Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Key Big Bill Associates & Their New Endeavors, Plus: GOP Split: White Takes On Arnold-Jones, And: The Name Game: "RJ Romero" For Mayor? 

Amanda Cooper
The joys of earlier political triumphs are long gone, but lives and careers must go on for those who rode the roller coaster with Big Bill only to see the ride screech to a halt with multiple investigations into state pay to play allegations. For Amanda Cooper, who served as Richardson's longtime finance director, politics is still on the plate. She is now associated with Project New West which describes itself as "a private research and strategy company based in Denver" and says it is "the leading authority on the values, issues, and demographics that define America’s "New West."

Cooper is helping to organize the group's Denver meeting in August at which her step-father, Dem US Senator Tom Udall, will be in attendance as will NM Auditor Hector Balderas, Lt. Gov. Denish and Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

The proverbial you-know-what hit the fan when on May 4th we revealed that our senior sources had confirmed that Cooper had been granted immunity from prosecution for her testimony before the federal grand jury investigating Bill's administration. The blog was excoriated because it did not provide a specific reason for the grant of immunity. The journalism watchdogs claimed it left Cooper vulnerable to the perception that she was guilty of something. Immunity can be granted for a variety of reasons. Cooper made no comment on the revelation.

We didn't see it as a a big deal and still don't. The specific reason for the immunity will be revealed in due time and no one called Cooper a crook. To our way of thinking, the big New Mexico journalism story is how the state could practically be carted away in pay to play schemes while the journalism watchdogs failed to give us a clue about what was happening. We'd like to know, but it seems some of these same "journalists" are now too busy Twittering, Facebooking or blogging to devote any attention to the matter. But we digress...


While Cooper finds some footing with her new endeavor and waits for the outcome of the federal pay to play probes, we're informed by reliable sources that her husband, attorney Jim Noel, director of the NM Judicial Standards Commission, is preparing to leave that agency. They say he is headed to the state Energy and Minerals Department. Last year Noel had applied to become the state's elections director under the Secretary of State, but that move was shot down by critics who said it was a conflict because at the time Noel's father-in-law, Tom Udall, was seeking the US Senate seat.


Darren White
That didn't take long. We blogged recently that the divisions in the NM GOP could very well surface if ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones started toying with the notion of running for the 2010 GOP Guv nod. Well, on Tuesday, at a Bernalillo County Republican volunteer lunch, we're told that Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White scored Janice and other R's who voted in this year's legislative session to repeal the death penalty. ABQ GOP State Reps Larranaga and Hall also voted for the repeal, but are unlikely to be intimidated. Both are popular in their districts and are unlikely to face GOP primary opposition. In his talk, White excused Larry's anti-death penalty vote because, he said, it was based on religion. Larry is a Catholic. Hmmm. White's message was clearly aimed at Arnold-Jones who White also mentioned by name.

The Sheriff, who made an unsuccessful run for the ABQ congressional seat against Dem Martin Heinrich last year, has long been associated with the faction of the party that includes lawyer lobbyist Mickey Barnett and GOP National Committeeman Pat Rogers. He is also an ardent backer of former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is toying with a Guv run of her own. Arnold-Jones has emerged as a moderate R who could have appeal as a general election candidate, but it is spreading her wings in her own party that is proving to be a challenge. Wilson also has a reputation as a moderate, albeit in a party whose current configuration could be called very conservative.

White has started a quixotic drive to "repeal the repeal" of the death penalty that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Big Bill. According to one of the lunch bunch, Darren told the crowd that Janice's penalty position aggravates him and that Republicans should raise money to campaign against those who don't believe in the death penalty.

As for White's political future, he has said he is not interested in running for the GOP nod for Light Guv or other offices. Friends of Arnold-Jones, commenting on the noon time pasting she received from White, criticized the sheriff for dividing the party, not uniting it, and said they are skeptical of his claims that he is not eyeing higher political office. If he isn't, one said, maybe he's campaigning for a job in case the R's take over the Guv's office or trying to help clear the field for Heather by taking on Janice.

The state of flux continues and so much of New Mexican Republican politics now hangs on what we hear from federal investigators in the months ahead. The game of musical chairs is in full swing, but the politicians are not quite ready to start grabbing for those chairs just yet.


Only yesterday we noted the arrival of the new deputy executive director of the NM GOP--Sergio Garcia--and how he has a famous namesake in pro golfer Sergio Garcia. Well, now we have an actual NM golf tournament for Sergio to play in---something like "The Jerome Block, Sr. Open." Lobbyist Maurice Bonal is organizing a June 25 golf tournament at Pojoaque to raise money for the legal defense fund of Jerome Sr. Block and his son, Jerome Jr., a Democratic Public Regulation commissioner, were indicted by a grand jury in April and charged with violating the elections code during Jerome Jr's run for the PRC. The charges against the younger Block include embezzlement of between $500 and $2,500.

So clean up those clubs, Sergio. You arrived here too late for Manny Aragon's prison farewell party, (exclusive photos here) but now you can make it up. You see, there's always something on the social calendar of La Politica.


A week or so ago we unintentionally referred to GOP ABQ mayoral candidate RJ Berry as "RJ Romero" and it drew some reader snickers. But think about it. Didn't RJ and Dem mayoral candidate Richard Romero already hold one news conference together (about Mayor Chavez airing TV PSA's) and wouldn't a single candidacy against the far-ahead Chavez be more effective than two candidacies?

"RJ Romero for Mayor!" Now that's a candidate with something for everyone...

Also on the subject of names, in our Tuesday blog we called ABQ Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill "Bob." We were probably thinking of Bob McNeill, an ABQ Dem lawyer who gave us some exciting races back in the old days, including a squeaker for NM Attorney General which he lost, in 1986, to Republican Hal Stratton. It was one of the few times the R's have ever taken the office. Bob McNeill is alive and well and practicing law in the Duke City.

And from the same city, I'm Joe Monahan, thanking you for stopping by today.

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