RELEASE: What Does $70k Buy You In The Martinez Administration?
21 November 2011
For Immediate Release Contact: Scott Forrester
November 21, 2011 505-934-5681
What Does $70k Buy You In The Martinez Administration?
A Rigged Bid for the Abq Downs Contract and Millions of $ for Contributors
Albuquerque, NM - Today New Mexico State Fair commissioners met and approved a lease agreement with the Downs of Albuquerque to build a casino at the State Fair grounds. This same group of folks has given over $70,000.00 to the Governors' campaign.
Today's meeting was defined as a "special session/ workshop" where no vote was to occur. Expo manager Dan Mourning - - who was appointed by Susana Martinez - made sure language was added last week to so a vote could take place, even though it was not expected and two state fair commissioners even stated they did not believe this was the intent of today's meeting.
Below is a statement from Scott Forrester, Executive Director of the DPNM:
"Running for Governor, Susana Martinez never let a day or a public appearance go by without endlessly decrying what she saw as pay-to-play in Santa Fe. Now, just 11 months in, Susana Martinez is already engaging in exactly the same behavior she accused the former administration of, and it's resulted in the first pay-to-play scandal of her administration.
The case is cut and dry: she received a $70,000.00 check and the contributors received a multi-million dollar state contract when no one was expecting a vote." You tell me how she can spin that into anything other than what it is: PAY-TO-PLAY."
Background: Please see Joe Monahan's article this morning for a better picture of the relationships at the Downs:
DIRTY DEALING AT DOWNS?
A Senior Alligator has a simple summation of the questionable activities going on over the awarding of a new racino and a 25 year lease to the Downs at ABQ at the NM Expo. He notes this newspaper report and wonders: "Problems ahead?" First, the news:
As chairman of the State Fair Commission from 1997 through 2002, Albuquerque businessman Tom Tinnin was passionate about the fair. Tinnin apparently hasn’t lost that fire. Upset with the Martinez administration’s handling of a new lease for the racetrack and casino at the state fairgrounds, Tinnin resigned his seat on the state Board of Finance. The resignation is just the latest fallout from the administration’s troubled attempt to award a new lease, and Tinnin’s resignation is further damage to the credibility of the process.
Governor Martinez decried "pay to play" during her campaign. The dicey Downs deal is now raising that question on her watch. Some of the players:
GOP National Committeeman and Republican attorney Pat Rogers is now representing the Downs. Former ABQ Public Safety Director and GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White landed a consulting agreement with the Downs when he was forced to resign from the city. He cut campaign commercials for Martinez. Dan Mourning, a former ABQ restaurant manger and close friend of White's, manages the state fairgrounds upon which the Downs is located.
And, as always, lurking in the background and connected to all the players is Jay McCleskey, the Guv's powerful political consultant as well as Republican activist and attorney Mickey Barnett. In addition, the three members of the panel appointed to evaluate proposals for a new racino at the Fairgrounds and a 25 year lease are all tapped in Republicans:
Gov. Martinez appointed three people to evaluate the confidential proposals and make a recommendation to fair general manager Mourning, a Martinez appointee... The three appointees are Chuck Gara, director of the Property Control Division of the state General Services Department; John A. Garcia, director of the city of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department; and Garrett Hennessy, former intergovernmental affairs liaison for Mayor Richard Berry....
Top sources say there was a move to have a larger panel evaluate the proposals that would have included members not so tightly connected with the administration, but it didn't happen.
Laguna Development corporation--which runs an Indian casino--was the only other bidder to build a new racino, but the request for proposals was only out there for a month. The three member panel recommended to the fair commission that the Downs get the deal.
The extremely tight timeline for putting in a proposal to build a racino served to exclude bidders, especially for those from out of state, say sources following the action. That's where the concern about the deal being wired for the Downs comes in.
RED FLAGS FOR GUV
All of this and more has given Tom Tinnin pause. He's a highly respected businessman and longtime player in the state GOP whose name has often been floated as a possible party chair. And the State Fair Commission--all of whom are not Martinez appointments--are worried enough that they have delayed until December a final decision on giving the Downs permission to replace the current dilapidated racino.
Tinnin's resignation and the trepidation over this deal at the commission are major red flags for this new Governor who may be unaware of the long ties among the players involved. This deal signals the return of what we've often referred to over the years as the lobbying/consulting wing of the GOP that has warred with other factions. It started when the GOP lobbyists-consultants committed heresy by joining with GOP Governor Gary Johnson in supporting the legalization of drugs and picking up lucrative contracts as a result. That wing still operates, as illustrated by the machinations over this racino. It's more evidence that this new Governor needs to grab the reins and call on competing political and legal advice to keep her on the straight and narrow. In other words, what does Tom Tinnin know that this Governor should know?