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Monday, June 10, 2013

A Bunch of Baloney? Records For Louisiana Trip of State Cops Guarding 1st Gentleman Chuck Franco Kept Secret For "Security" Reasons, Plus: The New Odd Couple: Pearce And Grisham, And: ABQ Film Bash Puts Some Buzz Back In The Air 

Susana and Chuck
So the Guv's husband--First Gentleman Chuck Franco--takes a hunting trip to Louisiana in 2011 and has two state police officers with him for security. But the administration says it can't release info on taxpayer money the officers spent on hotels and other expenses. Why? Because it would jeopardize the "security" of the Governor. The state says:

Disclosure of procurement card statements create security risks to the Governor and the Governor’s family...Procurement card statements for the Governor’s security detail identify the officer assigned to protect the Governor and/or her family on specific dates and include transaction-level detail, including the transaction date, vendor name (e.g., hotel or restaurant), and city and state of the transaction...

But earlier, records on gasoline expenditures for the Franco trip identified the security detail. Their names are public record.

The Downs is owned by Paul Blanchard of Albuquerque, Bill Windham of Bossier City, Louisiana,  and John S. Turner of Shreveport, La. They each own a third.

It's natural for the public to be curious about the Franco trip. At the time of the six day journey the state was negotiating a lucrative 25 year racino lease for the ABQ Downs with its Louisiana owners. That lease has turned hyper-controversial with ex-campaign staffers for the Governor saying they have been interviewed about it for the FBI and an attorney for one of them saying the FBI is clearly investigating the deal.

The state says Franco paid his own expenses for what the Governor's office says was a hunting trip. Las Cruces reader Greg Lennes has examined the receipts for the gas stops that were released for the Franco trip. He picks up the trail with Franco's first gas stop in Louisiana:

Chuck Franco had what seems to me a fast-paced and perhaps puzzling vacation in 2011. Chuck Franco's first stop for gas in Louisiana was on Sept. 6 in Natchitoches. Coincidentally, Natchitoches is the headquarters of ABQ Downs owner John S. Turner's Dimension Development Company. That company owns hotels in a number of states, including numerous ones in Louisiana. Franco went from Natchitoches south to Lake Charles on Sept. 7; east to Scott on Sept. 8; east to LaPlace on Sept. 9 ; north to Brookhaven, Mississippi  also on September 9 and west to Tallulah, LA on Sept. 10. He gassed up that morning and headed to Texas and back to New Mexico.

So to clear the air why doesn't Governor Martinez dismiss the claims of "security" and order the release of the officers' hotel and restaurant tab--as well as those of Franco? The payroll records for the officers' trip have already been made public.

How does letting us know where state policemen spent taxpayer cash on hotels and restaurants 900 miles away in Louisiana jeopardize gubernatorial security? Is that a bunch of baloney, or not? Sounds like a question for the NM Foundation for Open Government.

DUBIOUS LOANS?

We get this from a "concerned reader" who raises some questions on another topic the press might want to pursue:

The US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has a loan program called the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Assistance Program. The program provides low interest loans to companies to create jobs. So far so good? The catch is that loan funds will flow from HUD to New Mexico to a specific county and then to private contractors. The arrangement requires the state to pledge future allocations of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in case the loan goes bad. 

The loan program is generally used by other states to develop real estate in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The collateral for such loans consists of the real estate in development. In New Mexico, loans are in the pipeline for some unviable manufacturing projects of high tech products. No bank will touch these loans because the collateral will consist of intellectual property. No other state has pledged their CDBG funds to guarantee loans under these circumstances (not even Arkansas or Mississippi).

What are the odds that these loans will be considered a savvy investment in New Mexico's future? Everything about these loans and cast of characters seems dubious.

SUSANA'S HAUL

One of our Alligators reported Governor Susana raised about $250,000 from her big fund-raiser in DC last week. The official figure puts the number at $220,000, a big haul and one that has the R's talking about Martinez's future national fund-raising role. A number of Hill heavyweights were at the fund-raiser including Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

THE ODD COUPLE

Conservative GOP Congressman Steve Pearce and liberal ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham hanging out together? Look at this:

Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce announced that on Monday, June 10, they will co-host a town hall to discuss Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), care and treatment through the VA, and policy solutions that will help veterans....The town hall will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the American Legion Post 13 in Albuquerque.

Pearce realized that meeting up with his political polar opposite would need some 'splanin for his deeply conservative base. he said: 

I’m pleased to work with my colleague, Congresswoman Lujan Grisham, on the vital issue of improving care for veterans...Regardless of political party, we can all agree that caring for our veterans and keeping our promises to those who have served must be a top priority. I am confident that this forum will produce positive results and new solutions...

Republican Pearce is the only R on the state's five member delegation and there has been strain in his relationship with the Dems. This is a step in the right direction for the DC delegation. They are all going to have to pull together in the years ahead--perhaps like never before--as New Mexicos' massive federal funding is threatened by budget cutting. And it doesn't hurt Steve or Michelle politically with the broader electorate when they are seen working on something together.

THE BUZZ

Lynch & Redford in ABQ (AFME photo)
If there's anything ABQ can use more of these days, it's some buzz. And we got some this weekend thanks to the ABQ Film and Media Experience at Nob Hill (AFME).

Besides showing a number of quality films and documentaries, AFME brought in actor, director, philanthropist and Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford. He was at the Hiland Theatre Friday night where he sat for a conversation about his life in film with Robert Lynch, CEO for Americans for the Arts.

Redford has a long association with New Mexico, having shot movies here (The Milagro Beanfield War" and donating generously to locals his time and talents. He also once teamed with ex-Governor Richardson to promote film making here--not without a dollop of controversy.

The city film industry slowed when state incentives were cut. We seem to be getting some of it back--or at least some of the buzz that goes with it thanks to AFME and Redford.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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