Which Path, Governor?

By Tracy Dingmann

On Monday, Jan. 31, Governor Susana Martinez issued an executive order requiring state police officers to inquire into criminal suspect’s immigration status and “report relevant information to federal immigration enforcement authorities.”

It was the latest in a troubling stream of executive orders to come from Governor Martinez’s office since literally the moment she took office.

Like the other executive orders emanating from her office, it sought to aggressively reverse key decisions made by her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson. And like the rest of her executive orders, it appears to be extremely vulnerable to legal challenges on purely constitutional grounds.

Add Monday’s executive order to the rest of the group and I think it’s time for the people of New Mexico to ask sincerely – which path are you taking us down, Governor?

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Smoking Emails Show Martinez, Dairy Industry Collaborated to Block Dairy Regulations

By Tracy Dingmann

A public information request has unearthed state emails showing that lawyers working with former New Mexico Lt. Gov. and current dairy industry lobbyist Walter Bradley helped write the executive order that halted a number of environmental regulations shortly after Susana Martinez became Governor on Jan. 1.

The emails also show the dairy attorneys advised various state officials to prevent certain rules from printing so they would be subject to the Governor’s executive order.

First, The Executive Order

Martinez issued the order minutes after she became Governor, halting all “proposed and pending rules and regulations” for 90 days pending review by a “small business-friendly task force.”

Her order put on hold a number of recently-adopted regulations, including state rules regulating water pollution by dairies and a cap on carbon emissions. Those regulations had been passed, but had not yet been printed in the state register – so, the Martinez administration maintained, they were not yet law and thus were subject to the executive order.

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Revive BLM Coziness Probe, Watchdog Group Says

By Tracy Dingmann

A federal government oversight group is calling for the U.S. Department of Interior to further investigate former Bureau of Land Management manager and current New Mexico Oil and Gas Association president Steve Henke for taking gifts from the industry he once regulated.

Henke, who was the BLM’s district manager in Farmington, left the BLM last spring in the wake of an Interior Department investigation that found he had improperly accepted gifts and favors from a number of companies he was in charge of regulating. Henke retired and was not sanctioned by the BLM.

We wrote about the curious facts in the Henke case on Clearly back in September (read: “A Case of Excessive Coziness with Oil and Gas”) and noted that five local and national environmental groups have asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for further investigation into the allegations. We also noted that the groups want Salazar to look into how much contact Henke had with NMOGA while he was still with the BLM and in charge of regulating oil and gas companies.

Now the Project on Government Oversight is asking the Interior Department has joined the chorus of voices asking the Interior Department to revisit the investigation.

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A Case of Excessive Coziness with Oil and Gas

By Tracy Dingmann

Once upon a time in a little New Mexico town, a man who worked for the Bureau of Land Management took money and favors from the oil and gas industry he was in charge of regulating.

Who was this man, and exactly what did he do? His name was Steve Henke, and he was the district manager of the BLM in the oil-and-gas-rich town of Farmington, N.M. As district manager, Henke ran the Farmington BLM office, which oversees minerals production at the San Juan Basin – the largest minerals production area in the onshore United States.

According to a report from the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Henke took gifts from a major oil and gas company in the area, Williams Exploration and Production — golf tickets, lodging and meals — and solicited about $8,000 in donations from the company for his son’s youth baseball teams. He also allowed his son to serve a three-month internship with Merrion Oil & Gas Company during the same time period that he helped the company expedite drilling permits from the BLM.

In addition, Henke was accused of misusing about $1,000 in BLM travel funds to attend the 2007 PGA Championship in Oklahoma as a guest of Williams Exploration &Production. In 2009, he attended the Masters Golf Tournament in Georgia with friends from the company but reimbursed them for some expenses. His annual financial disclosures did not mention any of the gifts.

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The Friends of Leonard Lee Rawson: Ethics and the State Investment Council

Over the past two years, the State Investment Council (SIC) has been engulfed in corruption allegations involving pay-to-play.  To address this problem, the legislature passed a new law earlier this year that reconfigured the makeup of the SIC, including granting itself the power to appoint four new members to the body.

Last week, the Legislative Council, comprised of 15 legislative leaders, met to make its allotted four appointments pursuant to the new law.  (Governor Richardson made two new appointments early in March.)

So how did the lawmakers do?

In the case of one of the picks, that of former State Senator Leonard Lee Rawson of Las Cruces, they botched the job terribly.

In naming Rawson to the SIC, it seems that they just couldn’t help themselves. As if by force of habit, they instinctively reverted to their collegial “good old boy” ways. And in so doing, they turned a blind eye to the actions of an individual who has been a poster boy for conflict of interest, an abuser of his office and the public trust.

Before he was ejected from office by the voters in November 2008, Rawson, who was Minority Whip of the Senate at the time, was caught committing a particularly egregious act of using his office for personal aggrandizement.

Heath Haussamen summarized the case at the time:

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