Pay to Play Politics: The Gov Richardson Un-Appointment
On Wednesday December 3, 2008 President Elect Barack Obama announced the appointment of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as the next Secretary of Commerce. “As Governor of New Mexico, Bill showed how government can act as a partner to support our businesses, helping create 80,000 new jobs. And under his leadership, New Mexico saw the lowest unemployment rate in decades.” Barack Obama, Chicago, Illinois. Other press coverage, spun up by the Legacy Media and the Obama transition machine waxed eloquently about Governor Richardson’s qualifications and political career. So what really happened in New Mexico during six (6) years of one party rule (Democrat) with Governor Richardson at the helm?
In an exchange of e-mail with Representative Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, who serves as the Minority Leader of the New Mexico House of Representatives, sheds a different light on the results of Governor Richardson’s term in New Mexico. “They (the Legacy media) didn’t mention in the article that all those wonderful things he did for us (in New Mexico) can’t be afforded. We have increased (by) 4770 permanent (state of NM) employees or (an increase of) 24% over the last 6 years. This is going to be interesting (as to whether we can afford this large increase in NM government employees going forward).” Representative Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, 12.3.08
Fast-forward one month later to January 5, 2009, and the surprise announcement that Governor Richardson is withdrawing his name from consideration as the next US Department of Commerce Secretary. What happened in the course of one month? Or better yet, what has been happening in New Mexico at the Governor’s office over the last 6 years, in particular over the last Presidential election cycle? Political sources in New Mexico have long held that the Governor was engaged in “pay to play” politics, a term that has received much more use during the on-going Governor Blagojevich corruption scandal unfolding in Illinois. This light of national press attention on Illinois is proving to be uncomfortable for the Governor of New Mexico. At issue with Bill Richardson, D-New Mexico, is campaign contributions to Richardson by CDR Financial and state of NM government “sole source/no bid” contracts with CDR Financial, how they were linked and what was expected as a result of the political money flow (from CDR to Richardson). Since word of a US grand jury investigation leaked out in mid December, the Governor who is usually media savvy, hasn’t been talking. This silence was broken on Monday, January 5th during a 7-minute press conference in Santa Fe, NM. The embattled Governor expressed disappointment in having to step aside, but also steadfastly refused to answer questions related to the CDR investigation.
Behind the scenes, NM legislators and political operatives in New Mexico are scrambling to prepare for a rough 2009 legislative session, made more challenging with a lame duck Governor now unable to exit to Washington DC during a New Mexico budget crisis. In the meantime, Lt Governor Diane Denish is engaged in a Governor transition process, predicated on the Guv being appointed as the new Secretary of Commerce (done in early December 2008, but undone in early January 2009). Time will tell whether this “Denish transition team” effort is premature, but it appears to be on hold as a result of Governor Richardson withdrawing his name from consideration. Stay tuned, as New Mexico politics at the Roundhouse have been turned upside down prior to an expected 10% shortfall in state revenues for FY 2009/2010. As a result of the Governor unexpectedly staying in New Mexico, a tough NM legislative session on FY 2009/10 budget issues becomes even more unpredictable.
© 2008, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media, www.jasperwelch.org