Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SOS web site still down

Seems like just a few months ago I was writing about other problems with the Secretary of State's web site but the one I wrote about today is the worst so far. As in, the site is down completely. Good thing it's not campaign finance filing day or anything. . .

Monday, June 29, 2009

Richardson appoints new SIC member

Normally, the news that Gov. Bill Richardson has chosen a new member of the State Investment Council would be small news. But, given the financial scandals out there ( I know I don't have to recount them for you ) the appointment of Peter Frank to the board will get heightened scrutiny. No fault of Frank's, just the way things are.

Anyway, Frank most recently retired as the executive vice president/chief financial officer from Daymon Worldwide Inc., a global marketer of private label goods, according to the Governor's Office. Before that, he spent 35 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"As a former Vice Chairman of Price Waterhouse, Peter Frank brings decades of knowledge and experience to the State Investment Council, and we are fortunate that he has agreed to take on this challenge,” Richardson said in a statement. “Peter has impeccable credentials, is a leader in the financial industry, and has pledged to take an active role in the governance of New Mexico’s Permanent Trust Funds," he said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ERB releases subpoenas

In an about face, the state Educational Retirement Board has just released two subpoenas sought by the media.

The subpoenas ask for broad information about contracts between the ERB and “any firms, individuals, or entities investing funds or providing investment advice to or on behalf of the ERB.” It also asks for “any documents listing the placement agents, brokers or third party marketers” associated with the companies.

They also ask for specific information on Aldus Equity, including correspondence between the ERB and the company and “any documents or records generated by Aldus Equity which were provided to the ERB.”
Aldus is a Dallas-based company implicated in a New York investment scandal, and with which the ERB severed its ties in April. Aldus has denied any wrongdoing.

The board had previously denied requests to release the information despite several media requests, but Chairman Bruce Malott recently urged the board to reconsider.

He said in a statement Thursday he was glad the board did just that.
“I am proud of our superb ERB staff for reconsidering their position on the subpoenas.  Sunlight is the best disinfectant and I continue to believe the public's right to see their government at work should never be marginalized,” he said.

Casinos facing real troubles

I wrote this morning about Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino not being able to make a payment this month on its $245 million bond.

A reader let me know that there's a similar situation at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso. He said local radio station KWES reported last week that the Inn defaulted on a $12 million interest payment on its $200 million bond.

Even though two new casinos opened in the past year in the state -- including Buffalo Thunder -- casino net wins dropped by almost $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period last year.

That trend could spell bad news for the state, because of revenue sharing agreements under which the state gets a cut of what the casinos take in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Janice Arnold-Jones mulls run for governor

The woman who pretty much single handedly started the webcasting revolution this session, Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is thinking about running for governor.

We had a great time covering the whole webcasting debate in the House and Senate because, well, it's fun when a lawmaker does something out of the ordinary. But Arnold-Jones, along with Sen. Mark Boitano, raised good points about government transparency -- always a timely topic and particularly now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Democrats need your help. Again.

It does seem like just yesterday that the state's Congressional delegation went all Democrat, doesn't it?

That's the question Sen. Tom Udall uses to start off a fundraising pitch he sent this morning.

Democrats need money to "Keep New Mexico Blue," says his letter, which asks supporters to sign up to give monthly donations to the state's Democratic Party.

"Democrats in Washington have hit the ground running and have already passed major legislation to give equal pay for woman, expand child health care and reform the credit card industry," Udall wrote. "But, the Republicans are already gearing up for the 2010 election to try to stop this progress by defeating our three new members of Congress."

So, while the election of Udall, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague may feel like yesterday, make no mistake: the next campaign cycle has already begun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Indictments in Housing Authority case

Props to Heath Haussamen for getting this scoop.

I confirmed the info with the Attorney General's Office, where spokesman Phil Sisneros said in an e-mail that "Vincent 'Smiley' Gallegos, Robert Strumor, Dennis M. Kennedy and Davis N. Hernandez were indicted today in ABQ.'s Second Judicial Court." (Although the e-mail says Davis N. Hernandez was indicted, the indictment shows a David N. Hernandez.)

Sisneros said the office wouldn't be releasing info on charges or anything else.

See my colleague Steve Terrell's blog for the actual indictments.

State Republicans were fast with reaction on the news.

"This indictment reinforces a growing sentiment that we need to reverse the path on which this state is headed. For far too long, self-serving political insiders have exploited, at taxpayers' expense, their positions for personal or political gain," chairman Harvey Yates said in a statement.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Republicans hire new political director

The state GOP has chosen Sergio Garcia as the party’s political director and deputy executive director. Garcia, who lives in Corrales, has lengthy political experience, according to a release from the party.

Among other things, Garcia was a member in 2004 of the Republican National Committee’s Bush-Cheney 72-hour legal task force. In 2000, he was appointed southern California’s Hispanic grassroots director for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Eight years before that, Garcia worked at the RNC's college Republican grassroots coordinator for southern California.

Garcia, a native Spanish speaker, also worked in Nicaragua as the country director for the International Republican Institute, according to the release.

While there, "he supported 147 mayoral candidates in their bids to thwart an authoritarian regime led by Dictator Daniel Ortega."

Garcia also worked at the U.S. Department of State, where he was deputy political counselor at the Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He also worked for the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as asenior policy advisor for Latin America and Multilateral Affairs.

"Mr. Garcia’s impressive background is complemented by his deep commitment to working within the Hispanic community," GOP chairman Harvey Yates said in a statement. “This experience will be a significant asset as Republicans look forward to 2010.”

The hire could be seen as putting the Democrats on notice that the GOP is serious about reaching out to Hispanic voters in the coming elections.

Unions sue over 1.5 percent increase to pension fund

Members of four public employee unions this morning plan to file a lawsuit against the state over a provision approved by the Legislature this year that calls for them to pay 1.5 percent more into a pension program over the next two years.

Critics have called the move “a pickpocket” and a “pay raid.” The plan is supposed to save the state about $42 million a year, lawmakers have said, and is seen as a way to keep the pension funds afloat. The change applies to workers covered under the Public Employees Retirement Association and the Educational Retirement Board.

One plantiff in the suit, Peggy Stielow, a Rio Rancho teacher and union member, said in a statement that she "decided to file because lawmakers balanced the budget on the backs of employees’ rights."

"By enacting this law the state has made a legal statement that their contract with public pensioners is an option and so are the constitutional rights of pensioners,” Stielow said.

Employees who earn $40,000 a year would see about $20 less in their paychecks every pay period.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Mexico Finance Authority chairman: CDR investigation done

That's what state Rep. Brian Egolf is reporting he just heard from Stephen Flance, chairman of the board.

My colleague Steve Terrell is at the meeting and checking it out. More later.

More gubernatorial reading material

I blogged last week about Allen Weh's website. Well Lt. Gov. Diane Denish says hers is updated and ready to go. Turns out there is another one as well: Greg Zanetti has one here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Finances improving at Retiree Health Care Authority

There's a bit of good news today for the state retirees who get health care coverage from the NMRHCA, although the group still faces its challenges, and the good news comes in large part because of the increased premiums its members now pay.

Meanwhile, the authority also is looking for a new board member after Bruce Malott resigned his post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weh launches website

Former state GOP chairman Allen Weh today launched his gubernatorial exploratory committee website.

The site looks like it will offer a lot of info on Weh and his ideas. While it's supposed to be bilingual, the Spanish version wasn't working when I clicked on it just now. Maybe the campaign can hire some computer consultants like the state did for it's SHARE program. Naw, just kidding. Republicans are against that kind of government spending...

I'll let you know about other campaign websites as they go up.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Richardson catches Lakers-Magic game

I didn't go myself, but according to this story, Gov. Bill Richardson was in the audience last night as the Lakers topped the Orlando Magic in Los Angeles. Green Chile Chatter will ask which team he was supporting and report back.

The gov apparently made it back to New Mexico this morning, in time to attend the noon change of command ceremony for the U.S. Border Patrol in Truth or Consequences. He wasn't, however, at the events earlier this morning with Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, according to this post.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Weh hits road

As part of his almost-gubernatorial campaign, former state GOP chairman Allen Weh plans to travel to 26 New Mexico counties in two weeks, starting June 8.

The retired Marine colonel will chat up small business owners and other business leaders, a release from his campaign says. Big themes for the 66-year old will include the economy and the state's future.

They also no doubt will include separating himself from the incumbents.

"For the last eight years, Bill Richardson and Diane Denish have shackled New Mexico businesses with taxes that are higher than our bordering states, as well as excessive, often irrational, regulations," he said in a statement. "All of this combined drives business away from New Mexico and costs our economy jobs. It’s time to ‘think different.'"

SHARE consultants earn big bucks

I spent time last week slogging through contracts and MOUs with consultants who have worked on the state's SHARE program for the Department of Transportation.

Often times, such slogging yields interesting results. See my story in today's New Mexican for what the state has spent to get the program so that it can properly submit reimbursement requests to the feds, as well as fix other glitches.

SHARE Consultants

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2010 primary a year away

Yep. The first Tuesday in June 2010 is a year away -- to the date exactly.

Hard to believe we're almost in the midst of another gubernatorial race. Seems like I was just interviewing Bill Richardson and John Dendahl the other day. Of course that was back when Richardson was still giving interviews to the local media and Dendahl still lived in Santa Fe, but anywho...

On the other hand, it's not really hard to think the race is a year away if you consider about the recent candidate announcements trickling out. Yesterday brought news of Sen. Majority Leader Michael Sanchez's possible gubernatorial run. Last week, it was Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino's possible lieutenant gubernatorial run. Already, a trio of Republicans seem to want in on the action.

As for next week's announcement, well who knows. Anyone seen Val Kilmer recently?