Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

6-29 Is Something Afoot in Gov's Office?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The word in capitol hallways is that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has reconvened her transition team. It's believable because there has been talk for more than two weeks that the grand jury investigating pay-to-play by Gov. Bill Richardson and staff has finished its work.
By the time you read this, we may know much more. Denish convened that team last November when it appeared Gov. Richardson was headed to the big time. When he didn't, she told team members not to wander too far from the corral.
An early start at playing governor could be an advantage to Denish unless the grand jury findings end up being very embarrassing.
Meanwhile GOP gubernatorial candidates Greg Zanetti and Allen Weh travel the state making local contacts and getting publicity in local newspapers. .
During that time, undeclared gubernatorial candidate Heather Wilson has been on the national stage, appearing on the Bill Maher HBO show and in the Washington Post warning of attacks on vital computer systems by foreign governments.
"We must strengthen our national capability to defend ourselves in cyberspace," Wilson told the Washington Post. Wilson served on the House Intelligence Committee for six years and presently consults on cybersecurity and other national security matters.
Wilson is making a name for herself in Washington but says she would like a job closer to her home and family. The governor's mansion may be just the place.
Nothing has been heard from Senate majority leader Michael Sanchez since the announcement a few weeks ago that he is planning to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Sanchez made quite a splash when his wife and daughter helped him post the announcement on Facebook. But so far, he hasn't rounded them up again to post any additional information.
It is impossible to know what the grand jury has decided. The only real hint is that many people have been called to testify. That could mean either a fishing expedition or an attempt to round up all the culprits.
Gov. Richardson's actions have been hard to read also. It has been mostly business as usual except for the questions surrounding why he was out of town when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder were here last month.
Questions also arose about the expenses for the governor's trip to Rome to be honored for signing a bill repealing the death penalty. Richardson's office reported that only legislative aide Eric Witt accompanied him. But everyone knows the governor travels with a team of security agents on the taxpayers' dime.
Now that everything has been tallied, we're told that only one security agent accompanied him and that the total cost of the trip was about $13,000 dollars. That's pretty amazing considering the stories we hear about members of Congress spending more than that to fly from Washington to London.
Richardson definitely has been more forthcoming about his travels than South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who disappeared for a week without leaving a forwarding address. His security force and wife didn't even know his whereabouts.
The major problem in that situation was what happens in an emergency. Who is in charge? This may be a problem nationwide. It might seem logical that the lieutenant governor would be in charge. But the way most state governments work, it ends up being the governor's chief of staff.
Lieutenant governors and most of the general public aren't particularly impressed with the idea of having an unelected official running the government.
Once, when Gov. Bruce King was in office, an emergency arose and Lt. Gov. Casey Luna moved to act on it only to learn that the governor's chief of staff already had taken the same action.
The reason we heard of that incident was that Luna was at odds with the governor. But how many times do you suppose that has happened to other lieutenant governors who didn't make a fuss?
MON, 6-29-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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