Friday, March 13, 2009

Roundhouse Surgeons Resuscitate Big Ethics Bill, Plus: Guv Moves To Calm Campus; Sanchez Replaces Koch As Regents Prez, And: Fast Mouth Slows Down 

Sen. Wirth
Life has been detected in the corpse known as New Mexico ethics reforms, and Roundhouse surgeons are working furiously to salvage at least one body part. The sometimes recalcitrant Senate passed a campaign contribution bill and sent it over to the more friendly confines of the House, raising hopes that something akin to a mild medical miracle may take place before we get adjournment next Saturday.

And on this one our Alligators deserve a crumb of credit. For two years they've been pounding the table here arguing that a contribution limit would be the most effective and far-reaching reform we could get and that the focus should be on getting one. That, they argued, could create momentum for other needed reforms in the sessions to come. Key lawmakers seem to have agreed and we are tantalizingly close. From one of the Roundhouse Gators:

The bill is going to House Voters and Elections first, then House Judiciary. At least in theory, both these committees are astronomically easier to get ethics bills through than the typical committees faced by ethics bills on the Senate side.

Legislative watchers long ago wrote off the chances of other major reform proposals. They all still languish in the graveyard ready for final burial.

Under the bill that passed, individuals could not donate more than $2,300 during a calendar year. A limit of $5,000 would apply to a political committee and $10,000 for a political party. It would take effect after the 2010 election cycle.

New Senator Peter Wirth of Santa Fe was chosen to present the bill, a product of a number of lawmakers. Maybe it signals the beginning of a new era in ethics reform, but we count our campaign caps until we see House Speaker Lujan wearing one.


It seems everything old is new again. First, former Governor Toney Anaya is resuscitated back into public life by Big Bill and now the Guv is trying to lower the heat at the University of New Mexico by having former NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez take the place of controversial Jamie Koch as president of the school's Board of Regents. Koch has had to step aside as president, but Bill will not withdraw his nomination to serve another six year term on the board. That is pending before the state Senate.

Big Bill met with select faculty members this week to discuss their no-confidence vote given Koch. The Guv could have withdrawn Koch's nomination for another term, but by getting Koch removed as president, he is meeting them half way. Koch has become too much of a lightning rod to lead the school and the decision to demote him will be welcomed on campus.

That Koch would be replaced as president on the panel by yet another longtime Dem politico showcases how much a role politics has played at the university. Feathers are still going to be ruffled that Koch remains, but Sanchez has a chance to take UNM in a different direction, if he has the strength to be independent. Koch will still be a powerful presence and have a vote. Richardson says he has not exercised political influence through Koch, but few are buying that claim.

A troubling aspect of this is that a NM Governor, while not absolutely dictating who should be president of the school's board, is still wading deeply and openly into internal board operations. But it is argued that Richardson, through the appointments of Koch, Sanchez and the placement of David Harris as VP, has been an active behind the scenes player. In other words, he helped create the mess, now he has to help clean it up.

UNM President David Schmidly, ensconced in a $600,000 plus job, must be hoping that this is the beginning of the end of the quake that has shaken the campus. Both Schmidly and VP Harris were also given a vote of no-confidence by faculty, but won a vote of confidence from the Guv in the news release announcing the Koch decision. Maybe the prez can breathe easier, but if we were him we'd keep our Richter Scales close by. Measurable tremors are never far off when you have as many politicos as we have in this campus kitchen.


Mike Santullo, a state political and media veteran, will give up his day job at the end of the month, retiring after 18 years as director of the "Newsline" program for the NM Commission for the Blind. That's the program where the ABQ Journal and other publications are recorded by volunteers and made available to blind listeners. Santullo, 62, will continue on as a substitute talk show host at KKOB-AM radio. He started in the radio game in the early 70's and made a couple of stabs at political office, including a run for ABQ mayor. Now that he has some extra time, how about getting in this year's mayor's race? "Only if Marty agrees to be my chief administrative office," quipped the radio gabber who was once dubbed the "Fastest Mouth In the West."


Former ABQ Tribune editor Phill Casaus is back in the Duke City, having been named executive director of the Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation. Like many newspaper scribes, Phill has had a streak of bad luck, presiding over the demise of the Trib last year and then losing his job at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver when that paper closed last month. APS says Casaus, whose wife is an APS teacher, is being paid $88,000 a year. That's a salary sure to catch the eyes of those newspaper guys Phill is leaving behind.

Thanks for tuning in. Reporting and blogging to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I'm Joe Monahan. E-mail your news and comments.

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