Monday, January 13, 2014

Who Gets Screwed Because "Buster Screwed Us?"; Downs Deal And Guv Adviser McCleskey Front And Center Yet Again As ABQ Paper Follows-Up On National Media Coverage; The Legal And Political Fall-Out  

Jay McCleskey
Jay McCleskey, the Governor's powerful, talented and extraordinarily controversial political adviser, became even more radioactive this weekend as the ABQ Journal followed-up on an explosive November National Journal exposé

It left in its wake questions about not only McCleskey's future effectiveness but the legal peril that he and the administration could face over a shadowy lease deal for the ABQ Downs racino.

The tabloid style headline on the Sunday editions screamed: "Buster Screwed us." It hit the streets while the nation was being regaled and disgusted by the New Jersey scandal in which a top aide to Governor Christie came with the now famous email phrase: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Will McCleskey's "Buster Screwed us" email become its New Mexico equivalent?

The ABQ Journal was plenty dismissive of the National Journal's 5,400 expose of McCleskey and company. The author of that piece--Daniel Libit--came with payback and dissed the ABQ Journal piece on Twitter, saying the Journal's competing article "regurgitated" what he had reported on the Downs deal two and half months ago.

It was NM Politics with Joe Monahan (and the S. Fe Reporter) who were there at the start--well over two years ago--raising the critical questions, offering in-depth journalism and analysis and urging further coverage of the Downs deal and the shadow government.

In fact, one of the Governor's top political aides is quoted in the Santa Fe New Mexican as dismissing the National Journal coverage of McCleskey as being based on our blog. As if that shot down its credibility--or ours. And then there have been the ongoing heated and ad hominem attacks on our character and those of others who dared question the administration.

Well, in the aftermath of the Sunday Journal piece the operatives and others aren't snickering at us or our Alligators, are they? Our retort to them--and our friends on the Fourth Floor--is simple: "Read it and weep."

Okay, enough back slapping. To the action...


The ABQ Journal, awakening from its self-induced coma on the state's major political story, did, in fact, break new ground, reporting that Governor Martinez had been interviewed about the Downs by the FBI:

The FBI has investigated the contract, which was awarded to the Downs at Albuquerque in December 2011, with agents interviewing people involved with the Martinez campaign and others about the lease. . . the governor also answered FBI questions about the Downs as they related to an ongoing case involving emails allegedly stolen from her campaign.

Martinez--who has pledged the most transparent administration ever and who is a former prosecutor--could not find it in herself to sit for an in-person interview on the Downs and clear the air on what she insists was not a down and dirty pay to play deal:

The Journal asked to interview Martinez about the texts and other Downs-related matters. She declined to be interviewed on the advice of her attorney because of her expected testimony in the trial of a man charged in federal court with stealing her emails. She provided written responses through her spokesman.

But damaging text messages between McCleskey and former Martinez fundraiser Andrea Goff are not in any way related to the prosecution of former Martinez campaign manager Jamie Estrada who is accused of hijacking her campaign email account. Could not the Governor and newspaper have established ground rules for what they would discuss and get on with the interview complete with critical follow-up questions? So much for transparency. Bunkers don't have any windows.


Andrea Goff
The famous "Buster screwed us" text sent by McCleskey to Andrea Goff concerned the failure of Goff's 's father-in-law--Buster Goff--a member of the State Fair Commission--to vote for the Downs lease thus killing it. He later reversed his vote and the 25 year lease was approved. Does that email mean this Downs lease was a pay to play deal from the start and that Buster went off the reservation?

With the help of the Legal Beagles and Alligators let's dig deeper into the Downs deal article and those text messages between Goff and McCleskey.

The paper writes of the urgent messages:

 "The text exchanges continued into the night, and with each one McCleskey continued to dig a hole the Martinez administration is still trying to dig out of."

That's an acknowledgement from the paper that Martinez and company are far from out of the woods and it was McCleskey's own communications--which are admissible in court--that undercut all of the efforts to paint the deal as on the up and up.

Another McCleskey text to Goff reads: "the gov is furious." He (Buster Goff) was supposed to pass it."

That text puts Governor Martinez into the thick of the Downs dealing, with no ability to claim she was out of the loop. It seems clear that Martinez directly communicated her anger to McCleskey, which triggered his contacting Andrea Goff.

Also, the impression is made that Buster Goff was appointed by Martinez with the expectation that he would do her bidding--especially because his daughter-in-law worked for Martinez and McCleskey. This is reinforced by Buster's offering to resign from the commission after he voted against the lease.

The article does not impugn the integrity or credibility of Goff who has been roughed up by the Martinez administration which has called her "disgruntled" and her accusations "wild-eyed." Goff is   presented as a credible figure by the Journal as well she should be.

Goff long ago announced she had lawyered up. Is McCleskey lawyered up?  The article does not address the matter or any contact he may have had with the FBI.

The texts reveal that McCleskey looked for a way to take campaign money from one of the Downs owners who offered it, but hide it. He said of the campaign cash: "We should run (Downs owner) Windham's (contributions) through a different PAC."

A Legal Beagle speculates: "That's something the Feds would look at. It is a direction not a question."


The Journal's lengthy missive was also of interest for what it did not mention. What about the infamous Alligator hunting trip of Martinez husband Chuck Franco to Louisiana--the home state of owners of the Downs? It took place while the state was doing the Downs deal. And what about McCleskey's alter ego Darren White who assumed a top job at the ABQ Downs after the lease deal was sealed? No mention--yet.


Top state Dems and their party have treated the Downs deal like an unwanted stepchild and have shied away from taking on McCleskey with any effective force. They just won't go there.

Who among the five Dem Guv candidates will get out in front of the story before the June primary? The Democratic leadership in the state may be comatose, but the Democratic base is hungry for action--and red meat.

The Democratic legislative leadership and the state Democratic Party have been so quiet about the Downs deal, Jay McCleskey and his shadow government and the recent CYFD scandal that its given rise to a conspiracy theory. The theory goes that many Dems don't want Martinez to lose re-election so they can run for Governor with an open field in 2018--no Dem incumbent. The second leg of the theory is that legislative Dems--in the majority--are simply happy that Republican Martinez has to come to them to cut deals. Ridiculous? Or not?

Here's Senior Alligator analysis of the Dems and Martinez:

She has so many fights going on--with the teachers over evaluations, the Downs deal, the role of McCleskey and how he has become the story; the intra-party fight over him; the CYFD scandal over the death of Omaree Varela and the jobs and economy which are both in the gutter. If the Democrats had any fire at all they could package this stuff and take her popularity below 50%. What are they waiting for? 

It was McCleskey's picture splashed on the front page Sunday--not the Governor's. She was pictured on the inside pages. Clearly, McCleskey has a big target on his back. Will it impact his ability to run the Governor's campaign? To raise money? To do political deals with operatives who now have every reason to be nervous about contacts with him? To keep in line his many acolytes who hold high ranking administration jobs?

Andrea Goff says she was contacted by the FBI again after the National Journal piece hit in late November. If you thirst for political melodrama and legal intrigue, stay tuned. This looks like a long-running series....


The Koch brothers are pulling back in NM. From ProgressNM:

. . .Only a little over a year after setting up shop Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the special interest group bankrolled by the Koch brothers, is saying “adios” to the Land of Enchantment. Pam Wolfe, AFP’s Field Representative in New Mexico, confirmed  that AFP was in fact “reallocating their resources elsewhere” and will no longer have any “boots on the ground” in New Mexico...

The NM Dem Party announces that party activist Lissa Knudsen has been hired as the party's executive director. She was an assistant to Congresswoman Lujan Grisham when Grisham was a Bernalillo County Commissioner.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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