Mario Burgos

Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

With every passing week, it becomes ever clearer that Governor Richardson, and everyone in his administration,  will find themselves tainted come Election Day by the pay-to-play political scandals of the last eight years:
Douglas Goldberg, a former vice president of CDR Financial Products, admitted in federal court in Manhattan on Monday that he was involved nationally in bid rigging of investment agreements and other contracts involving municipal bonds from 1998 to at least November 2006. He is cooperating with authorities.

Goldberg was involved in getting CDR hired in 2004 to work on the $1.6 billion state bond program in New Mexico known as Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership.

The company won a contract as an adviser on exotic financing arrangements that were not described in the request for proposals issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority.

It later received a no-bid, sole-source deal to manage the escrow account for the bond proceeds from the authority, which was charged with handling the GRIP financing for the Rail Runner and other New Mexico transportation projects.

The voting public is not going to be able to drive a road or see the RailRunner without being reminded that someone bought the opportunity to win those projects from this administration.  Now, some of you may think that Governor Richardson is termed out, so this is all just water under the bridge.  But, this is clearly not the case.

Take for example the current scandal plaguing the Secretary of State's office. We might all remember that not all that long ago Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna was chased from office for the shakedown of those doing business with his office:
Former New Mexico Insurance Superintendent, Eric Serna, got forced to resign after years of allegedly shaking down those that came under his authority:
Serna indicated to Madison that he favored "good corporate citizens" making contributions to legitimate charitable organizations. Ruiz said Serna sometimes "looked the other way" on fines when insurance companies agreed to make contributions to favored charities. Ruiz said Serna would choose Con Alma and $35,000 would be sufficient.
At first glance, some might argue that he is just trying to help out some needy charities. Of course we later learned that Serna used at least one of those charities as his own personal slush fund.
A couple of years later, we see that absolutely nothing has changed. Our elected Democratic officials are still following the example set by the Richardson Administration:
A string of e-mails obtained by the SUN does support one of the allegations made in Salazar’s letter. Salazar states in one e-mail to [Secretary of State Mary] Herrera that he feared losing his law license because of activities in the Office.
“Ma’am, I not only have a duty to protect you, this office and the people of New Mexico, I also have my law license to protect,” Salazar wrote in a Feb. 12 e-mail to Herrera. “By law, this office is charged with responsibility for enforcing the Governmental Conduct Act. If we are asking our current contractors for this, then it is illegal.”

This e-mail refers to the Office’s attempt to ask private companies that contract with the Office for money to help fund a training event for county clerks to be held later this month.
What blows my mind is that you would think Secretary of State Mary Herrera would be particularly diligent in following the letter of the law considering her immediate predecessor is under indictment for her activities while heading up that office. But hey, this is the Land of Eternal Single Party Rule.  A magical place where elected officials can shakedown businesses and individuals with impunity.  Sure, they will occasionally have to throw one of their own to the scales of justice, but then they go back to their ways without ever worrying about Election Day ramifications... until now.

Election Day 2010 is looking to be the day the piper finally comes to get paid.  People have had just about enough and are ready to bring honesty back to elected offices. Granted, the favorite attorney of the pay-to-play crowd (e.g. Vigil and Correra) may see a downturn in business, but the rest of us will be far better off.  Heck, it looks like even Mr. Bregman might need a little time for a breather. His ability to outright deny the allegations of wrongdoing by his clients is becoming more and difficult:
But Bregman told the Journal that Salazar's resignation had nothing to do with any of the concerns voiced in the letter.

"It had everything to do with the fact that he didn't want to work," Bregman said. "It's clear he wasn't a good fit for this office — as he said in the e-mail — and that's because it required a lot of work."
Even the casual reader can't help but notice that in his attempt to deflect the blame, even Secretary of State Herrera's attorney didn't deny the allegations of the resignation letter, which if you haven't read, I would strongly urge you to do so (hat tip:

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weak Attempt at an Alibi

We've all seen the movie plot line. It's been in every mob movie made to date. The mob boss needs an alibi.  So, he makes a point of being seen somewhere other than the scene of the crime.  After all, if he was seen by hundreds at a party, how could he possibly be linked to the crime in question.  Sure, his hired guns were there, but hey, there's no guilt by association, right?

The State Investment Council got together this week to hear what outside consultants found in their review of the agency. 

To no surprise, Gov. Bill Richardson, who chairs the council and controls it through his appointment of a majority of its members, didn't attend the council meeting.

As I first reported last February, Richardson has rarely attended the meetings of the State Investment Council, which invests billions of dollars in state endowment funds.

Now, the governor is using his absence in an apparent bid to distance himself from the scandal that has rocked the council over the past several months.

"The reality is I left decisions to my state investment board," Richardson told reporters Tuesday. "I hardly attended meetings. I felt that I shouldn't be part of decisions."

Now we know why the movie industry loves to come to New Mexico. We provide great inspiration for future plot lines.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Taxes Before Responsibility

There's a war brewing for the 2010 Legislative Session. The battle lines have been drawn, and on one side are those that believe government excess should be pared down, and on the other side are those that want to see the tax and spend party to continue by raising even more taxes. The spend, spend, spend people have formed the organization, Better Choices New Mexico, to make their case, which basically boils down to:

This alliance of small businesses, faith-based groups, working families, and nonprofit organizations believes cutting critical services and programs would be a terrible mistake. Instead, the Legislature needs to open the books on tax expenditures, close the loopholes for out-of-state corporations, and rollback the tax breaks for the wealthy.

What's amazing to me is that essentially what they are defending is the spending gone wild policies that have left us in an economic crisis that should not have occurred. Any organization that wants to be taken seriously about seeing better choices in New Mexico had better address the severe mismanagement of taxpayer funds by the state before asking for more money. Their one-pager makes the case over and over again for increasing revenue, but not once does it talk about cutting expenses. The closest it comes is to suggest shifting dollars from one area of waste to another.

And, mind you there is a lot of waste in government spending in this state. There are the obvious signs of waste that are uncovered everyday:

Nemazee and others connected to Carret Asset Management gave campaign contributions to Gov. Bill Richardson before and after receiving the contract, according to the magazine. “The contract with the State Investment Council, which oversees $12 billion in trust funds from oil and gas leasing fees, has so far yielded $1.7 million in fees for Carret,” the author of the article, Nathan Vardi, reports.

Of course, no one wants to take responsibility for this kind of waste:

Richardson’s spokesman says the governor, who is chairman of the New Mexico State Investment Council, played no role whatsoever in the hiring of Carret.
Only in New Mexico could the Chairman get away with full denial of accountability. Then again, this is the same Governor who can hand out multi-million dollar favors like candy on Halloween
without the least bit of economic restraint, no matter how bad out budget situation may be:

I'm positively shocked that Governor Richardson has been a long time friend of the Hool brothers who are behind the Santa Fe Studios. The project, which I wrote about a few months ago, is being subsidized to the tune of $10 million by state taxpayers with taxpayers in Santa Fe County chipping in another $6 million. The whole thing stinks.

Of course, at the same time as he is pushing for additional subsidies for an already-subsidized industry, Richardson is pushing for tax hikes on the rest of us.

Then, there is the wasteful spending that is not so obvious unless you're a government insider:

I am a state employee who is faced with trying to determine where to cut groceries, utilities, Christmas spending...I can accept the furlough...However, I looked at the salaries at executive agencies and must ask how did the agency on aging become a full Department? Military affairs? Where did some of these commissions come from? Do we need them or should we place higher expectations on persons employed in these areas? For example, why isn't the Department of Homeland Security part of the Department of Public Safety?

Why not consolidate programs and eliminate some high salaried executives? Why are we paying outlandish rents for private buildings when there are vacant government buildings? I am not placing the blame on any branch of government, just venting.

Well, someone better start blaming a branch of government. It's called accountability. But, then again, its easier to push for tax increases than to actually try to make a better choices in New Mexico. After all, it's all about our children, right?

Three sport utility vehicles purchased for school administrators from an out-of-state dealer. A $91,000 tow truck. Thousands of dollars for iPods for students. Paying athletes and cheerleaders to pull weeds. Lunches, including a $110 tab at the Rio Chama Steakhouse paid for by federal funds intended for low-income students.

These are just some of the questionable expenditures uncovered by audits of five medium-sized school districts that were discussed Thursday at a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee. One LFC staffer said these audits "barely scratch the surface" of waste and abuse in some school districts.

Yeah, it's all about the children. Now, you tell me something. Do better choices start with putting more money in state coffers, or does it start by saying enough is enough? Until the people taking and spending our money are held accountable for their fiscal mismanagement, corruption and fraud, I say they don't get to increase taxes by even one tenth of one percent.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Not Enough Screaming Insults

Must have been an unbelievably slow news day. The front page of today's online Albuquerque Journal has an "article" which is basically a free ad for Lt. Governor Diane Denish's request for contributions:

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is asking New Mexicans to restore civility to state politics — by contributing money to her gubernatorial campaign.

In an e-mail sent out to supporters Wednesday, Denish, the sole Democrat to enter the 2010 race thus far, said many New Mexicans have told her they're tired of the name-calling and negativity of current politics.

"Stand with me against the screaming and the insults," said Denish, who added that a contribution of $25, $50 or $100 would help her "put her foot down and say 'enough is enough!'"

Sorry folks this isn't news. There are lots of candidates out there asking for money, and unless the Journal plans on giving each and every one of them equal time, I think they ought to revisit their editorial policy.

As to the content of the Journal's in-kind contribution to Lt. Governor Diane Denish's campaign efforts, I can't help but wonder what exactly the Lt. Governor wants everyone to stop screaming about? Does she want New Mexicans to stop screaming about the fact that this administration's tenure has been marked by more criminal indictments and pay to play scandals than any other administration in recent history? Maybe she wants New Mexicans to stop screaming about a public education system that is failing more and more children every year?

As a former Chairman of the Democratic Party, does the Lt Governor find it insulting that a member of her own party would point out that OVER A BILLION DOLLARS is spent without required audits. Or, could it be that Lt. Governor Denish finds it insulting that she is being held accountable for failing to blow the whistle as tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers funds disappeared because of highly questionable investment practices.

Sorry, but if you ask me, there's not near enough screaming going on in the Land of Enchantment. In fact, I hope the "screaming" grows louder, and I'm really not going to lose any sleep if the crooks, or their enablers, are insulted.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bode Aviation Video

The surveillance video of Bode Aviation's negotiations with the City of Albuquerque [hat tip: Peter St. Cyr], and the role Mayor Martin Chavez plays "messing with" contracts is unnerving at the least. Watch the video, and then ask yourself, "How does this guy get elected term after term?"

Bode Surveillance- Short Version from Richard M. Romero on Vimeo.

Why isn't this more front and center in the campaign? Oh right, publicly funded campaigns don't allow the campaigns enough resources to get the truth out. Explain to me again how this has improved the process?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A New Kind of Double Dipping

Ever wonder why we have an economic crisis in New Mexico? Sure, it has to do with the spending spree of the Richardson Administration and the rubber-stamping legislature. But, the truth is that's only one part of the equation. Corruption and unethical conduct are undoubtedly costing the taxpayers million annually as well.

I'm not just talking about pay to play politics that have seen tens of millions in taxpayer "investment" funds gp up in smoke. I'm thinking about the low level corruption that is costing us a half million here and half a million there.

For example, let's just look at how much the taxpayers are paying for the PRC position held by Jerome Block, Jr. The part-time job pays $90,000 per year. In addition to that $90,000, the indicted Commissioner Block was able to grab $100,000 from taxpayers to fund his campaign:

Block Jr. told the Santa Fe New Mexican he won’t resign from his $90,000-a-year job representing northern New Mexico on the powerful regulatory board.

“I’m elected, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” he was quoted as saying before closing his office door to the reporter.

The New Mexican broke the story via Twitter earlier today.

The charges stem from Block Jr.’s publicly funded campaign for office last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Block, who is in his first term on the PRC, paid a band to play at a rally that never took place. Block later had to pay a fine and return $10,000 of the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he received for his campaign after admitting to filing false reports.

So, right off the bat, we know that the indicted commissioner position costs $190,000. Of course, that's only the start of it. You've got to factor in the time spent from those working for the Secretary of State's and Attorney General's offices:

A Complaint to the Secretary of State: On September 24, campaign finance advocacy group Common Cause issued a formal complaint to the New Mexico Secretary of State regarding Block's apparent violations of the Voter Action Act in San Miguel county.

Attorney General Involvement: On September 27, the Attorney General stated that an investigation into Block Jr. lying about finances used in San Miguel County is on the "front burner."

That's got be worth at least another $150,000 when you factor in the loaded hourly rate of those involved in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of the case. Then, of course, you've got the taxpayer paid employees who were able to supplement their income with the taxpayer funded resources from the indicted commissioner Block's campaign:

Just Who Ain't on the Payroll?: On October 14, the first general election campaign finance reports for the district 3 PRC race indicated that Block Jr. payed Cordy Medina for "mailout assistance." What's the problem? Medina is the State Attorney General's consitutent services coordiantor--the person who picks up the phone when citizens call to complain about, um, political candidates having suspicious payrolls.

This part-time double dipping wasn't limited to the Attorney General's office. PRC staff also found a way to get on the PRC campaign payroll:

Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office show Block paid [Larry L. Lujan] Lujan at least $2,000 last year for campaign coordination. Lujan has previously said he campaigned for Block solely on weekends and on his own personal time.

So, that's another couple of grand. But, let's not forget the telephone bills:

Lujan and Block also exchanged more than 300 phone calls on Lujan's state cell phone during a 10-month period after Block launched his campaign.

PRC officials investigated the calls after they were reported by the Journal and determined Lujan inappropriately used his phone, though the agency didn't disclose whether Lujan was disciplined.

Anyone want to bet that those 300 telephone calls were not restricted to weekend and personal hour times? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Which means, we've got:
  • more lost work hours paid for by the taxpayers
  • on a taxpayer paid phone
  • to a campaign funded by taxpayers
  • for a position which is charged to taxpayers
  • which is investigated by and prosecuted by taxpayer employed staff
So, where does this leave us? Well, if you factor in Mr. Lujan's latest promotion, we're over $500,000 in waste.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Congratulations Governor Bill Richardson!

Congratulations Governor Richardson! Your success in avoiding being indicted is undoubtedly the most impressive accomplishment of your two terms as Governor of the Land of Enchantment. In case anyone questions just how impressive an accomplishment this is compared to everything you've done as Governor, I'm providing this link for your use:

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

North Koreans Come to the Rescue

You've got to love the timing of the thing. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. Former Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is indicted on 50-counts for laundering millions of dollars, and Governor Bill Richardson holds "productive talks" with the North Koreans.

I can't help, but feel the need to take a trip down memory lane back to April 30, 2007:
Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It's like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State's office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn't aware the shortfall was that big.

"I was not aware of the size of the deficit," he said. "I was aware there was some expenses that hadn't been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it's important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done."

The governor's announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron's appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she "has served the state, she's been an elected official, she's contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Of course, you've got to love the Governor's logic in that last paragraph, "[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Hmm, I wonder... let's try that a few different ways...
"Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

"Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."
That about sums up the problem with New Mexico politics. Now, I'm sure that the timing of the Governor's meeting with the North Koreans was just a fortunate coincidence.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Governor's Transparency Policy

Wow! Everyone's on record of late claiming complete ignorance regarding fees paid to third-party marketers. Then, this comes to light.
The bottom line is this: In the wake of a corruption scandal at the state Treasurer's Office in 2005, a policy was drafted that called for public disclosure of fees paid to so-called third-party marketers on government investment deals.

A document that became known as the "Governor's Transparency Policy" — put together for Gov. Bill Richardson — recommended disclosure of all the fees.

That didn't happen. The policy was never adopted, not even by the State Investment Council, which Richardson chairs and controls.
I believe that's what they call a smoking gun.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Another Typical Day of Enchantment

Well, it looks like just another typical news day in the Land of Enchantment. Let's see, we've got a report that one former State Senator has entered prison for his part robbing New Mexicans of $4.2 million:
Former state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon has begun serving his 67-month prison term in Colorado.
Then, we've got an indictment that has been two years in the making of the former executive director of Region III Housing Authority with ties to current House Speaker Ben Lujan:
In 2003 and 2004, State Investment Council bought $5 million in bonds issued by the authority to finance its mission to buy and renovate homes that are sold to low-income buyers.

Money from home sales was used by the housing authority to pay operational expenses including $875,000 that went to Gallegos as salary, retirement benefits and a loan.
The bonds defaulted, and the State Investment Council estimated losses to taxpayers at around $4 million.
Public investigations found, among other things:
  • In sales of 40 properties, the money received from buyers wasn't used to pay off the bonds.
  • The authority withdrew bond money to purchase five properties it already owned.
  • The authority withdrew $880,000 to purchase 16 properties but paid only $280,000 for them.
A series of reports by the Journal's Thomas J. Cole also found that the housing authority allowed a state judge and an aide to House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, to live rent free in authority homes.
And, to round out the headlines, it looks like the results of the investigation into Governor Richardson and his inner circle has arrived on the desk of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:
The New Mexico Finance Authority has been part of the federal investigation after awarding a hefty contract — with questionable procedures that included adding points and changing the initial rankings — to California-based CDR Financial Inc.
CDR, which also was awarded a sole-source, no-bid escrow contract, contributed about $100,000 to Richardson's political committees around the time of the contract awards.
The contract award in 2004 was for CDR to advise the Finance Authority on the state $1.6 billion GRIP transportation bond program.
Among the former Finance Authority officials interviewed by the FBI is former NMFA Executive Director David Harris.
After CDR won the New Mexico business in 2004, CDR officials paid for dinner and Lakers basketball tickets in Los Angeles for Harris and former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino.
Richardson has said no one from his administration acted improperly.
Of course, the Governor would say no one has acted improperly. This is New Mexico. As it has been noted, it's just "the way we do business." Although, I, for one, am hoping the voters have just about had enough.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Celebrating a Culture of Corruption

I didn't think it was possible, but I think we've hit a new low in New Mexico politics. Maybe it's just the fact that there have been so many corruption scandals in recent years that people have started thinking, "What's the big deal? Forget feeling shame, let's start celebrating our corruption."

Consider the startling fact that a former State Supreme Court Chief Justice and numerous other current and past elected officials think nothing of showing up for a going to jail party for one of their own. Let me repeat that: "A GOING TO JAIL PARTY!"

This is like something out of a Scorsese film. Can you imagine any other state in the nation where elected officials running for office would think nothing of showing up for a going to jail party?
Also attending the Manny farewell, according to our Senior Gators, was former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos, current Bernalillo County Commissioner and ABQ City Council candidate Alan Armijo; former state Senator Shannon Robinson; former Grants State Rep. Toby Michael; veteran political player Guy Riordan and another big name--former Ambassador to Spain and longtime NM politico Ed Romero.
This is beyond troubling. This is downright scary. Tomorrow, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Albuquerque to unveil President Obama's 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. That's all fine and dandy, but the biggest threat to our state and homeland security right now is from within.

When the lives of corrupt politicians are being celebrated by the political establishment, our society is seriously threatened. When subpoenas after subpoenas are being issued and no one is being indicted, law and order is endangered. And, this is not simply a local problem. When political appointees think nothing of shutting down the efforts of career prosecutors fighting to protect our freedoms, we are headed down a dangerous path.
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

Where does this leave us? The answer is that it leaves us in a very scary place. Someone needs to stand up and start questioning those in charge. If the political appointees were willing to shut down the prosecution of such an obvious case of intimidation, what will they do in New Mexico when the sitting Governor and those in his inner circle are facing indictments?

Will U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder overrule the career prosecutors who have been trying to stem the growing tide of corruption in New Mexico, or will he push to protect our homeland security by encouraging the aggressive prosecution of the elected and appointed thieves in our state government? If I was a reporter at tomorrow's press conference, I'd be asking this question. President Obama promised Change. The administration can start by rooting out corruption. That's a non-partisan issue.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Investigation Upon Investigation

I have to admit at being a bit perplexed. It seems like the general level of public outrage during the NM Treasurer Scandals was significantly higher than it is today in the face of what appears to be a much larger bilking of the taxpayers here and throughout the nation:
Marc Correra has been at the center of the investment controversy in New Mexico.

He is the son of Anthony Correra, a retired stockbroker from New York who agreed to surrender his license in connection with insider trading allegations. The two share a Santa Fe business address.

Anthony Correra was on Richardson's transition team and a member of the search committee that led to the hiring of Gary Bland as State Investment Officer.
Geez, talk about a smoking gun. Governor Richardson puts a gut on the search committee to hire the the State Investment Officer who had to surrender his license to due to insider trading allegations. Then, his son is paid millions of dollars in fees for deals involving the State Investment Council:
Records show that [Marc Correra] was involved as a placement agent and shared in more than $11 million on nearly two dozen investment deals with the State Investment Council, which is appointed and chaired by Richardson and run by Bland.

Marc Correra shared in more than $4 million in fees for investments made by the ERB.

He has not been charged with any wrongdoing. His Albuquerque attorney, Sam Bregman, said Wednesday he had no comment.
And, when was the last time anyone remembering Sam Bregman having no comment? Heck, you even have a U.S. Senator's step-daughter and campaign manager of his Senate run being granted immunity. Bottom line, this isn't a pretty picture. Yet, the general public outrage just doesn't seem to be at the level it should be. If it was, it would be hard to see how anyone even remotely connected with this administration could be considering a run for anything in 2010.

Now, does that mean I think every elected and appointed official in the Richardson administration is corrupt. No. But, at the very least they were quiet enablers. At some point, heads should start rolling, right? How much longer can all of this go on? Think about the last few years. We've had...
Isn't it about time to clean house? That's a heck of a list in just four years. I can't even keep track of which came first. New Mexico has been a one party state for so long that it proves the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's one of the reasons that I think, no make that I hope, that 2010 brings change to New Mexico. We need to restore a balance. It's also why Ed Rollins recent commentary makes perfect sense:

As bleak as things might seem today for Republicans, I have to put things into context.

I became a Republican in the summer of 1972. I was involved in running President Nixon's re -election campaign in California and became part of his administration at the start of his second term.

In very short order after my arrival in Washington in January 1973, the Nixon administration came apart at the seams with a daily soap opera of criminal charges, congressional hearings, federal indictments and the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew for bribe taking, followed 10 months later by the resignation of Richard Nixon who was about to be impeached by the Congress.

I was demoralized and ashamed of the leaders of my new party. But I wasn't going to quit because I still believed in the principles of strong national defense and smaller government, and in the idea that working people should do better than those who don't.

In the aftermath of all this, Republicans got slaughtered in the midterm elections of 1974, losing 48 House seats and five Senate seats. Republicans had only 144 House members in the 94th Congress.

Two years later, Jimmy Carter was elected president and I was convinced Republicans would be in the wilderness the rest of my political life. After the first 100 days, President Carter's approval rating was 69 percent -- higher than President Obama's.

And four years after that I was working in the White House as an assistant to President Ronald Reagan -- who defeated Carter by a landslide and won a Senate majority and a philosophical majority in the House. For 20 of the next 28 years, a Republican was in the White House.

What's been going on in New Mexico makes Watergate look like childs play. It's is time for a change. Anyone that is part of the current insanely corrupt government political structure in New Mexico needs to go in these next rounds of elections.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sole Sourcing Off-The-Shelf Lawsuits

Just when you think the pay-to-play scandals in New Mexico can't get any worse, they do. Apparently, flowers are not the only things that bloom during the spring season in New Mexico.
Last week brought news that Governor Bill Richardson's campaign and political action committees received nearly $200,000 from money managers and brokers who were seeking access to the state's multibillion dollar pension funds.
Okay, I know, old news. But, this same editorial takes a deeper look at the ethically questionable behavior coming out of the Attorney General's office. Mind you, we were hopeful that when pay-for-access AG Patricia Madrid left office, things would get better. But, it now looks like the players may change, but the game remains the same.
As for Mr. King, he is underselling his political talents. Campaign records show that in the month before his 2006 election, his campaign received $50,000 from Houston lawyer Kenneth Bailey and Mr. Bailey's previous law firm in two $25,000 installments, one of which came within a week of Election Day.
And, what does $50,000 buy these days?
However, you have to wonder just how vital this particular lawsuit is, since it was marketed to New Mexico and many other state AGs as an off-the-shelf product by the Bailey firm.
It would seem it is the going price to bring win the right to sue in the name of the State. When law firms are able to buy the right to sue companies on behalf of the state in exchange for a political contribution. We're all in trouble.

Now, in all fairness, some of you may think I'm jumping to conclusions here. These campaign contributions, and the resulting "gift" to the law firm may just be coincidental. For those of you feel this way, I'd suggest you look no further than Attorney General Gary King's own analysis regarding appearances:
"There's an old saying that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then its probably a duck," say AG King. "And I think we know a duck when we see one."
Well, I guess duck hunting season is starting a little earlier this year..

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Remembering Robert Vigil and Michael Montoya

It seems like a long time ago, right? Every day and every night the news was filled with stories of former New Mexico Treasurers Robert Vigil and Michael Montoya, and their scandalous, kickback driven investments of taxpayer funds. Of course, it wasn't really that long ago. In fact, it's only been four years.

And, four years later, it looks like we've still have all of the EXACT SAME corruption problems. Sure it's different people taking money. But, the result is basically the same. New Mexico taxpayers are the big losers. Four years ago we had lost millions of dollars. Now we've lost billions of dollars.

So, who is to blame? Well, we can obviously start at the top. A little less than four years ago, our Governor Richardson made the following proclamation:

Governor Bill Richardson has ordered "a comprehensive review of state investments and investment contracts, and is proposing a number of strict new procedures regarding the state investment process," his office announced Tuesday. The announcement comes on the heels of State Treasurer Robert Vigil and former State Treasurer Michael Montoya being arrested and charged with extorting kickbacks from brokers handling state investment accounts.

Richardson said the state will conduct "a top to bottom review of all investment practices and a review of all investment contracts and has directed state agencies to conduct an internal assessment of all investment activities at all levels of state government."

Well, in light of the ongoing federal investigations, we have only two possible conclusions to draw:
  1. The Governor failed miserably in his promise to conduct a top to bottom review of all investment practices.


  2. The Governor and his administration conducted this full assessment and decided it was in their own self interest to keep pay to play schemes in place and continue the time honored practice of defrauding taxpayers.
It will be interesting to see if the current federal investigation turns up the results of the"internal assessment of all investment activities" that was required of each state agency. Actually, why wait fro the federal investigation to be complete. Maybe one of our state's remaining reporters will file a FOIA request to get a peak at those assessments.

But, is it only the Governor who is to blame? No. As mentioned above, there are appointees who obviously failed to do their jobs. There are also the legislators who acted as enablers:
Until 2005, the ERB was limited in what types of investments it could make, primarily stocks and bonds with a history of paying dividends.

The legislature changed that in 2005, but it took the ERB the better part of a year to get into a position to diversify its investments to include hedge funds, private equity funds that invest in companies that are not publicly traded and other specialty areas.
We've got another round of elections coming up. First, the Albuquerque City elections, and then before we know it, we'll have the statewide elections in 2010. If we vote the same people back into office time and time again, the cycle of corruption will continue. Isn't time to say enough is enough?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rebecca Vigil-Giron and the Never-Ending Audit

Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who incidentally remains on the taxpayer funded payroll, is back in the news again (subscription):
Lingering questions involving the expenditure of nearly $6.3 million for a voter education campaign by Vigil-Giron in 2004 and 2006 continues to impact the current administration, the state audit found.

"I'm still extremely concerned," Balderas told the Journal on Tuesday. "The overall fiscal management was called into question and our auditors were just not confident enough to give them a clean bill of health."
So, here's the first thing that is bugging me. We're in 2009, and we're still auditing $6.3 million that was expended beginning five years ago? Does that seem like it's taking a long time, or what?
Of course, the state isn't the only one who reviewed the books. The federal government conducted an audit and guess what they found?

A separate federal audit released last year couldn't account for more than $3 million of the $6.3 million paid by Vigil-Giron to media consulting firm A. Gutierrez and Associates.

Vigil-Giron's agency apparently made upfront payments to the consultant and didn't require detailed receipts for the work done.
Nice. I'm in advertising, and I can't imagine not having to account for half the money - to the tune of $3 million - I was given by a client for a media buy. Every time you place an ad in the media, you receive proof of performance (i.e. a notarized copy of the ads' air times, or in the case of a print, a copy of the actual printed ad). The only reason that documentation of proof of performance could not be provided is because the ad didn't run.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has said that some of the money might have to be reimbursed by the state.

Herrera said Tuesday that her office has proposed a measure to "release" taxpayers from having to repay the $6.3 million to the federal government.

"We are hopeful that the Legislature passes this bill," the statement said. "New Mexicans should be protected."
Oh that's just priceless. Someone please call up the Secretary of State office and explain where the government gets their money to our current Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Let her know that regardless of what bill the Legislature passes, it is taxpayers' money that will be used to satisfy that debt.
Among its findings, the state audit determined Vigil-Giron's office inappropriately used nearly $30,000 in federal voter education funds to enhance the agency's Web site.

Balderas said enhancing a Web site was "clearly not central to the HAVA (Help America Vote Act) mission."
Now, wait a minute. Something here just doesn't make sense. Vigil-Giron's office claims to have enhanced the agency website. Please, let's get real. Oh, and I think those auditors need to go back and review their work. As I recall, that $30,000 doesn't even come close to the amount that was spent on a worthless website:
That's right Ms. Vigil-Giron has had three years to get this system up and running without success. As our Secretary of State describes it, the problem is two-fold 1) the contractor has failed to meet the deadlines; and 2) there just wasn't enough money allocated. Of course, number two rings a little false when you realize that Vigil-Giron spent $2 million in 2004 on self-promoting television ads.

So, what has Ms. Vigil-Giron done about the contractor's failure to deliver? Has she demanded a refund? No. Has she sent a letter to the contractor demanding that they stop listing New Mexico as one of the "jurisdictions using
SOSKB?" No. Has she gone to the Attorney General and asked Patricia Madrid to file suit against this company to get back our taxpayer dollars? No. So, what has she done?
Using federal dollars earmarked for voter education, Vigil-Giron's office only last month signed a new $350,000 contract for completion of the system with the same North Carolina company she hired to do the job in 2003.
You read that correctly. Vigil-Giron's office has given the company another contract for $230,000 more than the first contract. Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts? Then again, maybe she is rewarding the company for failing to deliver a fully operational system. See, that actually makes sense. The company's failure to deliver has allowed Governor Richardson's representative the opportunity to say:
"It's a shame there are problems," Amanda Cooper, Richardson's campaign manager, said of the state's electronic filing program. "We want to file our campaign finance records in a way that people can search them."
Um, yeah... hindsight really is 20/20. I'm sure the Governor was just so upset that people were unable to search campaign finance records. Just think, if those campaign finance records had been searchable, the CDR scandal might have broke before he had a chance to run for President.

In fact, the Governor was so distraught (wink,wink, nudge, nudge) that he gave Ms. Vigil-Giron another taxpayer funded job. And, Governor Richardson's rationale at the time for making sure that this individual, mired in scandal, had another taxpayer funded position:
Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she "has served the state, she's been an elected official, she's contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

I'd say she has contributed. Contributed to our debt. As to deserving to stay in state government, well, I guess she does deserve it... about as much Manny Aragon and Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil deserved to stay in state government.

I guess that's enough of that. Let's move on to other news. It looks like not all hiring freezes are created equal (subscription):

Three months ago, Gov. Bill Richardson froze pay increases and hiring at the departments and other agencies under his control as a means to help address the state's budget problems.

But there have been exceptions, both in hires and pay increases.

Richardson has made 16 appointments to exempt positions since the hiring and pay freeze took effect Nov. 15, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Finance and Administration.

Those appointees are exempt from the protections of the classified employee system and serve at the pleasure of the governor.

The appointees include Geno Zamora, hired as a lawyer for the Economic Development Department at an annual salary of $87,000. He worked in the Governor's Office before making an unsuccessful bid for attorney general in 2006.

Other appointees include a new head for the Game and Fish Department, a division director at the Department of Cultural Affairs, a lawyer at the Department of Workforce Solutions and an administrator for Miners' Colfax Medical Center in Raton.

Hold the presses. What's that say in that last line? "A lawyer at the Department of Workforce Solutions" was among those hired. What is it about that gives me pause? Hmmm. Oh, I know:

Vigil-Giron, who now works for the state's Department of Workforce Solutions, dismissed the new state audit as politically motivated.

The Department of Workforce Soultions puts an attorney on the payroll. Rebecca Vigil-Giron works at the Department of Workforce Solutions. I'm sure it's all just some bizarre coincidence.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bahrain Investors Collect NM Taxpayer Funds

Some people may be worrying about grand jury investigations, but whatever the grand jury finds is nothing compared to what the Rio Grande Foundation is likely to dig up:

Even some of the [State Investment Council's (SIC)] smallest acquisitions look questionable. Take for instance, its investment in Small Smiles. The SIC's 2007 annual report showed an investment of an unstated sum in this New Mexico company. By directly contacting the venture capital firm that handled this investment, the Rio Grande Foundation learned that about $500,000 New Mexico taxpayer dollars have been invested in Small Smiles. The SIC itself had not been able to answer this question.

Contrary to the SIC's annual report, Small Smiles, is not a New Mexico company. It is a national chain of low-income dental clinics owned by a bank in Bahrain. Furthermore, at the time half a million taxpayers dollars were going to help Arab investors, Small Smiles was being blasted in an Emmy Award winning investigative television series called "Drilling for Dollars."

Small Smiles clinics in the Washington, D.C. area were exposed for abusing children by strapping them to "papoose boards." Small Smiles had engaged in unethical billing practices. Parents came forward with complaints of unnecessary dental work being performed on their children without their consent.

Geez, forcing unnecessary procedures on children in order to line their pockets, it doesn't get more evil than that. As to the use of papoose boards to perform unnecessary dental work, okay, I was wrong it does get more evil.

Mind you, I'm the father of two young boys. My oldest needed to have a dental "appliance " installed at the age of four to correct a problem. It was not a fun experience for him, but I was there the entire time to hold his hand. I can't imagine how he would feel about me or the dentist if we had allowed him to be strapped into a papoose board. I'm thoroughly disgusted.

How is it that the SIC has had so many questionable (I'm being kind here) and ill-fated investments? Well, you might remember that it has been standard policy under the Richardson administration to fire those advisors who did not want to issue rubber stamp endorsements of shady (okay, sugar-coating is not really my style) deals that Governor Richardson wanted to see approved.

That's right, I said, "Deals that Governor Richardson wanted approved." After all, the Governor is the chairman of the SIC. Now, in light of all of the recent scandals, you may be wondering if the Governor has ever received any campaign contributions from anyone connected to Small Smiles.

Well, I'm glad you asked. As it turns out, the Chairman and CEO of the holding company for Small Smiles is Michael Lindley of Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Lindley did indeed donate a $1,000 to our Governor's presidential campaign. He also gave a $1,000 to Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's campaign.

Of course, my guess is that our Speaker of the House Ben Lujan solicited the funds on his son's behalf. After all, other than the imprisoned former State Senator Manny Aragon, the only other elected official to recieve funds cycle after cycle from Small Smiles in New Mexico is Speaker of the House Lujan.

Now, I'm sure none of this is tied to pay-to-play in New Mexico. It's probably all just some strange coincidence.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Denish's Silence to be Her Undoing

It's everywhere. Governor Bill Richardson got the boot from the cabinet secretary position because the FBI is not able to give Richardson a “clean political bill of health.” Do I think this is the first step to re-uniting Bill Richardson and Manny Aragon? No. However, I do think this is a devastating blow for Lt. Governor Diane Denish.

Lt. Governor Denish was poised to become the first female governor of New Mexico, but in one fail swoop that has all changed. My guess is that Governor Richardson will now finish out his term and attempt to save what is left of his legacy. That means switching all of those reporters he has gathered over the years into overdrive efforts to redirect the focus away from the indictments and on to more flattering topics.

Of course, the Lt. Governor could save her political future by coming out on the attack and blow the whistle on Richardson's antics, but that's just not her style. Sure, there was that whole pinching episode...

The lieutenant governor of New Mexico, Diane Denish was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal saying she avoids standing or sitting near Richardson because of his physical manner, which she said was not improper but was "annoying." The governor, she said, "pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg."

On repeated occasions, Richardson has been pressed by reporters or Democratic activists on whether his personal conduct can withstand public scrutiny.

But, even then, the Lt. Governor had been careful not to call anything Governor Richardson did "improper." She preferred to think of it as simply "annoying." As this scandal plays out, most likely the final major scandal of the Richardson administration, expect the Lt. Governor to remain silent on the impropriety of pinching donors.

After all, it's no secret that Lt. Governor Denish has been rather aggressive in her own rights in securing a rather impressive war chest over these last few years. But, as one of the Lt. Governor's esteemed colleagues pointed out, taking large sums of money is only about charging for access.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pay to Play Hoopla

Heath Haussamen takes the Journal to task for their assertion that the pay to play grand jury investigation into the Governor's office involvement with CDR Financial is old news:

The Journal article, which you can read by clicking here, called Monday’s report from -- the first to publicly reveal the grand jury investigation -- “old news,” at least “for the most part.”

Why is that? Well, the Journal article goes on to recount the fact that the newspaper had already reported in August and again in October on the federal investigation into the fact that CDR Financial was paid more than $1.4 million on a contract it won in 2004 to advise the New Mexico Finance Authority on interest-rate swaps and other work related to a $1.6 billion transportation project.

Marjorie Childress notes that according to a ranking by political reporters New Mexico is the third most politically corrupt state in the nation:

Outcome of a 2003 report that revealed the opinions of statehouse reporters? Whoa. We shot way up there! Reporters who cover the Roundhouse in New Mexico think it’s a pretty darn corrupt state — we’re ranked No. 3.

There are few convicted officials in New Mexico compared to other states… but a class of reporters who think their subjects are totally corrupt.

So, my friend who sent me the article asked, does this mean our reporters are biased? Or does it mean we have really poor ethics laws and really poor prosecution by U.S. attorneys in our state?

It's interesting to me that Marjorie puts the blame on either the lack of ethics laws or poor prosecution by the U.S. attorneys. She seems to forget that the highest ranking law enforcement official in the state is the independently elected Attorney General. Why not hold him, or in the recent past, her accountable for failure to prosecute?

Now, anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that pay for play politics has been business as usual under the Richardson administration for for quite some time - basically, since the Governor was sworn into office. Heck, on some occasions, it even seemed like extortion. You know, you give once, and you can expect to be "encouraged" to give again and again.

Make no mistake, we do not need new ethics laws to deal with this problem. We just need to enforce the laws on the books. The problem here is not the size of the political contribution. The problem is the willingness of those who receive them to reward the contribution with lucrative contracts, or special treatment.

Now, yesterday the Governor held a press conference, and then ran from the room when questioned about this latest scandal. You might be wondering how Richardson thinks he can get away without making any statement on the subject? Simple, he's done it many times before. No matter how much coverage a particular Richardson scandal has received, it always blows over in a day or two if the Governor just chooses to ignore it.

So, what's different this time? It all comes down to timing. The national press attention on the Illinois Governor indictment, our President-elect's home state, means that the nation is focused on this issue. It also means that it is unlikely to go away in a day or two. And, unfortunately, for Governor Richardson, his little problem is going to finally get the attention it deserves.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Health Care Reform Should Wait

Universal health care proponents are upset that providing taxpayer funded health care for everyone seems to be taking a backseat while legislators begin to struggle with the half a billion dollar budget shortfall:

“There is tremendous interest in both the advocacy and constituent communities to focus on health care reform during the upcoming session,” said Roxanne Spruce Bly, executive director of Health Action New Mexico, in an interview with the Independent. “For many voters, health care was a top priority and a key reason why they supported change at both the national and state level.”

Indeed, achieving universal health care was not only a major plank during the Democratic presidential primary, it was also a major issue in 2008 during the short legislative session and the special session.

Still, the results were minimal. There has been no movement on bills that would ensure New Mexico’s 400,000 uninsured people gain access to health care, or that would contain the rapidly increasing costs.

“The time to act is now,” Bly said. “In 2006, New Mexico commissioned a study which showed that if we continued to do nothing, the cost of our health care system will increase from $6 billion to $8 billion by 2011.

Ok, let's state the obvious. The time to act is NOT now. Forget the fact that we are facing a budget crisis this year that in all likelihood will be worse next year. Instead, consider that achieving universal health care was a major plank during the Democratic presidential primary. Well, the Democrats won on a federal level and New Mexico's state lawmakers would be wise to take a wait and see attitude until it is clear how those national Democrats plan on delivering on their promises.

Obviously, I don't want to see a universally mandated and taxpayer funded health care system. But, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate and the Presidency. So, I don't really have much say in the issue.

As to the "New Mexico commissioned a study which showed that if we continued to do nothing, the cost of our health care system will increase from $6 billion to $8 billion by 2011." I'm sorry, but if state government takes on the task of managing all aspects of the health care system, I can practically guarantee that we will see even more than a $2 billion increase over the next two years.

All you need to do is look at the state's latest budgetary fiasco regarding the hiring freeze (subscription):
After Gov. Bill Richardson announced a state government hiring freeze, his administration put 416 people on the payroll before it took effect.

Members of the Legislative Finance Committee, confronted with a projected state budget shortfall of about $454 million, weren't happy with the news Wednesday.

"I think it was disingenuous," said Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park.
To call adding $1 million to a state payroll budget while supposedly instituting a hiring freeze "disingenuous" is putting it nicely. I would call it "criminal." How can anyone believe that putting these folks in charge of the health care system is going to reduce costs. They can't even reduce costs when they are implementing cost cutting measures.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm Sure There is Nothing to it

In catching up on the news, I came across this little gem in an AP article by Barry Massey (subscription):
A California firm that contributed to Gov. Bill Richardson's political activities is under scrutiny by the FBI over a lucrative contract it won four years ago for the financing of a $1.6 billion state transportation program.

The FBI has requested documents from the New Mexico Finance Authority and interviewed former and current authority officials about the contract with the Beverly Hills-based firm, CDR Financial Products.

"They came in and asked me some questions, basically about procedures — how were the vendors chosen," William Fulginiti, a member of the authority's board, said Friday.

CDR was part of a team of banking, investment and financial advisers selected by the authority to put together a complex bond financing deal for a highway and transportation construction program that Richardson won legislative approval of in 2003.

Of course, I'm sure that the FBI isn't going to find anything wrong. Usually these things are just a matter of doing due diligence. Oh sure, there was that Guy Riordan problem, but that was just a fluke. Then, of course, there was that weird exception regarding the $130,000 in contributions that was tied to "family business [being] granted direct access to a city thoroughfare for a shopping-center project."

I could go on, but it is a holiday.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Biggest Surprise of the Weekend

A lot more readers than usual came by to visit the blog this weekend. And, I do a mean a lot. The regulars know that I rarely write on the weekend, and this one was no exception. After all, a man can not live by politics alone. There is also golf.

With regard to the GOP election, let's leave it that I'm glad the intraparty race is now behind us, and we can now focus, under the continued leadership of Chairman Allen Weh, on the tasks at hand - namely, getting Republicans elected in 2008. A task that might be made easier as the full breadth of the Courthouse kickback scandals (subscription) continues to unfold :
The practice has become commonplace.

For example, Design Collaborative Southwest got help from another former public official— Tom Rutherford— in getting the contract for the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion, an addition to the University of New Mexico Hospital.

The architectural and engineering work cost $10.5 million, according to a fact sheet distributed by the university.

Rutherford served in the state Senate for 24 years. He was a county commissioner for two terms, through the end of 2004, the year the hospital project was approved.

Rob Perry, an attorney for Schiff, said Rutherford was used as "government affairs liaison" in helping the firm get the contract for the hospital expansion.

Richard Braun, president of Studio Southwest Architects, the successor to Design Collaborative Southwest, said he had no information about Rutherford's role with the firm.

Rutherford could not be reached by the Journal. State records indicate Rutherford is now a lobbyist for the University of New Mexico.
Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It's like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State's office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn't aware the shortfall was that big.

"I was not aware of the size of the deficit," he said. "I was aware there was some expenses that hadn't been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it's important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done."

The governor's announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron's appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she "has served the state, she's been an elected official, she's contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Of course, you've got to love the Governor's logic in that last paragraph, "[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Hmm, I wonder... let's try that a few different ways...
"Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

"Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."
Folks, that line of reasoning is right up there with Governor Richardson's rationale for withholding judgment on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Enough is Enough - The Whole Truth

Tonight something happened that has angered and saddened me...

I got a call from the State Republican Party informing me that Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman, Fernando C' de Baca, had put me on a list as a State Central Committee Member from Bernalillo County not in good standing. Below is the text of the letter:

April 26, 2007

Lou Melvin
RPNM Rules Committee Chairwoman
5150-A San Francisco NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109

Dear Lou -

In accordance with Rule 10 of the Bernalillo County Republican Party Supplementary Rules, the following State Central Committee Members from Bernalillo County are not in good standing.

Please consider this a formal challenge of the following State Central Committee members:

Christopher Atencio
Mario Burgos
John Butrick
Samuel Carnes
Whitney Cheshire
Diego Espinoza
State Representative Justin Fox-Young
Elaine Henederson
Wade Jackson
Enrique Knell
Fran Langholf
Vickie Perea
Patrick Rogers
Patricia Rush
Dianne Shams-Avari
Matthew Stackpole

Each of these State Central Committee members from Bernalillo County were assessed dues on March 30, 2007 via a dues statement sent them through the mail.


Fernando C. De Baca, Chairman

Cc: RPNM Rules Committee, RPNM Secretary Nina Martinez
Ok, let's start with the obvious. This is pure and utter rubbish. Rule (10) cited in the letter above reads as follows:
10. DUES

A. The Republican Party of Bernalillo County Central Committee shall assess annual dues to be paid by the members.
B. With consent of the chairman, members may substitute volunteer service to the Republican Party of Bernalillo County in lieu of dues.
C. The Republican Party of Bernalillo County shall review member status quarterly.
D. County Central Committee members whose dues are in arrears shall not vote at Central Committee meetings and are subject to removal from the committee by the Republican Party of Bernalillo County Executive Committee as authorized bi-annually by the County Central Committee.
How is it possible that the Republican Party of Bernalillo County could have mailed the first dues statement on March 30, 2007, and have already held a member status quarterly review? The simple answer: they couldn't. But apparently, Mr. C' de Baca feels he has the right to rewrite the rules as he sees fit. Heck, this latest letter is even in direct contradiction to what he had printed on the bottom of the quarterly dues statement less than 30 days ago:
In accordance with Rules of the Bernalillo County Republican Party, each County Central Committee member must pay dues of $10 per month. If you become (3) months delinquent, your name may be removed from the Bernalillo County Central Committee Roster.
Folks, not even one month has passed, let alone three. In fact, at the Bernalillo County Central Committee on March 18th, everyone paid their first month's dues of $10 - it was the only way they would let you vote.

And, by the way, I know what it says on the statement because I had already written a check for a $120 to be sent to Bernalillo County Republican Party. Why a $120? Well, because I don't believe that people who can't afford it should be charged a tax by the Republican Party to participate in party politics. So, I offered to pay the quarterly dues of some folks, including a young mother from our Ward whose husband, a former state police officer, is volunteering in Iraq to provide armed protection for Americans.

So, what could motivate Chairman C' de Baca to act in such a devious manner? Is he one of those county leaders Mr. Greer mentioned to the press as encouraging him to run? Is this a way to weed out people who might not support Mr. Greer's campaign? Is this their idea of taking the party back to the grassroots level? Do we really want people leading our party who believe that disenfranchising voters is the way to win elections?

When I ran last month for Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman, Mr. C' de Baca pulled these same shennigans. He happily padded County Party coffers with the money of absentee self-nominees, but then refused to allow those people to be elected to at-large positions. He even went so far as to change the convention rules less than 36 hours before the convention.

After the election, I chose not to dwell on these actions for the sake of the Party. But now, for the sake of the Party, I refuse to continue to remain silent.

During that election, I heard from a few people who took issue with a card I had mailed and handed out at the county convention that pointed out:
  1. fundraising failures under Mr. C' de Baca's tenure
  2. the failure to deliver Bernalilo County for Congresswoman Heather Wilson for the first time... EVER!
  3. his decision to publicly endorse Democratic candidates
Among those who took issue with what I had to say was State Senator Joe Carraro. Senator Carraro took to the stage waving the card and saying that we must no longer tolerate this type of negative campaigning. I'm not sure when examining someone's job performance record became negative campaigning, but if we want to get more Republicans elected in New Mexico, we're going to have to do it a little more often.

I made a decision in that race to focus on Mr. C' de Baca's performance failures, but I also made a decision not to attack him personally. I chose not to point out Mr. C' de Baca's criminal conviction from 1996:
Here’s what the Albuquerque Tribune (7/24/96) reported about C de Baca’s 1996 bid-rigging conviction in California:

Fernando C de Baca, 58, of Albuquerque pleaded guilty Tuesday in San Diego County District Court to conspiring to inflate bids for asbestos removal at two malls owned by the Hahn Co. of San Diego. One of them was Coronado Center in Albuquerque.

C de Baca and his co-defendant, Thomas Sytko . . . agreed to pay a $600,000 fine. C de Baca’s share was $150,000 . . .

Robert Fellmeth, a former prosecutor and the founder of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, called the fines the largest he can recall for criminal antitrust violations in California.

C de Baca won the contracts in return for kickbacks to Sytko. The scheme netted the two men about $310,000.

C de Baca barely avoided a three-year prison sentence. In addition to the California fine, C de Baca also paid a $25,000 fine in a settlement with New Mexico prosecutors.

When he ran for the State Senate last year, this is how C de Baca characterized the bid-rigging/kickback episode when the Albuquerque Tribune inquired about his criminal record:

In 1996 I was convicted of an anti-trust violation in California and paid a fine. My case was reviewed by the Superior Court of California in early 2004. The charge was dismissed and expunged.
I opted not to draw attention to Mr. C' de Baca's questionable financial reporting practices and the risks they posed for the Bernalillo County Republican Party. For example, on his December 7, 2006 report with the Secretary of State, Mr. C' de Baca showed $19,784 in in-kind contributions, but only $3,709.28 in expenditures. And that poses a serious problem:
In-Kind Contributions, according to Paragraph 5, FEC Code from

A committee reports the value of an in-kind contribution in the same way it reports a monetary contribution. In addition, as with all in-kind contributions, the committee must report the value of the in-kind contribution as an operating expenditure. Moreover, an in-kind contribution itemized on Schedule A must also be itemized on a Schedule B for operating expenditures. 104.13 and 110.1(e).
In other words, BCRP must show all in-kind contributions as both a "contribution" and an "expenditure" according to the FEC. This was not done. In fact, Fernando and Cecilia C' de Baca personally claimed a combined total of $44,714.00 in-kind contribution over an 11 month period, but NOWHERE can the matching expenditure be found. To make matter worse, according to the FEC, it is illegal to claim "in-kind contributions" from volunteers.

I also decided not to bring up the fact that the Executive Director, employed by the Bernalillo County Republican Party and hired by Mr. C' de Baca, spent Election Night partying with Patricia Madrid supporters at her "Victory" Party. Or, the fact that this same individual, proudly has posted pictures on his personal website of himself posing with pornography star Jenna Jameson while wearing a t-shirt advertising her website.

These are all issues I opted not to raise at that time because I didn't feel they were relevant to the election at hand. I was wrong. Mr. C' de Baca's past criminal conviction for bid-rigging clearly demonstrated he is willing to win at any cost - lawful or not. His latest attempt to disenfranchise Republican grassroot activists through fraudulent means shows he has not changed much in the last 10 years - simply moving from bid-rigging to election-rigging.

The fact that Mr. Greer has sought to align himself with such a man does not bode well for Mr. Greer. You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. Speaking of which, go back and take a look at that list at the beginning of this post. Included with me are:
  1. A State Representative who just spent more than 60 days fighting for Republican values
  2. Three underpaid staffers of the State Party who work tirelessly on our behalf.
  3. The recently elected 2nd Vice-Chair of the Bernalillo County Republican Party - the only uncontested candidate at the recent county convention.
  4. A staffer from Congresswoman Heather Wilson's office
  5. Fran Langholf, a volunteer legend in Republican circles
  6. Our Secretary of State candidate in this last election who worked tirelessly both in 2004 and 2006.
  7. A Republican lawyer who volunteers his time over and over again to defend our rights
And, I could go on, but you get the idea. These are the Party faithful. The type of people we need to duplicate if we are ever to succeed in achieving a two-party state. These are the type of people some county chairman would like to see removed from the picture. You've got to ask yourself, "Why?"

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