Friday, May 29, 2009

SIC Won't Relinquish Subpoenas

The State Investment Council has refused to give news organizations, including The New Mexican, copies of subpoenas from a federal grand jury investigating transactions involving New Mexico's state endowment funds.

In an email sent to me, and assumedly other reporters, SIC spokesman Charles Wollmann wrote

Under the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) documents may not be disclosed when such records or information are compiled for law enforcement purposes and could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, or deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication. ...

This office is cooperating fully with the Federal grand jury investigation and is honoring the general secrecy of grand juries pursuant to federal rules and will not interfere in this or any investigation.

State agencies have not been consistent in releasing subpoenas they have received.

For instance, in February Gov. Bill Richardson's office gave me and other news organizations copies of a subpoena regarding the grand jury investigation into the CDR investigation. (That's the California company that was paid $1.5 million for work on state transportation bonds -- about the same time it was contributing generously to Richardson political committees.

New Mexico's $11.8 billion in investments have made headlines in recent weeks because some of the same figures embroiled in a kickback scandal in New York have handled some of this state's investments -- and contributed to New Mexico politicians -- as well.

In this state investment broker Marc Correra has shared in $15 millions in finder's fees for his work as a third-party marketer, leading his clients to state investment deals.

Ortiz y Pino To Run for Lt. Gov.

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino soon will be announcing he's running for lieutenant governor, he told me Thursday.

He said he came to realize that under the Legislature's seniority system, it would take years to get a committee chairmanship or other leadership position.

"I think if I'm going to have more of an impact, I should run for lieutenant governor ... I think it would be great to work with Diane Denish. I have no ambitions beyond that. I'm not aiming to be a (U.S.) senator or governor."

He joked that he was one of the few Democrats in the state who wasn't already running for lieutenant governor. However, the only announced candidate so far is Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. State Auditor Hector Balderas and state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, also are contemplating a run for the office.

Read the whole story HERE

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Grudge Report

Granted, Gov. Bill Richardson has more to worry about these days than how an old boss feels about him. But The New York Times Magazine reports that there are still hard feelings over last year's election from the Clinton camp.

People close to Clinton said he has largely got over his resentment at Obama but not toward Ted Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy. As Clinton sees it, they say, he did so much for the Kennedys over the years that he felt they became almost family. Nor has he forgiven Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who endorsed Obama even though Clinton appointed him to two cabinet posts.

Roundhouse Roundup: The Campaign Never Ends

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 28, 2009

Wait a minute, didn't we just have an election?

Maybe so, But when you're a member of the House of Representatives and you have to face re-election every two years, the campaign never really stops. Especially the fundraising aspect of it.

That's true even with congressmen such as Rep. Ben Ray Luján in what are considered "safe" districts, as New Mexico's 3rd, which includes Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico.

How do we know it's a safe district? Besides the lopsided Democratic registration numbers, you can tell it's safe by the fact that almost every day I get an e-mail from the national Republicans telling me some terrible thing that Rep. Martin Heinrich voted for, quickly followed by an e-mail that's identical except Rep. Harry Teague's name is substituted for Heinrich's. They don't even bother with the 3rd's Luján.

(For the record, Republican Dan East, who lost to Luján in November and is considering a 2010 run, and Adam Kokesh, who is looking at challenging Luján, possibly as an independent, are hoping everyone else is wrong about the 3rd being a "safe" district for Luján.)
Ben Ray Lujan, Dem
But like any incumbent congressman, Luján's busy raising money for the 2010 race.

"We're going to make sure we have the resources to run a competent campaign next time around," said Luján spokesman Mark Nicastre.

Next month House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, is hosting a $1,000 per person fundraiser in Washington, D.C. for Luján.

But Luján's fundraising for 2010 began well before now.

According to his most recent campaign finance report, filed this month, Luján raised $138,370 and spent $131,876. At the end of the quarter (April 30), Luján's campaign committee had $60,288 in the bank.

Luján's biggest supporters this election cycle are labor unions. The Operating Engineers Union gave $10,000, while the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $9,000 and the Teamster's Union contributed $5,000. Other $5,000 donors include Public Service Company of New Mexico and Ardent Health Services.

Luján is taking money from PACs. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he's collected $31,000 from labor PACs and $12,000 from $12,500 from health care PACs.

But no thanks, K Street. Among Luján's expenditures was a total of $11,250 in campaign contribution refunds. These were all to congressional lobbyists, Nicastre said.

Real Time with Heather: While former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson of Albuquerque no longer holds political office, this week she'll have a national platform on which to speak — HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.
That's not Bill Maher, that's Manuel Lujan, Jr.
Wilson, who's considering running for the Republican nomination as governor, on Friday will make her "third or fourth" appearance on the Los Angeles-based show, hosted by the irreverent comedian whose political views are considerably to the left of Republican Wilson's.

"I think the reason he invites me back is because I laugh at his jokes — even though he sometimes gets a little edgy and crosses the line for this soccer mom," Wilson said in a telephone interview this week.

Maher's show features a panel consisting of various politicians, entertainers, journalists and others discussing current events.

Wilson said the first time Maher asked her to be a guest on the show, she was "an emergency backup" guest, filling in for another congress member who had to cancel because of a hurricane.

The only reason she agreed to go on, she said, was so she could meet another guest — comedian Dana Carvey, formerly of Saturday Night Live.

Wilson didn't seek re-election to her House seat last year in order to run for the Senate seat vacated by her mentor, Pete Domenici. Wilson lost in the Republican primary to fellow U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who went on to lose the general election to U.S. Rep. Tom Udall.

Although Wilson still hasn't announced whether she will run for governor next year, former state GOP chairman Allen Weh and Greg Zanetti, a brigadier general with the New Mexico Army National Guard, have said they will seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is seeking the Democratic nomination.

Is the fact Wilson is appearing on a national talk show a sign she's trying to keep a high political profile for some office? "I think it's a sign that I'm crazy enough to appear on the Bill Maher show," Wilson said.

Real Time with Bill Maher is scheduled to be shown at 8 p.m. Friday on HBO.

Missing person alert: On Wednesday afternoon I received an e-mail from the office of Lt. Gov. Denish with the subject line. "Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish Hears Missing Person Work Group Recommendations."

I checked it and it had nothing to do with Val Kilmer.

When Petty was grand: As all students of rock 'n' roll history should know, one of the major epicenters of rock in the '50s and early '60s, was Norman Petty Recording Studios in beautiful downtown Clovis. This was where Buddy Holly & The Crickets recorded most of their major hits. Petty Studios also was where Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings made some of their early recordings.

Petty Studios also was the spawning ground for records from The Fireballs, a band from Raton best known for its early '60s hit "Sugar Shack."

Next week PBS stations in the state will air a new documentary — produced by The New Mexico Music Commission and an Albuquerque company called You and Me Productions — about Petty Studios and the music that came out of Eastern New Mexico and West Texas. During the show, Nancy Laflin, commission director, will interview members of the Fireballs.

The documentary, New Mexico Music Legends: The Norman Petty Studios, will air at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, simulcast on New Mexico's three PBS stations, including KNME, Channel 5, which can be seen in Santa Fe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SIC Bans 3rd-Party Marketers, Campaign Contributions to Members

Spurred by recent investment scandals in New Mexico, the State Investment Council this morning voted to ban the use of third-party marketers by companies seeking state investment money.

The SIC also voted to adopt a policy that would ban campaign contributions to elected officials or people seeking election to a post that would have influence over state investments. This would prohibit awarding contracts to companies that made contributions for two years before the contract is awarded and would prohibit companies that receive investment contracts to make contributions for two years after the contract is awarded.

One thing that isn't clear: Would this include indirect contributions to political action committees, political parties or non-profits that get involved in elections? SIC staff says they're looking into that.

Also it's not clear whether it involves legislators on oversight committees like the Legislative Finance Committee.

SIC members include elected officials like the governor, the land commissioner and the state treasurer.

These reforms go along with what Gov. Bill Richardson recently recommended. In fact Richardson, who rarely attends these meetings, showed up and made the motion to adopt the policy.

Nobody at the meeting mentioned the name of Marc Correra, son of a major Richardson supporter, who in the past few years has shared in some $15 million as a third-party agent from clients for whom he helped secure state investment money.

Richardson at the meeting said he never knew knew third-party marketers existed and was shocked to learn how much they earn.

Richardson also said he'd support a bill to allow legislators to appoint members of the SIC -- as long as the executive branch kept control of the council. The governor pocket-vetoed a bill that would have increased the number of positions on the SIC and given the Legislature a major voice.

More in The New Mexican later.

Friday, May 22, 2009

AG Sues NY Investment firm

More fun with state investments. Attorney General Gary King has filed a lawsuit against The Reserve, a New York company with which the state Treasurer and the NM Finance Authority invested more than $1 billion.

The Reserve has been in the news in recent months. Check THIS and THIS.

It's not clear now whether some of the names involved with other state investment controversies are involved with these investments

Here's the press release from King's office. More on this later.

Attorney General Gary King has filed a complaint and injunction petition on behalf of the State Treasurer’s Office and the New Mexico Finance Administration against The Reserve, a mutual fund company in New York, asking for immediate payment of investment funds and an order to prevent the spending of any investment monies.

Both state agencies have a combined investment of more than a billion dollars in the Reserve's Primary Fund. A request was made in September, 2008 to have the majority of the funds returned to the state, as Reserve was contractually obligated to do, but the company failed to comply. Because of a financial downturn the assets then lost a substantial amount of their value. The AG's office contends the STO and NMFA have been deprived of the fullest value of their assets in the fund due to the delay by the defendant in returning their investment money when requested.

On behalf of the state, the Attorney General is asking the district court to order the Defendant to immediately make payment based on the value of the assets at the time of the request; to award costs and attorneys' fees; and to provide any other relief the court deems appropriate.

Additionally, the AG's complaint alleges that The Reserve has set aside $ 3.5 billion from the Primary Fund for the purpose of paying their legal expenses that includes monies invested by the state agencies. Because of that willful and intentional conversion of assets, the AG's Office is also seeking punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Energy Minister of the United States

That's what Gov. Bill Richardson is according to this report from the Azeri-Press Agency.
Apparently Richardson and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent letters of congratulations to the Consulate General of Azerbaijan for celebrating 91 years of being a parliamentary republic.

I'm not quite sure about the translation here, but from what I can tell, Richardson's letter said something along the lines of:
Azerbaijan is America’s reliable friend and a strong ally in combating international forces of extremism, said the Governor and added that Azerbaijani soldiers have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans from the Balkans to Iraq to Afghanistan in defense of common values and ideals. Throughout history, Azeris, including growing Azeri American population, have made many contributions to literature, the arts and sciences, sports.

The article goes on to say Richardson "is the energy minister of the United States as well. Azerbaijan’s Consul General Elin Suleymanov met with him during his visit to New Mexico in April."

Actually Ricahrdson was U.S. Energy secretary from 1998 until the end of 2000. That's kind of like being energy "minister."

Bill on Rachel Show

Last night Gov. Bill Richardson made one of his very few appearances on a national cable news show since he withdrew his nomination for Commerce secretary. He was on The Rachel Maddow Show talking about the American journalists being held in North Korea.

Roundhouse Roundup: Here Comes Santy Claus

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 21, 2009

Bill Richardson always insists that being governor of New Mexico is "the best job in the world."

And I think there's one part of the job that Richardson enjoys the most.

Being Santa Claus.

That was evident this week when he slid down the proverbial chimney to the Santa Fe Public Schools and put $200,000 under the metaphorical Christmas tree to keep Alvord Elementary School open for the next two years. Before Richardson met with school board President Angelica Ruiz on Wednesday with the promise of the state funds, a majority of the board favored closing Alvord as part of a plan to cut $4.5 million from the school district's budget. Those favoring the closing argued that the small school is a drain on the school system.

As reported by my colleague John Sena, Richardson didn't speak at the special school board meeting Wednesday. But he did talk to one appreciative audience.

According to Richardson spokeswoman Alire Ray-Garcia, when the governor and his entourage were driving away from the public schools administration building after the meeting with Ruiz, he saw a group of kids walking toward the building. He assumed — correctly it turned out — that they were Alvord students headed toward the meeting.

He ordered his state police driver to stop his SUV, then rolled down his window.

"I think I just saved your school," the governor shouted out the window.

Ray-Garcia said the students were excited and cheered Richardson.

Ho, ho, ho! It's good to be the Santa.

Faces in the crowd: Last week's speech at Rio Rancho High School by President Barack Obama drew a large array of Democratic bigwigs — the governor and other state officers, legislators and mayors. They sat together in a roped-off VIP section to the right of the president's podium.

But there were a couple of well-known Democratic politicos at the speech who weren't in the VIP section.

One was Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott, who last year was the main primary-election opponent of freshman U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Wiviott, who spent more than $1 million of his own money on the congressional race, said after the speech that he doesn't intend to run for another office any time soon. Instead, Wiviott said, he's concentrating on making it easier for small businesses to get credit at small banks.

The other prominent Democrat I ran into outside the bounds of the VIP section was state Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. — who is under indictment for alleged election-related embezzlement charges. He's accused of lying about $2,500 in public campaign funds he initially reported paying to a band at a campaign rally — which never took place.

Asked about his case, Block said, "It'll have to play out in court," adding that he thinks it's a shame that "something so petty" is taking up so much time and energy.

But, he said, Obama's speech on credit-card reform was "great."

Investment task force: Gary King is one of 30 or more state attorneys general making up a national task force to investigate politically connected investment advisers who help decide where to invest public money from permanent and pension funds.

According to an article in — a Web site specializing in state government-related news — the task force was sparked by the New York investigation of state investments, which involves charges of political favoritism and abuse — and some of the same cast of characters involved in New Mexico investments.

"New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, following a recent teleconference call with 100 representatives of 35 state attorneys general's offices, said he would form the task force 'so states can share vital information to prosecute wrongdoing and facilitate nationwide reform.' "

The article, written by Stephen C. Fehr, goes on to say, "The task force comes as New York, California, Connecticut and New Mexico officials are investigating possible pension fund abuse and political favoritism. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission also is examining pension transactions in New York, California and New Mexico."

King spokesman Phil Sisneros said Wednesday that his boss is one of those AGs, but the office doesn't know yet what the level of participation will be. "The question is how much this is affecting New Mexico," he said.
DR. PAUL ON THE RADIO, Merrimack Cafe, Manchester, NH Jan. 2008
Call the doctor: Adam Kokesh, the former Marine and anti-war activist who is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján next year, got a boost last week from one of his heroes — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the former Republican presidential contender.

"Sending Adam Kokesh to Congress would be a tremendous victory for the Freedom Movement and if we come together and stand behind him, he has a real chance to win," Paul said in a statement released by Kokesh's campaign. "We have a chance to help a real patriot and lover of liberty join me in Washington."

Kokesh said in a recent interview that he's not sure whether he'll run as an independent or in a party primary.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Correra Stiffs Reporters

Bregman, Correra, Moldenhauer

Marc Correra, who has been at the center of the state investment scandal (and is in the center of the above photo), refused to talk with reporters who showed up to a meeting of the state Gaming Control Board Tuesday. The board was considering the application of a partnership involving Correra to operate a race track and casino in Raton.

Correra spoke not a word and actually turned his back to reporters, who instead verbally sparred with his lawyer, Sam Bregman -- who at one point said we were acting like vultures and said one of my TV reporter colleagues who was asking some questions Correra didn't want to hear, was "acting like an idiot."

We followed Correra and Bregman out to Correra's silver Land Rover. Correra got in the vehicle as Bregman continued talking to reporters.

Correra, who shared in as much as $15 million for steering his clients to deals to invest state funds, is the son of longtime Richardson adviser and contributor Anthony Correra. The younger Correra’s wife once was hired by Richardson as a “protocol officer” for the governor. 

Bregman said Correra didn't get the money because of his political connections. In fact, at one point Bregman denied there were any political connections.

The board tabled action on the applications, requesting more financial information.

I'll post the link to my story in The New Mexican later.

UPDATE: Here's that link.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Like the Richardson of Old?

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

The governor was trying to be nonchalant. He didn't quite pull it off.

"This morning I was with the president of the United States," he told reporters at a Thursday news conference. "This afternoon I'm with Robert Redford."
Gov. Bill Richardson and Robert Redford
It was almost like the old Bill Richardson. Back in the early years of his administration, it seemed he was always appearing beside Washington bigwigs and hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities.

Had a few North Korean diplomats dropped by the Roundhouse on Thursday afternoon, the picture would have been complete.

President Barrack Obama was in Rio Rancho to talk about credit card legislation and take questions from New Mexicans about economic issues. Redford showed up at the Santa Fe news conference to announce his planned Sundance New Mexico training facility for young Native American and Hispanic filmmakers at the old Los Luceros hacienda near Española.

Meeting with Obama and Redford in one day is nothing to sneeze at any time. But in Richardson's case it seemed particularly noteworthy because for the past five months — since he withdrew as Obama's nominee for commerce secretary — Richardson has kept an unusually low profile. A grand jury investigation into possible pay-to-play dealings involving state bond funds apparently still isn't over.

Once a frequent guest on cable-TV talk shows, Richardson's shadow has almost never darkened the Capitol television studio in recent months. And except for one interview in The Washington Post a few weeks ago, the one-time presidential candidate has even shunned the national print media.

But it's far too early to say the clouds of scandal over New Mexico are lifting. About the same time he and his pal "Bob" Redford, (as Richardson repeatedly called him) were talking to reporters, Bloomberg News was breaking the story that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed documents from New Mexico's state endowment funds.

State Investment Council spokesman Charles Wollman told The New Mexican he couldn't discuss specifics of the subpoena, which was issued earlier this month. Wollman said his agency's lawyers haven't decided whether the SIC can release copies of the subpoenas to the public.

New Mexico state government's $11.8 billion in investments have made headlines in recent weeks because some of the same figures embroiled in a kickback scandal in New York have handled some of this state's investments — and contributed to New Mexico politicians — as well.

On Wednesday, Julio Ramirez Jr. pleaded guilty to securities fraud in New York's pension fund case. "Between 2005 and 2008 (Ramirez's former company Wetherly Capital Group) secured its money manager clients more than half a billion dollars in New Mexico state investments," TPM Muckrucker reported Wednesday. Ramirez, according to campaign finance records, has contributed $10,000 to Richardson political committees.

But Obama didn't mention any scandals or the aborted Cabinet nomination during his Rio Rancho appearance. He started his speech by recognizing Richardson, who sat in the VIP section with other state officials near the podium. Obama called Richardson "a great friend" and "one of the finest governors in the country." At one point the president said, "New Mexico's been fortunate partly because of some good administration from the New Mexico governor."

Thursday was the first time Obama and Richardson had seen each other since late last year when Obama announced his choice of Richardson as commerce secretary.

Obama and Richardson had what the governor described as a "very brief" meeting before the president's speech. Also at the meeting were other state leaders — including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, House Speaker Ben Luján, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez. Richardson told reporters that he and Obama didn't talk about the aborted Cabinet nomination. They talked about the state's economy, the federal stimulus package and problems along the Mexican border.
Richardson leaving Obama event
Richardson said he told Obama there should be more flexibility with federal matching fund requirements for the "green grid" program, which would improve the electrical transmission system to promote the use of renewable power.

Referring to Obama's public compliments, Richardson said, "I appreciate his warm words."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

But There's Still Time for Some Scandal News ...

Roberta Vigil, wife of Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Las Vegas, has been found guilty of two felonies in the West Las Vegas fraud and conspiracy trial. 

According to a news release from the attorney general, "the former bilingual education coordinator was found guilty of Fraud over $2500 and Conspiracy to Commit fraud over $2500, third and fourth degree felonies respectively."

Here's the Associated Press story: CLICK HERE

Yes, As a Matter of Fact It Is Celeb Day in NM

IMG_0437Obama in the morning,Robert Redford in the afternoon ...

Redford was at a Bill Richardson press conference to announce “Sundance in New Mexico.” This initiative, involving the Department of Cultural Affairs and the New Mexico Film Office, will create and expand upon training programs in film, arts, and the environment. It will be located at the old Los Luceros hacienda property near Espanola. Redford is building a house outside of Santa Fe.

Obama Praises Richardson

The last time Barrack Obama saw Bill Richardson was the day he named Richardson as his Commerce secretary nominee.

A funny thing happened on the way to the cabinet meeting...

But they were together again at Obama's town hall in Rio Rancho. The president started his speech by recognizing the governor, who sat in the VIP section at the side of the podium. He called Richardson one of the finest governors in the country. No mention of scandal or the aborted nomination.

Richardson and other state leaders met with Obama immediately before the event. I was told it was all business.

More later.

Obama at Rio Rancho

Roundhouse Roundup: Hot Potatos and Christmas Hams

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 14, 2009

The first "hot potato" returned campaign contribution of the year in New Mexico was reported this week.
Hector Balderas
The campaign organization of State Auditor Hector Balderas late last month returned a $10,000 contribution to Sandia Asset Management, a Santa Fe firm associated with Marc and Anthony Correra. 

Marc Correra is a local investor who has made recent headlines for sharing in $15 million in finders fees as a third-party placement agent, paid by companies awarded contracts to invest state money. His father, Anthony Correra, is a friend, adviser and financial supporter of Gov. Bill Richardson.

"After recent issues concerning this company were brought to his attention, he reviewed his records," Balderas spokeswoman Caroline Buerkle said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "He felt the most appropriate action to take was to promptly return the contribution."

Neither Correra has been charged with any wrongdoing.

In 2006, according to the Institute of Money in State Politics, Sandia Asset Management gave $5,000 to Balderas' campaign. The company also gave $5,000 to Secretary of State Mary Herrera's campaign, plus $1,000 to both Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and unsuccessful attorney general candidate Geno Zamora. In 2002, Sandia Asset Management contributed $15,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson's first gubernatorial campaign — plus $250 to Richardson's Republican opponent that year, John Sanchez. Anthony Correra contributed another $12,832 to Richardson that year under his own name.

Balderas could seek re-election to the auditor's post next year. However, he's been rumored to be considering a run for lieutenant governor.

His campaign finance report says he has $26,651 in the bank. He raised more than $25,000 in the past 12 months and spent more than $20,000 — though nearly half of that was the returned Correra contribution.

Hooters!Who gives a hoot? Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who could become the state's first female governor, is a hero to many New Mexico feminists. However, she did get a contribution from a place not usually associated with feminism. 

According to her report, on Dec. 4, Denish got a check from Albuquerque Hooters Inc., which operates two restaurants in Duke City.

Maybe she just likes the hamburgers.

More fun with campaign finance reports: Not much pork came out of the state Legislature this year. But a month before the session, some constituents of House Speaker Ben Luján got some ham.

The Committee to Re-elect Ben Luján spent $555 at Zanios Foods on Christmas Eve for "Hams for needy people."

Though none of the Santa Fe-area delegation faced any election opposition in the general or primary election — and some of them, including Luján, haven't had any opponents in several election cycles — most of them maintain healthy campaign treasuries, using campaign contributions to help defray costs associated with legislating.

Here's a quick look at the fundraising and fund-spending of the local delegation.
Speaker Ben Lujan in Denver last August* Speaker Luján: The speaker has $137,201 in the bank. In the last year he raised only $500 — $250 each from Comcast and Blue Cross/Blue Shield — and spent $4,626.

Many of his expenses were charitable donations related to sports and music. The Luján campaign gave $650 to the Pojoaque Valley High Athletic Department, $200 to Pojoaque Valley Youth Basketball team, $200 to Mariachi Sol de Valle, an Española high-school band that played at the Obama inauguration in Washington, D.C., and $200 to the New Mexico Hispano Music Association. Other charitable donations from Luján included $140 to Santo Niño Regional Catholic School and $100 to the American Red Cross.

Luján also contributed $500 to the campaign of Ben Rodefer, a Democrat who won a House seat in Albuquerque.

* Rep. Brian Egolf: The first-term representative reported $17,257 cash on hand. He raised $3,855, including a $500 contribution from local lawyer Donna Lynch.

Egolf spent $31,592. Of that, $13,192 was for a legislative survey conducted by Gold Communications of Valdez, N.M. He also spent $4,505 for computer equipment and $338 for a camera from Best Buy.

Some expenses might reveal some ambition on the part of Santa Fe's freshman representative. He spent $750 on a campaign data base from a Washington, D.C., company and $500 for consulting fees to an outfit called Election in Motions, a local firm specializing in fundraising, which has been used by the state Democratic Party.

Egolf also reported spending $121 at the Dish and Spoon restaurant for a Capital Outlay Committee lunch and $166 at the Mission Cafe for a breakfast for the same committee. Didn't anyone tell him that the lobbyists are supposed to pay for committee meals?

As far as charity goes, Egolf's campaign gave $500 to the Center for Contemporary Arts and $140 to Santo Niño Regional Catholic School.

* Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela: He reported $71,844 cash on hand. Varela raised only $67 in the past year and that was interest from his campaign bank account. He spent $2,700 on printing and mailing to constituents during session as well as $4,100 for unspecified constituent services during the session. Varela also donated to charity — $250 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters and $250 to the Annual Catholic Appeal for Youth Program.

* Rep. Jim Trujillo: He reported $3,516 cash on hand and raised $800 — $500 of which came from a title company PAC — and spent $3,483. His biggest expenses were $809 for radio ads and $566 to Best Buy for a mini-laptop computer.

* Sen. Peter Wirth: Wirth's campaign has $49,723 in the bank. He raised $300 ($250 of which was from a physical therapists PAC) and spent $11,492. His biggest expense was $6,515 on mailing services to constituents.

* Sen. Nancy Rodriguez: Rodriguez reported $10,641 cash on hand. She raised $1,250 — $1,000 from the New Mexico Realtors Association and $250 from a physical therapists PAC. Rodriguez reported no expenditures. But the campaign does have an unpaid debt of $9,352. The report doesn't specify to whom she owes the money.

(Here's the link to the Secretary of State's Web site. Warning: It might help if you have a degree in forensic computer scuience to navigate this site. Here's one hint - once you get the link to a candidate's reports on your screen, click on the most recent year. In most cases, at least, it won't say 2009.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pro Death Penalty Groups Raises $30 k

I talked with Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White yesterday about his Repeal the Repeal group. I asked him whether reports that he's considering running for lieutenant governor or some other office next year.

His answer was simple: "No. I'm not running for anything."

So there. 

Here's the story I wrote:

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 13, 2009

An Albuquerque group dedicated to bringing back the death penalty in New Mexico has raised more than $30,000 in the last month, according to documents filed with the state this week.

The group, Repeal the Repeal, was started by Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White shortly after Gov. Bill Richardson signed a bill that abolished capital punishment, replacing it with a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

The group wants to gather petitions to put the question of whether to reinstate the death penalty on the ballot.

“The people should have a voice in this,” White said Tuesday.

However, White said, because of questions of the legality of repealing laws dealing with criminal justice, it’s not clear whether the issue could be put on the ballot.

White said he is awaiting an opinion from the Secretary of State’s office.

The state constitution lists exceptions to the kind of laws that can be repealed. Among those are “laws providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”

White said he’s not sure what the next step for the organization will be if the secretary of state rules against a petition process.

Repeal The Repeal, according with a report filed Monday with the secretary of state, raised $30,561 between April 2 and April 29.

The biggest contribution, $18,000, was from White’s political action committee.

Other large contributions were $2,000 from Donald Kaufman of Albuquerque and $1,000 from Albuquerque contractor Tony Pisto.

The group spent $15,638, the biggest amount being $10,000 to Lincoln Strategy of Tempe, Ariz., for television ads that ran last month.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Richardson Agrees to Independent Audit

This just in from the Governor's Office regarding proposed independent audit of state investments,:
SANTA FE – Governor Bill Richardson today agreed to work with the Legislature to commission an independent review of investment practices and policies, including the use of third-party marketers.

The state Board of Finance and the Legislative Council Service will work on the scope of the review, along with an appropriate budget.

“While the State Investment Council has produced impressive investment results during the past six years, I welcome an independent review and any recommendations that will improve the state’s practices,” Governor Richardson said. The Governor noted that investment performance for the Land Grant Permanent Fund through the first quarter of 2009 placed it in the top 5% of public funds in the country. On a one-year and three-year basis, the performance is in the top 30% of public funds nationwide.

Governor Richardson last week moved to ban third-party marketers, also known as placement agents, who earn substantial fees from fund managers that secure state investments.

Governor Richardson also agreed today to explore more legislative representation on the State Investment Council. The Governor last month vetoed a bill, which was drafted and passed without the Governor’s input, that would have expanded the SIC and given the Legislature a majority of the appointments to the board.

“I’m happy to work with the Legislature on changes to the makeup of the council,” Governor Richardson said.

Lyons Running for PRC

LYONS in 2006 State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons announced today he's running for the District 2 (southeastern New Mexico)  Public Regulation Commission seat currently held by David King.

“Infrastructure is vital for society and the economy to function, and should be governed to protect the interests of the public. At the same time, we must sustain a healthy business climate,” Lyons said in his e-mailed announcement. 

“It can be delicate balance but I have always taken a proactive role in fostering business and industry and my sound business approach has made companies feel comfortable investing in New Mexico,” he said.

Republican Lyons of Cuervo, N.M. is a former state senator who was first elected land commissioner in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He had been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candid, though in 2006 he told me he didn't think a Republican from the east side of the state could be elected governor.

The seat currently is held by Republican David King.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday Morning Fever

The Bill Richardson dance party has gone national.

Rachel Maddow ended her program Friday showing it.

Wonkette posted it Friday, calling the dance "the Mexican turbo-polka."

But best of all, Gawker featured the video, putting it in context with other dancing politicians, including this one:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Morning Fun

TPM Muckrucker connects some Marc Correra dots in this article.

It talks about Lori Schiaffino, a placement agent who who helped a hedge fund called Optima get a $50 million investment from the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board.

Correra and Schiaffino have something in common: they have both worked as agents for a placement agency called Diamond Edge Capital, which is run by Marvin Rosen, a former finance director for the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign co-finance chair in Florida in 1992. ... If Rosen sounds familiar, it's because he was one of the key figures involved in promoting sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom for top campaign contributors in the nineties.
Rosen is chairman of a business called Diamond Edge. Of Diamond Edge, the Muckrucker article says, "Records show the firm booked at least $3.25 million on four New York pension fund investments in 2005 and 2006 and an unclear amount on another four in New Mexico. "

As Flakey Foont used to say, "What's it all mean, Mr. Natural?

The Monahan vs. The World battle is getting weirder.

Early this morning Joe Monahan accused The Santa Fe Reporter of trying to sandbag his advertisers.

A couple of our advertisers, including Dan Serrano, report they were called by a reporter from the Santa Fe Reporter--an alternative weekly newspaper--and asked if they were an Alligator, why they advertise here and inferring, reports construction company owner Serrano--that they shouldn't. Well, they advertise here, as Sally Field once said, "because you like me! You really like me!" And any cub reporter knows an Alligator never admits to being an Alligator or he wouldn't be an Alligator! But those who buy ads here are not responsible for the ideas expressed here. Are they in the Reporter? But there we go with one of those sticky freedom of the press and freedom of association questions. Hmm. Is there a "news" story here?

The Reporter responded:

As everyone also knows, the idea of a Santa Fe Reporter journalist trying to intimidate advertisers away from one news source over another is absurd. ... Actually, if you were to return Dave Maass’ phone messages to find out why he was calling, you’d probably learn it’s because he’s reporting on the already reported “blog fight” between yourself and, well, everyone else, I guess.

To be continued, I'm sure.


I might be the last blogger in Blogville to run this video of Gov. Bill Richardson's audition for the new Solid Gold Dancers. (Actually it's apparently some event at Acoma Pueblo).

But in case you haven't seen it -- or even if you have, enjoy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Investment Investigations a Plenty!

New Mexico is not alone.

The New York Times reported Thursday that there are investigations in 30 states concerning possible corruption in investments.

“A survey of practices across the country portrays a far-reaching web of friends and favored associates: political contributors, campaign strategists, lobbyists, relatives, brokers and others, capitalizing on relationships and paying favors. These influential figures can determine how pension funds are invested, as well as state university endowments, municipal bond proceeds, tobacco settlement funds, hurricane insurance pools, prepaid tuition programs and other giant blocks of public money.”

But they didn't forget to mention New Mexico by name. The article mentions the Frank Foy pay-to-play lawsuit and Marc Correra's finder's fees.

Read the story is HERE. (Thanks Lorene!)

Gary vs. Hector

AG Gary King
My story about the strange ongoing battle between Attorney General Gary King and State Auditor Hector Balderas can be found HERE.

I really can't figure this one out and why King and his men are so intent on getting their hands on Balderas' office's investigative logs.

There are a few possibilities:

1) Balderas is hiding something -- and something more sinister than driving a state car without proper government emblems (an actual allegation alluded to in the subpoena).

2) Balderas is conducting an investigation that uncovered something sinister about King or the AG's office. King is trying to sandbag that investigation with the subpoena.
State Auditor Hector Balderas
3) It's an overblown hissing match involving overzealous staff on one or both sides.

And the sad thing is, the public may never find out. Because it's a grand jury subpoena (and I'm still working on the Zen of a grand jury subpoena without a grand jury), nobody can talk much about it until and unless charges are filed. It's quite possible the whole thing will blow over with nothing but no-comments on all sides.

UPDATE: Link to story fixed. (Thanks, Ched)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Back to the Hari Kari Years?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 7, 2009

Richie Cunningham and The Fonz might remember the 1950s as Happy Days. But Fabian Chavez has a different name for that era:

The "hari-kari" years for the state Democratic Party.

And despite the big gains state Democrats made in the last elections, Chavez — a self-described "lifelong FDR Democrat" — fears that because of the virtually ceaseless explosion of corruption stories involving New Mexico Dems, if his party isn't careful, a new hari-kari era might be in store.

Chavez is a former majority leader in the state Senate. In 1968, he was the Democratic nominee for governor, losing to incumbent Republican David F. Cargo by just a couple of thousand votes. He's stayed politically active all these years, working recently as a lobbyist for the Public Employees Retirement Association.

Only one man could be called a more "elder" elder statesman in the Democratic Party — former Gov. Bruce King, who at 85 is just a few months older than Chavez.

Chavez dropped by my office in the Roundhouse on Wednesday to talk a little history and how that applies to current political concerns.

"Between 1950 and 1962, no Democratic governor was elected to two consecutive terms," he said. "And the Democrats did it to ourselves. It was the hari-kari years for the Democrats in this state."

Those Fabulous '50s: The year 1950 was a good one for Chavez. That's the year he won his first legislative seat, representing a House district in Santa Fe.

But statewide, Democrat Johnny Miles lost to Republican Ed Mechem in the governor's race.

"They didn't think he could lose," Chavez said of Miles. "He'd been governor, land commissioner. He was known as 'Mr. Democrat.' "

But Miles became unpopular with some of his own party two years before by taking on and defeating an incumbent Democrat, Georgia Lusk, for her congressional seat.

Also making headlines in the months leading up to the 1950 election was the 1949 murder of a Las Cruces waitress named Ovida "Cricket" Coogler — a case that involved a cover-up by law enforcement, exposed illegal gambling and prostitution operations in Southern New Mexico, and tainted the reputations of some New Mexico politicians who used to frequent Doña Ana County gambling houses and allegedly profited from the illegal proceeds.

"In comes this handsome lawyer and former FBI agent, Ed Mechem," Chavez said.

Mechem won re-election in 1952. (State office terms were two years back then.)

In 1954, Democrat John Simms won the governor's race. But his re-election was hampered by two feuding Democratic factions. He lost to Mechem in 1956. Mechem in turn lost to Democrat John Burroughs in 1958. But Mechem beat Burroughs in 1960.

Though there wasn't any one scandal as huge as Cricket Coogler after 1950, Chavez said corruption was an issue Mechem and the Republicans used effectively against Democrats during that era.

The Dems' bad luck streak didn't end until Jack Campbell came along and was elected to two straight terms in 1962 and 1964.

Which brings us to now: Chavez said bad memories of some of those Democratic losses came back Wednesday morning after he read about former Republican state chairman Allen Weh's announcement that he's running for governor.

Weh stressed the corruption issue — Democratic corruption — at his announcement. And he's got a lot to work with. Two former state treasurers in prison, a former Senate majority leader on his way and a public regulation commissioner indicted.

And all those complicated state investment scandals. There's CDR and Vanderbilt "pay-to-play" cases, not to mention the more recent revelations that Marc Correra, a son of a fundraiser and confidante to Gov. Bill Richardson, has made millions of dollars in finder's fees for companies that received state investment money.

All this makes Chavez worry. "It doesn't take a genius to realize that the Republicans are taking the cue, and they're going to run with all that stuff," Chavez said. "So it's incumbent upon the Democratic Party leadership to repair it. Someone has to recognize our weaknesses and do something about it."

Speaking of the only declared Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Chavez said, "She has to be able to separate herself from any scandal resulting out of the Richardson administration."

Isn't talk like that considered heretical by the current leadership of the Democratic Party?

Chavez said he doesn't care. "Someone has to say it." Then Chavez reminded me of the title of his biography by my former colleague David Roybal.

Taking on Giants.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weh Starting "Exploratory" Commitee for Gov Run

I'm not at the press conference, but I know this through the magic of Twitter. (Thanks, Peter!)

Assuming this committee completes its exploration well, Weh will join retired Gen. Greg Zanetti in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Both are retired military officers.

Photo courtesy of Peter St.Cyr

Weh-ing In

Here's the most interesting e-mail in my inbox this morning:

***Press Conference Today***

WHO: Allen Weh And special guests

WHAT: Announcement New Mexico Governor’s Race, 2010

WHEN: Today Tuesday, May 5, 2009 2:30 pm

WHERE: CSI Aviation Services 3700 Rio Grande Blvd NW Albuquerque
Notice it doesn't include "Why" or "How"

Is the colonel -- or perhaps a "special guest" jumping in the guv's race? Stay tuned.

Blog Fight!

It's Joe Monahan vs. ALMOST EVERYONE ELSE!

First Joe posted THIS early Monday morning -- "alligator" tips that former Richardson campaign higher-up Amanda Cooper had been granted immunity in the CDR investigation. He also said Chris Romer, a Colorado banker connected with the GRIP bond deals reportedly had been granted immunity by the feds.

(Disclaimer: I sure don't know whether either is true. I saw Cooper last week in Albuquerque and asked her why she'd stopped returning my phone calls. She said there are some things she can't talk about. )

Monahan's post got some blistering commentary in Blogdom.

Majorie Childress in m-pyre said:

"...if he is correct, what's the context? Does that mean they've admitted to wrongdoing? Or would they simply not agree to talk to the grand jury about what they may or may not know without immunity?

We don't know, because Monahan doesn't give us any context or anything on the record. He simply passes on the leak as it was handed to him. Someone gave him some info, possibly with an agenda, and he obliged them by getting it out there.

It's those hidden agendas that one has to keep in mind when it comes to Monahan's blogging about real people who've built real careers.

Heath Haussamen got in on the fun:

What Monahan writes, especially as it relates to alleged criminal activity, has a real effect on people’s lives. He should take that fact more seriously.

Until he does that, it’s impossible to take what he reports seriously.
Monahan early Tuesday struck back.

Geez, that sounds awfully self-righteous, doesn't it? Well, Heath, when you stop taking anonymous donations on your Web site to support your "journalism" and also reveal what individuals contribute to the nonprofits that finance the online newspaper you draw a paycheck from, we'll be able to take you seriously.
He also said something about Heath rewriting press releases, which really was unfair. Like everyone else, he does rewrite some press releases. But Heath puts more journalistic effort into his blog than anyone I know.

Then to the NM liberal blogosphere in general, Monahan wrote:

... the self-appointed kiddie corp that police "journalism" in the so-called NM "progressive" blogosphere--FBIHOP (a pancake house blog?), Marjorie Someone, John "I want to be a blogger" Fleck of the ABQ Journal, the aforementioned Heath Haussamen, Den Mother Barbara Wold at Democracy for NM and the gang at the New Mexico "We're not really a progressive front group for Eli Lee" Independent--is going to spit out their Cap 'N Crunch when they read that one.

... to our critics we say in the spirit of friendly competition: Read it and weep--and enjoy your cereal!
To quote the old Santa Fe band 27 Devils Joking, "Spread the Love Vibration!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

You Think the Current Governor Has It Rough?

Check out Marc Simmons' Trail Dust column from today's New Mexican.

It's all about former governors -- going back to the colonial period -- and some of the terrible things they had to endure.

Here's an excerpt:

A worse fate, however, awaited mid-century Gov. Bernardo López de Mendizábal and his successor, Gov. Diego de Peñalosa. The former was arrested for religious crimes and sent down the Camino Real to be tried by the Inquisition. He died in that institution's dungeons.

The latter, Peñalosa, abandoned Santa Fe while still governor and went to Mexico City. There he was imprisoned by the Inquisition, charged with 237 crimes, and banished from Spain's colonies in America.

These days Mendizábal and Peñalosa would have gotten their own reality TV shows.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ex Marine to Challenge Ben Ray?

A 27-year-old former Marine and Iraq War veteran has formed an "exploratory committee" to look at challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan next year.

Adam Kokesh of Santa Fe said in a statement released today:

When I got out of the Marine Corps, I joined the monumental fight to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, bring the troops home to defend America, and restore a Constitutional foreign policy. Having won the public to our side, it is time we take the fight to the capitol.

Over the next couple of months, I look forward to meeting supporters all across the district as we make our decision on whether or not to run for Congress. I have been blessed with standing shoulder to shoulder with citizens across the nation, but now I return back to my roots of New Mexico in the desire to represent the citizens of New Mexico's 3rd district. Now is the time to decide if running for Congress is the best way to continue my service to my country and to the constituents of New Mexico's 3rd district.

He's already been endorsed by local activist Leland Lehrman, who worte in an email, "Despite my friendship with and respect for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and his father, I was disappointed to learn that Rep. Lujan had voted to fund the ongoing occupations in Iraq and Afhanistan. Just because a Democratic President is in the White House does not make these wars any better."

It's not clear whether he's running as a Democrat or on some independent or third party ticket. His blog has a photo of Republican Ron Paul, who ran in Republican presidential primaries last year.

For more information, check out Kokesh's Wikipedia page.