What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Rookie Democratic State Senator Tim Eichenberg, left, of Bernailillo County, who had expressed an interest in seeking the nomination for Lt Governor withdrew his name from consideration earlier this week.
He talked with current Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is the only declared gubernatorial Democratic Party candidate, telling her that because of her “complacency or complicity with the ‘pay-to-play’” atmosphere surrounding the administration of Governor Bill Richardson, and standing quietly behind him, Eichenberg was unwilling to invest a half million dollars in a losing campaign.
"I looked her square in the eye when I said that,” Eichenberg said. “I told her I didn’t think she was going to win.”
Denish, seen behind Richardson, right.
Eichenberg, a realtor, is no stranger to the political process. He is a former Bernalillo County Treasurer, Director of the New Mexico Property Tax Division, and was a member of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority before defeating two term Republican Senator H. Diane Snyder.
He made his remarks as a participant while attending the “Conspiracy Brews.” It is a Saturday morning constituent meeting hosted by Republican State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, left, who is an announced gubernatorial GOP candidate. (Disclosure: I am providing photographic services for Arnold-Jones.)
The meeting is an open and nonpartisan discussion with Arnold-Jones. Eichenberg has attended several meeting. Arnold-Jones’ House District 24 and Eichenberg’s Senate District 15 in the Northeast Heights share overlapping precincts. There is a second meeting that tends to be more political which Eichenberg does not attend.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
Denish has amassed over two million dollars towards her bid to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson is a former seven-term Northern New Mexico U.S. Congressman, United Nations Ambassador, and Secretary of Energy during the President Bill Clinton administration. He was first elected Governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Richardson entered the 2008 presidential primary campaigns seeking the Democratic Party nomination withdrawing in January after failing to perform well in the early caucus and primary contests. He did not remain loyal to the Hilary Clinton camp and endorsed Senator Barack Obama.
Upon being elected, President Obama nominated Richardson as Secretary of Commerce. Denish, with her husband, Herb, left, sat down with Richardson, center, with his Chief of Staff Brian Condit, right, at a Capitol press conference December 4, 2008 to discuss a transition as the governor prepared to go to Washington. Denish would not disclose any plans of her own saying, “there is only one governor at a time."
Richardson withdrew his name from consideration when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was unable to forward a report to the Senate Commerce committee for conformation because his name came up in an grand jury investigation into allegations of pay-to-play with several of his former high ranking administrative staffers and aids and the Los Angeles based CDR Financial Products, Inc.
Press reports at the time suggested that the secret grand jury was looking into the possible links between large donations to Richardson’s political campaign and to his nonprofit organizations, "Moving America Forward" and "Si se puede," from CDR with contracts awarded to them for work with the New Mexico Finance Authority.
The grand jury concluded without handing down any indictments and their findings were forwarded to the Department of Justice, headed by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in Washington, D.C.
Holder, above, attended the June 5, 2009, Homeland Security Advisory Council Meeting at the University of New Mexico hosted by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Richardson did not appear, but his administration was represented by Denish. The grand jury investigation was closed in late August. Holder refused to comment, during a press conference, on his departments’ then ongoing review, saying he would not even acknowledge the existence of a grand jury.
A grand jury is secret so that if an unfounded allegation does not rise to the level of turning to formal charges, there is no public announcement in an effort to protect innocent citizens, in this case, specifically, Richardson.
However, acting New Mexico U.S. Attorney Gregory Fouratt, left, wrote a letter to attorneys involved with targets of the CDR grand jury in the wake of public claims of their clients being cleared of any wrong doing. Fouratt wrote, “The investigation further revealed that pressure from the governor’s office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process…” He went on to write that though there would be no charges, yet the conduct of the attorneys’ clients was, “not to be interpreted as exoneration” and that other conduct might still be under investigation.
The leaked letter, posted by the New Mexico Independent, was attacked as being political, yet Fouratt seemed a need to maintain a sense that investigations were on going into serious allegations.
Republicans have been claiming that Denish’s association with Richardson has tainted her for not speaking out about ethics concerns.
Denish, left, was keynote speaker at last week’s Arthur A. Blumenfeld lecture at the University of New Mexico's Student Union Building. Her speech was entitled “Creating a Culture of Responsibility.” It was a speech touching on all the philosophical aspects of ethics, however it was short on explaining her plan for the implementation within government.
She introduced an ethics plan on the steps of the State Supreme Court building, earlier this summer, to be introduced in the House by Rep. Al Park, D - Bernalillo County.
Denish's plan called for a multi level process to form an ethics commission.
Senator Peter Wirth, right, sitting as chairman of a sub committee of the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee began drafting a bipartisan ethics package. This package has greater hope of possible passage because the committee is made up of members of both houses and both parties, is being done in public and is the product of their own creation.
Eichenberg’s assessment the Denish can’t win in the current political atmosphere is an unexpected departure to many political observers.