'This is a case of Martinez Republicans putting their own self-interests above those of the public' -- Democratic Chair Deb Haaland
BY DAN VUKELICH AND DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Gov. Susana Martinez spoke publicly today about the federal probe of her top adviser, saying the claims at the core of the investigation are old news and baseless.
“These are claims that have gone back two years form the Jamie Estrada case,” Martinez said, referring to a former aide involved in hijacking of the governor’s emails. “It’s the same people making the same claims, just making them over again. Just disappointing that they keep making them over. Yes I’m confident that neither Jay nor anyone else has done anything wrong, and I they can’t beat them, they’re gong to smear them.”
She confirmed that the FBI is investigating her top political adviser, Jay McCleskey. “Complains have been made, and just like…. I’ve been a prosecutor for 25 years. When someone makes a complaint, a process takes place, and so interviews are taken,” Martinez said.
“But I’m still telling you, it’s the same people from two years ago, from the Jamie Estrada days. They make the same complaints, they’re making them over and over. And they didn’t win then, and they’re not going to win now … nothing has ever come of it,” she said.
The statement followed a torrent of coverage of the McCleskey probe in social media, including posts by national political reporters. The day began with a statement from New Mexico Democrats who pounced on the McCleskey probe as well as another of her Taxation and Revenue Department.
“We continue to see our state fall to new lows as our leaders like Gov. Martinez, Secretary Padilla, former Secretary [of State] Duran, and their advisers are more concerned with lining their own pocketbooks and those of their associates, while retaliating against any perceived political opposition,” New Mexico Democratic Chair Deb Haaland said the statement.
“This is a case of Martinez Republicans putting their own self-interests above those of the public, which is the complete antithesis of good government and public service,” Haaland said. “We have seen this be the case with APS, APD, the City of Albuquerque, and the State of New Mexico. If Gov. Martinez, Mayor Berry, Secretary Padilla, Jay McCleskey, and the rest of the Republican Party refuse to address these issues head on, then the Democrats will in 2016, and the Republican Party will pay the price at the polls.”
Haaland’s statement followed the Santa Fe New Mexican’s report that federal investigators are probing whether retaliatory audits were conducted by the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department against former Martinez aides who had fallen from favor. That report followed by just a day the New Mexican’s report that federal authorities are investigating McCleskey.
McCleskey, a political strategist who runs a political and media consulting company, is the one person Martinez has said was most instrumental in helping her get elected in 2010. Prior to working for Martinez, McCleskey oversaw Richard Berry’s first successful campaign for mayor in 2009.
Daniel Libit, a Chicago-based journalist who reports for the National Journal, Politico and CNBC, tweeted Friday night: “Fed investigation into @
Gov_Martinez aide McCleskey focused on campaign spending, inauguration spending, state contracts.” Libit has Albuquerque ties and once interned at The Albuquerque Tribune. In 2013, Libit wrote a 10,000-word story for the National Journal entitled, “The Man Who Discovered Susana Martinez Could Also Be Her Downfall.”
The probe into McCleskey has been rumored for months. Actual confirmation of it by the New Mexican had political junkies burning up the phone and Internet lines. Political blogger Joe Monahan [a columnist for this newspaper] wrote about the probes this morning with an energy akin to that of the Colorado River bursting through the Hoover Dam.
“It appears McCleskey may have received a target letter from the federal grand jury several months ago. It’s Justice Department policy to advise you of your rights if you are a ‘target’ or ‘subject’ of a grand jury investigation. They do it with a ‘target letter.’ When you get one, you immediately know it’s time to lawyer up,” Monahan wrote.
“The potential ramifications of any legal action against McCleskey is king-sized,” Monahan wrote. “First and foremost is the impact on Gov. Martinez who has tied herself to McCleskey’s hip since undertaking statewide politics. Will she be dragged directly into any scandal involving him? Advancing the chess pieces further the question arises about the future relationship between Martinez and McCleskey, if indictments rain down. Both know so much about each other.”
Monahan speculated on the Albuquerque Journal’s silence on the McCleskey/Padilla stories since they broke over the weekend by its competitor to the north, noting that the Journal eschews the use of anonymous sources while at the same time appearing to be “protective,” in Monahan’s words, of the Martinez administration. A search of the Journal’s website late Monday afternoon showed the last time it mentioned McCleskey was on Oct. 14, when he was quoted in his role in “promoting the governor’s agenda.”
Monahan was critical of the silence of the Albuquerque news media on the McCleskey affair. “New Mexico journalism has been hijacked and ransacked — sometimes willingly — by the Martinez Machine, Monahan wrote. “If there were ever a time for navel gazing by the ink-stained wretches and their electronic brethren this is it.”
— Dan Vukelich is editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at email@example.com.