Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Big Bill Senate Scenario; Time For A Look, Plus: White House Talks Iglesias, And: Our Blogging Readers 

Things could change radically in New Mexico politics in the coming months, or they could stay much the same. Most of it depends on one man, NM senior GOP Senator Pete Domenici. If he survives the uproar over the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias , does not call it quits and his health holds, he will be on the he trail for another term in '08 and a likely winner. The betting odds are Pete will go for the repeat, but because of recent events they've come down and that has sparked fevered speculation over the future of the Pete Seat and whether NM Governor Bill Richardson just might end up in it.

The insider odds makers stake it out this way. Pete becomes a no-go in early '08 just as the Dem prez nomination is being decided in the first primary states. Bill is coming up short, abandons the prez trail and announces for senate. Any other Dem in the race or thinking about it clears out in favor of the Guv who, speaking of odds would be the heavy favorite to take the win against any R, including U.S. Reps. Wilson or Pearce.

But what about becoming vice-president or secretary of state? That is a problem. How could Big Bill know if he was going to be considered for such positions by the likely nominee early in '08? And if he had a shot at one of those posts, would he want to get involved in a senate bid? Well, we're not saying there's a perfect scenario, just a lot of them.


The Iglesias affair climbed all the way to the top of the political food chain Wednesday, with White House spokesman Dan Bartlett being pressed for reasons on why Iglesias was given the ax. Here's the Bartlett laundry list.

"They looked at his managerial responsibilities and what they had found in a review process that was undertaken at the Department of Justice, that they felt that he was not managing the office as well as it should be; there was issues about his lack of leadership on key committees that prosecutors, U.S. attorneys serve in capacity for the Attorney General. He served on a key immigration subcommittee, and they felt like he didn't possess leadership skills there and fulfill that job in a way that he should have.

"And, also, they took into consideration the complaints that they were fielding from local officials about the lack of prosecution of cases, and the fact that he had lost a high-profile case, (the trial of ex-Treasurer Vigil) when I think 24 or 25 counts were thrown out by a jury against the government. It was a devastating loss for the government."

Sounds like Bartlett threw in everything but the kitchen sink. But that phone call Domenici made in October asking Iglesias if indictments in the courthouse investigation would be coming still hangs heavy in the air. Did it or did it not cross the ethical lines established by the senate? Meanwhile, Iglesias told KRQE-TV Wednesday he considers the Vigil prosecution a success since Vigil was given a prison term of over three years.


Scott Jennings, Bush's '04 NM campaign manager and now a deputy political director under Karl Rove at the White House, will be asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If he does not voluntarily agree, he could be subpoenaed.


We've used the word "scandal" to describe the U.S. attorney story. Others have used the more mild "controversy." Here is a dictionary definition of scandal: "
  1. A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society: a drug scandal that forced the mayor's resignation.
  2. A person, thing, or circumstance that causes or ought to cause disgrace or outrage: a politician whose dishonesty is a scandal; considered the housing shortage a scandal.
  3. Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior; disgrace.
I think by this definition we are safe using the scandal label, but it is still a bit uncomfortable because there is no criminal activity alleged, at least not yet, and we often associate criminality with scandal. But the definition says that does not have to be the case. Is there a word between controversy and scandal we should use?


She may be right that politics is holding up passage of a bill in Santa Fe to reform the state's housing authority system, but is Lt. Governor Denish helping or hurting by getting involved? It might just harden House Speaker Lujan's opposition, but he could sorely use any kind of ethics victory in his column.


Some insightful emails lately from the blog readership, so let's get a couple out there. First, reaction on the state's tough new anti-smoking law and our quip that it could cause some bar fights. An ABQ reader says:

"Any bar owner is a fool if he really believes that some kid who is working his way through college won't be saying in court five years later that he and his friends deserve compensation because they were exposed to secondhand smoke in violation of the law, and that the bar owner made fun of the law and laughed about how it couldn't be enforced, and boasted that he would do whatever he pleased and no one could ever stop him, and that he didn't give a damn about health fears, etc. Over time, the smoking ban will ease into place-- bar owners who are too stupid to enforce the smoking ban won't survive in the modern litigious world. Around the country, that is the vision for real enforcement -- not calling the cops or starting fights in bars.

Here's an email from a politico aimed at supporting Heather Wilson's contention that she called U.S. Attorney Iglesias in October, not to pressure him into speeding up indictments in the courthouse investigation, but because she had received a phone call from a constituent who believed Iglesias was "intentionally" delaying such indictments.

"To get higher office, Iglesias would need some Dem support, or, at the very least, only mildly aggressive Dem opposition. Iglesias would be pilloried as rabidly partisan if he released indictments of prominent Dem's anywhere near an election. Therefore, he would hold the indictments until well after the election, then he could have the best of both worlds--Dem's would remember his forbearance and Repub's would see him as anti-corruption. He could (and would) hold onto his job no matter what--Bush would never fire a Hispanic Repub US attorney. (Senator) Pete and (Congresswoman) Heather had aggressively supported Iglesias, regarded this political calculation as a cynical betrayal, and called him and said so. Iglesias overestimated his support...He wasn't as invincible as he thought, and was publicly fired."

Iglesias has said he has no immediate future political plans. Right now he's looking for a job. And even if Iglesias was stalling the indictments for political reasons, it is still a problem for an elected politician to pressure him for action. Did Wilson pressure him? It's the salient question. Iglesias told KRQE last night he considered Wilson's contact with him "absolutely prohibited."


Here's ABQ South Valley reaction to our Wednesday blog on the Dems trying to find a candidate to take on ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson next year:

"Who's Terry Brunner? Has he ever been elected to anything? He may have the inside track with the delegation as a member of (Senator) Bingaman's staff, but he's not the Dem's strongest horse by far. There are other names that sound stronger --James Lewis, Kari Branderberg, Eric Griego, Martin Heinrich, and I am sure there are others. I hope the Democratic party doesn't try to pull an inside selection job like the GOP did with (Guv candidate) Dendahl. A primary might be good for the Democrats to get the best candidate instead of the insiders pick. In the meantime, the state party and current elected officials like the AG, Governor and party leaders should keep the pressure on Wilson and Domenici."

For the record, Terry hasn't been elected to anything, although he once sought a state legislative seat.

Thanks for the comments, Send them via the email link at the top of the page. You can let me use your name or not.


With an over-the-top writing style, sources known as my "Alligators" and a breathless approach to all things political, I am an easy target for satire. And a good dose of it comes from syndicated NM columnist Ned Cantwell...Want to be on national TV? Good luck...

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