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Sunday, March 11, 2007
(1:57 AM) | Stephen:
New Mexico Politics

St. Pete has broken my heart. I was just barely 6 months old when Domenici took office. There's some family friends, good partisan Democrats, who have worked for Domenici. When I took a trip to DC as a teenager and visited Domenici, my parents were as excited about that as anything else - even my Democratic Mother.

But Domenici's and Wilson's denials and then excuses are crumbling around them, as are their political careers. As Josh Marshall points out, the New Mexico state Republicans are not even trying to deny that the issue was Iglesia's supposed reticence to indict New Mexico Democrats for recent scandals. Instead, they're out there arguing that it was a valid reason:

“I fall into the category of those who were ultimately very disappointed in David,” said Pat Rogers, a Republican lawyer in Albuquerque who has represented Mr. Iglesias, Ms. Wilson and the State Republican Party.

Mr. Rogers said he spoke with Mr. Iglesias at a private lunch last October in Albuquerque to discuss the perception that he was not pursuing indictments in the courthouse corruption inquiry expeditiously.
“I asked him, ‘Do you understand that everyone in this community is talking about why there hasn’t been any follow-up?’ and he said: ‘Boy, you’re right about that. Someone even told my wife about sealed indictments,’ ” Mr. Rogers said. “I came away from that meeting feeling stunned.”
Mr. Rogers said he thought Mr. Iglesias was shying away from the kinds of career-making cases prosecutors typically jump at, so he voiced doubts to Mr. Domenici.
Someone was telling Iglesias' wife about sealed indictments. I would leave that meeting stunned as well. I would also want to know who was using such information - breaking the law - to try and get to Iglesias through his wife. And if Mr. Rogers was that concerned that Iglesias was "shying away" from anything, shouldn't he have voiced a concern to the Justice Department? Or is it that Domenici should have done so? Certainly there is a method to hold US Attorneys accountable without resorting to leaking sealed information to the Attorney's spouse or crossing the border between Congress and US Attorney to personally apply such pressure.

Of course, this involves more than just a general desire to see Democrats get indicted, however satisfying that is for Republicans. Heather Haussamen interviewed Patricia Madrid about this issue, and Madrid makes some pretty serious accusations. She believes that Iglesias was under pressure for a long time, and that it was very closely tied to Wilson's reelection problems. In 2005 an investigation was getting underway involving the State Treasurer's office. As AG, Madrid was involved, but she claims the FBI took over the investigation and blocked her office from having any further involvement. Madrid feels this was a Rovian plot - he was working on the House and was in NM a couple of times for Wilson's benefit - that saw fruition in Wilson hammering Madrid over and over for "not doing anything" about the State Treasurer's scandal. When Madrid was finally able to issue indictments, the defendents claimed immunity; the Feds granted them immunity and did not inform the New Mexico Attorney General. Of course, they can't grant state immunity, and the indictments are still moving forward.

The picture that emerges is a fairly young up-and-comer being told where to direct his energies by the political masters of the GOP, and for a while Iglesias did exactly that. The State Treasurer's scandal resulted in complete immunity for most involved and exactly one felony conviction out of 24 counts for former State Treasurer Rober Vigil; Vigil is appealing his conviction. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, the immunity offers were made after that first trial.

Apparently Iglesias at some point decided that he had a commitment to his office and US law and stopped letting his office be used as an extension of Heather Wilson's political career. Good for him, and good for him for speaking out.

Heather Wilson's career as a US Representative will very likely be over after this term. She will be in no position to run for Senator either, and given that her campaign focused upon "ethics" any reelection effort for the House is going to be an uphill battle, especially considering that she won with a margin of less than 900 votes last year.

Domenici is harder to predict. If he runs again I see him winning. He's an institution. If he's not convicted of anything then he can just say that everyone else may have been pressuring Iglesias for political gain, be he certainly wasn't. He's above that, etc. The real question is his health; look for him to pretty much stop making public appearances, since each time he does he rarely seems to know what is going on. That will make a campaign difficult though not impossible for someone in his position.

If Domenici retires, the seat is Tom Udall's. Wilson can't get it now, and no one else can compete with Udall for popularity. It's interesting that Madrid didn't say whether she would run for Wilson's seat again, mentioning instead a run after Domenici's seat or for governor in 2010. If Domenici runs, no one will stop her mounting a campaign and it certainly would cost the GOP some resources. But Madrid should know that's not something she's going to win and should run again for US Rep. She can win that and use it as a platform for higher office if that's what she wants.

Whatever happens, though, NM looks good for one House pickup and a possible Senate pickup in 2008.

You know, one of these days the GOP is going to become competent again. I hope Democrats will be ready when that happens.

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