Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GO CAMPAIGNING

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 15, 2009


When in doubt, hit the campaign trail.
RICHARDSON IN PORTSMOUTH
That seems to be the reflex of Gov. Bill Richardson this week as scandals mount, the state’s economic picture grows more grim, and tensions with the state Legislature — at least the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee — grow.

A news release from Richardson’s office earlier this week reminded me of e-mails from his presidential campaign. But instead of naming stops in towns like Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Des Moines, the new one listed New Mexico towns and cities — and instead of selling himself as the best possible commander-in-chief, Richardson is talking about his legislative priorities and budget plan.

On Wednesday, he went to Farmington, Las Cruces and Roswell to talk about public-safety initiatives. Today, he’s scheduled for a breakfast with “local leaders” in Hobbs; a speech about education initiatives at the Lincoln Jackson Family Center Cafeteria in Clovis; and another speech and “Pre-Groundbreaking Rally” at the Tucumcari High School Auditorium.

Maybe that’s not as romantic as running for president. But the events aren’t that different from speaking to a couple of dozen people in a freezing airplane hangar in Dubuque, Iowa, or strolling bookstores and coffee shops in Portsmouth, N.H.
RICHARDSON'S VICTORY SPEECH IN IOWA
The audiences are bound to be friendly, and you don’t have to deal with a bunch of grumpy senators or jaded statehouse reporters asking questions about grand juries and lawyers.

Speaking of such unpleasantness: It seems that ever since Richardson announced he was withdrawing as President-elect Barack Obama’s commerce secretary nominee, there’s been a steady stream of news about state scandals popping up.

On Wednesday, two scandals duked it out for column inches and TV news airtime — allegations of pay-to-play at the Education Retirement Board and new revelations about funny expenditures by the state’s regional housing authorities.

For the benefit of those who don’t know the difference between CDR Financial Products and A. Gutierrez & Associates, here’s a pocket primer to recent New Mexico political scandals:

* Region III Housing Authority: Last week, The Associated Press reported a state grand jury is investigating the operations of an Albuquerque-based regional housing authority that defaulted on payments for $5 million in bonds it sold to New Mexico. State Attorney General Gary King has been investigating the housing agency, which the State Investment Council in 2006 concluded had misused bond proceeds to pay salaries and benefits, make loans and buy vehicles. The SIC in May 2008 filed a separate civil action against the agency’s former executive director, Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos, and an Albuquerque bond attorney, Robert Strumor, in an effort to recover the $5 million in taxpayer money. That suit is pending.

On Wednesday, State Auditor Hector Balderas released a report saying all five regional housing authorities he audited “were plagued by weak internal controls and a lack of adequate oversight,” and “the blatant disregard for proper policies and procedures created an environment ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse.” Gallegos has denied wrongdoing.

* Vanderbilt Capital Advisors: Another allegation of pay-to-play. Frank Foy, a former chief investment officer of the state Educational Retirement Board, charged in a civil lawsuit unsealed Friday that state officials pressured ERB and the State Investment Council to hire a Chicago company, Vanderbilt Capital Advisors, which had contributed more than $15,000 to Richardson’s presidential campaign. Vanderbilt lost a total of $90 million in state money.
Richardson’s office and other state officials named in the suit denied wrongdoing.
Rebecca Vigil-Giron
* Secretary of State expenditures: Last week, the Attorney General’s Office confirmed it’s investigating how federal election money was spent under former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. Actually, the investigation was confirmed earlier by a strange news release Friday from the Department of Workforce Solutions, where Vigil-Giron now works. That statement was to deny a rumor that Vigil-Giron had been fired. “Ms. Vigil-Giron informed Secretary Betty Sparrow Doris of a pending Attorney General investigation involving matters not related to her work at the NM Department of Workforce Solutions,” that statement said.

A 2008 federal audit questioned whether Vigil-Giron had properly spent millions of dollars on a voter-education project that included television ads. An Albuquerque advertising company, A. Gutierrez & Associates, received more than $6 million to produce ads, many of them prominently featuring Vigil-Giron, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year. State records could substantiate only about $2.6 million of Gutierrez’s costs, the audit determined. Payments by the state to the company exceeded a contracted ceiling by more than $300,000. Vigil-Giron has denied wrongdoing.

* CDR: This is the grand jury investigation that cost Richardson a cabinet position. The federal grand jury in Albuquerque is looking at whether CDR Financial Products was awarded bond work for the state transportation construction projects because of campaign contributions totaling more than $100,000 from CDR and its chief executive officer.

Richardson has denied wrongdoing, and some of his supporters privately say the whole case is a political witch hunt by Republican prosecutors — remember the Justice Department scandals of 2007, some Richardson supporters say — who are out to make the governor look bad.

1 comment:

  1. A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)

    THIS PETITION SEEKS TO ABOLISH ALL PRIVATE PRISONS IN THE UNITED STATES, (or any place subject to its jurisdiction)


    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
    We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

    Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

    Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.



    John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

    There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.


    Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

    The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
    These new slave plantations are not the answer!

    For more information please visit: http://www.npsctapp.blogsppot.com or email: williamthomas@exconciliation.com
    To sign the petition please visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/petition.html

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!



    William Thomas
    National Community Outreach Facilitator
    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
    P.O. Box 156423
    San Francisco, California 94115

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