They’re back: Democrats plagued by corruption problems back in power
Now that the Democrats are back in total power of the governorship and both state legislatures, it would be a good time to revisit what happened the last time they had power under former Gov. Bill Richardson:
• In 2007, New Mexico Treasurer Robert Vigil (D) was convicted as a result of a two-year FBI investigation into corruption. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison. That same year, former State Treasurer Michael Montoya (D) pleaded guilty to state charges of extortion and racketeering and served four and a half years in prison.
• In 2008, Manny Aragon, Democrat leader of the State Senate, pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges for his role in a scheme to defraud the state out of nearly $4.4 million in building the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque. Aragon was fined $750,000 and ordered to pay $649,000 in restitution. During his trial, prosecutors said the money Aragon pocketed came from state capital outlay dollars. Aragon served four and a half years at the Federal Correction Complex in Florence, Colorado. He still receives a state pension of
$27,000 per year.
• In 2013, three associates of former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil (D) were convicted on charges related to
$2.5 million in stolen voter education funds that were assigned to the state by the federal government. She was not indicted because Attorney General Gary King (D) and the courts delayed her hearing until the time for charges expired. U. S. Attorney Tara Nara said in federal court that Vigil was involved in the scheme.
And recently, we have longtime Democrat Senator Phil Griego now serving prison time for corruption, bribery and fraud.
But the biggest scandal of the last Democrat administration was Gov. Bill Richardson’s pay-to-play corruption. Richardson gave a state government contract to a firm in exchange for a $100,000 donation to his own political action committee, Moving Forward America.
Brian Colon (D), who voters just elected State Auditor last month, was the chair of this corrupt political fundraising organization. Because of this scandal, Richardson had to withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary under the Obama administration.
Perhaps the worse fallout from the Richardson administration was the $400 million state debt and the multimillion dollar payments owed from the Rail Runner project. The state borrowed money and issued bonds that it could not pay, resulting in financial derivatives and a large balloon debt that the Martinez administration was finally able to resolve last year. In fact, Governor Martinez inherited massive financial and legal problems from the Democrats that she worked hard to repair during her tenure.
This recent history of Democrat power in New Mexico proves that total control by one political party removes any checks to the corruption of power. Many of the same officials who participated in these past crimes are back in charge in Santa Fe.