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Friday, August 28, 2009

Will White House Go All The Way? Political Players Say Appoint New US Attorney; Give Bill A Job and Get Di Named Guv; Our Complete Coverage 

Denish With Obama
Top level political power players are saying the news that Governor Richardson and his former top aides will not be indicted in connection with the CDR pay-to-play case paves the way for the White House to consolidate its political power in this key presidential swing state. There is still another investigation pending that involves the Guv, but CDR was the biggie. Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt did not convince his Justice Department bosses to get indictments in CDR and that likely means no indictments of Richardson or his staff in the second case, say political insiders we consulted. Some of them pointed to investment adviser Marc Correra as still being on the hook, but not the Guv or his aides.

Senior Alligators consulted are also betting that the President will soon name a new NM US Attorney, toughening even further the standards for political indictments. In other words, a new deck has been shuffled and Richardson again has a high hand.

The Washington Post has the lowdown on how the no indictment day came down.

Prosecutors in New Mexico sent their findings to Justice Department headquarters in Washington, where career prosecutors concluded that an indictment was not warranted...The agreement to extend the statute of limitations on the allegations had expired Wednesday and Justice Department officials had not requested more time. That signaled, the source said, that indictments were no longer a possibility.

We worked the big story with KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson. Video here. The ABQ Journal quotes from a letter written to defense lawyers by US Attorney Fouratt. The New York Times reports:

Fouratt took the unusual steps of bringing in a new prosecutor to present evidence last fall and then empanelling a new grand jury in January, after it became clear that the first grand jury was not ready to indict, lawyers for several of the witnesses before the grand jury said.

POWER HUNGRY

Democrats have pent up demands. The year long CDR investigation thwarted the naming of a new US attorney to replace Fouratt. The power players we spoke to say that is job one--getting a new US Attorney and US Marshall in place. They then say the President and his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel can go all the way--get Richardson appointed as an envoy or to another diplomatic post. That would allow Lt. Governor Diane Denish to be named Governor. That, they think, could effectively put an end to any serious hopes the R's have of reclaiming the state's top slot in 2010. As a well-financed incumbent, Denish would be much more formidable. Her heart is skipping beats again at the prospect of an appointed governorship, or as one D.C. pundit called us now, "The Land of Second Chances." The Light Guv treaded cautiously:

Assuming news reports are accurate this is good news for the people of New Mexico. But the fact remains that public confidence has been eroded by the numerous investigations into possible wrongdoings by other government officials. We need strong ethics reform to make state government more open and accountable and I will continue to lead that fight.

The reasoning on Denish also holds that with her at the helm the state will be protected for the President's re-election in 2012. Having a sitting Governor with their own organization in place to supplement that of Obama's would deliver a one-two punch. Also, the critical task of redrawing the boundaries for legislative and congressional districts will take place in the 2011 legislative session. A Democratic governor is seen as essential to continuing the party's grip on power and keeping out of harm's way the all Dem US House delegation.

Denish was crestfallen in January when Richardson's nomination as Obama's Commerce Secretary fell through because of the CDR case. We jested then that she was already measuring the curtains on the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse, but she won't get ahead of herself this time.

Still, veteran Dems who know the game want the White House to strike on all fronts--or as they say in the Godfather--"to settle all family business."

THE COMEBACK

Is the above scenario nearing reality? Richardson has met with the North Koreans in Santa Fe recently and when the no indictment news broke, he was conveniently on a trade mission to Cuba about which he will brief the White House. One jokester said Bill was in Cuba this week so if he did get indicted he wouldn't have to come back to face the music. But Bill is coming back. How far back is the issue and, we might add, how far from New Mexico?

Initial speculation included Richardson as an envoy to Central American nations, with an eye toward making him America's first ambassador to Cuba since the 1950's. That could happen if Obama normalizes relations with the island nation. It's not that long of a shot and Richardson's experience with the island nation and his Hispanic background puts it in the realm of the realistic.

Whatever the possibilities, we know that after nearly seven years as Governor, Richardson wants a one-way ticket out of here. His trademark throughout his political career has been his persistence. More often than not he gets what he wants because he works his tail off for it. He swallowed a bitter dose of medicine with this drawn-out grand jury probe. He fretted behind the scenes, but rarely in public, providing a lesson to aspiring politicos on both sides of the aisle on how to handle dark times and wait for the light to shine again.

LIGHT GUV

If Bill goes and Denish is in, we are back in the Light Guv biz. She would get to appoint a lieutenant governor to replace her in the position. Very early speculation puts Lawrence Rael, head of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, who is one of many Dems currently seeking the 2010Light Guv nomination, at the top of the possible picks for Di.

If Denish backs into the Governor's chair via appointment, she could be expected to pick a #2 who she wants to run with her in the November 2010 election, not a place holder. Why? Because leaders lead, not allow dogfights to continue.

A BLOW TO THE R'S
Yates
The no indictment news hit NM Republicans like a medicine ball to the chest. They tried to recover their breath by questioning whether the indictments were dismissed for political reasons. GOP Chair Harvey Yates, Jr.:

Who is responsible for the decision not to proceed with these indictments? Was this decision made contrary to the advice of experienced, nonpolitical, career prosecutors and the FBI? If so, what was the justification for ignoring the advice...Did Obama’s political appointees dispute the results of the FBI investigation? Lastly, what is the basis for overturning these decisions in a case of public corruption involving high-level Democrat politicians?

But the R's argument ran hollow and was not without irony. The US attorney scandal that engulfed NM politics was authored by the Bush administration when it controlled Justice. State Dems came with this retort:

..Yates must have a short memory. It was Heather Wilson and the Bush White House that politicized the Department of Justice. It was Karl Rove who testified under oath that Heather Wilson pushed for the firing of David Iglesias because he wasn't pursuing baseless prosecutions against Democrats...The US Attorney's office sent the case to Justice, as is customary in high profile cases--without any recommendation--despite a year of investigations, countless subpoenas, and multiple grand juries...This is a total vindication of Governor Richardson and his senior advisors

Even today, a federal grand jury is investigating the scandal and perhaps the R's best hope for the Guv's race--former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson--remains under its shadow. Also, ex-GOP Senator Domenici was slapped on the wrist by the Senate Ethics Committee for his role in the scandal.

Former Dem ABQ Mayor and liberal standard-bearer Jim Baca also piled on. He told us the year long investigation was a fishing expedition--a giant waste of time and money and politically motivated. "Who will tell the taxpayers?" He poked.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

Martinez
GOP Guv candidate and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez may have had the most to lose with the no indictment development. She is making corruption a centerpiece of her campaign, but the news showed how tenuous a platform that can be. Still, she tried gamely to spin the news:

It is a sad and disappointing day when public officials celebrate the fact that they will not be criminally charged for an alleged pay-to-play scheme...Whether it's news about the FBI investigation into the Richardson/Denish Administration, or recent news concerning the indictment of the former secretary of state, it all speaks to the same issue: corruption is running rampant in Santa Fe...

Who Susana observed celebrating is open to question. Here's what Bill's office said:

While the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not notified Governor Richardson about the completion of its investigation, it appears that no action will be taken as a result of the year-long inquiry.

Governor Richardson has known all along that neither he nor any staff members committed any transgressions during their successful fundraising back in 2004. The U.S. Attorney’s thorough and lengthy investigation has apparently determined the same thing – that no indiscretions occurred.

Although patience was difficult while Governor Richardson and his administration were being falsely accused and were the subject of rumors and speculation through the news media, Governor Richardson chose to remain silent and let the justice system run its course. Governor Richardson is gratified that this year-long investigation has ended with the vindication of his administration.

Vindication? Well, that may be a stretch. But R's like Martinez are on notice. They can keep the ethics arrow in their sling, but they will need supplemental firepower.

THE BIG PICTURE


Agree or disagree, having such a large piece of the legal cloud lifting from over the Guv can't hurt our state's standing around the nation. We were threatening to become the current corruption capital. We still have our share of unresolved cases, but an indictment of a sitting governor could hurt this small state's economic development in unknown ways.

PAY TO PLAY

The excess of the Great Bull Market and Richardson's insatiable appetite for funds to run his presidential campaign combined to form a perfect storm of financial hedonism. But the rules were more relaxed for everyone when the gravy was flowing; it wasn't until it stopped flowing that pay-to-play was looked at more rigorously.

The definition of pay-to-play is a moving target, depending on who is running the FBI and Justice Department. Overhanging it is the entire political contribution system that could be said to border on legalized bribery. It seems just about all legislative and agency decisions could be linked to a campaign donor. Frankly, pay-to-play is everywhere, a systemic problem that some think only a public campaign finance system would resolve.

EVEN MORE

The AP's Barrey Massey comes with analysis on the big story. Pollster and analyst Brian Sanderoff interviewed with KOAT-TV. "Great news for the Governor," he said, and speculated that Richardson could be in line for a non-cabinet level position before his Guv term runs out.

SOME FUN STUFF

From Richard Brown in Carlsbad:

Do you think the fact that Hamid Karzai was well in front of the field in his race for the Afghanistan presidency but now faces a runoff with Abdullah Abdullah has gotten Marty's attention in his bid to return the Albuquerquistan city hall?

Richard, "Run-off" in any language is a dirty word for Chavez. Anyone using it around him has to clean up litter on the streets on weekends.

The campaign of Republican mayor hopeful RJ Berry says our recent blog item putting RJ outside of Rep. Heinrich's Saturday health care town hall was in error and that RJ was not working the crowd. But at a meeting of Republican women that same day a staffer for Berry told the group RJ was indeed working the line at the town hall. That's where we got our info. In any event, we chided ABQ GOP Congressional candidate Jon Barela for missing the opportunity. Now we'll do the same with RJ--unless the duo had colds and were seeking health care.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments--anonymously if you wish.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TV NEWS: FEDS WILL NOT INDICT BIG BILL OR TOP AIDES IN CDR PAY-TO-PLAY CASE; GUV IN CUBA AS BIG NEWS BREAKS; WILL REPORT MISSION FINDINGS TO OBAMA 

  • Update: AP confirms no indictments of Guv and associates in CDR
  • The Washington Post has the lowdown on how no indictment day came down
The News: No Indictments
It looks as though Governor Bill Richardson's year from hell is over. KRQE-TV news reported on its Wednesday 10 p.m. broadcast that neither the Governor or his former top aides--Dave Contarino or David Harris--will be subjected to federal indictments in the CDR bond case. The station cited anonymous sources in breaking the news of the conclusion of the probe that began last August. It was reported by veteran journalist Michael Herzenberg. He said there would be no formal announcement of the decision, but that "it could become known" as soon as today. My Legal Beagles say that implies that the good news for the Guv is coming from the attorneys involved in the case. A state official said in June that the CDR case was on the desk of US Attorney General Eric Holder awaiting his decision on how to proceed.

The leak came as the Governor was traveling on a trade mission in Cuba. Notably, Big Bill was quoted by the AP as saying he will report his findings of that mission to the White House. Last week the Guv conducted meetings in Santa Fe with North Korean diplomats giving rise to speculation that such meetings would not occur if he or his top aides were in danger of indictment. However, the feds are also looking into state investments to see if there was any "pay to play" there, so the coast is not entirely clear for Richardson, but it is sure looking mighty uncluttered.

Speculators, Alligators and Wall-leaners were back burning the midnight oil in the wake of the KRQE stunner, saying Richardson's increased national and international profile, along with the news that here will be no CDR indictments might lead to a formal envoy role for Bill. That would represent a full scale political revival for the two term Governor who was forced to withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary in the wake of the CDR scandal.

There is rarely a formal Justice announcement that a case is no longer being pursued. We wondered aloud about that policy on this blog this week. But it appears Richardson is getting as close to such an announcement as possible, but not from the government. You can bet he is looking to light up one of those big Cuban cigars as he basks in the warm climes of Cuba and digests this latest news.

WEE HOURS ANALYSIS

Into the early morning hours burned the kerosene fueled lamps at the Alligator pond. The no indictment news was immediately read as a blow to the possible 2010 Guv hopes of former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson as well as the other lesser-known R hopefuls. Without heavy scandal hanging over Bill, Heather was seen as less likely to pull the trigger and get in the game. But Diane Denish, the far away front runner for the Dem nod, was not exhaling just yet. As noted above, the federal grand jury remains active on pay to play, but the Gators agreed that probe may also be losing steam. Without Heather, the GOP would have to turn to a back-bencher, just what the doctor ordered for Di, but perhaps a deadly prescription for the R's.

That Bill and his boys won't be posting bail anytime soon gave Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico a breather. They were just inundated with the news that former Sec. of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron has been indicted by a state grand jury and they also had to endure serious legal speculation that Heather could be in jeopardy as a a federal grand jury looks into the US attorney scandal. In a state where the word "indictment" is one of the first learned by pre-schoolers, the breather was as welcome as the first chile harvest in Hatch.

LOPEZ PLANS

Here’s an e-mail making the rounds from ABQ Democratic State Senator Linda Lopez as she plans a formal entry into the Dem race for lieutenant governor on Sept. 5th:

We will kick-off at 9:30 am at Washington Park near Washington Middle School. It will last for one hour--ending at 10:30-ish. We will have burritos, pastries, coffee, juice and water. Agnes and Lori will work on the food.

Mariachis will be contacted by Dolores. Sylvia will arrange for the sound system. Will check to see if a hot air balloon is feasible for that morning. We will have 3 persons (groups) introduce me before I speak. I will speak for 5 minutes.

Light Guv candidates seem more plentiful than the summer monsoons. And we have no shortage of GOP Guv candidates. We blogged a couple of weeks ago of the plans of ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones to formally enter the Guv race this Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Uptown.

That menu for Lopez’s opener sounds enticing. Wonder if Janice will match it. We don’t expect much from these politico in the food department any more. The old days of trays of goodies seem to be fading or gone. That hit home last year when we attended a rally for Big Bill’s presidential campaign in ABQ’s South Valley. They served peanuts and bottled water to keep expenses down. And then there was Republican Steve Pearce's Valley rally for his US Senate campaign where he served hot dogs. What? They were going to cook them in the ground, pull them out and hold a fake matanza?!

TED KENNEDY

The Kennedy’s have had a long and affectionate relationship with New Mexico and the death of Ted Kennedy this week is being mourned widely, especially in the Spanish North where the Kennedy commitment to civil rights and eradicating poverty endeared them with multiple generations. No Kennedy ever lost an election in New Mexico and that includes 1980 when Ted Kennedy won the state’s presidential primary in which he challenged incumbent Dem President Jimmy Carter. He is pictured here today with NM talk radio pioneer Mike Santullo at a 1980 fund-raiser at the old Four Seasons Hotel in ABQ, raising money for that presidential campaign. The Senator's then-wife, Joan, looks on. Kennedy last visited New Mexico in 2008 to campaign for Obama in ABQ and up north.

The Bernalillo County Democratic Party will hold a candle light vigil to honor Kennedy tonight at 8 p.m. It will be held at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque; participants are asked to bring their own candles.

I first met Senator Kennedy, in 1974, at the old ABQ Civic Auditorium on a crisp fall morning at 7 a.m. He was here to fire up a rally for ABQ congressional candidate Roberto Mondragon who had served as NM’s Lt. Gov. The early time was no problem for the blue collar, working class crowd that adored Kennedy. The rally was for them. He delivered a stem-winder and sent them off to their jobs all abuzz.

Roberto lost that congressional contest to incumbent GOP US Rep. Manuel Lujan, but the Kennedy rally was one of the highlights of his political career. And it was one of the highlights in our life as well.

Ted Kennedy was 77.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dam Breaks On Naming Top NM Federal Posts: Is New US Attorney Next? New Twist On That Surfaces, Plus: More From The Long Campaign Trail 

Obama & Brunner
The dam that seemed to be holding up Obama administration appointments in New Mexico finally broke Tuesday, giving hope to New Mexico Democrats that the most anticipated federal appointment--that of US Attorney--will come next. But when that comes, there could be a twist. More on that later, but first the appointment action.

Blog readers may recall the internecine warfare that surfaced over the plum post of state director for Rural Development under the US Department of Agriculture. Our two players were Terry Brunner, state director fot NM senior US Senator Jeff Bingaman and Robert Apodaca, head of the local government division for the Department of Finance and Administration and not without ties to Big Bill. Brunner had the inside track because the senior senator of the party in power in the White House--in this case that is Bingaman--traditionally gets to pick. But Dem administrations have often named Hispanics to the post and that put Apodaca in the running, if only briefly.

Brunner, 38, says the salary scale for the post ranges up to $130,000, although in June we blogged it topped out at $145,000. He has been with Jeff for seven years and has a degree in Latin American Studies. His shoes will be filled by Greg Bloom, a longtime Bingaman staffer in Las Cruces who has specialized in border issues.

The Obama administration Monday also named Salomon Ramirez, who has worked for the USDA for 34 years, as state executive director for the Farm Service Agency.

Now on to the US Attorney intrigue.

APPOINTMENT HOPE RENEWED

With the filling of two somewhat high-profile federal posts in the state, the Alligators again started circling over the prestigious and powerful US attorney position. They said an appointment could finally be on the way, but with a twist.

Santa Fe attorney John Pound and ABQ attorneys Pete Dinelli and State Rep. Al Park have been on the short list of US Attorney names (you know, that napkin with names and red chile stains being passed around at the Barelas Coffeehouse) but the new angle has the White House perhaps staying away from the politicos and opting for someone already on staff--someone like a Hispanic Democrat who is already an assistant US attorney.

The move makes sense if the White House wants to calm concerns that Justice is a political playground. The new US attorney will require Senate confirmation and a non-political player would not push as many hot buttons as the big names.

The Gators and Legal Beagles postulate that the appointment could finally come because the pay-to-play probe of Big Bill's administration launched one year ago by Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt may finally be winding down. They site Bill's recent cavorting with North Korean diplomats in Santa Fe and his trade mission this week to Cuba as signs that the Governor may no longer be in danger of indictment and that the odds on indictments of his former key associates have also gone down. If so, Fouratt may be heading toward the exits soon, as current theory holds he has had job protection while investigating the Guv and company because no one wanted to fire him during the sensitive political probe. But if that is indeed over, so may finally the hold up in getting a new US Attorney.

Speaking of Justice, US Attorney General Eric Holder will be back in ABQ in early September for a legal conference. He was here a couple of weeks ago for another event, but brushed aside questions about the federal corruption probe of state government. He will likely do the same this time. Back in June, a state official confirmed that the decision on whether to come with indictments in the CDR bond deal were on Holder's desk. Did the USA AG make a decision or is the paperwork gathering dust?

SHE WON WHEN?


Maybe the years are starting to run together because we have covered so many of them, but we erred Tuesday when we said former Sec. of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron ran for her first term in 1978. Dem Shirley Hooper won that year and Bruce King took his second term then. Rebecca won the first of her three terms in 1986. This was pointed out to us by, among others, veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff who was a top aide to Bruce King in the early 80's.

WEH & WHITNEY
Allen Weh
Former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh, preparing for a Sept. 8 entry into the GOP race for Guv, says he has hired his political ally Whitney Cheshire as his campaign manager. Wasn't she the gal who got up every morning for a year or so to write a blog critical of our blog? Indeed. Well, if Allen can get as much work out of her as we did, he may be on to something. Whitney could also use a winner. Her list of past clients include John Sanchez for Governor, Heather Wilson for Senate, both of whom lost, and the NM GOP, which in the last two cycles has been beaten comatose by the Dems.

But, you know, despite Weh's lack of campaign experience and his controversial record as state GOP chair, our insiders say Weh, in the very early going, might actually be the front runner for the nomination. Why? Because he is the Alpha Anglo male in the race facing two female candidates and a lesser known male. The NM GOP is still very much a white bread experience. He also has an impressive record of military service and apparently can finance his campaign with personal wealth. Besides Cheshire, Weh is shelling out for three other staffers.

Now that analysis might make Allen pleased, but he won't come close to the joy top Dems claim to have over thinking about him becoming the GOP nominee. Their bodies shudder with X-rated delight at the prospect as they see him and his record as easy pickings. But at 66 years, the old warrior has heard it all before and it hasn't kept him off the battlefield.

DOUG'S DAY

Turner
Another GOP Guv hopeful, Doug Turner, made his inaugural trip to Roswell, the shrine of NM Republican politics, and came away with this profile in the Roswell newspaper. If you're Catholic, you head to Lourdes for what ails you. If you are a NM R--even a middle of the road one like Turner--you head for Chaves County and find redemption where the true believers still believe...

And so it goes in this, our summer of 2009.

E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Defending Rebecca: Does Gary Have The Goods? Plus: Corruption Capers; The Latest & Their Impact, And: The Bottom Lines 

Gary vs. Rebecca
They say a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Is former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron a ham sandwich or is the 50 count indictment brought against her by a grand jury and Attorney General Gary King the real deal? The debate has raged since Vigil-Giron, who served three terms as SOS, was indicted last week.

Vigil-Giron is proclaiming her innocence, but after the charges against her were laid out in the press she was excoriated as the latest example of New Mexico gone wild when it comes to political corruption. But there is another side coming into our e-mail box. For example, here’s Lewis Kidron, a politico from Texas who asserts the indictment is riddled with holes:

The iron-clad case against Vigil-Giron, who spoke at our 2006 Texas Democratic Party convention, rests on a letter she backdated to 'cover-up" this massive money-laundering and embezzlement scheme. According to the New Mexico Independent:


...The Aug. 26, 2004, letter changed the method of payment for (media consultant Armando) Gutierrez, who with Vigil-Giron and two others, was indicted. The letter stipulated that Gutierrez would go from being paid at three hourly rates to a single, 17-percent administrative fee of the value of work his firm performed, according to the letter.


While changing a payment agreement after the fact might be stupid, it is not a felony the last time I checked, and certainly isn't something one would normally be facing 20 years in prison for. But I'm also not a state official from New Mexico...


So we've got some evidence here that she let this shady consultant "re-negotiate" his contract without following all of the rules and regs. Pretty stupid, Becky, but what are the rest of these 49 counts against her all about? There doesn't seem to be any evidence that Vigil-Giron got any money out of this massive criminal operation she was "in on.”

Vigil-Giron is the only one accused of embezzling an "unspecified" amount without any bank transactions listed to prove the accusation.


It could be that she is guilty as sin, but this whole thing looks a bit "opportunistic" on the part of Attorney General Gary King. Let's face it--if you were the NM attorney general, as corrupt as that state is, would you want the R's accusing you of "going easy" on a former state official like Vigil-Giron? Probably not.

If Vigil-Giron does not cop a plea, her trial would probably take place next year--in election season. The indictment did provide banking details on the charges against Gutierrez and lobbyist Joe Kupfer and his wife, Daisy Kupfer.

A FULL PLATE

King has his plate full. Earlier, he came with indictments in a regional housing authority scandal, including one of former State Rep. Smiley Gallegos. Also, the AG was rebuffed in his efforts to have nonprofit organizations active in last year’s legislative campaigns disclose their campaign donations and expenditures. He now says he will appeal that federal court ruling.

Insiders say King plans a re-election announcement in September. His main threat has been a primary challenge from the left based on an inactive record in going after political corruption. In 2006, King handily defeated Dem primary challengers Lemuel Martinez and Geno Zamora. A Hispanic Dem challenger is also a concern, but no names are circulating. King looks good for the Dem nomination. However, voters have placed a glass ceiling on King, rejecting him when he sought to advance the the governor’s office or the US Congress.

With the two big corruption cases he’s involved in, King’s corruption fighting record is no longer at issue, but whether he and his office are effective and competent in prosecuting corruption is still up in the air. The criticism of the Vigil-Giron indictment, the recent federal court loss on the non-profits and the undetermined outcome of the housing scandal means the verdict on Gary King’s tenure remains out. Still, a Republican getting elected attorney general is a rarity, and so far no big R names are running.

SIDEBAR ACTION


Vigil-Giron first ran and won the secretary of state’s office in 1986. Vigil-Giron was a longtime and ardent support of Bruce King, father of Gary King, who shares a political record with Rebecca. She’s the longest- ever serving secretary of state, clocking 12 years in the office. Bruce is the longest-ever serving Governor. He also served three, four year terms, the last of which was from 1991-1995.

DULY NOTED

A Legal Beagle checks in with the news that Joe and Daisy Kupfer, indicted by the AG’s grand jury, gave Gary King a $1000 campaign donation in September 2006.

Also, the AG was knocking down speculation Monday that his office has a conflict of interest in prosecuting the Vigil-Giron case because one of his lawyers involved in the Vigil-Giron case had been fired by Daisy Kupfer when she headed Attorney General Madrid's administrative services division. He said there is no need for the indictments to be quashed, but if such an allegation proved correct, he would name a special prosecutor. Wonder who that would be?

OTHER STUFF OUT THERE

Could there be more indictments that shake the New Mexico earth as we head for Election 2010? That federal pay-to-play investigation into the administration of Governor Richardson hasn’t been heard from lately. The probe turned one year old this month. The last heard was that the decision on whether to issue indictments in the case was on the desk of US Attorney General Holder. Bill recently conducted diplomacy with the North Koreans in Santa Fe, diplomacy that insiders say had to have a wink and a nod from the White House. That fueled speculation that he is unlikely to be the subject of an indictment.

Bill's former top associates--David Contarino and David Harris--have also figured prominently in that investigation conducted by Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt. While the Legal Beagles think the portion of the probe involving them has wrapped up, there is no way of knowing for sure. The feds make no announcement when they conclude an investigation. Maybe there should be a new rule in this age of intense media coverage. Can’t the US attorney--without making any comments--simply put out a one sentence statement if and when a major probe has concluded? We’re just asking.

And then there’s the federal grand jury probe in Virginia looking into the US attorney scandal. Since new revelations came from the House Judiciary committee regarding the firing of NM US Attorney David Iglesias and others, there was open speculation in the national media that former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson could be subjected to an obstruction of justice indictment. A long shot? Probably. But it is hanging out there as is the question of whether the revelations have perhaps soured Heather on the possibility of seeking the 2010 GOP Guv nomination.

THE BIG PICTURE

You can look at the wave of indictments and investigations several ways. That New Mexico is rancid with political corruption and is a hopeless third-world, banana republic that will never advance economically or socially as long as the politicians are picking the cupboard clean or playing politics illegally,. Or you can argue that the various investigations show the state is getting cleaned up and most of the corruption has been ferreted out. Or you can make the case that some of those being investigated have made--that they are victims of overzealous prosecution and much of the corruption talk is just that.

We’ve said it before and so have others--political corruption alone is unlikely to be the driving issue in election 2010. But the candidates that can demonstrate ethics is having a direct impact on the state’s economic prospects may have something. The Great Recession has delivered a body blow to thousands of New Mexican households. When times are good, the antics of the politicos here often elicit a cheery derision. But when times are bad, the cheap seats get antsy and out come the rotten tomatoes. Who will they splatter? Stay tuned.

NO BLOOD


Maybe the two challengers to incumbent Mayor Marty Chavez--Republican RJ Berry and Dem Richard Romero--will let their paid media deliver the attacks on Chavez that seem needed to dislodge him from the front runner position or at least deprive him of the 40 percent of the vote needed on Oct. 6 to avoid a run-off election. Monday at a debate before the development and business community and broadcast live on KANW 89.1 FM, the challengers were content to take mild jabs at Chavez who is seeking his third term in a row and fourth overall. All three candidates came across well on the radio, but that means Chavez did not lose.

BUDGET CRISIS ACTION


Our Santa Fe insiders said last week to look for an across-the-board cut in the state budget in order to eliminate a whopping $433 million shortfall for the budget year that started July 1. And that's just what Big Bill appears to be going for as he prepares to call a special legislative session in October. You are not going to get major savings during a special by doing a diagram of the budget. Bill will do his best to control just where the cuts come, but if he doesn't come with enough of them, State Sen. John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith and company are sure to have some tips for him.

THE BOTTOM LINES

And what's this? Big Bill surprised everyone by taking off for a trade mission to Cuba? Last week it was North Korean diplomats meeting in Santa Fe with Bill. Cuba and North Korea are two nations that are barely on speaking terms with the USA, but Bill probably doesn't mind. Their faces are a lot more friendly than the ones at the NM US attorney's office.

And some political matchmaking. How about either ABQ R Guv candidates Allen Weh or State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones at the top of the ticket matched with Dona Ana DA Susana Martinez as the Lt. Gov. contender. The matchmakers say that brings north and south to the party, but Susana may ask why can't Allen or Janice be on the bottom of the ticket. Good question. Because ABQ has more people? Maybe Heather has an answer...

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Monday, August 24, 2009

No ''YouTube'' Moment At Heinrich Town Hall; That's Fine By Him, Plus: Susana's First Time & Harry's Visitor 

Heinrich Listens
There were no “YouTube” moments that came out of the jammed town hall meeting hosted by ABQ Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich over the weekend, and that was probably the most noteworthy development. Other House members have seen their town halls spin out of control, spiked with angry constituents delivering angry, melodramatic missives that make Shakespearean actors look like pikers. Their antics end up going viral on the Net, often to the everlasting embarrassment of their Congressional host and perhaps to their political careers as well. 

Heinrich's relatively calm affair means there will be no 30 second TV spots a year from now resulting from the event. By then, health care will likely be a moot issue. More in the moment, there was no defining town hall moment that will go viral and that would raise the hopes of the waiting-in-the-wings R's.

Initially, Heinrich seemed to be less than enthusiastic about the most controversial aspect of Obama reform--the public health option that would compete with private insurance companies. But he strongly embraced the concept at the town hall, sending a message to the Dem left that there is no need to field a primary opponent against him next year. There was still a big hole in Heinrich's position. While he is for the public option that would provide government subsidized insurance to those in need, he is sketchy about how he would fund it. He trotted out the old dodge that “waste, fraud and abuse" in the current system would pay the price. In other words, he was not backtracking on his opposition to taxing millionaires to help pay for the plan, a position that is seen as gun-shy by the left and the populists, but puts Heinrich squarely in the center in his centrist district. 

So Heinrich and Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan will probably both get to vote for a public option that is likely to meet its Waterloo in the Senate. And the pair will weather claims that their town halls were somehow stacked with liberal supporters to elude the aforementioned You Tube Moment. If the R’s go looking for a video trail to use against the duo in next year's election, they will get that depressing Internet message: "This page is no longer available.” 

ON  THE LINE

ABQ GOP Mayoral candidate Richard “RJ” Berry sensed an opportunity to mine some conservative votes and worked the line at the Heinrich town hall Saturday at the UNM Continuing Education center. But where was ABQ GOP congressional candidate Jon Barela, the likely R nominee to face Heinrich in 2010? 

CAN'T GET ENOUGH?

If you are crying out for more town hall action, you can check out Sen. Jeff Bingaman's session from 1 to 5 p.m. at the ABQ Convention Center, portions of which will be streamed by the KNME-TV web site. No need to go down there, tickets are all spoken for. You didn't think Jeff was going to risk one of those "YouTube" moments, did you?

THE FIRST TIME

Here's one of the first in-depth news stories on the GOP Guv campaign of Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez. Money lines from the Roswell Record:

Martinez is building her platform on ethics, small business, and education.

"Corruption has taken over the state, and sadly, many people are starting to accept it as a way of life," she said.


Martinez touts her appeal to Democrats and independents by citing her wins for the district attorney slot in heavy Democratic Dona Ana County. But Dems and indys have been more prone to cross over in a DA's race because of the R's traditional strength on the crime issue. They have had little success with other offices. For Martinez, that means taking on the difficult task of keeping ethics and corruption at the top of the voters' agenda when so often their eyes glaze over at the prospect. Making it doubly difficult is the lousy state of the economy and the education system. Ethics alone will probably not get you elected governor; you have to convicingly tie the corruption to what is happening to voter's wallets.

HARRY'S VISITOR
Rep. Teague
Southern NM Dem Congressman Harry Teague is summoning all the powers of the incumbency as he prepares for a match-up next year with Republican Steve Pearce who held the seat before Harry. The end of the month visit scheduled by Energy Secretary Chu to Las Cruces is part of the game-plan for Teague. Campaign experts believe the race will be decided in Dona Ana County, the largest in the sprawling district and one that delivered big for Teague and Obama in 2008. If turn-out there recedes, Pearce's chances increase. Chu will provide Teague with important publicity. Believe it or not, there are many potential voters who are not quite sure who represents them. Teague is only in his first year and needs events like the Chu visit to cement his ties to the district.

E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009 
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