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Monday, June 03, 2013

Fires On Two Fronts For Martinez: Tres Lagunas And The Downs Blaze Burn in Her Backyard; Our Complete Coverage, Plus: There's An Election In The Metro Tomorrow; What's Up With That?  

Andrea Goff
Gov. Martinez
Governor Martinez wasn't faced with only one fire this weekend. As she traveled to the Tres Lagunas Fire near Pecos, a political inferno was breaking out in her own backyard. Andrea Goff, her former campaign finance director, contradicted the Governor's political team and a major TV station on exactly what the FBI has been investigating within her administration.

The Governor's team has been nearly frantic in their insistence that the FBI has confined its investigation of the administration to the hacking of Martinez's campaign email account for which ex-campaign aide Jamie Estrada was indicted for last week. But some of those hacked emails that were made public reinforced the possibility of bid-rigging last year for the lucrative 25 year ABQ Downs racino lease awarded by the administration.

Martinez allies went ballistic on the Santa Fe Reporter (SFR) in social media when the SFR came with a story that said unnamed sources confirmed that the FBI had been asking ex-Martinez campaign staffers about the racino. They also launched missiles at this blogger for writing that the SFR report deserved to be taken seriously. KRQE-TV news aired a report saying SFR was inaccurate and that their sources said no one anywhere was being asked any questions about the Downs deal by the FBI.

So it sent political shrapnel flying Saturday when Goff, a longtime GOP fund-raiser, came forward and said because of "the misinformation" going around she was coming forward to confirm that she was questioned by the FBI not only about the Downs racino wheeling and dealing but other "various activities." She emphasized that in this particular FBI interview conducted some three weeks ago, she was not asked about the hacked emails and the Estrada case. It was a clear message to the Governor and the media they have worked so hard to contain.

(Goff's complete statement is here and below on a special Saturday blog edition).

Goff emphasized her former role in the Martinez inner circle by noting in her statement that not only was she a former finance director for Martinez, but also had served as finance director for the Guv's political action committee known as SusanaPAC as well as executive director of the Governor's 2010 inaugural committee. SusanaPAC is run by Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey who critics have dubbed the "Shadow Governor."

Goff raised money for SusanaPAC. Her father-in-law, Buster Goff, was appointed to the state fair commission by Governor Martinez where he took part in the racino lease deal. And so the plot thickens.

MARTINEZ ON GOFF

A somewhat nervous looking Governor reacted to the dropping of the shoe by Goff in a Saturday interview with KOB-TV while at the Tres Lagunas Fire:

I don't know exactly what the FBI told her. I will tell you that the FBI is not forthcoming in reference to whether or not they're investigating the emails. It is our understanding there is no Downs investigation whatsoever. 

The Governor also said "to her knowledge" no one in her administration has been interviewed by the FBI. "To my knowledge" is the all-purpose cover your ass phrase that the Governor, a former district attorney, was wise to use. She also did not take any personal shots at the credibility of Goff--another wise choice.

So who has given the Governor her "understanding" that there is no Downs investigation "whatsoever?" Was her source friendly Republican attorneys in the US Attorney's office who went after ex-Guv Big Bill tooth and nail but were unable to pin a rap on him?

And why have even a hint of defensiveness about any investigation?  Why not just say everything was above board and you welcome any scrutiny of the deal? Isn't that the smart thing to do? A Senior Alligator--no fan of the Guv or her team--gave us this reasoning:

The general public is only a secondary audience for the Governor and her operatives when it comes to their Downs strategy. This is still largely insider baseball. The real audience is close supporters and those involved with any possible illegality or bid-rigging at The Downs. The aim is to reassure them that they won't be indicted or charged. The message is simple: "You have nothing to fear. Neither the FBI, the US Attorney or the news media is looking at the Downs deal because we won't let them. We'll threaten and intimidate any dissenting news outlets, shift the focus to the smokescreen of "E-mailgate" (which exposed the Martinez administration conducting a virtual shadow government via private e-mail), and discredit and marginalize any potential Downs whistle blowers. Keep the faith and keep your mouths shut. Or you're next..."

On the other hand,  maybe the FBI is just mildly curious about the Downs shenanigans and threw a few softball questions at Goff, one of the several "unnamed sources" cited by the SFR when they busted open the story that the FBI was poking around not only about the email hacking, but the Downs dealing. Maybe a mountain is being made out of a molehill? We'll see.

KRQE: TO THE BUNKER

Mountain or molehill, a news story is a news story and getting it right is job one and correcting it when you are wrong is job two. But rather than owning up to a clear error in its reporting, ABQ's KRQE-TV went further into a journalistic no man's land Sunday.

They dug into the bunker, refusing to correct the erroneous report they ran last Wednesday that said: "All those (FBI) interviews are connected only to the email investigation" and they came with even more wayward and awkward reporting.

Whether there is a serious investigation going on or not is open to question, but Goff clearly contradicts KRQE's sources. She says on the advice of her attorney and FBI she will not answer specific questions about the interview. Is KRQE saying both Goff and her attorney are lying and making up the contents of her FBI interview? Are they aware that her attorney is a a former FBI agent practicing with a major law firm in Dallas with strong GOP ties? (More on that later.)

And the double-down from KRQE on their sources:

Despite Goff’s statement, sources tell KRQE News 13 the FBI has been investigating the theft of the emails and not the Downs deal.

But who are those unnamed sources? Andrea Goff is now a public source. She is on the record. She can be scrutinized. KRQE's sources remain anonymous. And what about KRQE's assertion from their sources that absolutely no questions about topics other than the email hacking case were asked of people being interviewed by the FBI recently? It's like KRQE never said it. But they did.
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Also, in the first line of a report on this story on their KRQE refers to Goff as a woman who "claims" she was a member of Governor Martinez's campaign..." Say what? "Claims?"

Goff has been around Republican fund-raising circles for years. Did we say she is the lead fundraiser for Congressman Steve Pearce? Now Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey tells KRQE she was only a "consultant for Martinez" not finance director. We will get to the bottom of that, but even if she served as a consultant, is not that a member of the campaign? The station infers that Goff is some kind of foreign presence in state politics. Jay could not have written it better himself. By the way, the SFR reports "consulting payments" made to McCleskey were another subject of the FBI questions for the sources for their report.

Late Monday KRQE corrected errors in its Sunday 5:30 broadcast, dropping the word "claims" and also reporting that Goff was indeed Martinez's finance director, not a "consultant." They did not retract or apologize for saying the Santa Fe Reporter was inaccurate in its sourcing even though Goff has shed her anonymity to confirm that report.

CAUSE FOR SUSPICION

Was KRQE on Sunday taking a cheap shot at Goff to discredit her because she proved that KRQE was wrong when it said its sources told them no one called in to talk with the FBI recently had been asked questions other than on the email hacking and not the Downs?

We regret to say that there is more than ample cause for that suspicion. We reported on the Friday blog (see below) on the extremely close ties the KRQE-TV news department has to the Martinez administration and to Darren White, the VP for Corporate Affairs at the Downs who is a former KRQE-TV news reporter who doubles as a political attack dog for Guv political adviser McCleskey.

KRQE did not have to go after the SFR. They could have simply reported their sources said the investigation of the FBI was confined to the email hacking. But they went out of their way to attack the paper. Does anyone think its genesis was inside the newsroom and not with the Governor's allies?

KRQE got burned because Jay and company believed that none of the anonymous sources would come forward. They could tell the station what ever they wanted. But when Goff came forward, they and KRQE were busted. The intimidation of the media that has been a major uncovered behind-the-scenes story of this administration was broken. And now the Governor has to worry about the rats getting scared and jumping off the good ship Downs.

KRQE General Manager William Anderson refused to apologize to the SFR for its broadcast that said the paper was "inaccurate" when it said its sources said the FBI was asking questions about the Downs deal. Maybe that was defensible on the basis of what Anderson knew at that time but the refusal to report the truth now that Goff has come out is journalistic and management malpractice. Goff "claims" to have worked with Martinez? That's "journalism?" Really?

LIN Media owns KRQE and dozens of other media properties. We are not reporting fantasy here. Can corporate please take a look?

WHERE ARE YOU, DICK?

How could this happen at a CBS affiliated station with Dick Knipfing at the anchor desk? He has a fifty year presence in the ABQ TV market. Former Democratic ABQ Mayor Jim Baca worked with Knipfing as a news reporter and anchor at KOAT-TV decades ago. He says Dick was always the first guy in the room to urge a correction when the station made an error. What happened to that Dick Knipfing? (And Larry Barker?)  It's a damn shame, but if there were an FBI for the news media, investigating the incestuous relationships KRQE has with the Martinez administration would be the first job on its list. And there's more to come on that....

And who is so viciously attacking the SFR and this blog? How about the likes of ousted and disgraced GOP state Rep. Dan Foley (thanks in large part to Roswell oil man Mark Murphy), former GOP state Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair, McCleskey water boy Adam Feldman, McCleskey himself and the ubiquitous Darren White--all political operatives or former politicians who have an axe to grind and paychecks dependent on Martinez to protect. (And what is Adam Feldman doing picking a fight in NM when he is out in Kentucky and supposed to be working on the campaign of GOP Senator McConnell? Does the Senator want  in on this fight?)

We have not hesitated to call out this gang--for ten long years. That's our job. We are gratified that the citizens of New Mexico have seen it our way and have rejected the political ambitions of Foley, Adair and White.

But Andrea Goff has shown the real guts. She has bravely shed her veil of anonymity and is now willing to defend herself against the inevitable hit squad and their conflict-ridden, sycophantic media allies.

LAWYERING UP

Terence Hart
Readers were quick to note the high-powered attorney Goff hired. He's Terence Hart, a former FBI agent and former assistant US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Most telling, he's a partner in the Dallas office of the international law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani. Yes, that Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of NYC who is etched in history's memory for his stewardship after 9/11. A reader comes with these thoughts:

Perhaps Goff determined she was in need of the very best of the best in the big leagues—guys with no New Mexico embroilments or baggage, but whose hourly billing rates are likely double those of the local guys. Ms. Goff has gone directly to top of the big leagues in obtaining legal counsel.

The SFR said its unnamed sources were afraid to come forward for "fear of retaliation." That's a reasonable fear when dealing with Governor Martinez's political bulldogs. But with a high-powered defense attorney and working under the protective wing of Congressman Pearce, Goff--as they might say in the Godfather"--"will be hard to get to."

UDALL AND MARTINEZ

The Sunday Journal carried a front page photo of Governor Martinez with Dem US Senator Tom Udall standing behind her as the politicos reported on the Tres Lagunas fire. It reminds us that the new US Attorney-to-be is Damon Martinez--at one time he was legislative director for Udall. It will be determined on his watch on how serious the Downs investigation is or gets. We're sure Senator Udall takes no pleasure in the political pain this uncertainty is causing the Governor. Nope, none at all....

FOOTNOTES

In our Saturday blog we said that the father of Andrea Goff is state fair commissioner Buster Goff. He is her father-in-law....And a reader tells us Darren White is now VP for Corporate Affairs at the Downs of ABQ, not the general manager as we have recently referred to him....A friend of former Bernalillo County treasurer Pat Padilla points out that we mentioned him Friday as a possible candidate for state auditor. That can't be as Pat has already announced he will seek the Dem nomination for state treasurer next year...

A JUNE ELECTION

As we turn the calender to June that ABQ October mayoral election is starting to come into focus. but before that we have an election right under our noses...

It's time once again for that below-the-radar event knows as the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District election. But with New Mexico's long drought front and center, this esoteric election that will be held tomorrow (election info here) should probably be drawing more attention.

Four seats are up for election on the seven member board--two in Bernalillo County, one in Sandoval and one in Socorro. Here's a rundown on the Bernalillo County action from one of our readers closely watching the action:

Incumbent Karen Dunning is being challenged by former MRGCD member Jim Roberts. Incumbent Adrian Oglesby is being challenged by Louis Trujillo (and Andrew Leo Lopez, whose name will be on the ballot, but who just passed away).

Dunning, a Democrat and Oglesby, an independent, are running as a slate. Their web site is Protect the Valley. Republican Roberts and Democrat Trujillo are also running as a slate: Their web site is Keep the Valley Green.

Given the prolonged drought we're experiencing, this election should be receiving top notice. Now more than ever we need ethical and responsible elected officials managing our water.

Thanks for that. And here's some more. Republican leader Allen Weh has this endorsement of Roberts. Former Dem State Senator Dede Feldman comes with backing for Dunning and Oglesby. Here's newspaper coverage of all the Bernalillo and Sandoval county candidates.

Reader Raymond Madison of Mesilla, NM and others have asked us to provide more coverage of the state's drought and water shortages. To that end, here is a link to the NM Water Dialogue where they discuss water problems and solutions.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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