democratic investigations in Congress and led to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Hebert also said the new evidence released by the committee shows that Rove, Miers, Domenici and Wilson also may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal lawmakers from changing “the official rank or compensation received by a government employee” or promising or threatening to do so for political reasons.

DOUBLE TROUBLE
Rove & Wilson
The Politico comes with the news that Karl Rove and Heather Wilson have different takes on what Heather said to the White House political advisor about US Attorney Iglesias:

Rove says Wilson pushed the White House to fire New Mexico’s then-U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, before the Nov. 2006 election because he wasn’t moving fast enough on a corruption case involving New Mexico Democrats.

Wilson said she did no such thing, insisting that she only spoke to Rove once about Iglesias, and that was following the 2006 election at a White House breakfast.

The ex-lawmaker also said she never mentioned a New Mexico courthouse corruption investigation in her discussion with Rove, a statement that is at odds with the testimony Rove provided to the House Judiciary Committee.

Not that anyone is going to be indicted here, but the potential Wilson Guv candidacy appears to be taking a major hit. NM Republicans are working to hang the ethics yoke on state Dems who have their own problems with pay-to-play scandals, but the force of this document dump and now the open speculation about a possible Wilson indictment appears to level the ethics field if Wilson were to become the GOP standard-bearer.

HEATHER: IN OR OUT?

Will all this keep Heather out of the Governor's race, a race she says she is seriously considering? Those R's who don't want her certainly have new ammunition that she is not the chosen one. She would likely still be the front runner for the nomination, but she could now face a more vigorous fight for that prize as potential challengers use the scandal as reason not to back down from a fight.

We've all been watching for federal indictments in the state pay-to-play cases to possibly change the Democratic dynamic in the Guv's race. Now we've got "indictment politics" running amok and it's the Republicans who now have to join the Dem worry warts over what will be the next shoe to drop. No soap opera can compete with the twists and turns of La Politica.

Will the furious machinations of Wilson and company to rid New Mexico of US Attorney Iglesias be forever known as her political denouement or is there life for her at the end of this long, dark tunnel? Stay tuned.

WHO'S A WUSS?
Sen. Adair
So NM US Attorney Iglesias had been fired and in early 2007 the R's were looking around for a new US attorney to replace him. From the Judiciary Committee documents comes this e-mail to White House political advisor Karl Rove from Roswell GOP Senator Rod Adair:

“On January 6, 2007, New Mexico state senator Rod Adair wrote to Karl Rove: “This is a rare moment when a matter is of such importance that I must contact you… [New Mexico U.S. Attorney candidate Chuck Peifer] is a wuss, a cowardly wuss, who will disappoint.”


Rove then referred him to the New Mexico congressional delegation, but Sen. Pete Domenici supported Peifer. Asked about Domenici’s reasoning, a staffer, Steve Bell, wrote to Rove of the situation: “it is petty and boring; peifer comes with very high recommendations… he was Judge Browning’s law partner for more than a decade and Browning thinks the world of him… and Browning is truly one of ours!”

Peifer never got his chance at the big time. Talking Points Memo reports current GOP National Committeeman and a longtime attorney for the NM GOP, Pat Rogers, was being pushed for the post by Rove White House political aide Scott Jennings who called him the "dream" candidate, but regretted that Rogers was not available. We blogged January 9, 2007 that Rogers had taken himself out of the running. Rogers was the most partisan of the prospective replacements. Calling him the "dream" candidate advances the notion that the removal of Iglesias was a pure political plot and not based on his job performance.

THIS BLOG & US ATTORNEY INTRIGUE

This blog--www.joemonahan.com--was the lone New Mexico media covering the ongoing behind-the-scenes battle to replace Iglesias in early 2007. Our coverage was brought up nine times in the Judiciary Committee testimony, according to an e-mail from blogger Mario Burgos. Our February 26, 2007 blog appeared to be the subject of a back and forth between Karl Rove and House Judiciary lawyers as those lawyers worked to build a case that Iglesias was being brought down for purely political reasons. Allen Weh e-mailed the blog to the White House for discussion when we blogged of names under consideration.

Iglesias remains on the job, awaiting a replacement from the Bush White House. NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici has forwarded several names to the White House for consideration, including those of ABQ attorney Charles Peifer and '06 GOP attorney general candidate Jim Bibb. Legal beagles are saying Peifer appears to be a favorite because his legal experience dwarfs that of Bibb who is the son-in-law law of former Dem NM Governor Toney Anaya. Observers expected an announcement by now, but perhaps the controversy over the outgoing prosecutors has slowed the process. Stay tuned.

Weh was supporting Bibb. A temporary replacement was named for Iglesias. The scandal prevented the Bush White House from nominating a permanent replacement. Current US attorney Greg Fouratt was named to the position under special circumstances by the sitting NM Federal judges. He has not been confirmed by the US Senate. Dems now await a permanent US Attorney from the Obama White House who would be confirmed by the Senate. The pay to play investigations by Republican Fouratt into the Big Bill administration is thought by many legal observers to have slowed the replacement process, along with the ongoing investigation into the ouster of Iglesias.

D.C. DOINGS

Daniela Glick
The crush of news kept this item in our future file and out of the blog, but today we get to it. Daniela Glick, 29, the deputy secretary at the state economic development department, is headed to D.C. to replace Tony Martinez as director of the Governor's NM State Office. The news was confirmed by the Guv's office.

Glick has most recently served as chairwoman of the NM Spaceport Authority. Previously the Las Cruces native was the Guv's Director of Cabinet Affairs and Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs when Brian Condit, the Guv's current chief of staff, directed the legislative efforts.

Martinez, a former legislative director for Tom Udall when Tom served in the House, is a Santa Fe native who has had the D.C. outpost since Bill's first term. Martinez isn't talking, but initial reports say he has has landed a job with the Obama administration in the office of the drug czar.

There was some D.C. grumbling that Glick did not have much Washington experience, but she graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in Government and has plenty of New Mexico political experience. If you can handle the Alligators here, you can surely wrestle with those of the Potomac River variety.

ON THE TRAIL

It's not too early for the 2010 Governor candidates to have a presence on the Web. The latest to do so is PR executive Doug Turner who uses "DTNM 2010!" as his headline on a bare bones site that just went up. Turner says he officially filed papers for an exploratory committee for a run for the GOP nomination now that he has raised over $2,500 triggering the requirement...

Insiders say Lincoln Strategy Group is on board with GOP Guv hopeful and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez. The group is based in Phoenix, but includes Jay McCleskey and his wife Nicole, a pollster. Both have long been involved in NM GOP politics. McCleskey, former regional director for the GOP National Committee, is currently active in the ABQ mayoral campaign of RJ Berry. The group has also signed ABQ GOP congressional candidate Jon Barela.

Speaking of Berry, we'll be with him and Dems Richard Romero and Mayor Chavez tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (2401 Twelfth Street NW) to moderate a mayoral forum. It's being held by the North Valley Coalition.

ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has set August 30th for her formal entry into the 2010 Guv race, say campaign insiders. Does she have an opportunity here with Heather Wilson on the ropes and Allen Weh also knee-deep in the US Attorney scandal? You gotta think so.

ABQ West Side businessman and activist Dan Serrano (also one of our longtime blog sponsors) checks in with the news that the West Side Chamber of Commerce inaugural event is today from 4:30-6:30pm at the Ladera Golf Course. What, are they going to secede?

LICENSE PLATE UPDATE

It's not an all or nothing deal on the new state license plate. The options offered to New Mexicans are to switch over to the turquoise colored plate or give residents the option of having the new plate or the yellow plate that has been in use for decades. We are sticking with our decision to vote for "all turquoise all the time" even though the Guv reports over 75 percent of those voting so far want to keep both plates. Besides being confusing to the kids who count license plates while vacationing on the roadways of America, we fear there will be a south versus north split in the NM vote over the plate. Keep New Mexico Unified: Vote Turquoise!

THE BOTTOM LINES

We think we finally have a confirmed case of voter fraud in New Mexico. We voted twice in the license plate survey and both votes appear to have been counted. It was just an experiment, mind you, but we wanted to let Republicans Karl Rove, Mickey Barnett, "Lightning Rod" Adair, Allen Weh and Pat Rogers know. We are aware how concerned they have been about voter fraud in our state. But fellas, we assure you our intent was pure. We were trying to prevent voter fraud, just like you said you were in the US attorney scandal. But just in case the gang doesn't accept our word, does someone have the phone number for David Iglesias? We may need a good lawyer.

E-mail your news tips and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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