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Monday, November 23, 2015

Consultant McCleskey Casts Wide Shadow Over City Hall As Well As Governor's Office, Plus: The Investigation: Dems Get Muscular And Martinez Fox Appearance Analyzed 

Berry & McCleskey
As the federal grand jury investigation into Gov. Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey continues more attention is being paid to not only his over sized influence in state government but also in ABQ government.  One of our City Hall Alligators has an update:

We not only have a shadow governor but a shadow mayor. Look at the overlap in connections and personnel between Governor Martinez and Mayor Berry. 

 You have Jay McCleskey, the main political consultant for both; Public Opinion Strategies, the polling company used by both the Governor and Mayor with McCleskey's wife Nicole being a principal; Chris Sanchez, the same spokesman for both during their re-election campaigns who is now working for the Governor; Melissa Sousa, the campaign manager for both Berry and the Governor; Gordon Eden, the former Public Safety Officer for Martinez and now Berry's Chief of Police; Jessica Hernandez, the Governor's former General Counsel and now Albuquerque City Attorney; Darren White, Berry's former Chief Public Safety Officer who appeared in the Governor's TV ads 5 years ago and who was hired by the ABQ Downs; Amy Bailey, the leading candidate for the Secretary of State appointment who was Berry's City Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, a longtime associate of Darren White and Jay McCleskey.

Good job there connecting all the dots. Meanwhile, it appears White has joined fellow McCleskey operative Rod Adair in attacking the Santa Fe New Mexican for its aggressive coverage of the grand jury probe of McCleskey. He tweets:

The New Mexican continues to marginalize itself with nakedly biased & inaccurate reporting.

The strategy to attack the New Mexican may be a result in part of the skimpy media coverage of the potential scandal. The ABQ Journal has run only one article and the same for TV news. The Journal did mention Martinez's McCleskey problem in its wrap on her becoming chair of the Republican Governors Association and Fox News did an interview on the subject with Martinez which we will get to in a moment.

McCleskey may feel he can isolate the story to the "liberal" press thus the continued attack on the Santa Fe paper. If he escapes indictment that may work short term, but long term it rarely does, with the media being attacked doubling down on taking down the attacker. With Martinez unable to seek re-election and power seeping away from her as a result of McCleskey's troubles, her leverage in the guise of bullying individual reporters, threats to advertisers and castigating the media as liberal witch hunters, has waned.

The other problem is that the national media is watching the story unfold as well as the attacks on the media. That serves to make them suspicious, not sympathetic toward the attackers.

FROM MEEK TO MUSCLE

While Democrats have been meek in their opposition to Martinez since she came on the scene, they have been revived by the McCleskey story. They are now ripping the Governor and her top political consultant in a series of news releases from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and the NM Democratic Party. The McCleskey blow-up is the best early Christmas gift the D's could ask for.

NM Dem Chair Haaland authors this piece that asserts Martinez's "house of cards" is falling. A state Dem party release chronicles what it calls various Martinez scandals and state House Dems blast away with this. The DGA strikes on the story here.

The video of Martinez being interviewed about the McCleskey investigation by Fox News is getting wide attention in political circles. Here's the video and here's the transcript:

Bret Baier: "There is now an FBI investigation related to your administration, some of your top aides, at least one of them, that deals with emails—public and private. What about that as you take over the head of the RGA?"

Susana Martinez: "Oh no. The investigation referenced in the emails were actually by an individual that worked on my campaign and, um. actually served federal prison time."

Baier: "Yeah, but separately from that came an investigation into campaign fundraising."

Martinez: "Okay, so, fundraising versus emails. Well, the fundraising is absolutely proper. Um, we have done all of the state law, New Mexico state law, the attorney general. We’ve done everything right. I have all the confidence in the world that there is nothing that has gone wrong in my administration. I had just gotten elected, um, and then the laws changed right after I got elected and we did everything that is lawful. I’m an attorney. I understand how to read those statutes and so it’s certainly something that I have no concerns about."

Baier: "No concerns about those investigations?

Martinez: "No.”

The Governor's defense seems muddled and meandering. It is interesting that she is falling back on New Mexico "state law" when McCleskey faces a federal probe and possible indictment on federal offenses. Is she establishing some separation between herself and McCleskey? It is the question that hovers over all of this.

The DGA called the interview Martinez's "Fox News Disaster." It wasn't that but it was the skunk at the garden party. On the day before she was catapulted into the national spotlight by getting elected RGA chair she had to deal with the McCleskey mess. And she will continue to have to deal with it.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2015. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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