Thursday, August 20, 2009

Out Of The Pool: New Mexico Gets Wild Again; Rebecca Indicted; Top GOP Aide Slams Party As He Exits, And: Big Bill Rebirth At Santa Fe Summit 

A funny thing happened on the way to the swimming pool Wednesday. Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and three others were indicted on fraud, money laundering and other charges, the new deputy executive director of the NM Republican Party stormed off the job saying "destructive" forces were loose within the GOP and Big Bill was all over network TV as his s "Santa Fe Summit" with North Korean diplomats vaulted him back into the national political consciousness. Not exactly the say for a summer respite, but it does keep us out of the bread lines which is not exactly an idle threat in this down economy. So do a belly flop for us or jump off the diving board in a big way. We won't be able to join you at the swimming hole for the foreseeable future. We blog New Mexico politics.

What happened to the good old days when a couple of C-notes got the job done. These days, political thievery in New Mexico has hit the big time. The 50 count indictment of former three term Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, media and political consultant Armando Gutierrez and husband-wife lobbyists Joe Kupfer and Elizabeth (Daisy) Kupfer indicates several million dollars of federal funds meant for TV ads and other voter education programs were absconded with in 2004 and 2006. For example, the indictment asserts that a $2 million voucher from the state treasury was deposited in Gutierrez's account between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, 2004 and that the voucher was based on a false invoice. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7, 2004, a $140,000 check from Gutierrez was deposited in the Kupfers account. Such activity happened several more times from 2004 to 2006. If Vigil-Giron reaped any of the proceeds it apparently came from Gutierrez, a former press secretary and speech writer for the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's presidential campaigns, and/or the Kupfers.

What did Manny Aragon get away with in the metro courthouse caper? Well under a million bucks. However, back in 2005, we breached the magic million mark in the state treasurer scandal. Hopes that we would be going down from there were crushed, if NM Attorney General Gary King, who brought the indictments, has got it right.

Daisy Kupfer worked as the administrative services director for then-Attorney General Patrica Madrid at the time of the alleged embezzlement and fraud, so look for Patsy to again be front and center in a corruption controversy. She may deal it with on the campaign trail if she goes ahead and seeks the Dem nomination for Land Commissioner as she is thinking about.


Like most lobbyists, the Kupfers have been regulars on the Democratic party fund-raising scene. Another Lujan hanger-on, Smiley Gallegos was also indicted by King this year in connection with a regional housing authority scandal. The Secretary of State's Web site lists the Kupfers as being lobbyists for the city of ABQ, but the city says the Kupfers are no longer on contract to the city.

What do you do when the indictment shrapnel is flying in all directions? If you are Diane Denish and the front-runner for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination, you head for cover:

This indictment is further evidence of New Mexico’s need for an independent ethics commission and increased transparency in state government. On July 9 I announced a plan for establishing an independent ethics commission that has the legal authority toinvestigate ethics complaints and impose penalties when necessary. I am more committed than ever to working with the legislature to pass this ethics plan..

Hey, do you suppose Di bumped into Heather Wilson in that indictment fall-out shelter? We saw the former ABQ GOP Congresswoman headed there when the US attorney scandal blew up again last week.

You can read the indictment of Vigil-Giron here. Some TV coverage here. More on the reform angle here. Rebecca's lawyers tell the ABQ Journal she's clean. And more dead-tree coverage here.


Here she is--then the highest ranking elected female Hispanic politician in the USA--at the top of her game, in 2006, and addressing the Texas Democratic Party. Her polished Spanish openings, always delivered with gusto, were a familiar part of countless New Mexico political rallies beginning in 1986 when she won her first of three terms as Secretary of State. She was in the vanguard of baby-boomer women who came to power in New Mexico. Her last run for elective office was in 2008 when she entered a three way primary for the Dem nod for the ABQ Congressional seat and lost to Martin Heinrich. Rebecca, 54, is a native of Taos.

While R's found something to rejoice in when the indictment of Vigil-Giron and Company came down, they did not have to wait long for an explosion of their own. Sergio Garcia, hired only a few months ago from out of state as the party's deputy executive director, headed toward the exits in a huff. He resigned his position and literally loaded up his U-Haul and headed back to Texas after only 90 days on the job. His letter of departure warned of "destructive" forces within the party and reminded observers of the split in the GOP that first surfaced over five years ago when Ramsay Gorham was ousted as party chair and replaced by Allen Weh. Here is a portion of the parting shot Garcia fired off in a letter to NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr.

I have seen the destructive forces that have plagued the Republican Party of New Mexico for years...It has become evident that my hiring was to placate national GOP leadership, local Republican activists, donors and the media. From the moment of my official hiring, an operation began to undermine my professional credibility.. In addition, a whisper campaign that insinuates that I will never really handle the day-to-day operations long after the current the Executive Director leaves is offensive. Did you think that this quiet campaign would not come back to me?...

I can no longer justify earning a paycheck from our donors for leading a Party that in truth will always be a two man--and at times--three man show. The Party supposedly hired me as a symbol of a new day for a Party that has been plagued with deep divisions that led to historic political loses on 2008. I was looking forward to re-building a stronger, broader Party but due to unforeseen circumstances, this will not be the case...

Ryan Cangiolosi, current executive director of the party, says "he is in the dark" about the allegations Garcia, 34, is so upset about. He says Yates has the party in a turn around phase that is "exciting and expanding our base" as evidenced by a program emphasizing fund-raising and attention to New Mexico's grassroots. "We wish Sergio well," he said.

The party has been bedeviled by infighting over philosophy as well as the consultants who return year after year, win or lose. Garcia was headed back to the Lone Star State and did not call to elaborate on his parting missive. Cangiolosi plans a 2010 run for the ABQ state House seat held by Rep. Bill O'Neill. He will remain as executive director.


While New Mexico politics was, as usual, exploding in all directions, Governor Big Bill was finally above it all. He was talking--not negotiating, mind you, with two North Korean diplomats, and receiving a boatload of national and international press coverage. And guess what? For a change, none of it mentioned the federal pay-to-play investigation that cost him a slot in the Obama cabinet: From
the WaPo:

In the latest in a string of conciliatory moves, the North Korean government sent a delegation to meet Wednesday with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who said the isolated country is "now prepared to have a dialogue with us" after months of aggressive nuclear testing that alarmed the international community.

And here's AP coverage. Then there were the numerous network TV appearances, all of which are bound to bump up the Guv's numbers.

Our blog on what this diplomatic mission may mean to that federal grand jury probe and the possibility of indictments caught tho eye of KSFR-FM radio's Bill Dupuy in Santa Fe. Here's that audio interview filled with all the fun speculation.

Maybe the mission signals that Richardson and associates have dodged the indictment bullets. And in New Mexico these days there are plenty of them to dodge.

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