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.