Updated: added Bruce Gagnon’s piece on this topic; see below
by Greg Palast
January 5, 2009
excerpted from Armed Madhouse
Bill Richardson is out: Caught with his hand, if not exactly in the cookie jar, at least you could say his sticky finger were near it. I’m not surprised.
For years I’ve been investigating the second-most corrupt state in the USA (after Alaska). I like to check in on the enchanted state with my bud Santiago Juárez.
I knew it was not a polite question, but it was really bugging me, so I asked HIM, “Exactly how does a Mexican get the name William Richardson?”
Governor Richardson’s dad, Santiago explained, was a Citibank executive assigned to Mexico City. There he met Governor Bill’s mom, and—milagro!—a Mexican-American was born. Richardson gets big mileage out of his mother’s heritage, and that makes him, legitimately, a Mexican-American, a politically useful designation. But it’s just as legitimate to say that Richardson is a Citibank-American.
But Governor Richardson is more than that. Between leaving Bill Clinton’s cabinet where he was Secretary of Energy and grabbing a Hispanic-district seat in Congress, Richardson became a partner in (Henry) Kissinger and Associates. That would make Richardson a Kissinger-American as well.
IN 2004, John Kerry won New Mexico—if you counted the votes. But they didn’t – and George Bush won the state and the presidency by just 5,000 ballots.
Everyone was talking about the theft of Ohio by Republicans, but few noted that New Mexico was stolen as well. But one fact drove me straight nuts: In the end, this state and its damaged elections were in the hands of Richardson, A Democrat and a Mexican-American one at that.
In New Mexico the issue of uncounted votes is more than skin deep. Lots of Mexican-American votes don’t tally, but Citibank-American votes never get lost. Kissinger American votes always count. The story of America’s failed elections is not about undervotes. It’s about underclass. Disenfranchisement is class warfare by other means. It just happens that in New Mexico, the colors of the underclass are, for the most part, brown and red.
Class War by Other Means
As community organizer Santiago told me:
You take away people’s health insurance and you take their right to union pay scales and you take away their pensions—taking away their vote’s just one more on the list.
Some New Mexico Democrats have no trouble at the voting booth. In Santa Fe, you ﬁnd trust-fund refugees from Los Angeles wearing Navajo turquoise jewelry and “casual” clothes that cost more than my car. Each one has a personal healer, an unfinished film script and a tan so deep you’d think they’re bred for their leather. They’re Democrats and their votes count. Voting—or at least voting that gets tabulated—is a class privilege. The effect is racial and partisan, but the engine is economic.
The second- and third-highest undervotes in New Mexico were recorded in McKinley and Cibola counties—85% and 72% Hispanic and Native. But the undervote champ is nearly the whitest county in New Mexico: DeBaca, which mangled and lost 8.4% of ballots cast. White DeBaca, whose average income hovers at the national poverty level, is poorer than Hispanic Cibola. No question, disenfranchisement gives off an ugly racial smell, but income is the real predictor of vote loss.
And what about those Bernalillo ghost voters for Bush? Those spirits are, it turns out, quite well-to-do, haunting the mesas west of Albuquerque where the real estate provides unobstructed views of Georgia O’Keeffe sunsets.
This was my third investigation in New Mexico in twenty years. The first time, the state’s Attorney General brought me in to go over the account books of Public Service of New Mexico (PNM), a racketeering enterprise masquerading as an electric company. Too young to understand what I wasn’t supposed to know, I proudly mapped out the sewerage lines of deceit connecting the gas drillers, water lords and political elite of New Mexico. The AG’s office handed me a nice check—which I took not as a reward, but as a payment to leave the state. After a decade away, I returned as a reporter, to look into prisons-for-proﬁt outﬁt Wackenhut Inc. In September 1999, a company insider told me, Wackenhut was cutting costs at its New Mexico jails by sending guards alone into the cell blocks. Ralph Garcia of Santa Rosa, who’d lost his ranch to drought, took the $7.95-an-hour job guarding homicidal neo-Nazis and Mexican maﬁa thugs in the local Wackenhut lock-up. Inexperienced, untrained and alone, he was stabbed to death by inmates just two weeks after the insider’s warning.
So that’s how Garcia became one more impoverished Chicano who lost his vote. No question, that’s not your typical case of voter disenfranchisement, but that’s the reality of the “Land of Enchantment.” New Mexico is the New America, where growing income inequality is creating a feudal divide between the prison-owning class and the prisoner-and-guard class.
Vote spoilage is the owning class’s weapon of choice.
Whose flag does Bill Richardson carry in the nouvelle class war? When I was checking out the New Mexico vote in 2005, my old friends Public Service of New Mexico hit the front page, sued by the State of California for conspiring with Enron to rig the California power market. It is still in court. It was a scam called “Ricochet.” Enron and PNM say it was not illegal. It played out about the time Garcia was walking the cell block. Where was Richardson? He was in Washington, Clinton’s Secretary of Energy, playing chubby cheerleader for PNM’s plan for “deregulation” of the energy market. Deregulation made PNM’s games possible—and Richardson’s employment by Kissinger inevitable.
Richardson, Ready for Takeoff
What about all those suspect spoiled votes in Hispanic and Indian precincts stuck inside the machines? Why didn’t this Mexican-American Democrat ask for a recount? It didn’t just slip Richardson’s little mind: He actively did everything in his power to stop a recount. I was told that it was Richardson himself who encouraged Secretary of State Vigil-Giron to reject the $114,000 payment from pissed-off Democrats and the Green Party. The Governor was too busy to speak with me about this.
Halting the 2004 recount wasn’t enough for Governor Bill, however. He demanded the legislature pass a “reform” law that would require anyone wanting a recount of a suspicious vote to put up a bond of over one million dollars. As a result, “free and fair elections” are now effectively outlawed in New Mexico. You can have a choice of a “free” election or a “fair” election, but not both. Want fair? Then you have to pay a million to recheck the ballots. In other words, it’s against the law to buy votes, but in New Mexico not against the law to buy the vote count.
On his phony reform law, Richardson was called out by a fellow Democrat, State Senator Linda Lopez—an act of indiscreet defiance that would not be forgotten by the Governor’s circle.
The centerpiece of the law signed by the Governor: Ms. Fox-Young’s proposal to require photo ID for new voters. Maybe the former Cabinet Secretary and United Nations Ambassador Richardson couldn’t imagine that photo IDs would be a problem for some voters. After all, Mexican-Americans in Little Texas may have trouble producing acceptable IDs, but it’s no problem at all for a Kissinger-American like Governor Richardson. The Governor and Jimmy Carter both have passports, they have credit cards and they have chauffeurs who will vouch for them.
Richardson wouldn’t speak with me about the 2004 vote fiasco. Instead, he busied himself with his space program. He announced the state would chip in $200 million to build a “spaceport” to land private rocket ships that will be launched beginning in 2009 by Richard Branson, the British billionaire. Passengers have already bought tickets for $200,000 each (round trip, they hope).
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Richardson Refuses to Take Questions About Corruption Probe
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) on MSNBC, January 5, 2009
OUT BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS
Jan 5, 2009
Obama’s Secretary of Commerce appointee, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, withdrew his name from consideration this past weekend when it became public that a grand jury is investigating him for a “pay to play” deal, similar to the controversy that is now sweeping the state of Illinois. A federal investigation is looking into how a big-money political contributor of the governor landed lucrative state contracts. Richardson denies all wrong doing.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, “The big picture is fairly simple. CDR Financial Products LLC of Beverly Hills was paid $1.4 million from work it did on behalf of the New Mexico Finance Authority, which issued GRIP transportation bonds. David Rubin, the company’s principal owner, made at least $100,000 in contributions to Richardson-backed political committees about the time the firm got the work with the finance authority. Two substantial contributions were three months apart and generally coincided with the separate awards to CDR — one of them a no-bid, sole-source deal.”
I’ve followed the career of Richardson closely. He was a former member of the House of Representatives in Washington. He served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Energy (DoE) and we all know that New Mexico long ago was chosen as one of the nation’s “nuclear sacrifice zones” where nuclear testing was first done and where today several nuclear labs and many military bases test all kinds of futuristic weapons systems.
Albuquerque has many nuclear weapons stored at Kirtland AFB right inside the city. Kirtland is also the space laser directorate for the Pentagon. Many “missile defense” systems are flight tested in southern New Mexico at White Sands. Bill Richardson has always been about bringing home the “Pentagon bacon” and has never shown an inclination to interrupt anything involving the military industrial complex.
When Obama chose Richardson for his cabinet, the message to me was, here goes more of the same.
I sent a message to my good friend, and Global Network board member, Bob Anderson in Albuquerque who co-directs the group Stop the War Machine. I asked Bob to give me his thoughts on the Richardson scandal. Here are some of them:
“It raises a lot more questions about the Obama team. It was obvious to anyone here not connected to the ideologues of the Democratic Party that this man [Richardson] was a carpetbagger who moved here just to run for higher office, and along the way was a global type corporate criminal. Richardson was a director of Kissinger Associates (as in Henry the butcher) which is a private sector firm that brings in politicians to keep them on a payroll when they are out of elective office.
” Richardson campaigned in 2000 on an economic plank of more militarization as a way to solve the state economic problems. Along with Republican Senator Pete Dominici, who just resigned to avoid an ethics investigation for election tampering saying he has an incurable brain disease and now has miracle recovery, they turned the state over to every war and weapons program imaginable — from nuclear war planning, to war in space planning and development. Along the way they had help from another carpetbagger, Heather Wilson, Republican member of the House, and against whom I ran in 1998 as a Green.
“People like Richardson and Wilson move to states like NM as carpetbaggers to position themselves for political office to better serve the private sector interests and the military. This is the political arm of the military industrial complex in action.
“Richardson specialized in taking public assets, taxes, and turning them over to private sector interests. The state pension and rainy day fund was raided for millions with investments in Wall Street schemes like the Madoff fiasco, when other investors were abandoning hedge funds and pyramid schemes last fall. $200 million was tapped for a private spaceport for the global elite and Lockheed Martin to launch space research weapons and fun flights for celebrities. All these were part of his plan to get money for his run for president, which was a failure.
“Richardson talked [nuclear] nonproliferation but stood by while the Reliable Replacement Warhead was discussed. While he was Secretary of the DoE he oversaw an expansion of the WMDs in Albuquerque and never responded to our campaign to rid the city of 2,000 WMDs stored at Kirtland AFB. In fact he helped the Air Force locate the new WMD center at the base, along with the space battlefield program. SO much …. When the BRAC [base closing commission] planned to close Canon AFB at Clovis, NM he rushed out there and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Republican Senators Domenici and Wilson to promise to find a new mission for the base. We’ve now got a new covert operations training base there. The whole state has seen an expansion of war research and planning under his term while poverty has grown here. White Sands Missile Range is now to be home to a battalion of regular Army in addition to other programs, to train for wars in Eurasia.”
So basically, according to Bob, Gov. Richardson was just another garden variety center-right Democrat disguised as a progressive.
It’s good to see him out of contention for the Obama cabinet post but there are plenty more like him out there. I’m certain Obama will find another person like Richardson for the Commerce Department post.