Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paying to play all night long

The Nut: Richardson won’t be Obama’s Commerce Secretary because of a scandal that won’t quiet down quickly enough. It shouldn’t cripple him politically forever, but it has blocked his present ascension. The Albuquerque Mayor’s race has begun with Michael Cadigan, Richard Romero and Debbie O’Malley jumping into the fray. And finally, we’ll tell you what you’ll learn over the next year or two.

Why Richardson will not be Commerce Secretary

Whatever happened to being able to just take a nice trip to L.A., and seeing the Lakers and some old friends? Who invites the Feds along?

If you’re a Governor of a tiny state that solves international crises and saves hostages, you should at least be more suspicious than others. Campaign contributions from CDR Financial Products higher-ups and a contract CDR won from the New Mexico Finance Authority have a federal grand jury making sure everything was in order and no one got any special treatment due to a $100,000 donation to Richardson’s Hispanic and Native American voter registration campaign Moving America Forward. Let’s briefly go through the full situation and assess the likelihood of it moving forward, why he will not be Secretary of Commerce and what his future should hold for him.

The withdrawal of his nomination is the simplest part of the whole mess. The process of this grand jury will take at least a couple more months. With Blagojevich blowing up an enormous mess in Illinois and people already being up in arms about pay-to-play politics (pay-to-play: I’ll give you a big campaign contribution, if you give me a good job/state contract/political appointment/etc.), Richardson is a victim of circumstance at the very least.

As Commerce Secretary, he would have been at the forefront of the $1T bailout. Just imagine the outcry of Limbaugh and Hannity screaming “you’ve got this shady career politician that’s under investigation for pay-to-play politics and he’s the one that’s deciding where ONE-TRILLION-DOLLARS (cue spooky sound effect) of my hard earned tax money is going! We’re getting ripped off . . .”

Obama needs cabinet members ready to help his proposals pass without being mired in traditional political scandals. Obama has no time to sit and wait for an instrumental position for economic development to be confirmed. Maybe if Richardson would have been selected for the post he deserved – Secretary of State – he wouldn’t have anything to worry about . . . Pay-to-play politics are just everywhere! In New York, Hillary Clinton is getting checked for the very same thing as Richardson:

But she’s just going to run foreign policy, so what does he pay-to-play deals from her time in the senate have to do with her negotiations with leaders around the world? We’ll get into the conflicts of interest raised by the real Clinton’s foundation donor list and the nations they lead some other time.

Ok . . . but he’s still guilty, right?

The Governor has a pretty well rounded case thus far and the grand jury isn’t even looking at him yet . . . they’re just talking about the most powerful names that have surrounded him over the last six years. So here’s the full history of Big Bill and CDR Financial Services.

David Rubin, President of CDR Financial Services, helped out a couple of Richardson’s efforts in 2003 and 2004. He and his company gave $100,000 to various Richardson campaigns and also footed the bill for Bill and his crew to attend the 2004 national convention. At the same time, CDR was bidding on a contract with the state of New Mexico and won a job worth $1.6 billion to the state and $1.5 million to CDR in business. CDR won the bidding process for re-negotiating interest rate swaps for the state (you have fun figuring out how the hell those things work on your own and email me the answer).

The other half of the contract dealing with investments went to a joint venture of Salomen Smith Barney and Ryan Labs. The joint grow earned the highest score overall with CDR earning the second best of the six firms that bid on the contracts. They tied on the section involving interest rate swaps for the best bid and were awarded the contract.

Now we face the tricky part of sorting through how CDR’s bid earned their high marks – were those results cooked by an influenced finance authority? Did Bill send Dave Contarino (chief of staff at the time and manager of the campaign for President) with orders to give to the NM Finance Authority? Was Mike Stratton (close associate of Richardson’s and heavy-hitting politico) hired by CDR because that he could secure the contract with the state? Is it all simply mere coincidence and due to the incestuous nature of New Mexican politics? This is what the grand jury is trying to figure out.

Romero, Cadigan, O’Malley and someone else

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, the town’s biggest political names and making maneuvers in preparation for a bid at the Mayor’s office in 2009. Liberal north valley city councilor Debbie O’Malley has thrown her hat into the ring to block Mayor Marty’s vie at an unprecedented, previously-unconstitutional third consecutive term. Moderate west side councilor Michael Cadigan thinks he would be best fit to not only end Marty’s reign at the only office he can win but also replace he poor conservative governance with more backward proposals. And former state senate president and two time candidate for congress Richard Romero would like to resurrect his political career at the behest of Marty (now that’s a career in Albuquerque politics – take down south valley boss Manny Aragon AND mayor-for-life Chavez) Oh yea, and Marty wants four more years so he can qualify for the city’s retirement plan.

The good news for Albuquerque voters is that the race shouldn’t bother them nearly to the degree of last year’s campaigns because of the new city finance law. Candidates are much more restricted from accepting any money from contractors doing business with the state or much of any kind of business. There will probably be a few groups that form outside of the official campaigns that run third party ads, but not nearly to the degree of 2008. So relax and look forward to laughing at Marty as he defends his red light cameras.

What 2009 and the future will hold

It wouldn’t be the beginning of a new year without an attempt to see what lies ahead. Here are a few things you should be able to count on in the next year or two.

NM will be better sheltered from the recession because all 5 members of congress are Democrats working in the majority caucus in good connection. Their freshman status (excluding Bingaman) will surely drag their abilities down a bit, but they will treat us better than if the Albuquerque and southern congressional districts would have stayed Republican.

Richardson will have plenty of headlines during the legislature about his terrible relationship with the Senate. The budget will be a horrible point of contention due to the drastic shortfall in revenues and the battle for capital outlay money will bring the legislature and the Governor’s office to blows.

Political observers will do their best to create drama in the Governor’s race, but the closer election day comes, the more obvious it should be that Diane Denish will be New Mexico’s first female Governor. Sorry Heather, we just don’t like cry babies.

According to Ben Simon, Israel will stop beating up Gaza before Obama is initiated. Another week and a half of bombing? That sounds about right for Israel.

Sarah Palin and Joe the wannabe Plumber will never go away. Alaska’s senate primary could feature the beauty pageant queen against the republican incumbent, Lisa Murkowski. Since being exposed that Joe would qualify for one of Obama’s tax cuts, Joe has been doing everything a normal plumber does – maintain his blog and reporting on the Israeli-Gaza fight. Their love-child is sure to be on the way.

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