Saturday, December 10, 2011
US Attorney Alerts FBI to Martinez Expo Deal
The following is from Progress New Mexico:
The scandal that surrounds Governor Martinez's efforts to award a sweetheart lease deal at the State Fair to one of her biggest political contributors is not going away.
You might have missed it, but a small news brief in this morning's Santa Fe New Mexican noted a big development in the case:
"U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales this week told a liberal political action committee that he'll forward its request for an FBI investigation of last month's controversial award of a 25-year lease for the State Fair racetrack to political contributors of Gov. Susana Martinez..."
Susana Martinez campaigned on a promise to end what she called "pay-to-play" in New Mexico politics, but with her first big chance, she failed to deliver.
By all accounts, the process to renegotiate a 25-year lease at Expo New Mexico was engineered to ensure that a wealthy political donor would win out in a secretive process outside of public review.
But, don't take our word for it. Here are just a few headlines from local news after the deal was exposed:
Downs Deal Smells of Money, Albuquerque Journal
Expo Status Quo Doesn't Serve Public, Albuquerque Journal
Gov. Ally Says She Pushed Downs Deal , KRQE-TV
You can read the full time line and our take on the proceedings on our blog at ProgressNewMexico.org.
Today's news is big news, and we need you to help spread the word: New Mexicans won't stand for "pay-to-play" deals and back-room gambles with our money!
Lastly, watch this video:
The State of Unfair Affairs at the State Fair
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Independent Source PAC Calls for Federal Investigation into Possible Pay to Play and Bid Rigging in Racino Contract
Independent Source PAC (ISPAC)is calling on the the US Attorney to investigate potential bid-rigging at the Downs at Expo New Mexico fairgrounds. Yesterday in a surprise vote Martinez's State Fair Committee pushed to award a large donor a large state contract worth many millions of tax payer dollars.
This from the Susana Martinez who could not say enough of how corrupt and full of pay to play cronyism the Richardson administration was, and who also smeared all the same claims at the Democratic governor candidate Diane Denish and the Lieutenant Governor candidate Brian Colon as well as anyone else with ties to the Richardson administration.
In the article "Downs gets racino bid" within the website onPolitix.com, it is stated, "The Downs, the same group that is there now, is the winning bidder. This is the same group that was just slammed by an audit for not paying its bills to the state, but in the end State Fair officials said they are the best pick."
The article goes on to say, "For the first time ever, Expo New Mexico put out request for bids for the 93 acre plot of land that makes up the racetrack and casino. The Downs has had the lease since 1985 and it expires in January. "We choose this process because that's what we wanted," Dan Mourning, GM of ExpoNM said. "We wanted to see what a competitive bid would do, rather than a sole source."
He said in the end The Downs was the best choice, beating out the other bidder Laguna Development.
To read more about the actions taken at yesterdays meeting regarding the Racino see this article by KRQE. Furthermore, if you would like to read a historical breakdown of the lead up to the Racino deal see this post by Patrick Davis.
You have to admit this whole deal does not pass the smell test, in my opinion it smells like horse manure.
On the Meet Governor Martinez link on the States Gov website the first paragraph says,"Susana Martinez is the Governor of the State of New Mexico. She was elected on November 2, 2010, pledging to cut wasteful spending, lower taxes to create more jobs, end “pay-to-play” practices and other corruption in government and fight to reform education."
And if you dig a little deeper you can see what is stated on the Martinez's "Ensuring Transparency and Ethics in our Government" link. A small excerpt states "For far too long, government officials have abused their office for personal or political gain. Politicians have regarded taxpayer money as their own and rewarded cronies, while workers, students and taxpayers are stuck with the bill. Decisions have been made to benefit the powerful and the connected, while New Mexico families pay the price." This goes on to say " It is time to restore the spirit of public service to government positions. I have proposed harsher penalties for public officials who break the law because restoring confidence and faith in elected and appointed office begins with ensuring that our public servants are the best possible stewards of taxpayer money."
So now do you think this deal with our tax dollars lives up to Martinez commitments stated above and to her promises to New Mexicans?
Guest Blogger Patrick Davis: Gov. Martinez's Big Bet with Public Money Gives Big Donor the Purse
Martinez's "Super Committee" Gives Commission Just One Option to Approve Governor's Handcrafted Process Gives 25 Year Multimillion Dollar Contract to Big Donor
The State Fair Commission's "surprise" vote yesterday afternoon to award a big Martinez donor a multimillion dollar state contract was no surprise at all to members of the public and State Fair Commission.
As late as Monday morning, commissioners were cited in the Albuquerque Journal questioning whether the public notice for a "workshop" to discuss the procurement process was improperly posted to allow for a possible vote on Monday. With time running out, the commission took a squeaker 4-3 vote on the only proposal they had been given, bringing to a successful conclusion the result of the governor's hand-designed process to award the state's most lucrative and long-term contracts to major out-of-state political donors who already owe the state millions in unfulfilled promises from previous contracts.
The Downs proposal also reportedly offered to pay the state substantially less over its 25 year life than the only other proposal submitted. The governor does not normally personally appoint proposal review members for independent state commissions.
Placing millions in public money on the line, Martinez made sure the odds favored one of her biggest political donors. When the State Fair Commission votes could not be assured to vote her way, the governor created a new 'super commission' of three personally selected reviewers to limit the State Fair Commission's choice to just one bidder: one that gave $70,000 to her campaign just last year.
Everyone knows that the house stacks the odds when it comes to casinos, but she is playing with public money and this is no game.
Governor Susana Martinez ran promising to end "pay-to-play" and to be totally transparent when dealing with public money. But when elected, she hand selected the State Fair Manager and all three "super committee" members who negotiated behind closed doors on a twenty-five year multimillion dollar renewal of the Expo New Mexico lease to the Downs at Albuquerque despite a recent audit showing the Downs is millions of dollars in arrears on payments to the state in its current lease.
Previous disclosures by the Downs show revenues of as much as $28 million a year generated by the lease.
Follow the timeline and judge for yourself:
- "People connected to the Downs at Albuquerque ponied up at least$70000 to Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign".
- Martinez appoints Dan Mourning interim State Fair Director.
- State Senate passes a resolution calling for a prohibition on new lease negotiations without public input.
- Mourning announces that he has independently negotiated a new lease extension with the Downs without public input. The legality of lease extension is called into question since contracts are not permitted to extend beyond 25 years.
- In response to criticism over the back room lease negotiations, Governor Susana Martinez promises to place the Downs lease on the call for the Special Session so that the public and legislature can weigh in. She never does.
- Governor Martinez appoints a "super committee" of three hand-picked reviewers to select one bid in a closed-door process with Mourning.
- Mourning hastily issues a 30-day Request for Proposals for a twenty-five year multimillion dollar plan to lease portions of the Expo.
- With the RFP out, the Downs quickly hires former Martinez advisor and political hit man Darren White "to assist us with preparing our request for proposal," Two of the three members of the "super committee" are White political donors and supporters.
- Again in response to concerns over "pay-to-play," Governor Susana Martinez again promises to place the Downs lease on the call for the Special Session so that the public and legislature can weigh in. She never does.
- An audit of the fair shows that "The state fair’s lease with the Downs at Albuquerque “is fraught with problems,” the evaluation reported, pointing out the Downs is underpaying its electricity bill; is not meeting its obligation to provide $420,000 in promotional events, marketing and advertising; and owes the state fair $215,000 in revenue from horse racing."
- The "super committee" begins secret negotiations a winner they selected, but they refuse to tell the public who it is. Secret negotiations with the Downs, Mourning and Downs attorney Pat Rogers, a well-known Republican political operative notably sued for allegations of working to suppress Democratic turnout, begin.
- (Nov. 9): The State Fair Commission meets and delays a vote after members and the public state that they have never seen the evaluation process or actual proposal. They agree to come back on November 21 to host a "public workshop" to review the proposals and to vote in December on the proposal.
- (Nov. 11): The public notice of meeting includes notice of the "workshop" and states that the commission may vote on the proposal, an item not included in the meeting notes from the week before. Commissioners cry foul. The commission, a majority of its members appointed by Martinez, votes 4-3 to give the Louisiana-owned Martinez donor group the lease.
The next stop in the lease approval process is the State Board of Finance, which Martinez chairs. She also appoints four of the seven members.
This is a guest blog by Patrick Davis. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Sen. Tim Keller: We Need Sweeping Reform to Address Expo New Mexico Audit Findings
Yesterday, the Legislative Finance Committee issued its report on the historical financial performance and operations of Expo NM (the state fair grounds). Sen. Tim Keller, who represents the area in and around the Fair Grounds, responded to the findings. “It is now abundantly clear Expo New Mexico operations are rife with challenges and have been for some time.”
“New Mexicans deserves a well-run operation that is a pride point for the city, state and surrounding community. Expo has been in crisis mode for years and run adrift with millions of dollars for long enough. It's time the legislature reign in Expo operations with oversight and increased accountability. I will be proposing legislation to reduce Expo’s autonomy and bring it under compliance with state purchasing (SPO), the sunshine portal and department of finance (DFA) regulations. I will also be restructuring the powers and duties of the State Fair Commission.”
As highlighted in the report, Expo New Mexico is run as in independent ‘enterprise’ that does not have to follow standard transparency and accounting practices required by the state purchasing office and the Department of Finance. Although it has been subsidized by the state for decades, it gets to make its own rules, Keller explained. With millions in budget dollars and contracts worth in excess of $50 million, this enterprise has been slowly drowning. “As you can imagine, the state, city and surrounding neighborhoods are very discouraged by these findings,” noted Keller.
Pending Downs at Expo New Mexico Lease
The audit discussion also raised questions about the pending new $50 million lease for the racino grounds -- Downs at Expo New Mexico. Sen. Tim Keller stated, “The process seems overly rushed, and I’m concerned Expo is getting into a 25-year lease without giving enough time to analyze various options and build a long-term vision for the grounds as whole. The RFP should be re-opened, a long-term plan should be in place, optimal lease rates determined and the community should have some input. It just makes business sense to allow for proper analysis of a $50+ million dollar land deal. “We can do a lot better than this,” concluded Keller.
In reaction to Commissioner Rode’s statement that the “tax payers are subsidizing a racing company making millions and there is zero participation by state fair commissioners ... as it stands we are rubber stamp,” Keller noted, “It sounds like this RFP process has turned into a sham, and the Governor’s office should postpone it immediately.”
Need Totally New Structure
“The commission has too much power; it’s a playground for commissioners to come in and do whatever they want ... they do whatever they want when they want ... money thrown around left and right with no consequences,” stated state fair commission chairman Hossie Sanchez. Keller noted, “We have to totally change the structure of state fair management. This is irresponsible and it’s been going on far too long. It reminds me of the SIC a few years ago, and I’m going to do all I can to reign this in during the next session. I hope others and Governor will join me in that effort.”