Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dem Party Chair Bregman Surfaces In ABQ Police Shooting Case And Raises Plenty Of Political Questions, Plus: Martinez Talks State Dollars, And: An Old Champ Is Back Atop Radio Pile 

Sam Bregman (Journal)
New Mexico Democrats may have found themselves confused in the wake of the announcement that Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has filed murder charges against the two APD officers who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd.

What in the name of Sam Hill was attorney and NM Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman doing by becoming a defense attorney for one of the accused cops? After all it is the Republican administration of Mayor Richard Berry that has the police shooting albatross around its neck. Now critical Dems charge that top Dem Bregman will be vigorously defending the officers and inadvertently helping to bail out Berry and his troubled APD.

The numerous fatal police shootings since 2010 have roused many in the Dem Party base, with the shocking Boyd shooting especially galvanizing students, Hispanics and liberals. But if you listened to Sam you would never know it. He went as far as to say Brandenburg's decision to file the murder charges was "disgusting."

Well, that's a sample of Sam's famous bombast and language of his lawyerly duties. Never mind that his performance as chairman of the state Dems often elicits the same adjective.

Veteran political analyst and consultant Greg Payne comes with this take on the bizarre optics of the Democrats and the police shootings:

NM Democrats cannot get their collective acts together. The rash of APD shootings occurred under a Republican mayor (Berry), a Republican chief administrative officer (Rob Perry) and, for a while, a Republican chief public safety officer (Darren White). The murder charges and excessive force findings of the DOJ should be a political nightmare for the GOP. They're not. Somehow, this has become a political minefield for Democrats.

The Democratic District Attorney brought the murder charges against officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, but lined up against her is none other than current state Democratic Chairman Sam Bregman, who represents Sandy, and attorney Luis Robles, who represents Perez and is with the same law firm as former Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon.

Topping it off, Hector Balderas (the new Attorney General) will have to decide at some point if he will pursue bribery charges against fellow Democrat Brandenburg; charges which were made against the DA by the police department run by R.J. Berry and Rob Perry.

Interesting take, Greg. Do you suppose when Mayor Berry runs for Governor he'll use Sam as a character witness for how he ran APD? Can it get any crazier?

As for Brandenburg, in announcing her decision on the Boyd case, she put on her second solid news conference of the past two months. The first dealt with APD's accusations that she bribed witnesses involved in criminal cases against her son.

As you might suspect, the national media isn't much interested in that, but are very much interested in two police officers being charged with murder as we see in this NYT piece.

Brandenburg's charges will be assessed by a district court judge at a preliminary hearing. That judge will decide if the case goes to trial.

(Video of the Bregman and Brandenburg news conferences is here.)


As is her custom, Governor Martinez unveiled a state budget Monday that largely mimics the one presented last week by the Legislative Finance Committee. Martinez also calls for spending $6.3 billion for the budget year that begins July 1st. And like the LFC she assumes there will be $141 million in "new money" to fund it. However that new cash is going to take a mighty hit from the crash in oil prices. Energy royalties and taxes fund nearly 20 percent of the budget. Martinez asserts that growth in gross receipts and corporate tax collections will make up for some of that, but she isn't saying how much.

(Martinez's budget news release is here.)

Considering that for each dollar drop in the price of oil the budget takes a $7.5 million hit, Martinez's optimism seems fanciful. Oil dived yet again as she was announcing her budget in Las Cruces amid the now ubiquitous (and annoying?) stage setting of her with a group of school children. A barrel of the black gold is now in the $47 range--$19 below where the LFC is projecting.

It seems both Martinez and to a lesser extent the LFC are playing kick the can. Major brokerage firms are now predicting that for 2015 the price of oil will be way down from the $66 that Martinez and the LFC predict. Goldman Sachs is now predicting West Texas crude will average a price of only $47 a barrel for 2015. It predicts an uptick to the 60's in 2016.

One suspects that by the end of the 60 day legislative session in March the lawmakers will be looking at their optimistic budget with a good deal of skepticism. Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith is already saying the "new money" will not materialize. The kick the can game can be played for a month or two, but the old can is going to be too big for anyone to kick when the winter turns to spring.


Republicans had plenty of good election results to celebrate in November and it turns out their favorite radio station also has reason to join the celebration.

Conservative radio talker KKOB-AM has been getting slammed so hard in the ratings that last year it lost its long-held position as ABQ's most listened to station. But election talk apparently gave the home of Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh a reprieve. It bounced back to the #1 slot in the fall Nielsen ratings, garnering a 6.9 percent share of the total audience. KKSS-FM took second with a 5.2 rating.

There's no election in '15 so the station might have to come up with new tricks to hold the top slot. Come to think of it, that also applies to the state House Republicans who just took over the state House majority for the first time in 60 years.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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