Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Newspaper Reports FBI Back On Downs Racino Lease Deal; It's A Dangerous Story For The Guv, Plus: Death Claims Longtime ABQ Politico Andrew Leo Lopez 

A high impact story from the Santa Fe Reporter (where's the ABQ Journal?) brings back into play the question of bid-rigging for the lease at the Downs at ABQ racino. The paper says the FBI has asked former campaign staffers about consulting payments received by powerful Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently interviewed former campaign staffers for...Martinez about a lucrative racino lease awarded to a politically connected company, SFR has learned. The possible investigation—which the FBI will neither confirm nor deny—marks a significant development in what has become one of the Martinez administration’s biggest controversies.

SFR’s sources, who request anonymity because they fear retribution, say the FBI interviewed them about key aspects of the Downs deal: the bidding process, and the relationships between Downs players and top public officials. Specifically, they say the federal agency asked about consulting payments to Jay McCleskey, Martinez’ top political advisor (who is not a state employee). An attorney for one of the campaign staffers interviewed by the FBI confirms the interview occurred within the past two weeks.

Longtime McCleskey political ally and former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White was named general manager of the Downs when the new company took over. That raised eyebrows because White had no racino experience.

McCleskey would not comment "for the record," leaving the impression that something was afoot. But Adam Feldman, a business and political associate of McCleskey's, took to Twitter soon after the news broke last night and tried to impugn the credibility of the newspaper's report. He said in a Tweet that was repeated by Darren White:

Unnamed fired campaign staff with lawyers and (who are) targets of federal email probe are not credible sources.

Well, if the Santa Fe paper's sources are faulty, as Feldman says, shouldn't the state's investigative reporters start taking their own independent look at the story?

This has always been a dangerous story for the Governor because she was elected on a pledge of high ethics and accused the Richardson administration of being an ethical hell hole. If the Downs deal is found to be down and dirty and people in her administration start to fall, her credibility becomes more precarious.

In an earlier draft of this story we said the newspaper said McCleskey had been interviewed by the FBI. The article did not say that. We apologize for the error.


About that bribery case against a Las Cruces judge that crashed and burned on special prosecutor and possible 2014 GOP attorney general candidate Matt Chandler. The case was also bought into by a frenzied media and gets this final  analysis from the accused judge's attorney:

What is disturbing about the Murphy case is not that politics mixed with judicial selection but that politics interfered with criminal justice. The judiciary and the political system, both imperfect institutions, were, in this instance, wrongly tainted. Legitimate political activity was twisted to appear criminal, conspiracy theories were suggested, nonsensical legal theories were posed and exculpatory information was not presented. The public was misled about the scope and seriousness of the case. Bill Richardson had practically nothing to do with the case. He was not even interviewed. Yet his name was left to provide political star power to an otherwise lackluster and politically meaningless case.

It was alleged during the course of the case that ex-Guv Richardson received envelopes of cash in exchange for naming judges, but Chandler walked away from the case with Murphy copping only to a misdemeanor charge. 


Will someone call the Mayor and ask him to ban the use of this word: "Burqueños" What is that, anyway? Sounds like a bunch of gang-bangers. While he's at it, can he also ban "Burque," the underground nickname for ABQ out of the area lexicon? Another nickname so ugly it makes you wretch. Thankfully, the use of these phrases seems confined to a small portion of the SE Heights where leftover psychedelic drugs from the 60's are still being consumed....


Andrew Leo Lopez liked to put mayonnaise on his chicharrones. It was quite the sight to see, but then it was always an event of some sort when you met up with the ABQ South Valley political gadfly, perennial candidate and amateur New Mexican historian. Lopez, 65, was found dead at his home Tuesday, apparently of natural causes.

At the time of his passing he was a candidate yet again--this time for a seat on the board of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. That election is June 4.

Shortly after we began this blog in 2003, Andrew was one of the first to start contributing his colorful take on state politics. When we nicknamed our informed sources "Alligators" he readily adopted the title. And when we expanded the category to include "Senior Alligators"--those over 45 years old and with at least 20 years experience in NM politics--he insisted that he be the first one--and not be anonymous.

Over the years he helped us break innumerable stories. His accuracy rate rivaled The AP's.

He was a certified public account and and a graduate of Stanford University, but more than anything he wanted to be elected to public office.  But electoral success always eluded him, probably because he would not mince his words about anything or anyone. He made a lot of friends but also many foes.

"He had a personality that could rub some the wrong way but once you got past that you discovered the wealth of knowledge he possessed about New Mexico," remarked ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Lopez was working part-time at Sanchez's tax business at the time of his death.

Andrew called himself a Democrat, but at heart he was a conservative. (His brother Rick Lopez is prominent in GOP circles). At our last lunch at the Barelas Coffee House he continued to lobby on behalf of Governor Martinez, who he was especially proud of for becoming the state's first Hispanic female governor.

Andrew Leo Lopez was a northern New Mexico native who made every politico's business his own. He left in his wake controversy, amusement and an unabashed love for the people of New Mexico. He was a true character of La Politica.

Hasta luego, Amigo.

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