Inside the Capitol

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fw: [Inside the Capitol] 8-1 column

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Does New Mexico have the nation's most crooked politicians? For several years, I have made the case that New Mexico has only about an average number of crooks in office.
But that argument is getting more difficult to make. The shift began a few years ago when two state treasurers went to prison for demanding payoffs. One of them was quoted as saying, "That's the way the game is played in New Mexico."
Then the powerful leader of the New Mexico Senate went to prison along with a list of accomplices for demanding kickbacks from an Albuquerque courthouse construction project.
Then came indictments of an affordable housing director, a father-son team of public utility commissioners and a former three-term secretary of state.
More recently, we have had Albuquerque's chief criminal judge arrested on sex charges, a Las Cruces judge charged in a bribery scandal, an appeals court judge resigning after being arrested for drunken driving and local judges in serious trouble.
Law enforcement also has been hit. Albuquerque has had numerous police shootings of unarmed civilians and one officer is charged with killing his wife to cover up his involvement in a car theft ring. And a former Santa Fe Sheriff has pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
We thought it could only happen in New Jersey but in the tiny border town of Columbus, the mayor, police chief and a village trustee were accused of helping smuggle hundreds of guns into Mexico.
If this doesn't sound like the Wild West, I don't know what does. It is the sort of thing that kept New Mexico from being invited into the union for 66 years.
Lawlessness was rampant throughout the state but the spotlight was on Lincoln County in the late 1870s because of all the killings. Billy the Kid's side of the fight was against a corrupt sheriff, district attorney, judges and governor.
Even after the United States finally invited us into the union, corruption didn't diminish much.
In the late 1940s, a Las Cruces grand jury was empanelled to look into the killing of Cricket Coogler, a young waitress. The grand jury quickly decided it didn't trust anyone.
It tossed the district attorney, the sheriff and the state police and asked for new judges. The killer never was found but public officials went to prison and the Mob, which was sniffing around, trying to find a replacement for Las Vegas, slinked back to Vegas to try again.
And then there is former Gov. Bill Richardson, whose name keeps popping up as part of various investigations but who never has been charged with anything. What is he doing now?
That's what columnist Ned Cantwell wants to know. He suggests that Gov. Susana Martinez switch the focus of her Catch Billy tourist promotion from The Kid to Billy the Man and look for clues to whatever happened to our former governor.
Cantwell mentions that Gov. Martinez wants to prosecute Billy the Kid. He doesn't mention Martinez wanting to prosecute Billy the Man but she probably wouldn't mind contestants finding some of those sort of clues.
Our new governor's focus on Billy the Kid may be good for tourism but it does reinforce our state's lawless image. Why is the Martinez administration doing this Billy the Kid promotion on the heels of Gov. Richardson's promotion?
It doesn't fit with her image of wanting to dismantle everything that was done in the Richardson administration. Most likely, her Tourism secretary, Monique Jacobson, chose the topic. Maybe it was a result of the focus groups she conducted around the country to develop a state brand.
It is doubtful Gov. Martinez actually will prosecute the long-dead Billy after he is found and arrested. But it would be ironic. Gov. Richardson dearly wanted to have a showy trial to determine whether to pardon The Kid. But that didn't work out.
MON, 8-01-11

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


From: Jay Miller
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2011 10:02 AM
Subject: [Inside the Capitol] 8-1 column

I received "postmaster" messages that this did not go through to some of you last night. Trying again.

Posted By Jay Miller to Inside the Capitol at 7/28/2011 10:00:00 AM


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