Monday, August 31, 2015

Duran Resignation Gamed Amid Criminal Charges, Will Guv's Machine Be Brought Into Picture? The Subplot of AG Balderas And Auditor Keller, The Legal Beagle Take, Plus: The Second Term Curse 

Balderas and Duran
APS Superintendent Luis Valentino resigned Thursday morning.

Geez, what are we going to blog about today? Anything going on? Okay, let's dig in. . .

Who will replace Dianna Duran if she resigns as secretary of state? That vacancy would be filled by Gov. Martinez so the office would stay in Republican hands for the immediate future. If Duran does quit, the secretary of state's race would go on the 2016 general election ballot to fill the rest of Duran's term which expires in 2018, according to elections expert and ABQ Dem state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Resignation seems a very plausible possibility as Gov. Martinez was quick to throw Duran under the bus in the aftermath of Attorney General Hector Balderas leveling criminal charges against the SOS late Friday. (Full criminal complaint here.)

(Looking down the road, impeachment by the Legislature is also a threat that Duran could confront if the criminal charges advance. No one expects it to get that far.)

Unlike when State Auditor Tim Keller announced an investigation of Demesia Padilla--Martinez's secretary of taxation--the Guv nor her political machine did not label Balderas a political hack as they did Keller. The detailed criminal complaint pointing to a gambling addiction illicitly fueled by campaign cash by the 60 year old Duran (and/or her husband) was enough to chasten even the most partisan Republican. (More on Duran's campaign cash here). Besides, Duran, the first GOP sec. of state since the 30's, is not a member of the Martinez inner circle.

Alligators immediately jumped at the fresh serving of red meat, pointing out that McCleskey Media Strategies run by Martinez's powerful political consultant Jay McCleskey, was the media consultant for Duran in her successful 2014 re-election bid and that former GOP State Senator Rod Adair served as an administrator and spokesman for Duran. One of the Alligators weigh in:

Balderas may think bringing down Duran is a big enough feather for a future Democratic primary and he doesn't bring into the picture the Governor's Machine. Former GOP State Rep. Dan Foley, who has deep ties to the Machine, was on TV recently praising Balderas for his involvement in the APS scandal. Why would Hector get bloody with Jay when his buddies are propping you up? However, where does Dianna Duran go as she tries to save herself? That question may give the Martinez Machine some jitters.

Adair was fired by Duran for reasons never specified.

Someone has to stick the knife in when this stuff happens. This time its reader Greg Lennes:

In her re-election campaign Secretary of State Duran ironically had the support of a bogus group, New Mexicans for Honest Leadership. Maybe we can now call the group New Mexicans for Dishonest Leadership! New Mexicans for Honest Leadership's sole source of cash of $130,000 was from Advance New Mexico Now, a super PAC run by the Republican operative Matt Chandler, who is now a district court judge, recently appointed by Governor Martinez.

And that's how you follow the trail.


The Legal Beagles have picked up the scent and are ready with analysis of the Duran story:

Joe, the criminal complaint is extensive. The most significant components were the conversion counts, particularly because the contributors to the committee confirmed the funds were specifically for the campaign committee and not for Duran's personal use. The justification for the conversions allegedly being to cover gaming losses. In addition, the count alleging Duran fabricated an expenditure by applying it to an individual in a campaign report who confirmed no involvement with the campaign is also quite damaging because it not only was intentional but is also tantamount to identity theft.

These counts go directly towards intent and are straight forward in the ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Although just allegations, they appear to be documented well enough that securing a conviction on those counts is a reasonable expectation.

There are questions not answered by the charging documents such as who else in the SOS office knew about these actions, and where did she learn how to do this? These were fairly complex efforts to move the funds into her private accounts and one wonders if she had some guidance.


Gov. Martinez is starting to feel the brunt of the second term curse. Institutions all around her seem to be crumbling like rotten beams. The SOS--charged with enforcing campaign ethics--is caught up in one of the most alarming campaign ethics breaches in state history; there's the aforementioned probe of the state taxation secretary; the ABQ public schools superintendent is embroiled in a sex scandal as that institution wobbles and the state's largest police agency--APD--continues to operate from behind a stone wall, fending off lawsuits while under a Dept. of Justice decree (how about the latest on that cop on cop shooting? Incredible.) In other words, the days of blaming Bill Richardson are long gone.

The Governor's potentially precarious political position will be put on the line as she leaves the state more to campaign on the national stage. She better leave plenty of fire extinguishers in Santa Fe before she jets out of here.


The Duran scandal doesn't speak well of the Dem Party's opposition research. Duran has been planted at the casinos sinking her campaign cash into the slots for over five years, according to the AG's criminal complaint. But when Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver got beat by Duran in '14 the issue never surfaced. Maybe Oliver takes a look at another run for the office. Balderas has given her the opposition research that she could have used in '14 and that now makes putting the office back in the Dem column a no-brainer.

But what do you suppose if this corruption outbreak had happened with the Dems in power? Independent analyst and former City Councilor Greg Payne puts it this way:

If this state of affairs at APS, the APD and the secretary of state's office was happening under Democrats the Martinez Machine would be smearing them big time and linking them to all the scandals. That's not happening to the Republicans because the Democrats still have consultants and office holders without the killer instinct who are happy to wait until the Republicans go away. The problem for the Dems is they might not go away in '16 or '18 if the Democrats don't do their job. They have taken a pass on a prime opportunity--the SOS and APS scandals--by failing to link them directly to Gov. Martinez and instead treat them as stand alone events and not systemic corruption. 


This is the third secretary of state in a row to end up in legal trouble. Mary Herrera--whio came before Duran--was investigated by Attorney General King but did not face charges. Rebecca-Vigil Giron had charges brought against her by King but they were dismissed.

Does the Legislature need to take a look at the structure of the office and see if we need more permanent, nonpolitical appointees in there that could depoliticize the place? Or are the cynics right and corruption is too ingrained in the New Mexico DNA for any fix? Or put an inspector general in each of the statewide offices as was once suggested?


An ongoing subplot of La Politica is the positioning off State Auditor Tim Keller and Balderas for a possible shot at the '18 Dem Guv nomination. This is Balderas' first big bite out of the corruption apple but unlike Keller he has not taken a direct hit on the Guv or her machine, There is a difference and how Balderas handles the charges against the state taxation secretary that Keller put on his desk will be closely watched. Ditto for the Keller probe of corruption allegations dealing with the purchase of Taser lapel camera videos by APD. The Duran probe is a headliner for Balderas but it is relatively low lying fruit (unless it leaps past the SOS's office).

Also a number of readers ask. . .

Why did the AG come with his big news on a late Friday afternoon, the traditional time to bury a news story? He also did that when he was state auditor and decided to look away from a probe of the Martinez administration's involvement in the controversial racing lease for the Downs of Albuquerque. He issued his final report on a late Friday. We don't if this is a game of footie with the Fourth Floor or not but as a number of readers pointed out, it is odd.


The ABQ school board meets for the third time today to resolve the fate of APS Superintendent Luis Valentino. The question there is not if he goes but how. His position is untenable as is Duran's. As for possible replacements for Duran, the GOP Alligator list includes attorney Amy Orlando, a BFF of Susana's; GOP State Rep Kelly Fajardo and ABQ City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, the onetime attorney for the Guv's office.

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