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Monday, May 23, 2011

Susana's First PAC Pitch; Red Meat And More, Plus: Bribery Case "Bagman" Begs To Differ; Political Angle Getting Play; Welcome To The Monday Blog 

Governor Martinez is wasting no time in working to convert her brief record into campaign cash to be used to oust her legislative foes. Susana's first pitch for her newly formed PAC contains red meat issues that will sound familiar to anyone who paid even causal attention to this year's legislative session.

(Thanks to those hard working Alligators, we've posted the complete letter here and here.)

And what slice of prime rib gets the most attention in Martinez's missive? You guessed it--her unsuccessful move to repeal the law that gives illegal immigrants the right to get a driver's license. It's mentioned three times in the two page letter. That comes as no surprise. During the legislative session she was already using the issue as a political wedge. She took heat for allowing her political team to make negative phone calls into the districts of legislators who did not support the repeal.

Martinez says the mission of her PAC is clear--to change the face of the Democratic dominated Legislature:

Susana-PAC has a clear mission: Promote the election of state and local candidates committed to the types of reforms that will move New Mexico Forward (and) promote our agenda, such as repealing the law that gives driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, enacting school reforms and lowering taxes to make New Mexico more competitive with our neighbors.


She asks for donations ranging from $1,000 to $25.

Martinez also tries to get potential donors excited by reprising her habitual Hollywood bashing:

We took on the Hollywood lobbyists and trimmed the taxpayer-funded subsidy given to movie-makers.

The Guv begins her pitch with a boast that she balanced the state budget without raising taxes and then comes more red meat:

I eliminated the two personal chef positions at the Governor's residence and cut spending there by 55%. And we are selling the state's luxury jets.

The letter is clearly aimed at her conservative GOP base where recent polling shows her garnering 90 percent approval.

Interestingly, there are no references to cleaning up state corruption, an ongoing theme of the new administration and the one that made her election possible.

The letter condenses Martinez's uncomplicated, formulaic Republican agenda and gives it some emotional power. However, without Big Bill as her foil, her cupboard looks somewhat bare. If the 2012 cycle is fought on the terms outlined in the letter, she could have some success, but if the agenda is focused more on jobs and economic security, the red meat could spoil fast.

HERE COMES THE JUDGE
Edgar Lopez
The bribery scandal that has so titillated the state the past few weeks seems to be getting even more hazy. Alleged bagman Edgar Lopez says the allegation that he passed bribes to former Governor Big Bill who in exchange appointed certain judges is "absurd." Las Cruces District Judge Michael Murphy has been indicted on bribery charges. The prosecutor's report says Murphy and other grand jury witness said that the way to get a judgeship was to give money to Lopez.

Lopez is a 40 year Las Cruces real estate investor. He and his companies donated over $40,000 to Bill's Guv campaigns. But bribes to get judges appointed? If Lopez hasn't flipped, who will testify to a bribery scheme that makes tracks to the Governor's office? Murphy says he's innocent. That leaves other judges and judge wannabes. Are they going to testify that they bribed their way to the bench or tried to? Is there proof of that we haven't seen? Or is the special prosecutor headed down a blind alley?

We're just asking, not judging.

The Las Cruces Sun-News is the first of the major media--other than this blog--to explore the political angle that lurks in the background in the Murphy case. Money quotes from State Dem Chair Javier Gonzales:

"She basically goes to the most politically motivated district attorney in the state and works to get him appointed as a special prosecutor and then they start going after this case. And so, people who shared with me their concerns from the legal community said 'This looks way too calculated....Susana Martinez, for whatever reason, cannot let go of her prosecutor's hat and start governing New Mexico. She's been knee-deep in this process, and I'd say part of the strategy for how this whole process was unveiled."

And we give the Guv's office equal time:

Martinez's office highlighted the fact that the investigation of Judge Murphy was initiated by 3rd Judicial District Court Judge Lisa Schultz, a Democrat. Schultz, after feeling her concerns about comments made by Murphy weren't being addressed by other officials, took the information to Martinez.

"Now, a grand jury has indicted Judge Murphy based on the testimony it heard and a jury will judge the case on its merits," said a Martinez spokesman. "To say this is partisan is a slap in the face to the courage Democratic Judge Lisa Schultz showed in reporting this bribery scheme, as well as to the other current and former Democratic judges who testified under oath in support of Judge Schultz's account."

The political angle to this story is essential. The Sun-News gets kudos for being among the first to cover it.

LEGAL BEAGLE


And in our continuing coverage, we turn to one of our Legal Beagles who casts a critical eye as he analyzes the latest developments:

This has now become an extremely high stakes case for special
prosecutor Matt Chandler and perhaps even Governor Martinez. It sounds like Chandler wants to look at virtually all judges appointed by Richardson--at least in Dona Ana County. At this point Edgar Lopez appears to be the only witness that can make the case for Chandler against Judge Murphy and Richardson.

Lopez has not been charged and there is no indication in the Sunday Journal article that he was given immunity. Lopez no doubt will be a hostile witness for Chandler. If the article is any indication, it is going to be difficult going at best for Chandler.


The separate article (not available on the Journal website) about the Martinez-Lopez connection seemed to imply the Governor (who initiated the case when she was Dona Ana County district attorney) wanted to turn the case over to Chandler because Lopez did not support her politically. If Chandler does not now get a conviction, the case will look politically motivated and he is going to have a hard time practicing law before any judge, especially if he tries to indict other judges.


GOING NATIONAL


Nothing like bribery allegations to get New Mexico national attention. The New York Times takes on the Judge Murphy bribery case. Will special prosecutor Matt Chandler be questioning Big Bill?

Mr. Chandler indicated that Mr. Richardson might be questioned as part of the investigation.

“At this time, the investigation is directed at Mr. Murphy, but I can assure you that law enforcement are following leads involving other suspects,” he said. “No one is off limits to get the truth.”

What about this being a political prosecution, Matt?

“This is not about one party or another,” Mr. Chandler said, pointing out that five of the witnesses are Democrats and the sixth is an independent. “It’s about a judge who put a price tag on a judgeship.”


And Gilbert Gallegos, former spokesman for Dem Guv Bill is brought out of retirement for the occasion. He notes that Gov. Martinez started the probe when she was Dona Ana County District Attorney Martinez and then handed it off to Republican Matt Chandler:

“That speaks volumes about this prosecution,” said Gallegos...


Before it's over, this investigation is going to spill enough newspaper ink to fill up Elephant Butte on Memorial Day Weekend.

THE BOTTOM LINES

ABQ Dem State Senator Linda Lopez is not the chair of the committee appointed to redistrict the ABQ City Council. However, she is a member of that panel. in our first draft a Friday reader post said otherwise. Former ABQ State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is chair of the committee, but redistricting of the city will not take place in time for the Oct. 4 election.


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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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