Thursday, May 04, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: BELTWAY TAKES NOTICE OF N.M. SCANDALS

A version of this appeared in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 4, 2006


Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s political headaches stemming from the Robert Vigil trial and the Eric Serna scandal are getting attention from the inside-the-Beltway press.

Madrid is running for Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in the First Congressional District.

Under the headline “Scandals May Cloud Madrid’s Bid Against Rep. Wilson,” Roll Call (“The Newspaper of Capitol Hill since 1955”) on Wednesday observed, “Two developing political scandals in New Mexico threaten to singe one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top recruits of the election cycle.

“The scandals — one unfolding in an Albuquerque courtroom, the other in the state bureaucracy in Santa Fe — involve current and former Democratic officeholders,” the story says. “Depending on how they’re resolved, they could diminish what had been expected to be a promising election year for Democrats in the Land of Enchantment.”

The article was written by Josh Kurtz, a former writer for The Santa Fe Reporter, now Roll Call’s political editor.

Kurtz’s story talks about the ongoing trial of former state Treasurer Vigil.

“When the Vigil scandal first broke last fall, Madrid and Gov. Bill Richardson (D) — who could also face some collateral damage — were criticized when they signed off on a deal that enabled Vigil to temporarily step down with full pay and benefits,” Kurtz writes.

He also mentions Taxation and Revenue Secretary Jan Goodwin’s testimony last week that as director of the Board of Finance in 2002 she’d written Madrid calling for an investigation of possible hanky-panky with treasurer’s investments. (Madrid’s office said it never received the letter.)

Richardson “could also face some collateral damage,” Kurtz writes.

The Roll Call story talks about Madrid’s ties with state Insurance Commissioner Serna, who currently is on paid leave while being investigated for his dealings with Century Bank, which received a state contract after contributions to Con Alma — a health-care nonprofit that Serna and Madrid co-founded. Serna stepped down as president of Con Alma after the story about Century Bank broke.

The story quotes “one plugged-in Democratic lobbyist in Santa Fe” saying that Serna and Madrid are “two peas in a pod ... They created Con Alma together.”

It’s clear, Kurtz writes, “that the political implications for Madrid’s high-stakes battle with Wilson — a perennial target in an Albuquerque-based district that leans modestly Democratic — are staggering.”

That chicken won’t fight: Also getting national attention is Richardson’s bold and innovative refusal to take a stand on the perennial issue of cockfighting.

The question was brought up this week at a White House press briefing. But as you can see in this transcript from the White House Web site, outgoing spokesman Scott McClellan, in answering questions from an unnamed reporter, is just as slippery as our governor on this issue.

Question: The AP reports from Blackfoot, Idaho, the arrest of 17 people from Idaho, Utah and Nevada for being involved in a cockfight. But in New Mexico, which, with Louisiana, is one of only two states where cockfighting is legal, for any old presidential contender, a Democrat, Gov. Bill Richardson, said of this brutal and deadly, activity, “I have not made my mind up on that,” reported the Las Cruces Sun News. And my question: Does the President have any such indecision on this brutality, as Gov. Richardson does?

McClellan: Well, we really haven’t (had) a conversation about cockfighting lately. (Laughter.) But there are —

Question: The AP reported this, and it’s going on —

McClellan: I hate to inform Terry Hunt that I don’t read every AP article that is out there, but there are laws on the books, and the laws are there for a reason. And I think the President believes that laws —

Question: What does he think of Gov. Richardson —

McClellan: I think the President believes laws ought to be enforced.

Question: What does he think of Gov. Richardson —

McClellan: Well, he knows Gov. Richardson, and I think that they’ve had a fairly good relationship. They certainly have disagreement(s) on a number of issues. But I think they’ve had —

Question: They disagree on this then?

From there, McClellan went on to an easier question.

One about the situation in Darfur.

Sometimes you can get straighter talk from comics than politicians.

Jay Leno recently brought up the issue in his Tonight Show monologue: “In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson — this is unbelievable — Gov. Bill Richardson said he is still undecided about cockfighting, which is not banned in New Mexico. It’s still legal. This is what he said, he said there are arguments on both sides.

Really? What is the good argument for cockfighting? Does this keep the roosters off the street?”

Support Guy’s Kids: Democratic attorney-general candidate Gary King is the latest recipient of investor Guy Riordan campaign contributions to donate Riordan money to charity.

King, who ran for Congress in 2004, received $500 from Riordan. King said Tuesday he’s giving that to the New Mexico Children’s Foundation.

Riordan started a charity stampede a couple of weeks ago after former State Treasurer Michael Montoya testified at the Vigil trial that Riordan had given him kickbacks, sometimes in restroom stalls.

“My guess is that time will tell whether what Michael Montoya said about Guy Riordan is true,” King said.

King said he hadn’t returned my phone calls last week because he’d been in Switzerland speaking at a conference on aviation and the environment.

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