Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another Shoe Drops In Emailgate: GOP Power Player Rogers & The Downs Deal; Private Emails On State Racino Sent To Top Guv Aide, Plus: Susana's Rancher Revolt; GOP Candidate Tells Her Goodbye 

Pat Rogers
The wheels that carry the administration of Governor Susana Martinez may not be falling off, but they are looking increasingly wobbly. Another shoe is dropping in the email scandal and a well-known Republican name is openly bolting from Martinez and her chief political advisor Jay McCleskey. First the new email.....

A fresh string of emails sent to a private account of Martinez deputy chief of staff Ryan Cangiolosi reveal wheeling and dealing by longtime lawyer/lobbyist and GOP National Committeeman Pat Rogers. Most seriously, the emails raise the question of whether the controversial 25 year racino lease approved for the Downs at ABQ will now be subjected to a legal challenge.

That Rogers, a veteran GOP power player serving as attorney for the Downs, was communicating with Cangiolosi via private email about the status of the racino deal raises the specter of bid rigging and collusion. Rogers may call it providing updates on the process as the State Fair Commission considered the deal, but the union-funded Independent Source PAC, which revealed the back channel emails, one of whch Rogers also sent to McCleskey, has asked to the state attorney general FBI for an investigation. The three emails released can be viewed here.

This is not Rogers' first run-in with email controversy. He was at the center of the US Attorney scandal earlier this decade that had him and other top R's trying to oust fellow Republican David Iglesias as US Attorney here. Iglesias was indeed fired and a scandal ensued over whether it was an abuse of power.

Two state lawmakers have requested that Attorney General King investigate the private emailing. King has not announced if he will do so. Insiders say there have been some preliminary moves toward an investigation, but nothing formal. NM Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales pounced:

..The Governor's top deputy Ryan Cangiolosi and her right-hand man Jay McCleskey were in consistent contact with the lawyer and lobbyist for the company, manipulating the bid process in favor of her benefactors. That's the definition of Pay-to-Play, and now that's it is more than rumor, more than hints of corruption, it's time for Law Enforcement officials to step in. We have every confidence that the Attorney General is already taking a hard look at this, and we hope he will consider all avenues - including the appointment of a special prosecutor - to get to the bottom of this newest evidence about the Downs deal so the people of New Mexico know the truth...

We will carry the comments of Rogers and Cangiolosi when they come in.

Laguna Development Corporation was competing with the Downs for the racino deal,  but were rebuffed. They contemplated legal action at the time, concerned that the contrct was wired from inside the Martinez administration. Now they have these emails in which ISPAC says: "Rogers appears to be providing legal advice to the state on how to run state fair commission meetings, while also developing a plan to retaliate against Commissioner Charlotte Rode.."

Rode, a Republican, raised early questions about the Downs deal and came out in opposition. The 25 year old lease was approved on a 4 to 3 vote by the fair commission and eventually approved by the state Board of Finance which numbers Governor Martinez among its members.

Rogers labeled the subject of his email about Rode "Dragon Lady" and called her "a shill of the Maloofs." That's a reference to the Maloof family of business fame who have cut their ties with New Mexico so the reference to them is enigmatic. As far as calling Rode a "Dragon Lady," it is the kind of personal reference that has been a marker of Jay and the gang throughout their political lives.

Martinez was a recipient of $70,000 donations from the owners of the Downs and people connected to the facility. The Downs owners were also major donors to Diane Denish, the Dem candidate for governor who lost to Martinez.  Part-owner Paul Blanchard was also a major player in the Democratic Big Bill administration. This tine around in addition to hiring Rogers as their attorney Blanchard and the Downs have hired former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, first as a security consultant and now as a construction manager for the Downs. White is a close friend of McCleskey's. Also, we blogged this week of former GOP ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer joining Expo NM (the old state fair). Her daughter, Monica Jacobson, is secretary of the state tourism department. Dan Mourning, the manager of Expo, is a close friend of White's and the former owner of the now defunct Capo's restaurant in downtown ABQ.

Developer Chuck Gara, a member of the evaluation committee that recommended the Downs lease, hired McCleskey in 2003 to work against several ABQ city council candidates. Here is our October 3, 2003 blog dealing with that. All three candidates Jay and Gara targeted won their races.

At the time critics dubbed the dealing over the Downs "The Down and Dirty Downs Deal." These emails from Rogers only buttress that notion, while confirming another open secret in the state political community--that Pat Rogers is part of the shadow government that has has taken hold in Santa Fe with McCleskey at its helm.

To be continued....

Aubrey Dunn, Jr.
Meanwhile, the meddling of Martinez and McCleskey in the June 5th primary  is continuing to have negative repurcussions. Once again it is not a big city R from Albuquerque taking on the Guv and Jay but a good 'ol boy rancher who says he's had enough.

Lincoln County rancher Aubrey Dunn, Jr, is demanding that he be refunded over $5,000 in donations he earlier made to Susana's 2010 Guv campaign (full letter here). He has a pretty good reason. A PAC run by Jay--Reform NM Now--and funded mainly by big oil money--sent out a mailer in support of Dem State Senator Phil Griego. He had a stiff primary challenge from a more liberal challenger. That's the reason McCleskey gave for the unusual interference in a Democratic primary  But Dunn, a Lincoln County rancher, is the GOP nominee for the Griego seat and is denouncing Martinez for allowing her operatives to back a Democrat.

Imagine Dunn's surprise when he opened his mailbox recently and fund a letter from Susana asking him for campaign money for her Susana PAC. Here's how that played out:

Dunn said he decided to criticize Martinez publicly because she recently wrote to him seeking money for her Susana Political Action Committee, so it could support Republican candidates.

"Your letter is disingenuous at best after your PAC, Reform New Mexico Now, funded by Big Oil out of Artesia, placed positive ads for my Democrat opponent, Phil Griego," Dunn wrote in a letter to the governor.

It's a rancher revolt against Susana. First it was Clovis area rancher Pat Woods--who McCleskey opposed for a GOP state senate nomination and lost---and now rancher Dunn pushing back. Their big city brethren still seemed "cowed" by Susana and Jay.

Emailgate and the Woods and Dunn revolt are loud alarm bells for this Governor whose nighttime lullaby is composed of sweet polling numbers and a largely protective press. But the bells warn that what she considers command and control is actually chaos. Does she have the strength of character to take the reins from the shadow government? Does she want to?

By the way, Griego is favored for re-election in the sprawling Dem leaning district that he has represented since 1996


The email scandal continues to draw incisive reader comment. Here's one:

Susana set the bar high by saying she was going to be better than the previous administration.     Therefore, any defense grounded on "they did it too" fails by her own standard. Finally, in a country founded on Judeo Christian ethics the best defense will always be, "I am sorry and I will not do it again".

And reader Steve Crespin comes with this:

Joe, The governor needs to stop making excuses  for the email mess and just admit she and her staff attempted to hide something from the public and then tried to do a cover up. Another thing the governor needs to do is to hold her her staff to the same standards she is holding the state employees to. State employees are being harshly disciplined for far less things then this,  some have lost their careers. The governor has a huge double standard, it's do as I say not as I do.


There's a new man in charge at the University of New Mexico, but already questions are being raised about how bold Robert Frank will be as UNM's new president.

 A recent interview he conducted about the controversial athletic department did not send any signals that he wanted to clean house or otherwise restructure a department that has been mired in seemingly ceaseless imbroglios. Excerpts:

DL: The Athletics department is $1.5 million in debt  and students will pay an additional $50 in student fees to fund  Athletics next year. How will you ensure that student fees won’t  continue to increase so drastically for any department?

RF:I will work with the regents and all parts of the University community as we move through the budget process this year.

Maybe Frank is on a learning curve, having only taken the reins June 1, but he leaves the impression  that we are in for a status quo presidency. Not what the doctor ordered after the politicization of the school under former Prez Schmidly and the aforementioned implosion of the athletic department under the stewardship of Paul Krebs. 


A reader writes:

Public figures attract all manner of yes men, toadies, and sycophants. Sometimes the best friend a public figure can have is the one who walks them into the woodshed and gives them a good ass kicking.


We like to do an occasional restaurant review and so do a number of our readers. Here's David Nava:

Hi Joe, This is one worth checking out--Los Equipales. Mexican fish dishes are the specialty. Very fresh, very well done. Large shrimp cocktail was HUGE, ceviche very nice. Wine list is perfectly paired with their menu. Service is excellent. Prices are reasonable. They don't try to be the 500th New Mexican restaurant in town. (What a relief.) They are in a slightly odd place, but not that hard to find with an entrance off Silver SE.  4500 Silver Ave SE Albuquerque. Off Washington, by Highland High School.

And John Alejandro, Jr. answers the lament of a fellow DC blog reader when it comes to missing the hometown specialty:

Joe, You can tell Ned Farquhar that I have a stash of Chimayo red and Hatch green chile at my home north of Georgetown. I've been in DC going on 14 years and have learned to hoard my annual supply, but I'll be nice and share if he needs a chile fix! Cheers, John....

Well, we're sure Ned appreciates that offer, John. So much so that we're sure he'll offer to roll the enchiladas.....

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