Thursday, June 04, 2009

Exclusive Photos Of Manny Farewell Party; Old Guard Turns Out To Say Goodbye As He Faces Prison, Plus: Bland Bombshell; Scandal Headlines Won't Stop 

Aragon & Judge Franchini
The Old Guard of New Mexican politics gathered by the dozens Wednesday night to say goodbye to political legend Manny Aragon as he prepares to serve a five and a half year prison term for federal corruption convictions at a Colorado prison beginning June 10th. The former Democratic state Senator was regaled and back slapped by pals and politicos who helped Aragon write more than one chapter of state political history. Also represented in the crowd jammed in the back of ABQ Ben Michael's North Valley restaurant were our Senior Alligators who sent us the exclusive photos.

Pictured here is Manny with former NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Gene Franchini, a one time power player and descendant of the original Italian families that settled in ABQ at the turn of the 20th century and who melded with the Hispanic population socially and politically. Our Gators said Manny's lawyer, Ray Twohig, told the crowd the former state Senator is now 62 (we blogged Wed that he was 61) and that Aragon could be released from prison after three and a half years if all goes well. He also said Manny originally faced 19 years behind bars before the five and a half year agreement was reached.

Manny and Les
Here's Manny enjoying the humor of attorney and former ABQ GOP State Senator Les Houston. Years ago Manny and Les tried to share the Senate president pro tem position, but the deal was struck down by the state Supreme Court. Back in the day, the political odd couple themselves reigned supreme.

Also attending the Manny farewell, according to our Senior Gators, was former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos, current Bernalillo County Commissioner and ABQ City Council candidate Alan Armijo; former state Senator Shannon Robinson; former Grants State Rep. Toby Michael; veteran political player Guy Riordan and another big name--former Ambassador to Spain and longtime NM politico Ed Romero.

For young politicos there's a lesson here. We all know what Aragon did wrong, but aspiring power players should remember what he did right. In politics, fierce loyalty is the currency of the realm.

The event, news of which broke on your blog Tuesday, was covered by ABQ's TV stations, but no press was allowed in the event. We were told that there was a large card set up for party goers to write a message to Aragon as he prepares to enter the most humbling phase of his storied life and career. It is a life that will be recalled and analyzed by future generations for the great political peaks it reached as well as the great depths it plumbed. And it's all part of the never ending Book of La Politica.

Bland & Big Bill
What a mess, and you can't help but think the planets could align for someone to come in from completely on the outside and start threatening to clean things up. Someone like Gary Johnson in 1994? Combine the continued state of sorry affairs with a lousy economy and you just might have a campaign platform. The latest scandal disclosure is another hammer blow to the powers that be in the state Democratic Party as they digest the indigestible news that the State Investment Officer has serious personal financial problems, even as the state pay to play scandal investigations continue to swirl like a tornado, changing wind speed and direction on a whim, but never dispersing back up into the clouds. No, the cloud of muck surrounding state politics grows ever thicker. State Investment Officer Gary Bland faces a $577,000 IRS tax lien and a $42,000 judgment against him from a California bank, thickening the mud and further blackening the political skies.

Bland is in charge of investing what is currently $11 billion in our state's two permanent funds. How those funds were invested is already the subject of investigation. Now this. How long can Richardson ignore the elephant in the room? How much more can Lt. Governor Diane Denish stomach? Will she be the Al Gore of New Mexico politics, ensnared by what happens above her, or she will start "Operation Separate" sooner rather than later?

And get this. The Bland Bombshell was disclosed to members of the Legislature in 2008 before they voted to reconfirm him to the important post he has held since Big Bill named him in 2003. How's that for oversight? Lovely. Where was Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith when we needed him?

And Big Bill? The heat on him to start cleaning house should be hot enough to peel house paint, but maybe he just doesn't feel it at the high altitude up there on Paseo de Peralta.

More front-pagers like this and you might see Val Kilmer shedding 30 pounds, getting a hair cut and calling former Governor Gary for coffee talk.

Readers continue to comment on the federal grand jury investigation into pay to pay allegations. It's been going since last August and when we blogged this week of even minor vendors for Governor Richardson's political action committees getting their records subpoenaed, some opined that the grand jury and US attorney were on a massive fishing expedition. That's a charge that has been heard on and off for months now. Today the other side from reader Patricia Larragoite of Tierra Amarilla:

I disagree with comments about “a massive fishing expedition.” The public deserves to know who contributed and where the money was spent for Bill Richardson’s (governor and presidential) campaigns. It is my opinion that (one entity)) was formed to circumvent the reporting process of a federal election...

Brian Colon, NM Democratic Party Chair and Treasurer for a Richardson foundation, in his blind ambition to become someone important, let himself be used by Richardson. He trusted Richardson completely, never suspecting the donations being filtered through the organization he is chair of ...Of course, he would not even know what operations were going on as he was used solely as the titular head. At least that is what I would tell the judge....

Colon has argued the entire federal investigation is politically motivated. He served as Treasurer of Richardson's Moving America Forward Foundation, which was formed as a public charity, about the same time Richardson started a political action committee, Moving America Forward. Donors to the foundation have not been disclosed.

Colon is also taking behind the scenes heat from potential rivals for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor which the chairman has expressed an interest in. His foes say since he is associated with the Richardson money machine, he would leave the party vulnerable to pay to play charges if he were on the 2010 Dem ticket.

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