Friday, December 31, 2010

Second NM Governor Exploits, Betrays Billy the Kid

Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson went on national television, Good Morning America to be exact, to announce that he wouldn't be pardoning Billy the Kid after all. He joined Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace in becoming the second governor to exploit then betray the legendary outlaw.

It should be noted that unlike, say, commercial real-estate magnate Eddie Gilbert, Billy the Kid didn't donate tens of thousands of dollars to Richardson's campaigns. (Though in fairness, Gilbert never killed two deputies in daring escape from the Lincoln County Jail either.)


I meant to include this:

Governor Bill Richardson's Full Statement Regarding Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid is not dead.

He was shot through the chest on the night of July 14, 1881 by one of the most famous lawmen of the American Old West. His body fell to the floor, glass-eyed and lifeless. His corpse was buried where it expired, at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where it lays in a lonely grave to this day -- a just and lasting epilogue to a life spent pillaging, ravaging and killing the deserving and the innocent alike.

Yes, Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett in 1881. But The Kid is not dead. Not by a long shot.

He remains very much alive in the culture, history and imaginations of the public to this day. Not just in New Mexico but throughout the country and around the world. This is the message I received during the recent ten days of public comment on the issue of whether or not a pardon was promised but never granted the Kid by territorial governor Lew Wallace, and if so whether I should fulfill such for Henry McCarty/Henry Antrim/William H. Bonney, a/k/a “Billy the Kid.”

On its surface the question before me is rather simple: Did my predecessor, Governor Lew Wallace, promise a pardon to The Kid for past deeds in return for the latter’s testimony in a particularly notorious murder trial? If so, and given the fact that The Kid did provide that testimony at great peril to his own life, why was that promise not fulfilled? Should it be? Pretty simple. But as is often the case, what appears simple on the surface can be complex in the depths.


If a pardon was offered, it was targeted at The Kid’s alleged role in the death of William Brady, a sheriff in southern New Mexico. It was specific in scope and not prospective. This is a crucial point, as the pardon offer did not cover subsequent events in Billy’s life such as his killing of two deputies at the Lincoln County Courthouse. No “blanket pardon” for Billy the Kid was, or is, under consideration.

Having said that, and while there is no “smoking gun” in the form of, say, a written letter from Wallace to Bonney specifically offering a pardon, a growing preponderance of evidence leans in that direction. This includes subsequent letters from Bonney to Wallace imploring him to ‘keep his end of the bargain;” statements and testimony from those with first hand knowledge of the case; media accounts of the day; and published interviews in which Wallace himself seems to confirm this arrangement, or at least his indication to Bonney that a pardon was in the offering. Much of this material is housed in the New Mexico state archives. This is coupled with the fact that there was no pronounced outcry from Wallace when these accounts appeared in the contemporary media, a difficult-to-explain curiosity had Wallace never made that promise.

It’s also known that Governor Wallace granted amnesty to other violent criminals of the day including murders, cattle rustlers and highway robbers, in an attempt to bring an end to the bloodshed of the Lincoln County Wars. So it is in keeping with Wallace’s prior actions that he would offer a similar pardon to The Kid. This is even more compelling given the extreme danger to The Kid for what he was being asked to provide. Namely, damning testimony against members of the murderous Dolan gang in a trial for the killing of a one-armed lawyer named Chapman. And Billy did provide that testimony, clearly indicating he expected something of great value in return. Given that other than personal vendettas, the overriding threat facing him at that time was the indictment for the Brady killing, the only thing of that value would have been the removal of the threat of prosecution regarding Brady -- i.e. a pardon.

All of this strongly indicates that a pardon was in play. Even many strident opponents of a pardon concede this point.


So the evidence indicates a pardon was offered to The Kid but never delivered. Pardons were granted to comparable rogues by Governor Wallace. The Kid did testify in the Chapman murder case at great personal peril. In other words, Billy, at least, did his part. It seems pretty simple.

However, pardons are serious business. History is serious business. If one is to re-write a chapter as prominent as this, there had better be certainty as to the facts, the circumstances and the motivations of those involved. While I believe Governor Wallace did promise The Kid a pardon – and The Kid did keep his end of the deal – I don’t know exactly why the pardon was never granted. Who knows what the specifics of their arrangement were? Who knows for sure what, exactly, was promised? Maybe there was more to the deal than just the testimony. Or maybe there were conditions of the pardon being issued that The Kid violated. The point is, I don’t know for sure. No one does. And then there’s the fact that The Kid killed two more lawmen while escaping capture. That has to weigh in the decision.

Therefore I am not in a position at this time to issue a pardon for Billy the Kid. History lives on.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Morning, Billy

This just in from the Governor's Office:

SANTA FE- Gov. Bill Richardson will announce his decision regarding a pardon of Billy the Kid tomorrow, Friday, December 31st live on ABC's Good Morning America. The announcement is expected at approximately 7:10am ET/5:10am MT.

5:10 AM? On a holiday?!?!?!?!?!?!

Oh well ... Enjoy this exciting scene from the motion picture classic Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

Richardson's Farewell to State Employees

Here's a copy of an -mail the governor sent to state workers.

Goodbye, guv.
Richardson Farewell

Richardson Restores Citizenship Rights to Big Campaign Contributor

Gov. Bill Richardson has granted clemency to Eddie Gilbert -- an 88-year old commercial real-estate magnate — and big Richardson campaign contributor — convicted of embezzling and stock manipulation.

Only trouble is, those convictions were not crimes in New Mexico. One was in federal court and one was in New York state court.

A Richardson spokesman said Wednesday that Richardson’s action regarding Gilbert is not an actual pardon. At least two others convicted of federal crimes who had asked for pardons were denied and sent letters explaining that Richardson does not have the power to pardon federal crimes. The governor of New Mexico also doesn’t have the power to pardon crimes committed outside the state.

So the whole "restoration of state citizenship rights" thing might just be a symbolic gesture.

Gilbert's rights were restored in August. I learned about it today when I finally got to see the clemency requests I'd asked for about a month ago.

Gilbert Gallegos said Wednesday that Richardson’s clemency action only restores Eddie Gilbert’s citizen rights under state law. Asked whether that includes the right to vote — considering that federal offices like president and congressman are on the state ballot — Gallegos said he didn’t know.

Forbes magazine, did an interesting profile of Eddie Gilbert in 1999, describing how Gilbert fled the country in 1962 to live as a fugitive in Brazil instead of facing charges of embezzlement. He eventually returned and pleaded guilty to fraud and larceny. He served seven years in prison in New York. And in 1981, Gilbert was convicted of manipulating the stock of a communications-equipment manufacturer, Conrac Corp. He spent nearly two more years in prison.

Gilbert founded his BGK Group in 1991 on Garfield Street in Santa Fe. He sold controlling interest this year.

You can read my story -- which tells of Gilbert's contributions to Richardson as well as to local charities, as well as about those who apparently didn't receive clemency HERE.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Advice to the New Guv From the Old

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 30, 2010

When I interviewed Gov. Bill Richardson last week, some of our talk turned to politics.

Though he said he got frustrated being a punching bag for Republican Gov.-elect Susana Martinez during this year’s gubernatorial campaign, Richardson said, “I’m not going to get into New Mexico politics for awhile. I’m not going to criticize Gov. Martinez. I’m not going to praise her.”

But just a few moments later, Richardson, uh, criticized her.

“She needs to stop using campaign rhetoric and realize that she’s now governor and has to govern,” he said. “You know, the state jet business and the exempts and the budget stuff. This is time to govern, to learn about the budget and to pick good people.”

Asked his opinion of Martinez’s appointments so far, Richardson said, “I don’t know many of these people. There seem to be a lot of Republican Party operatives. I think you want to have more substantive people. You need people you can trust, but I’d reach out more. I’d like her to appoint some Democrats.”

Republicans in Richardson’s original cabinet included Joanna Prukop, who was secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources for almost seven years, and Ed Lopez, his original General Services secretary.

Martinez transition spokesman Danny Diaz responded this week:

“Gov.-elect Martinez has nominated highly qualified individuals who represent diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, including three Democrats. Her nominees fulfill a commitment to seek out individuals who reach beyond state government and add depth and breadth to the agencies they manage. The end result will be greater efficiency and effectiveness in government delivering change on behalf of New Mexico citizens.”

Diaz said Martinez’s Democratic cabinet nominees are Jose Z. Garcia for Higher Education secretary, Lupe Martinez for Corrections secretary and Yolanda Berumen-Deines for secretary of Children, Youth and Families. (In fairness to Richardson, our interview took place before these nominations were announced.)

The note on the desk: Asked what advice he would leave for Martinez in the traditional note left on the governor’s desk, Richardson said, “It’s going to be personal stuff, not policy stuff. Things like ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously,’ ‘Be strong with the Legislature.’ It’s going to say stuff like ‘the state needs healing’ and to remember you’re governor of all the people, not just the hard-right Republican Party.

“But I wish her well. I really do,” Richardson said. “And even if she tries to tear down some of my legacy, I’m not going to be out there lobbying or defending anything. I think that it’s up to the Legislature and the public.”

More advice on the Legislature: “Realize that traditionally the New Mexico governorship is a weak governorship,” Richardson said he’d tell Martinez. “The New Mexico Legislature is traditionally strong. So if you want to have a strong agenda, you have to be strong and not cave in to their every whim and desire.

"Consult as much as you can. Reach out, but in the end, you’ve got to lead," he said. "You’ve been elected governor to lead and not always make nice. Sometimes you have to be tough like I was. But we got tremendous accomplishments by being strong and, you know, having a few conflicts and fights, but in the end coming together.”

Richardson acknowledged that he’d had some loud fights with the state Senate. He summed it up this way: “My agenda was to move the state forward. Theirs was to watch every penny, which they have a constitutional right to do. But that doesn’t mean you stop all progress.”

I Beg Your Pardon

It's official. Billy the Kid now has better poll numbers than Gov. Bill Richardson.

Does any online betting site have odds on the chances of the pardon?

Here's a great, if historically inaccurate song by Joe Ely

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Richardson's Quest for Normalcy

I interviewed outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson up on the Fourth Floor last week, not long after he'd gotten back from North Korea.

In it he says he he looks forward "to becoming a normal person" and "I want to stay (in Santa Fe), and I'm very comfortable with becoming anonymous and insignificant."

But he also says he'll earn part of his income giving paid speeches. He sais he's signed on with his old speaker's agency, The Washington Speakers Bureau, an exclusive D.C.-based company whose other anonymous and insignificant clients include George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, James Carville and Mary Matalin, Madeleine Albright, John Bolton and Bob Woodward.

When asked about the pay-to-play allegations and the investment scandals, Richardson still says he did nothing wrong and calls any claims to the contrary " baseless and politically motivated allegations.”

However he did say, "... just in general, I wish I had exercised more oversight over many things. We were just doing too much. I was maybe too trusting. And I’m not referring to Bland. Just in general, I appointed so many people. You know, by nature, I’m a trusting person. And, you know, maybe I should have exercised more oversight. But, you know, I’m human. I was doing so many things. You know, you trusting people.”

You can find my story about that HERE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Back to Work

Christmas vacation is over. I'm back to cover the last week of The Richardson Administration.

Or maybe the first days of Richardson's new job as Secretary of State.

I seriously doubt that. There's no way Dianna Duran would give up that job after campaigning so hard for it.

Just kidding ... But seriously, I'm no Karnak, but I think it's safe to predict that that this rumor is just that -- and that it ain't gonna happen. I love how blogs are reporting that Fox News have "confirmed that there are reports" of Richardson taking Hillary Clinton's position.

I will only confirm that I've read a blog saying that Fox News is confirming that there are "reports." But don't quote me.

Meanwhile, I can confirm that there were a dozen new legislators elected to the New Mexico House. And I talked to all of them. Read that HERE and HERE

SWIRLING RUMOR UPDATE: From Richardson's spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia:

"The Governor has no plans to leave New Mexico. He is looking forward to becoming a private citizen."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Vacation!

Merry Christmas, faithful blog readers. I'm off now until the Monday after Christmas.

If something major happens, I might stick my head in here.

Have a wonderful Holiday season!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bratton Is New House GOP Whip

House Republicans on Thursday chose Rep. Don Bratton of Hobbs to be the party whip, House GOP Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington said.

Bratton, an engineer, was elected to his sixth term in the Legislature.

He defeated Rep. Jimmie Hall of Albuquerque for the whip position — the number two position in the Republican caucus.

Bratton will replace Rep. Keith Gardner of Roswell. Gardner recently was chosen by Gov.-elect Susana Martinez to be her chief of staff.

Billy You Been Running For So Long ...

The ghost of Billy the Kid once more roams the Roundhouse. Gov. Bill Richardson might be in North Korea, but his heart apparently is on the dusty trail with the Kid.

The Governor's Office just announce that it's received an application for a pardon of the West's most famous outlaw.

It's from Albuquerque criminal lawyer Randi McGinn, who, according to the news release, "was designated to review both the history and prior petitions to ascertain whether there was sufficient basis for the matter to be seriously considered. Ms. McGinn, a New Mexico resident and western history enthusiast, agreed to undertake this voluntarily and at no cost to taxpayers. After concluding her review, Ms. McGinn submitted a formal petition on December 14, 2010."

In the petition, McGinn writes, ""A promise is a promise and should be enforced. It is particularly important to enforce promises and deals made by government officials, law enforcement officers or the governor of a state made in exchange for a citizen risking his life to testify against a criminal who committed murder."

Such a promise was made by Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace to Billy in exchange for his testimony in a trial related to the bloody Lincoln County War.

Richardson will be accepting written comments about the proposed pardon until Dec. 26. Between then and New Year's Eve, he'll make his long-promised decision.

Application for Pardon Henry McCarty AKA Billy the Kid 12-14-2010 (1)

While we wait for that fateful decision, enjoy a great version of my favorite Billy song.

Bingaman Gets Challenger

Las Cruces businessman and inventor Greg Sowards announced this morning that he will seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held for the past 27 years by Democrat Jeff Bingaman.

In an email, Sowards said,

“The most pressing fight of our time involves the question; what will be the national atmosphere that our children’s children will live under? Will they have the liberty to experience and learn from those endearing lessons that freedom affords? Or, will they be deprived of that opportunity through governmental intervention and the squandering of their resources by short sighted politicians?”

Sowards ran for the CD2 GOP nomination in 2008 but that primary was won by Ed Tinsely, who went on to lost against Democrat Harry Teague.

Bingaman has not announced whether he'll seek a seventh term.

Roundhouse Roundup: Johnson Talks About Marijuana Use (But Not About His Contributors)

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 16, 2010

Before former Gov. Gary Johnson began using marijuana in late 2005 to relieve pain from a broken back and other injuries suffered in a Hawaii paragliding accident, he tried to get by with no pain medication at all.

"I found myself crumpled up on the floor," Johnson said in a telephone conversation Wednesday. "A friend came by and said, 'Holy cow! Do you want me to try to get you some marijuana to help with the pain?' I hadn't even thought of that."

This was a couple of years before the state approved legal use of marijuana for medical purposes under controlled circumstances.

When Johnson first went public with his support for legalizing marijuana about a decade ago, he told reporters and everyone else that he hadn't touched the weed since his college days, mainly because it detracted from his skiing abilities. In recent years, I hadn't even thought of asking if he'd smoked it again.

But a reporter with a conservative publication called The Weekly Standard did. And Johnson's admission made national headlines last week — mainly because Johnson, who has been touring the country talking about his libertarian approach to government, is seeming more and more like a 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

Johnson said the reason he refused to take prescription painkillers was because of a terrible experience with one such drug in January 2001 — the first time he broke his back.

"I think it was Vicodin," he said, referring to a commonly prescribed narcotic. "It was horrible getting off that stuff. I was constipated, I couldn't sleep for days."

Smoking marijuana for his pain, he said, "seemed like a much healthier choice than prescription drugs." He said he smoked it "on and off" for about three years until the pain — which he called a "dull ache that wouldn't go away" — completely subsided.

Marijuana, he said, doesn't directly numb the pain. "It just helps you cope with the pain. It helps you put yourself in a state of mind where the pain doesn't bother you."

In virtually all of his speeches in favor of legalizing marijuana, Johnson always said it shouldn't be legal to drive a car when you're stoned. The ex-governor said Wednesday that he practiced what he preached. "I didn't drive or operate any heavy machinery when I was smoking it," he said.

So, if he does become a candidate: If Johnson does enter the 2012 Republican primaries and his campaign catches on fire, it's not hard to imagine Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin playing the Reefer Madness card: "Would you want a president with his finger on the nuclear button after he's been smoking weed?"

Asked about that possibility, Johnson seemed unfazed. "If they did that, I'd just say that I'm one of a million of people who have done it," he said. "I'm not alone in this universe."

Who's paying for his non-campaign: While Johnson was willing to disclose his marijuana use, he said Wednesday he won't be disclosing who has contributed to his organization called Our America: The Gary Johnson Initiative — which has paid for all of Johnson's travel in the past several months. (On Wednesday he was in Phoenix, getting ready to speak at a Bill of Rights dinner.)

"It's a 501-C4," he said, referring to the organization's tax status. "There's no disclosures. That's part of the whole fundraising deal. There's no limits (to the amount people can contribute) and no disclosure."

Johnson said some people who are sympathetic to his ideas have declined to donate to Our America because they don't want to be identified as supporters.

The group has raised about a half-million dollars so far, Johnson said.

While he's correct that such nonprofit groups don't have to disclose, refusal to do so can become a source of criticism down the road. Current Gov. Bill Richardson learned that with his Moving America Forward Foundation. Richardson never has disclosed who contributed to that group, which raised about $1.7 million during Richardson's time in office.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Blog That the PRC Does NOT Want You To Read

Hello, freedom loving readers at the state Public Regulation Commission! According to a source over there, this blog is one that's been approved for your reading by your wise superiors.

However, Green Chile Chatter, the blog maintained by my Capitol Bureau colleague Kate Nash, is not so lucky. According to my source, if you try to go there, you get a message saying NMPRC internet policy does not allow this web site to be accessed.

That's not fair! Why does she get to be the banned one? That's a lot more fun than being the government-approved site!

Anyway, here's a copy of Kate's latest post. Ironically, it's about the new state government Sunshine Portal.


New sunshine portal to launch sooner than expected

Good news in the good government category: the state's sunshine portal will be unveiled Thursday at a press conference in Albuquerque.

The site promises a ton of public information in one spot, including the yearly budgets for each state agency, with a categorized monthly expenditure list, a monthly summary of the State Investment Council's investments, info on all state employees, positions and titles and revenue the state is receiving, broken out by category. In addition, it will have a regular update of the state's check ledger.

If it works as promised, this will be a super handy tool for anyone who wants quick access to accurate information about how taxpayer money is being spent.

Sen. Sander Rue, who sponsored the bill to create the website, called it a one-stop shop.
"With the click of a mouse, the public can more actively participate in its state government. This one-stop shop website allows members of the public to more readily and easily become engaged in how government runs with our tax dollars," he said in a statement.

So far, it sounds like the site will quickly become a favorite for those following state government.

Udall Votes Against Tax Bill

Though earlier this week Sen. Tom Udall voted to move the controversial tax bill -- extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy -- to the floor, today he voted against the bill itself.

In a statement, Udall explained:

“While I understand the value of a compromise, the literal costs of this deal for future generations of Americans is too much to concede. With a depressed economy and high unemployment we should be finding ways to create jobs, pull America’s middle class from the edge and bolster our economy. Instead, this proposal will drive our national deficit upwards another $900 billion without any evidence that the deal struck would help our economy in the long-term. 

“In fact, economic experts point to the contrary.  In terms of stimulating the economy, tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is not an effective strategy.  And a compromise that significantly increases our already unsustainable debt while failing to spark job growth and the economy isn’t much of a compromise at all, and certainly not one I can support.”

The Senate approved the bill 81-19, sending it to the House.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that our other U.S. senator, Jeff Bingaman, also voted against the tax deal. Bingaman expressed his opposition earlier this week when he voted against stopping debate on the bill.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NM Senators Split on Tax-Deal Vote

Udall and Bingaman (with State Dem Chairman Javier Gonzales) election night 2010New Mexico's two Democratic senators split in today's vote to stop debate on the tax-compromise bill.

The vote was 83-15 in favor of advancing the $ $858 billion bill, which extends Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Tom Udall voted in favor of ending debate. Udall, who has been one of the main movers in the Senate on reforming the filibuster, sounds like he is trying to be consistent on that issue.

“Today, I voted to move the Senate forward to a straight up or down vote on this tax proposal. While I still have serious concerns with the package, there has been adequate time to study it and now we must do our jobs and vote. I have continually fought against obstruction and needless delay in the Senate and refuse to contribute to our dysfunction by voting to delay further this bill’s consideration.”

Bingaman voted against ending the debate. He said

"This bill does have some useful provisions to stimulate the economy, and I do strongly support extending tax cuts to New Mexicans who need it most. But this bill goes further than that. It extends tax cuts to the highest earners and adds a substantial estate tax cut that will make it very difficult for the next Congress to act in a responsible way to our serious deficit situation. For those reasons, I could not support it.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Senate GOP Chooses Neville For Caucus Chairman

Both party caucuses in the state Senate met today to decide leadership business.

The Senate Republicans chose Sen. Steve Neville of Farmington to replace Sen. Dianna Duran of Tularosa as their caucus chair. Duran will soon resign from the Senate to become secretary of state.

The Senate Democrats voted to retain their current leaders, Sen. Michael Sanchez of Belen as Majority Leader, Sen. Mary Jane Garcia as whip and Sen David Ulibarri of Grants as caucus chairman.

Unlike two years ago, the Dems also voted to back current Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell. In 2008 the Senate Democrats nominated Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa for the pro-tem post. But Jennings hung on with the support of a minority of Democrats and the entire Republican caucus.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cultural Affairs Sec. Ashman to Join Peace Corps.

With only 11 days left in his term, we still don't know about the future plans of Gov. Bill Richardson and most of the key figures of his administration.
But, we just found out about one. Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman, shown in the center of this photo playing guitar for an event in the Capitol Rotunda last year, will join the Peace Corps.

From the news release:

In his new role with the Peace Corps, Ashman will serve as a consultant, analyzing the work that Corps volunteers carry out on small business development activities supporting artisans in three Latin American countries.  The goal, says Ashman, is to “determine the feasibility of focusing on these arts activities as a benefit to communities in those countries.

Ashman, appointed by Richardson has been secretary since August 2003.

Martinez Inaugural Web Site

There's all the basic information on the Susana Martinez Inaugural festivities on a new site.

And yes, she really is calling the main event "The Bold Inaugural Ball." But it's by bold invitation only.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Last Dance for the Music Commission?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 

December 9, 2010

Is the music over for the New Mexico Music Commission?

The final note might be near. Among the many recommendations of a legislative task force studying restructuring the state government is to move the functions to the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Arts Division and Arts Commission.

The Music Commission is one of dozens that the Government Restructuring Task Force has recommended be consolidated or eliminated. The task force meets Dec. 20 to give final approval to its final report.

Music Commission Director Nancy Laflin said Wednesday that she hadn’t heard about the task force’s recommendation.

She said the commission basically is a one-person operation with an annual budget of about $120,000.

“The commissioners don’t even get per diem for meetings,” she said. Ironically, she said, she’s traveling to Denver this week to take part in a conference. “I was invited to talk about how we made the program work in New Mexico,” she said. (The city of Denver and an arts group are paying for her expenses, she pointed out.)

A little history of the commission: Gov. Bill Richardson requested the 2005 state Legislature create and fund a Music Commission. Billy Sparks, then a Richardson spokesman (and an early proponent of the idea), said this would provide a clearing house for information regarding New Mexico singers and bands, as well as businesses such as recording studios, concert producers and record companies.

The idea was sparked by similar music agencies in Texas and Louisiana.

The Legislature was not enthralled with the idea. The Music Commission bill died somewhere in committee. But Richardson in April 2005 issued an executive order to establish such an agency. He hired Laflin, who had been a longtime television reporter on KOAT-TV, to be the state Music Commission’s executive director.
In 2009, the Legislature voted to make the commission a permanent part of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Making a noise: Laflin said she produces a weekly radio show promoting New Mexico musicians at KBAC in Santa Fe, which is syndicated on stations around the state. She and some members of the commission also produce a monthly radio show on KUNM.

The commission, beginning in 2007, created a television show that has aired on various stations and features live performances by New Mexico bands. (Many of the performances can be found on YouTube.) Laflin said the commission helped produce a documentary about Norman Petty Studios in Clovis — where Buddy Holly recorded most of his hits. This aired on PBS.

And for several years, the commission has organized a Music in Film Summit to help musicians who want to get their work in the movies. The last one was in September at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

The decision on whether the Music Commission — and all those other boards and commissions — will be cut or consolidated will be up to next year’s Legislature.

The Bill Richardson Institute of Dictator Dialogue: For months, everyone even halfway interested in state politics has been asking the question, “What is Richardson going to do after he leaves office?” The governor has been coy, making vague allusions to driving around the country touring baseball stadiums and such.

But The Washington Post earlier this week had an interesting tidbit about the governor’s future plans.

The same blog post in which they revealed his upcoming trip to North Korea said, “We’re hearing Richardson has signed up with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which will probably enable him to put some fine bread on the table. In addition, he’s going to set up a center in Santa Fe to focus on ways to rescue people being held hostage by bad guys and on initiating dialogue with rogue regimes.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

R.I.P. Elizabeth Edwards


I snapped this photo of her after a debate in New Hampshire in June 2007.

She died earlier today after a lengthy bout with cancer.

Her New York Times obituary is HERE

NM Economic Outlook: The Worst May Be Over But The Best is Nowhere in Sight

According to the latest economic summary issued by the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Council:

The U.S. and New Mexico economies continue to post signs that the worst of the recession is over, but the improvements are small and are doing little to prompt a substantial recovery from the drastic job losses that New Mexico and the country have suffered.

Here's the complete report:

Econ Outlook 1210

Monday, December 6, 2010

AG Opinion: State Shouldn't Have to Pay Malott For Legal Expenses, PR Firm.

State Attorney General Gary King's office released a long-awaited opinion on a question whether the state should have to reimburse former Education Retirement Board Chairman Bruce Malott for legal expenses and other costs related to lawsuits and federal investigations related to ERB investments.

Malott racked up at least $300,000 in legal fees from private attorneys. He's also been represented by state lawyers in the case. He also hired a public-relations firm. Malott has threatened to sue the state if he doesn't get reimbursed.

The opinion said:

... in light of the other statutes that provide legal representation to state officers and employees, we do not believe it requires the state to reimburse Mr. Malott and other ERB members for expenses resulting from privately retained counsel, particularly when an attorney has been made available at state expense through (the state Risk Management Division….)

Earlier this year, members of the Legislative Finance Committee balked at the pay-out, but they don't have the power to stop the ERB from setting aside money in its budget for such reimbursements.

Malott resigned from the board in September following the revelation that he'd taken a $350,000 loan from Anthony Correra, a friend and financial backer of Gov. Bill Richardson. Correra's son, Marc Correra, shared in millions of dollars in finder's fees from investments by the ERB and the State Investment Council.

Update 4:08 pm: ERB executive director Jan Goodwin just told me that Malott never has submitted formally a request for reimbursement. So unless Malott does submit such a request, nothing will happen.

Asked what she thought of the opinion, she would only say, "We're glad to have it."

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the Legislative Finance Committee, calling it mistakenly, the "Legislative Council."

UPDATE 4:56 pm Here's a copy of the AG's opinion.

3 Dec 10-Jan Goodwin-Opinion 10-05

Johnson Used Marijuana Medically

When former Gov. Gary Johnson first came out publicly for legalizing marijuana back in the late '90s, he made it clear that he hadn't used the evil weed since his college daze. It was bad for his skiing and all those athletic activities he so enjoys.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson
But now, Johnson told The Weekly Standard that he's actually smoked some boo in more recent years.

“It’s not anything I volunteer, but you’re the only person that actually asked about it,” says Johnson, who governed New Mexico from 1994 to 2002. “But for luck, I guess, I wasn’t arrested.” Although smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes was illegal in New Mexico until 2007, Johnson says he needed the drug following a 2005 paragliding accident in Hawaii. His sails got caught in a tree, he stalled—and fell about fifty feet straight down to the ground, he says. Johnson suffered multiple bone fractures, including a burst fracture to his T12 vertebrae. “In my human experience, it’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt.”

“Rather than using painkillers, which I have used on occasion before, I did smoke pot, as a result of having broken my back, blowing out both of my knees, breaking ribs, really taking about three years to recover,” Johnson says. He explains that painkillers had once caused him to suffer nasty side effects and the pain of withdrawing from the pills was unbearable. So, Johnson says, in 2005 "someone" who cared for him gave him marijuana to deal with the pain.

How will this affect Johnson's presidential chances if he becomes a 2012 candidate. I doubt this revelation hurts his standing among the Ron Paul supporters and other libertarian factions of the Republican Party who would be Johnson's main base of support.

But if his candidacy started catching fire in the primaries and Johnson started looking like more of a serious threat than Paul did in 2008, you could expect the GOP establish to use this like a hammer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Barela Named to Head Eco Devo Dept.

Gov.-elect Suzana Martinez this afternoon announced that she'll nominate Jon Barela, who lost a Congressional bid last month to incumbent Democrat Martin Henrich.

Barela is an Albuquerque businessman whose company Cerelink provides "cloud computing" services for the movie industry. In what might be a good omen for backers of the state's film incentives, Cerelink's website promotes the incentives.
Cerelink is based in New Mexico, which affords our customers--especially in digital media-- several cost savings: cheaper power and data center space, access to competitively priced ultra fast broadband networks and a 25% cash-back rebate on all motion picture production (including rendering) done in New Mexico.

Following his close race with Heinrich, there were some rumors that Martinez would hire Barela as her chief of staff. That talk stopped l;ast week when Martinez instead chose state Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, for that job.

Barela's appointment must be ratified by the state Senate.

He would replace acting Economic Development secretary Allan Oliver, who took the place of Fred Mondragon, who stepped down at the end of last month. Mondragon is a former legislator who headed Albuquerque's Office of Economic Development. He held the cabinet position since 2007. 

Gov. Bill Richardson's first Eco Devo secretary was Rick Homans, who previously had been a magazine publisher. Homans now is executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Letitia Montoya Running for State Dem Chair

Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe, who has run unsuccessfully several times for secretary of state and state senator and who worked on the recent campaign of Secretary of State Mary Herrera, is challenging incumbent state Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales for his position.

Two local Democrats today showed me a copy of an email Montoya has sent to party members.

Among her promises is to hold elected Democratic officials accountable if they supported Republicans in the election. That's bound to be a reference to the Herrera race. At least six Democratic county clerks, including Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, supported Herrera's Republican opponent Dianna Duran, who beat Herrera by a 15-point margin.

Gonzales hasn't announced his plans. However, one Dem I talked to said he sent out some real nice Thanksgiving cards last month, so that might be one clue.

Here's a cut-and-paste copy of Montoya's letter.

To all my fellow democrats:
I would first like to wish you and your families a Joyous Holiday Season.  I want to thank you again for all the hard work you put into this last election.  I have received many calls from many people throughout the state asking me to run for NM State Democratic Chair.  We need a strong and hard working State Chair that will protect our candidates from media and republican attacks.  
This last election made me upset that we lost the 3 highest statewide positions, several legislative races and numerous local races to the republicans. Why did this happen?  No coordination from the state Democratic Party.  That is why I am going to run for NM State Democratic Chair.
This is what I would like to implement.  I would work closely with the County Chairs because they are a great resource and know how to organize their counties to get candidates elected. Create a better calendar system with ALL events that are happening in each county. This last election no one knew what was going on in every county.  The website calendar must be updated EVERYDAY.  We need to create a system to build from the bottom on up. This means we have to work with City, County, and State candidates to piggy back on each other (phone banking and door to door for ALL candidates). We need to create better communication out reach for all candidates.  Outreach programs MUST get more democrats involved, campaign training schools, and an updated website. Last but not least is to start holding county central members, state central members and elected Democrat officials ACCOUNTABLE FOR HELPING REPUBLICANS.

I have BS in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science and a Masters in Education Youth at Risk. I owned a Financial Services company for over 10 years and was the COO. Before that I was a stay at home mom and home schooled my children for 4 years.  I have been on many boards and I currently sit on the American Cancer Society committee. I am also a cancer survivor, I was Secretary of the State Democratic Party for two terms, State Central member and two time National Delegate.
I ask you for your support to get me elected as your next NM State Democratic Party Chair. I will make you proud because I am not afraid to work hard for what I believe in and what I believe in is the DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
Thank You,
Letitia Montoya

Denish Outspent Martinez

Although she was defeated in last month’s gubernatorial election, Democrat Diane Denish outspent her opponent, Republican Susana Martinez, according to the final campaign finance reports that were submitted on Thursday.

According to the reports, Denish spent more than $7 million in her campaign, including more than a half a million dollars in the final week of the campaign. Denish raised more than $335,000 in the final reporting period which began Oct. 27. She still has more than $187,000 in her campaign treasury, according to her report.

Martinez, who takes office on Jan. 1, spent more than $6.7 million on her successful race, including the Republican primary, in which she beat four opponents.

Martinez, in the final reporting period, raised more than $310,000 and spent more than $510,000. She reported almost $42,000 in the bank.

A good chunk of the money spent by both campaigns went to advertisements, which by the end of the campaign, were almost all negative attacks. Denish, in her concession speech, said she regretted the tone of the campaign, including her own part in creating that tone.

Martinez’s largest contributors in the final report were $20,000 each from Dian Graves Stai, a banker in Abilene, Texas and Yates Petroleum of Artesia. The Yates company gave Martinez’s campaign a total of $66,000, according to records on the Secretary of State’s website.

Other large Martinez contributions in the last days of the campaign were $10,000 each from Stephen Bechtel of the Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco — the largest engineering company in the country, Me-Tex Oil and Gas Inc. of Hobbs and Frac Tech Services, of Cisco, Texas.

Denish’s biggest contributions in the final report were $106,000 from Emily’s List, a national organization that supports female pro-abortion rights candidates; $75,000 from the Democratic Governor’s Association; and $54,850 from a Washington D.C.-based political action committee called Vote New Mexico, which is associated with a national PAC funded largely by unions.

She also received $10,000 each from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and the State Democratic Party.

AFSCME had previously given the Denish campaign $200,000, while Emily’s List had contributed $110,000 to the campaign.

Denish kicked in $10,000 of her personal cash to the campaign in the last days, while her daughter Sara Schreiber gave another $10,000 and her husband Herb Denish gave $5,000.

AG Says Former Legislators Can Work for the Governor

Last week when Gov.-elect Susana Martinez appointed state Rep. Keith Gardner as her chief of staff, one of the first questions that came to my mind was whether it was legal. After all, after Bill Richardson was elected governor in 2002 there was talk that he'd appoint then state Rep. Patsy Trujillo of Santa Fe to his cabinet. But that didn't happen because of the state constitution's prohibiting lawmakers from being appointed to "civil offices."

I was assured by Legislative Council Services director Raul Burciaga that the Gentle Giant's appointment would be legal because unlike a cabinet secretary position, chief of staff is not a "civil" office.

It looks like the attorney general's office agrees. House GOP leader Tom Taylor formally sought an opinion on the matter. Here's the AG's response, which basically is what Burciaga told me.

"You requested our advice regarding the constitutionality of a former legislator’s service as an employee in the governor’s office. Specifically, you asked whether certain positions in the governor’s office, such as chief of staff, legislative affairs director, press secretary and policy advisor, are covered by the prohibitions of Article IV, Section 28 of the New Mexico Constitution and whether a legislator may resign from the legislature to take such a position. As discussed below, we believe it is legally permissible for a legislator to resign from the legislature and accept an employment position with the governor’s office, as long as the position is not a “civil office” subject to the restrictions of Article IV, Section 28.

"Positions in the governor’s office like those you describe are generally considered employment positions rather than civil offices covered by Article IV, Section 28. The positions of chief of staff, legislative affairs director, press secretary and policy advisor are not created by the legislature. The governor creates the positions, controls their actions and defines their duties. A person serving in one of the positions is responsible for administering and implementing the business of the governor’s office and, most importantly, is not vested with any independent or sovereign authority of the government.

"Based on the typical characteristics of the positions you describe, we conclude that they are not civil offices and that a legislator may resign his or her legislative seat and accept appointment to one of those positions or a similar employment position in the governor’s office without violating Article IV, Section 28.1"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Another NM Gov in National Spotlight

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 2, 2010

During the past campaign, I said several times, to anyone willing to listen, that at least whoever got elected governor wasn’t going to be focused on ascending to national office — as was Gov. Bill Richardson during his first few years in office.

No matter what you thought about the political stances or the personalities of Republican Susana Martinez or Democrat Diane Denish, it seemed both of them were down-to-earth and not likely to be using the governor’s office as a springboard to national power, crafting every news release and press conference for future use as a sound bite in a debate in Des Moines or Manchester.

But now, just a month after the election — and a month before the inauguration — I’m beginning to wonder.

If Martinez isn’t actively thinking about making a splash on the national political scene, it’s not that some national pundits aren’t egging her on to do so.

It started almost as soon as she won the election. On Nov. 6, Molly Ball and Carol Lee, writing in The Politico, listed Martinez among possible GOP vice presidential nominees, saying “Democrats regard Martinez, a former prosecutor who is the first female Hispanic governor in U.S. history, as downright dangerous.” The writers quoted an unnamed Democratic pollster who said Republicans “would be fools not to look at her.”

Writing in the online Huffington Post, blogger Keli Goff listed Martinez as “one of the five women who mattered” in the 2010 elections — along with Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley and White House aide Valerie Jarrett. “Like her GOP grizzly sister Haley, expect to see Martinez move front and center onto the national stage as one of the new faces of the GOP,” Goff wrote, “and with New Mexico being a swing state, don’t be surprised if, like another novice female governor two years ago, she emerges on the shortlist of 2012 GOP vice-presidential candidates.”

Last week there was a glowing piece in The Washington Post in which columnist Ruben Navarrette called Martinez “one of the GOP’s brightest stars” and predicted “Susana Martinez will be one of the country’s most consequential elected officials.”

In an appearance on CNN, host John King said Martinez was part of the “changing the face of the Republican Party.” She did better in that interview than she did in an interview with Latina magazine. There she had to be reminded by reporter what the Dream Act is. (It would allow children of illegal immigrants to stay in the country as long as they go to college or perform military service.)

The drumbeat continued this week with Matt Lewis in the online Politics Daily. In an article headlined, “Why the Next Republican VP Nominee Will Likely Be Hispanic,” Lewis said, “Republicans are now in the enviable position of having a new generation of qualified Hispanic leaders to choose from. The two most obvious picks would be Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov.-elect Susana Martinez.”

Similar to Lewis’ main point that the next GOP veep candidate probably will be Hispanic, Goff, in a separate Huffington piece, argued, “the recent roar of Mama Grizzlies nationwide has made it all but assured that for the second presidential campaign in a row, the GOP will have a woman on the ticket. They certainly have plenty of attractive candidates to choose from.” The first two she lists are U.S. Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and a certain district attorney from Las Cruces.

It’s a long way to 2012. All this praise and high predictions are taking place well before Martinez has even filled most of her top positions, presented her budget proposal, had her first fight with the Legislature or made any of the “bold changes” she’s promised.

Martinez told Latina magazine, when asked about possible national aspirations, “There’s a lot of work to be done in New Mexico and that’s where my commitment truly is. To make sure we get this right.”

But remember that other guy who always insisted being New Mexico governor was “the greatest job in the world” — even as he was spending considerable time, money and effort doing his best to get out of here?