Monday, December 23, 2013

What Was The Biggest Political Story Of 2013? Plus: More Fallout From National Journal Piece, And: Merry Christmas, New Mexico! 

Go ahead. Ask us what the big political story of 2013 was. Okay, thanks for asking.

To our way of thinking the big story--the one that will be remembered 10 years from now and will have the most impact on the state--came just as 2013 began. It was Governor Martinez's decision not to fight Obamacare and agree to a federally-financed expansion of the state Medicaid program. Why was that the political story with the most impact? Take a look:

New Mexico's Medicaid expansion would add 208,000 people to the program, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The report projects New Mexico would spend $268 million on Medicaid through 2022, and the federal government would send $4.9 billion to the state.. . . Under the health care reform law, the federal government will shoulder the cost of expanding Medicaid from 2014 through 2016, after which federal funding will gradually diminish to 90 percent in 2022.

The Medicaid expansion will kick in as federal funding for New Mexico's military and energy complex is flat-lining or going down. The additional health care jobs are going to make for healthier bodies and a healthier economy. And that's the year's top political story.


More fallout from that politically explosive exposé from the National Journal on Governor Martinez's chief political adviser Jay McCleskey.

The author of the 5,400 word missive--NM native Daniel Libit--interviewed with Gene Grant on KNME-TV's "In Focus" program Friday evening. He said following publication of the article former Governor Martinez fund-raiser Andrea Goff told him she had again been contacted by the FBI.

Libit did not say if Goff told him what the FBI had contacted her about but in describing a previous contact with the FBI's political corruption unit, Goff said it dealt with various Martinez campaign accounts as well as the  controversial 25 year racino lease awarded to the Downs at ABQ. The lease has been surrounded by allegations of bid-rigging.

It may have been this passage from the National Journal article that again piqued the interest of federal authorities:

. . . The State Fair Commission was scheduled to vote on (The Downs lease). . .  and the administration expected it to pass, insiders say. But at the eleventh hour, several commissioners balked, complaining that the process seemed rushed and weighted. One of the four holdouts was Buster Goff, Andrea's father-in-law.

The next morning, Andrea Goff received a text message from McCleskey: "Buster screwed us.... He was supposed to pass it." Over a series of texts, McCleskey tries to convince Goff why her father-in-law should have awarded the deal to the Downs.. . . Andrea Goff said it was clear from the conversation what McCleskey wanted: She should convince Buster to fall in line. Here, as she saw it, was a political operative involving himself in state business, trying to influence the vote by cajoling his employee. She says the experience left her frightened. Dutifully, she brought up the vote with Buster, but she says she opted not to try to sway him. McCleskey declined to comment for the record about the exchange.

After a few more weeks of haggling, the commission finally voted 4-3 to pass the proposal and give the lease to the Downs; Buster Goff cast the decisive "yea" after he had more time to understand the deal, he says. "I just needed more clarification on what was happening and what the deal was," he adds. 

The treatment of the National Journal piece in the New Mexico mainstream media is either skittish or disinterested. Take your pick. So far, KNME is the only TV news outlet to tackle the story.

Previously, KRQE-TV news insisted that their sources told them the FBI was not investigating the Downs lease, but that has now twice been contradicted by Goff as well as another former campaign staffer and her attorney who say the FBI asked her questions about the Downs lease. The ABQ Journal acknowledged in a news story that there was indeed a federal investigation, although it had not advanced to the point of issuing subpoenas.


Here's what we blogged here on December 23, 2005 and we think it still holds true today:

One of the enduring ironies of New Mexico is that it has one of the biggest savings accounts in the nation (the huge Permanent Funds)...Yet, we remain mired in social and economic purgatory. Somehow New Mexico must summon the will and get at the root causes that have held us back. Our Governor and Legislature may have to gamble on jobs and education programs and other concepts that might fail and cause them some political hurt in the short run. But don't the recent riches bestowed upon our state come with an obligation to do more that just construct buildings?

Political leaders are fond of adopting slogans for the new year. How about this: "The Year of Opportunity." Wouldn't it be something if the NM history books of 2050 said 2006 was the last year we ranked last?


From the city of ABQ's transit department:

Although he retired in 2000 after 27 years as a bus driver, Charlie Maes still loves to come to the Albuquerque Convention Center every Christmas Eve and jump on two of the Luminaria Tours. And he continues a tradition that has made him famous among tour goers for his jokes, patter and Christmas carol singing.

“I actually wasn’t scheduled to drive the Luminaria Tour during my first year (1973); I was an extra board driver,” said Charlie. “But the scheduled driver called in sick, so I took his place. And I’ve been on the tour ever since, even after retirement."

“After identifying the out-of-towners, I always start the tour by giving some history of the area,” said Charlie. “Some” includes everything from New Mexico’s Native American tribes to the state flower and bird, Luminaria Tour history, even a mention about the Unser family and how many Indianapolis 500’s they have collectively won.

His routine is even site-specific. Between Old Town and Los Altos neighborhoods, he recites poems and tells jokes. On the way from the Los Altos neighborhood back to Downtown, he leads tour goers in carols of his own design with names like “Jingle Bus.” 

“I hope to keep doing it as long as I’m healthy,” said Charlie. “As long as I can still sing and as long as I can still talk…”


Here's my annual Christmas card for your enjoyment.  Along with you, we'll be taking a break for the holidays so blogging will be light for the next week or two.

Thanks for your continued support. Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

Merry Christmas, New Mexico!

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