The Pink Flamingo has been following the corruption here in NM dealing with Big Bill, his buds, and Diane Denish, who wants to be governor. You can’t follow the game without a playbook. NMGOP Chair Harvy Yates, Jr. sent out another interesting email on Friday. Just follow the bouncing ball.
“Earlier this month, I wrote an opinion piece dealing with Diane Denish, a fellow named Leo Hindery and our State Investment Council (SIC).
In Monday’s Albuquerque Journal, reporter Mike Gallagher wrote: “GOP Tries To Tie Denish To Scandal.” As a citizen of this state I greatly appreciate the role the Journal has played in ferreting out corruption, but I believe this Journal article failed to give the reader several facts which are critical to an understanding of this particular matter.
In his article, Mr. Gallagher wrote:
Hindery and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor in November, have known each other for more than 10 years, and Hindery contributed $50,000 to her campaigns in 2006 and 2007.
Hindery also contributed more than $25,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson in December 2005 and another $25,000 in September 2006.
The timeline is important, yet was left out. In December 2005, Richardson received donations totaling $25,381 from Leo Hindery. Five months later Hindery’s company received approval of a $30 million investment from the SIC. One month after that Denish received $25,000 from Hindery. Later, both Richardson and Denish each received an additional $25,000 from Hindery.
The article seems to use Denish’s earlier friendship with Hindery as a fact exculpating Denish from the possibility of corruption in the matter. Instead, that fact suggests the possibility that it may have been Denish who brought Hindery to SIC’s investment dining table. As best we have been able to determine, Hindery’s company had never before dined at the table, and his only earlier donation to Denish had been the much smaller donation of $2,500, given four years earlier. Why the much larger donations around the time of the SIC investment in Hindery’s company?
Mr. Gallagher also wrote:
The lieutenant governor has no official role in SIC operations, and council staff members told the Journal they don’t recall Denish attending a meeting even as a guest.
As to the first point, the NM Constitution makes it clear that the lieutenant governor has a role if the governor has a role because she is delegated the duty of standing in for him in his absence. (See Article V, Sec. 7) No statute can overrule this constitutional provision. As to the second point, attendance at the meetings is probably not particularly relevant to understanding underlying shenanigans in NM. Interestingly, in the same issue of the Journal an editorial points out that Richardson himself did not attend SIC meetings in 2006, the critical year in this matter. Are we therefore to assume that Richardson had nothing to do with SIC decisions?
The article states that the problem for Democrats, “if there is one” comes in the form of Saul Meyer who, in his guilty plea in New York, acknowledged that he had engaged in corruption in New Mexico for the benefit of politically connected individuals. The article later states that Denish’s campaign staff said that Denish had no recollection of ever having met Meyers, a fact which, on its face, would seem to exculpate Denish.
However, the problem comes in two forms, not one. One is Saul Meyers and the other is Gary Bland, former State Investment Officer who also recommended Hindery‘s company for the investment. Bland is under investigation as to SIC related matters and appears perhaps to have been a conduit of instructions for the benefit “politically connected individuals.” (He denies it.)
Denish clearly has met Bland. Upon Bland’s appointment she introduced him, saying “Gary has the experience it takes to get the maximum return from his investments worth billions of dollars. More importantly, we‘re convinced that Gary can come up with creative ways to invest New Mexico money with New Mexico business.” (“Boeing Exec Named N.M. Investment Boss,” Albuquerque Tribune, 1/15/03)
If Denish was not involved with SIC matters, then why did she say that “we’re convinced” that Bland could come up with creative ways to invest money. Similarly, why did she write an op-ed in 2007, seemingly taking credit for the council’s achievements? (“Investment capital gives New Mexico businesses a boost,” by Diane Denish, Alamogordo Daily News, 9/29/07)
The article states that “Yates said that he wasn’t accusing Denish of corruption, but said it was “evidence of a lapse of ethical judgment.’” What I said in my opinion piece was that this was “perhaps” pay-to-play, but to know for sure we need more information which “probably can be secured only by law enforcement officials armed with subpoena power.” I went on to suggest that if all this was not corruption, it sure was a lack of ethical judgment to take a $25,000 donation from Hindery a month following his receipt by his company of $30 million from the state of New Mexico.
Was the Leo Hindery matter the only time Diane Denish received large campaign contributions following an investment by the SIC? Nope. The SIC invested $15 million in a company called ITU Ventures in 2003. Three months later, on 8/23/03, Denish got a $10,000 donation from ITU. Then in 2005, another $15 million state investment was recommended for ITU. Again, around three months later, on 9/14/05, Denish received a $15,000 campaign contribution from ITU.
Corruption or an ethical failing? Don’t know, but let’s get to the bottom of it.”