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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.