Monday, February 25, 2008

The Courting Of Big Bill: Obama and Hillary Still Calling, Plus: Our Blog College Challenge; $500 Prize For Best Ethics Plan; Learn How To Enter 

The political oddsmakers have to keep resetting the line on whether Bill Richardson will finish out his term as New Mexico's Governor. Information about his real relationship with potential presidents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has only dribbled out, making it difficult to forecast if he would be high on the list for a top job in either of their administrations, or whether his day has come and gone. The latest development: The New York Times hit with an exclusive look on how Richardson is being romanced for an endorsement. Richardson told the paper Obama is calling him "every three days or so," and there was a tidbit that shed new light on his relationship with frontrunner Obama:

The two men developed a back-of-the-classroom rapport during the presidential debates, exchanging winks or eye rolls when one of the other candidates “would get outrageous or something,” Mr. Richardson said.

But throughout the interview Big Bill takes note of his personal loyalty to the Clintons who made him UN ambassador and energy secretary. The Guv seems genuinely torn on whether to endorse, and that could be costly indecision. He says he could offer an endorsement this week or none at all. And that could mean nothing at all when it comes to getting back in the national limelight. Says Richardson:

"I’m not pining for it, and if it doesn’t happen, I’ve had a great life. I’m at peace with myself.”

Richardson's relationship with the Dem prez contenders is more than a political parlor game for New Mexico. If he left for D.C. the state would have a non-elected Governor in Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. It is yet another example of the incredible political year this is--three open US House seats--an open US Senate seat and the possibility of an non-elected governor.


If Richardson does get a ticket out of here, the thing he'll miss the least is dealing with an uncooperative state senate. This Thursday is another big day in that relationship. That's when the Governor will meet with senate leaders Tim Jennings and Michael Sanchez to see if a health care deal can be hammered out. If so, a special session of he legislature is in store. If not, the Guv would be well-advised to hold off, but that doesn't mean he will.

The state still does not seem ready for Bill's health care plan because he has not built widespread public support. After the regular session, he talked of hitting the road to promote the plan. But we didn't see much of that and now Thursday is deadline day.

There is very limited downside if the Guv decides against a special in an election year and looks for health care reform in the '09 sixty day session. A simple pledge of cooperation among the state's leaders Thursday would be face saving enough for all involved. Somehow, though, the relationship between the senate and the Guv is never that simple.


Jon Adams is going on the offense against fellow Dem and northern district congressional hopeful Don Wiviott. Adams claims Wiviott has failed to submit enough valid nominating petition signatures to be considered for the June primary ballot and he is asking the courts to throw the Santa Fe developer out of the race.

Don is 123 people short of having enough registered voters. His signatures even included 188 people from the ABQ congressional district. And some people signed his petition two or even three times. We're just trying to protect the integrity of the process," claims Adams.

The Wiviott campaign told us their petitions are completely in order. A court decision on Adams' challenge will come by March 3.


A couple of weeks ago we quoted one of our Alligators--in this case a lobbyist--who questioned why, if an overwhelming majority of the public supports ethics reform, the ethics lobbyists and advocates in Santa Fe have walked away empty handed year after year. The comment evoked high-pitched reaction--much of it negative; some of it emotional--and we were asked about it during a recent radio interview hosted by Heather Brewer and Javier Benavidez.

The point was not that this Gator was against ethics reform. In fact, he is for it. The point was that lobbyists are hired by clients to get results and if you are not getting them, the client is entitled to ask why. We linked to Common Cause and suggested they and other leading ethics advocates might want to review their lobbying tactics. We did not suggest New Mexico is not in need of stronger ethics laws, nor did our knowledgeable Gator.

One possible strategy we discussed is for the ethics lobby to focus on one major reform each legislative session. Make it the symbol and hold lawmakers' feet to the fire. The public and press has a hard time concentrating on the myriad of ethics proposals floating around the Roundhouse, thus it is easier for them to be swept under the rug. With just one major reform in the limelight, perhaps defeating it would be more difficult.

Some critics believe a handful of legislators are responsible for the failure of ethics bills, but not many passed in the 80's and 90's when other leaders ran the Roundhouse. This is more difficult than just voting out a couple of legislators.

New Mexico needs to put some points on the board when it comes to ethics reform--especially a ceiling on campaign contributions. But we have had three consecutive legislative sessions with no significant movement on that or other major items proposed either by the Guv or his ethics panel. Our Gator had it right--what is being done now is not working. That is not an excuse for legislators trying to bury ethics legislation, it is a tactical suggestion to force their hand, and was offered here to stimulate action, not inertia.


Speaking of action, we so strongly agree that new ideas and tactics are needed to advance ethics legislation that we're putting the blog money where the blog mouth is and turning to our state's next generation of leaders for inspiration. It's the blog College Challenge.

Currently, there is no limit on how much cash can be donated to a New Mexico political candidate. We'll award a $500.00 first place prize and a $150.00 second place prize to the students who submit the best lobbying/PR plan to win legislative approval to limit campaign contributions in NM. A panel of esteemed Alligators will be our judges. We'll share the winning plan on this blog and with the state's political leadership.


* The contest is open to full-time students attending the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University who have completed their freshman year. Undergraduates only. You must include on your entry your academic status (sophomore, junior or senior) and your age. (We hope to include NM's other colleges in future competitions.)

* Your action plan can be no longer than 950 words. Two or three person teams are permitted, but none larger. If a team wins a prize, it will be split evenly between the team members.

* Plans must be submitted by e-mail to jmonahan@ix.netcom.com and in the PDF format. Entrants must provide the name and telephone number of a full-time faculty member who can attest to their academic standing. No anonymous entries. You must also provide your phone number, a valid e-mail address and a snail mail address.

IMPORTANT: Entries will only be accepted via e-mail on March 7 & 8, 2008. Entries submitted prior to or after those dates will not be considered. Winners will be announced by March 30th and notified via phone and e-mail

* You must agree to have your name (s) and plan published on www.joemonahan.com and your photograph (s) taken for publicity purposes, and you must provide written permission to do so when you submit your plan.

* Failure to follow any of the posted rules will disqualify an entrant (s) from consideration.

We seek creative, original thinking, not diatribes or opinion pieces. How are you going to get this legislation passed? What can you bring to the table that hasn't already been tried? You need to be New Mexico specific and understand the current political dynamic. If you wish, use YouTube to provide a brief overview (no more than 90 seconds) of your plan and also use links to appropriate Web sites. Please, no Goggle cut and paste jobs or help from non-students. Remember, this contest is about ethics; if you participate, be ethical.

We look forward to hearing from New Mexico's youth. We think they have what it takes to shake up the establishment and help move us toward better government. So start shaking gang, and get going on those action plans. Who knows? You could be one of our lucky winners---just in time for Spring Break.

We thank our loyal readers (you) and our advertisers for their continued support which makes our College Challenge possible.


Congratulations to editor Phil Casaus and the staff of the ABQ Tribune for an outstanding final edition Saturday, concluding an 86 year run of the afternoon daily. In his final missive Casaus exhorted Trib readers, "Don't cry for us, Albuquerque." But there are some things worth shedding a tear over, and many were as nearly a century of history of our beloved Albuquerque was so tenderly recounted in that final edition. As Albuquerque grew rapidly into a large metro area, the great ABQ writer and poet V.B. Price often wondered in the Trib's pages about who really cared about the city. The Tribune did. Oh my, how they cared.

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