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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wilson Gets Tapped By Trump; How Did That Happen? And: Heinrich Scored Some More Over Big Pharma Vote, Plus: Our Sick State Govt Prompts AG Warning  

Given the ethics challenges faced by the new administration, the ethical blots on the record of former NM Congresswoman Heather Wilson seem mild. Call it the new normal.

Wilson, who President Trump has nominated to become the next Secretary of the Air Force, will likely be questioned at her confirmation hearings about a "2013 Department of Energy inspector general’s report that alleged Sandia had inappropriately paid Wilson about $226,000 in consulting fees, beginning in January 2009, to lobby for Sandia to take on new assignments for the federal government. Sandia and Wilson have said no prohibited lobbying occurred."

Wilson, who became president to the South Dakota School of Mines in 2013, will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. And who sits on that panel? Why none other than Senator Martin Heinrich, the Democrat who beat Wilson for the senate seat in 2012. Heinrich never did drop the Sandia/lobbying bombshell on Wilson during that campaign. He didn't need to as he sported a healthy polling lead. Now he will do something he probably never thought he would do--cast a vote for Heather Wilson.

As for another Wilson rival, southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce who beat her for the 2008 GOP US senate nomination heaped praise on her nomination, even if it may have caused him some mild heartburn.

But hold on. The Alligators, who cover the NM DC beat like no one else can, point out that Wilson was floated in mid-December as a possible for a much bigger job than Secretary of the Air Force--that of Director of National Intelligence. What happened to that? Well, she didn't get it, that's what. Was the AF position a consolation prize? Well, not bad if it was, but certainly much further away from the center of power than the DNI. Remember . . .

Wilson did not support Trump. Insiders scratching their heads over her nomination point to her service in the US House and ties to Speaker Paul Ryan and VP Pence, a former member of the House. Pearce, who has a relationship with Pence and showed up at a Trump ABQ rally, is still seen as the NM link to the administration as they go about filling federal jobs here such as US attorney.

And what about Hanna Skandera moving to DC, you ask? Our Alligators hit that one a while back and still see her headed to the Department of Education. Following our November report about her possibly leaving, Skandera told the AP she had not been offered nor has she accepted any position in the Trump administration. But then came a mid-December report from Politico that Skandera is indeed under consideration for a DC job and Skandera did not shoot it down. The Alligators remain on the case.

GETTING MUSSED UP

Back to Heinrich. He keeps getting his hair mussed up on the left. The NM branch of the Working Families Party is among the critics piling on the freshman senator over his recent vote against an amendment that would have allowed less expensive pharmaceutical drugs to be imported from Canada and other countries:

While we understand his vote was based on arguments about the safety of imported drugs, we are counting on Democrats like Senator Heinrich to step up and fight to make necessary medication easier, not harder to afford. Senator Sanders’ proposal would have allowed imports of low-cost medicine from Canada, benefitting thousands of New Mexicans and millions of Americans. Senator Heinrich should stand up for American consumers and against the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to keep drug prices artificially high. Senator Heinrich has received $176,039 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry since first elected to Congress in 2008. We are confident those contributions do not and will not affect his support for making medicine as affordable and accessible to consumers as possible.

Heinrich could face the issue on the campaign trail when he seeks re-election in 2018. However, so far the only Republican hopeful to surface is Mick Rich, a longtime ABQ contractor but unknown in political circles. As for a primary challenge, that is a rare event for a sitting NM senator.

It's not all been grumbling over Heinrich. He did score this win:

U.S. Senator Heinrich secured an agreement from the Trump Administration that it would not vacate the management of the nation's nuclear stockpile. "I'm pleased the Trump Administration listened to my concerns and agreed to maintaining continuity in the leadership of the NNSA during the transition. The administration came dangerously close to allowing the management of our nation's nuclear stockpile to go on auto-pilot," said Heinrich. "I understand that new administrations, regardless of political party, bring new management and personnel, but the United States faces an increasing number of global threats and our nuclear arsenal must remain safe and effective no matter the situation or circumstance."

Okay, Martin, can you now write Mr. Trump a letter and tell him go easy on his trigger finger the next four years.

BUDGET CRISIS

New Mexico's government is sick:

Attorney General Hector Balderas says he would have to lay off 20 percent to 30 percent of his staff under budget proposals by the Legislature and Gov. Martinez. “It’d be a public safety and constitutional crisis,” Balderas said. His 160-person office handles appeals of criminal convictions, prosecutes child porn and other Internet crimes against children, and major civil litigation on behalf of New Mexico — all of which might be hampered by staff cuts, Balderas said.

Maybe he's exaggerating but not much. The public schools are also facing another round of damaging cuts. The intransigent Governor, the radical House Republicans and the Democrats fearful of aggressively advancing any form of revenue enhancement are making matters worse. No wonder Monica and Ryan were getting wasted at the Bull Ring.

NEW MEXICO WINTER

New Mexico delivers beauty and magnificence no matter the season.

This striking picture of the snow capped Organ Mountains near Las Cruces is courtesy of Michael Swickard's Facebook page. You can't ski on those peaks but you are free to marvel at them.

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