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Thursday, January 21, 2010

NM Senators Refuse To Release Names Of US Attorney Candidates; Our Alligators Come With List, Plus: A Talk With Teague, And: GOP Guv Action Crackles 

Sens. Bingaman & Udall
New Mexico US Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall are refusing to release the list of individuals they have interviewed for the position of US Attorney, arguing that it is a "privacy issue." That's the same argument Governor Richardson used when he refused to release the names of the 59 political appointees he said he was dismissing to achieve budget savings. But the reliable sources that power this blog and who have disclosed many of the "Richardson 59" now come with the list of all the attorneys Bingaman and Udall interviewed back in September for the US Attorney position currently held by Republican Greg Fouratt.

Senator Bingaman, in refusing to release the names Wednesday, told reporters a short list has been sent to the White House where a final choice will be made. More on that, but first here is the list of those interviewed as compiled by Senior Alligators and Legal Beagles with records of 99.9 percent accuracy:
  • John Pound, Santa Fe Attorney, Obama campaign coordinator in New Mexico
  • Al Park, Albuquerque Attorney and State Representative
  • Pete Dinelli, former Chief Public Safety Officer for Albuquerque; former chief deputy district attorney
  • Stan Whitaker, State District Court Judge, former New Mexico assistant US Attorney, went to high school with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
  • Greg Fouratt, current acting US Attorney appointed by federal judges two years ago
  • Damon Martinez, NM Assistant US Attorney. Worked for both Bingaman and Udall as aide in Washington. Practicing about 10 years; was on Board of Directors of Hispanic Bar Association
  • Ken Gonzales, NM Assistant US Attorney, been in Assistant US Attorney about 10 years;
  • Pres Torres, NM Assistant US Attorney, over 25 years experience or more. Has been supervisor in office
  • Fred Federici, NM Assistant US Attorney, Division Supervisor in office.
  • Roberto Ortega, NM Assistant US Attorney with 15 to 20 years experience
  • Kyle Nayback, Assistant US Attorney in New Mexico about10 years experience, American Indian heritage and husband of ABQ Metro Judge Briana Zamora
Bingaman and Udall both interviewed all 11 applicants the last week of September and have refused to release to the press the short list of names submitted to White House. KRQE-TV has made repeated requests.

WHOSE THE FAVE?

Our senior sources report Ken Gonzales flew to Washington in late December to be interviewed by the Justice Department and he is believed to be the only one to have been interviewed. Also, insiders report the FBI conducted a background check on Gonzales in January and interviewed staffers about Gonzales at the Federal Public Defender's Office as well as some Federal judges.

Informed speculation has Democrat Gonzales as the front runner and current US attorney Greg Fouratt staying on as his First Assistant. Our Legal Beagles report Fouratt has hired over 30 attorneys in the last year. Gonzales does not have significant supervisory experience. Fouratt boasted in a public appearance earlier this month that he knows who the new US Attorney will be and that he and New Mexico will be pleased with the choice.

WHY UNKNOWN GONZALES?


Fouratt has been investigating a wide array of pay-to-play allegations against Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, but he failed to come with indictments in the CDR bond scandal. The current fed probe concerns investments of New Mexico's permanent funds by the State Investment Council and whether there was political pressure involved in making any investments.

Democrats Udall and Bingaman may be favoring an unknown for the US attorney slot because of concern that having a Dem attorney with political ties will give Republicans ammo to accuse them of trying to thwart the federal investigations. But why, if our sources have it right, is only one candidate being interviewed by Justice?

The eventual nominee must be confirmed by the US Senate and go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for questioning. One of the questions they may want to ask, say the Legal Beagles, is how independent would Gonzales be of Fouratt? Will New Mexico truly be getting a new US Attorney or a clone? And if Bingaman and Udall are fearful of the political consequences of moving Fouratt aside, why not just push the Republican for the post?

THE SENATORS SECRETS


The Senators decision that the short list of nominees they sent to the White House culled from the names listed above should be kept private is not standard procedure. Short lists of nominees to become US attorneys for other jurisdictions have been publicly released elsewhere.

The ABQ Journal, usually aggressive in pursuing government secrecy issues, has stayed silent on the US attorney selection, printing no articles on possible candidates or the future direction or conduct of the office under a Democratic leader. The Santa Fe New Mexican has editorialized against the selection of attorney John Pound.

The New Mexico press has been generally friendly to Fouratt, probably because of his aggressive attitude towards government corruption.

But the release of the names of the US attorney candidates is about the public's right to know, not just of a possibly pre-selected final choice, but of all those who were interviewed and to have a chance to weigh in on the matter if they so desire.

TEAGUE TALK


We talked up Congressman Harry Teague Tuesday night in Santa Fe just as the results came in that the Republicans had pulled up that huge US Senate upset in Massachusetts, but the freshman southern NM lawmaker was as cool as a cucumber.

He insisted the race was not a bellwether for what might await him at the hands of GOP challenger Steve Pearce in the conservative leaning district. But that isn't stopping the national R's from terrorizing Teague with the Bay State results. Spokeswoman Joanna Burgos unloaded both barrels:

Harry Teague, who supports the Democrat agenda nearly 89 percent of the time, is misrepresenting his constituents in a district that for years voted for fiscally-conservative Republican representation in Congress and voted for the last three Republican presidential nominees. There is no doubt that Harry Teague woke up in fear today as he realized that, in November, he will pay the price for advancing the Obama-Pelosi big-government, tax-and-spend agenda.”

We joked with Teague, asking whether he will put up a billboard in Hobbs of Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
and himself. He laughed aloud and replied: "No, I won't, but they (the R's) probably will."

POLITICAL SIMPLICITY

Dem Lt. Governor candidate Lawrence Rael, former head of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, bases his campaign in part on his success in getting the Rail Runner commuter train to Santa Fe up and running. Now the Rail Runner is in financial trouble and service may have to be cut. That does not help Lawrence Rael.

REPUBLICAN NOMINATION BATTLE

The rumblings we reported this week among some R's of having GOP Guv candidate and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez switch over and seek the GOP nod for attorney general drew a predictably harsh reaction from Martinez operatives who said no such switch is under consideration. Whatever the case, a switch would have to be made on a tight timetable. The official filing date for statewide candidates is February 9. Hey, maybe Susana should ask Pete Jr. to get out of her way and run for AG?

Meanwhile, NM GOP executive director Ryan Cangliosi checked in to spin the Massachusetts Senate news, saying the Republican victory there makes Dem Diane Denish more vulnerable than previously thought. He won't get much argument there, but what about the R's still having no candidates for attorney general, treasurer, auditor or secretary of state with that February filing deadline looming? No candidates yet, but the ED indicated they are coming.

As for Pete Domenici Jr., he's not going to chase any of his four rivals out of the race or be the favorite at the pre-primary convention in March unless he meets fund-raising expectations. Those expectations go up in the wake of the Dem debacle in Massachusetts. Look for Pete Jr. to be chewing up a lot of cell phone minutes and maybe his famous dad, too.

JOE AND MIKE

We sat down for a wide-ranging five minute interview for the KRQE-TV 4 p.m. news with Mike Powers Wednesday. How the Massachusetts upset plays out here was our focus. Here's the video.

SOME FAME IS GOOD?
George P. Bush
One other R note, Susana Martinez, trying to thwart any early momentum from Domenici, released an endorsement letter of her candidacy Wednesday from attorney George P. Bush, 33, the eldest of the three children of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The attorney said of Martinez:

A prosecutor, she takes on rapists, murderers, and even corrupt public officials. She fights for what’s right and does not back down, even when faced with long odds, or powerful opposition. That character and passion is what will make her a great Governor.

Nice enough, but that news release was followed by an Alligator strike. This particular Gator reminded us that it was just days ago that Susana put out a news release saying Domenici's famous name doesn't mean much when it comes to having substance. What makes the Bush name any different for Martinez, they asked?

WANT SOME "OOMPH?"


Pete Domenici Jr. will do two hours with KKOB-AM radio's Jim Villanucci next Tuesday. Jim says he wants to see some "oomph" from Pete Jr. who gave a rather pedestrian announcement speech Sunday. R's have been debating on the conservative talk station if they can increase their chances of taking the Guv's chair by trying to unite behind one candidate and end the five way primary battle now underway.

NASCAR, COKE AND SCHOLARSHIPS


Here's some sponsor news that will interest you NASCAR fans. The American Indian Graduate Center in ABQ is holding a raffle to award a $5,000 travel package for two to the Memorial Day Nascar-Coca Cola 600 at Concord, North Carolina. Only 2,000 tickets will be sold for $25 each and you can get them here.
The trip includes air, hotel and lunch and dinner with the drivers. Best of all, the raffle makes possible scholarships for American Indian students.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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