Posts Tagged ‘Ben Lujan’

Do the Right Thing

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

For years the Republicans in the state legislature have had as much impact as spectators in the galley. I don’t mean that as a derisive remark about our elected Republican representatives. It was just a fact based on the circumstances. They didn’t have enough seats to really do anything, or stop anything. Well, the tides have changed, and although we still remain in the minority, there is an opportunity to make a difference. An opportunity to work together as one, and provide leadership when the state so desperately needs it.

Alligator WranglerNow, I don’t usually put a lot of credence in the musings of the old alligator wrangler, but I know enough of the legislators on our side of the aisle to believe that some could actually be foolish enough to think this way:

We’re told the Republicans reluctant to join any coalition have several concerns. One is their hometown constituents and whether they would want them voting for a Democratic Speaker. Another is strategic and one we’ve previously mentioned. This 60 day legislative session starting January 18 is going to be about cutting budgets and taking services away from the public. Not all Republicans want ownership of that agenda and the resulting pain. If the session doesn’t go well, the majority party would be positioned to take the hit.

So if I may, let me try and put this in a different political light for any Republican legislator sitting on a fence regarding forming a coalition to get done what the Democrats failed to do when they caucused last weekend. Namely, they failed to clean their own House. Over the last few years, we’ve  seen indictment after indictment hang like a never ending storm over the Land of Enchantment. However, two slippery politicians have managed to be in the thick of things and yet emerge unscathed – or maybe better said, unjailed.  Well, term limits did for us what New Mexicans were unwilling to do for ourselves and sent one blight of the public trust packing – yet another case for term limits.

Now, it’s time for the House Republicans, and any House Democrats with cajones still intact, to remove the last remaining highly visible monument to the old way of doing politics. If your a Republican worried that you might get hurt in a primary in two years because you voted for a Democratic Speaker of the House, consider for a moment the mail piece that might go to your constituents with the headline, “Representative [Fill-in the Blank] Gave This Man [Picture of Lujan] a Pass” followed by a passage of the scandals that have  and continue to plague the Speaker’s tenure.  I can practically guarantee that if you lose your backbone and keep the current Speaker, you will lose your seat in two years. So, if self-preservation is the motivation for all of your decisions, do the right thing and form a coalition to send the current Speaker packing.

As to any Republicans that are afraid to take ownership of how to fix the pickle in which we find ourselves, I’ve only got one thing to say. Pack it up and resign now. You’ve been hiding behind the skirt of the minority excuse for so long, you’ve forgot why you ran or were elected in the first place. Make a difference, or move aside to let someone else willing to put New Mexcians before a personal agenda.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just Another Typical Day of Enchantment

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

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.

Bahrain Investors Collect NM Taxpayer Funds

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

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.

Ben Ray Lujan Compensation Issues

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Looks like Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan has a problem with the salaries paid to CEO’s of the utility companies serving New Mexico (subscription):

The Public Regulation Commission wants to know if the pay packages of top utility executives are “reasonable and prudent.”

The commission on Tuesday ordered Public Service Company of New Mexico, Zia Natural Gas Co., Raton Natural Gas Co., Southwestern Public Service/Xcel Energy and El Paso Electric to report pay packages of top executives by Jan. 11.

“Not all of the utility executives’ compensation is in rates, but a portion of each executive’s salary is in rates,” said PRC Chairman Ben R. Lujan.

“It’s important for us to understand whether the decisions made in awarding those packages are reasonable and prudent.”

You’ve got to love the irony here. A young man without a college degree, has a powerful father who gets him paid political appointments and then works with a Governor Richardson to clear the primary field so he can get an elected position that pays over $90,000 per year.

Gov. Bill Richardson is going to bat for a handful of fellow Democrats in contested primary races this year, but other candidates are questioning the appropriateness of his actions.

Richardson has provided a statement — a three-sentence quote — in support of Ben R. Lujan of Santa Fe, a former worker in Richardson’s congressional office and the son of House Speaker Ben Lujan. The younger Lujan is running for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission.

Oh, and did I mention that prior to all of these shenanigans the guy’s previous job experience was limited to being a casino dealer? I’m sorry, but the last person that should be questioning the “reasonable and prudent” nature of anyone’s compensation package is Ben Ray Lujan.

Qualifications of a Congressional Representative

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

It sort of blows my mind that in 2007, the Speaker of the House of the New Mexico State Legislature has enough power to get candidate after candidate to step aside in an effort to clear a path for his son to run for Congress.

But Solano — who is serving his second term as sheriff and prohibited from seeking a third term — said he’s concerned that a small group of Democratic Party officials could effectively choose the next Northern New Mexico congressman before any votes are cast.

And that candidate, he said, likely would be State Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Luján, mainly because of the influence of his father, state House Speaker Ben Luján.

Now, I guess I could understand if Ben Ray Luján was an impressive candidate in his own right with a long list of accomplishments, but that sure doesn’t seem to be the case:

By Karla Duarte
(Submitted: 12/05/2006 12:25 pm)

Please get your facts straight: Ben Ray was appointed to be the chief financial administrator for the state cultural affairs department without a college degree and after previously being employed as a casino dealer. Then the full weight of the governor and the legislature went to promoting him and discouraging other qualified candidates for the PRC. I’m sure he is a fine young man, but the point is that government should not work that way.

From casino dealer to Congressional front runner… only in New Mexico.

It’s North Against the South

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

No, I’m not talking about the Wilson versus Pearce match up to win the GOP primary for Senator Domenici’s seat. What I am talking about is the little train versus space funding fight (subscription) that is sure to dominate discussions during this upcoming legislative session:

“The train is nothing but a local issue, and it helps two of the wealthiest counties. Why is the rest of the state subsidizing them?” asked Rawson, who added that the spaceport “absolutely is a statewide project.”

Hmm… You know, the man has point. I don’t think that anyone in their right mind could argue that a train that only goes from Los Lunas to Santa Fe (eventually) could be a seen as benefiting the whole state. After all, we’re only talking about a VERY small number of riders in just four of New Mexico’s thirty-three counties. Yup, any sane and rationale person would have to deduct that this is a local issue…

But the southern New Mexico lawmakers will confront powerful opposition, including from House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe.

Lujan has the opposite take on the matter. He said Thursday that it is appropriate to ask local voters to share a portion of the financial burden for the spaceport because it will affect mainly that region.

“The Rail Runner benefits the whole state,” Lujan said.

So, much for sane and rationale leaders in New Mexico politics. Speaker Lujan’s comments are sure to leave more than a few people just a little bit confused. After all, Speaker Lujan is saying that Spaceport America is a local issue, but I could of sworn when we were sold this bill of goods by one Presidential candidate it was a very different story:

In announcing the partnership, [Governor Bill] Richardson emphasized that New Mexico wants to be on the ground floor of public space travel. He said that today’s announcement will “change the face of the state and change the face of the world.”

Well, that doesn’t sound like a regional issue, does it? But, wait it gets better. Speaker Lujan’s money quote of the week:

[House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe] added that requiring local support in the form of local tax revenue for the spaceport was necessary to pass the legislation in 2006.

“When you make a deal, you need to stick to it,” Lujan said.

As I recall, the original deal for Governor’s train project promised it wouldn’t take away from road funding. I guess what’s true for the goose is not true for the gander.

Legislating Ethics

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Big SIGH… An Albuquerque Journal poll has 88% of Democrats supporting stricter ethic laws.

You can’t legislate ethics. Sorry, it would be nice if you could, but you can’t. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. Ethical behavior is how a person acts when they think no one is looking and they believe there is no chance of them getting caught.

Somethings can be legislated, some can’t. Ethics is one of those things that can’t. Sure, you can pass new laws that make you feel better, but they won’t make people behave ethically. Which leaves us with the question of whether or not we need new ethics laws?

Stop and think for a minute and you’ll realize that we don’t. Several elected officials have been indicted in the last couple of years under current laws, so we know there are laws on the books to punish those whose unethical behavior is illegal.

Now what’s scary about this argument is that it puts me in agreement with New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan (subscription):

House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said he thought his chamber will endorse additional proposals next year, although he was hesitant about establishing a state ethics commission.

“The issue here is ethical conduct,” he said of the proposed commission. “You’re never going to be able to legislate morals. You have those rules in Congress and look at what is happening there.”

And, you know what? Speaker Ben Lujan knows of what he speaks. So, where does that leave us? If we really want ethical politicians, then we as voters need to take the time to care enough to vote out those who do not act ethically. That’s the solution, plain and simple.

You’re Kidding Me, Right?

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Now here’s an interesting quote from House Speaker Ben Lujan on Heath Haussamen’s blog:

Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, D-Nambé, on the other hand, said Foley’s conduct “sets a bad example for children.”

“It’s unfortunate that this thing had to happen, but I feel that we have to take responsibility and we should apologize when we do something not lawful,” he said.

Hmm, Democratic Speaker of the House Ben Lujan has had only one degree of separation from some of the biggest scandals involving unlawful and unethical behavior in New Mexico history and sat silent. But, a Republican Representative rushes to the aid of a son he feels has been assaulted by an adult, and all of a sudden the Speaker is interested in “responsibility” and “apologies.”

Sorry Mr. Speaker, that’s just not going to fly.

Public Financing of Statewide Campaigns

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Yesterday, the House voted to pass HB818, Public Financing of Statewide Campaigns. I was up in Santa Fe on business, so I had a chance to wander over to the Roundhouse and listen to some of the debate that took place on this bill.

Specifically, I caught Minority Whip Dan Foley make some very solid points against the bill. Points like, and I paraphrase:

  1. Public financing means that any hate monger can run for office and get their message pounded home at taxpayer expense.

  2. The bill gives unchecked power to the Secretary of State to determine who does and who does not qualify for public funding. Leading to the potential for more, not less corruption.

Others also spoke out including Representative Kathy McCoy, who made the point of correcting Speaker Ben Lujan’s assertion that the bill had been unanimously endorsed by the ethics task force created by Governor Bill Richardson.

Same Old Same Old

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

The majority of Democratic legislators voted to protect their committee assignments over taking the first step in ethics reform when they decided to keep Representative Ben Lujan as Speaker of the House.

Sad day for New Mexico, but strong opportunity for state Republicans.