Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Attorney General’s Office Proposed Legislation for 2012

Attorney General King is asking the Governor to allow a number of important pieces of legislation onto the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The list is comprised of bills that, for one reason or another, did not get heard or acted upon during the previous session. Here are a few of our proposals.

Under the category Ethics & Campaign Finance Reform, one of the bills for consideration is called “Electioneering Communications Contributions Disclosures,” previously HB 491. This bill creates campaign disclosure requirements for third parties that campaign for or against political candidates. Given recent U. S. Supreme Court decisions expanding the rights of corporations and others to engage in "electioneering", our laws should at least provide for full disclosure of where all the money is coming from.

Under the category of Civil-General Fund Recoveries; one bill addresses complicated tobacco settlement payments to the state and another deals with fraud against taxpayers. The bill we call the “Cigarette Stamp to Determine Escrow Payments,” previously SB 397, seeks to level the playing field for all cigarette manufacturers by requiring that they all pay their fair share of the health care costs their products cause in New Mexico. Representative Gail Chasey, who co-chairs the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee, has gone on record saying, “It is estimated that an additional $7.5 million annually would be available to the state under Senate Bill 397. That additional money could help a lot of New Mexicans who suffer from smoking related diseases.” A similar measure was vetoed last session by the Governor but we are encouraging her to reconsider this time around. And the “Fraud Against Taxpayers Act Revisions” bill, previously HB 314, amends current law to enable the Attorney General’s Office to expedite litigation in cases where the State has been defrauded.

Two of our Consumer Protection bills will be back for consideration by Legislators. The first is the Mortgage Fair Foreclosure Act, SB 1; Senator Michael Sanchez has once again agreed to sponsor our bill, which is an attempt to reform foreclosure procedures in New Mexico. The bill states, “The legislature finds it to be the public policy of New Mexico that homeowners should be given reasonable notice of the fact of and basis for an alleged default on their mortgage, apprised of all loss mitigation methods available to them in connection with their home loans prior to the loss of their home and afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in loss mitigation to prevent the loss of homeownership.” UNM Professor Nathalie Martin has stated that in 2008, New Mexico was 36th in the nation for the number of it is 11th in the nation. Currently, she says, one in every 452 Santa Fe homes and one in every 550 Albuquerque homes is in foreclosure, and about 15,000 cases are filed each year, about half in Albuquerque.

The bill we call “Regulations on Certain Loans,” previously SB 305, would address predatory lending practices involving small loans that continue to plague low income New Mexicans, many of whom are often victimized by exorbitant interest rates and never ending rollovers of their original small loan. These types of loans are clearly designed to circumvent current payday loan regulations.

Another bill creates alternatives for allowing criminal defense counsel to view child pornography without having to duplicate the images. The bill will also help protect victims of sexual exploitation from being re-victimized.

We are again pushing for the proposed “Local Option Liquor Tax” effort to address alcohol abuse by allowing all State counties to have the authority to ask voters to approve alcohol tax increases to pay for substance abuse programs. McKinley County, the only county granted the local option, has successfully used the voter-approved authority for 20 years to pay for alcohol abuse programs.

And we continue to advocate for legislation that allows minors to seek temporary restraining orders against boyfriends and girlfriends who engage in domestic violence against them.

Writing and proposing legislation designed to protect New Mexico families is a major priority for AG King’s administration and we will continue with our determination and tenacity to work for passage of these important legislative measures.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pedobear...Awareness or Hysteria?

The Attorney General's Office issued an alert last week about reported sightings of the Pedobear decal on NM is the news release.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 Follow us on Facebook

AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit on Alert

“Pedobear” Sightings Concern Local Law Enforcement

(ALBUQUERQUE)---Attorney General Gary King says depictions of a cartoon-like bear that is linked to pedophiles could be an indication of increased child sex offender activity in the Albuquerque area.

“Our ICAC unit has received reports that the Pedobear window sticker has been sighted in Albuquerque on at least two vehicles recently,” says AG King. “We are very concerned about the potential link between the Pedobear symbol and pedophiles; we also want to increase public awareness of the potential danger to children, especially young girls.”

The concept of the Pedobear began on the Internet as a digital representation of a bear that has a sexual interest in underage girls. Pedobear symbology has spread from the online subculture to mainstream depictions all over the world in the last couple of years.

Recently, a man dressed as the Internet-based Pedobear was escorted by police from the San Diego Comic Con event, where he had been distributing candy to children.

A photograph (see below) of a vehicle in Albuquerque sporting a Pedobear window sticker was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office by the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Also attached is an information flyer for parents and other concerned adults with more details about the Pedobear history.

The news release caused quite a commotion amongst Pedobear sympathizers and others who think it was irresponsible for the AG's Office and media to even talk about the potential link to real-life pedophiles..(as opposed to wannabes?). Even some of the journalists who covered the story were hesitant or scared off the story because a few vocal people were adamant in their claims that the whole Pedobear thing was a big joke that the media and AGO had been duped into reporting about. Thanks to the media folks who had the courage to report the story, I realize you put your hard-earned credibility on the line. You did the right thing. Some people thought it would cause a backlash of vigilantism against anyone who displayed a Pedobear sticker or flag or T-shirt. For the record, of course our investigators know that the Pedobear symbology began as an Internet meme joke, poking fun at pedophiles, and yes, we know that anyone who has the bad taste to display a Pedobear symbol is not necessarily a pedophile...emphasis on the word "necessarily." If you are a parent of a three year old, can you really take a chance? This is most assuredly NOT fear-mongering by "well meaning government officials," as one journalist seemed to wonder about. Law enforcement personnel across the country know about Pedobear, they are also concerned. This is the Attorney General's Office simply trying to make New Mexicans aware that the Pedobear symbol is out there and we think the general public, especially those who are not clued in to today's Internet culture, deserve to know what the Pedobear symbol is about and how it is interpreted by law enforcement. Individuals can make their own conclusions as to the relative importance of this information. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid to know what's in it, right? Lastly, if the Attorney General's Office is lambasted for being too cautious by doing anything and everything we can to help protect children from pedophiles...we're OK with that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today was budget hearing day for the NM Attorney General's Office. AG King and office staff appeared before the Legislative Finance Committee to present the AGO FY13 budget request and answer questions from committee members. Below is the cover letter and budget request that included a short accounting of the agency's recent accomplishments. This is information that the public rarely sees, although it is all public record. AG King believes it is vitally important that the public knows how their tax dollars are put to work by the Attorney General's Office.
November 2011_LFC Cover Letter

November 2011_LFC Handout

Friday, September 30, 2011

Facts in the Block Prosecution

The past two weeks have been very productive for the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. The government corruption case involving Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. was a successful prosecution by the AGO's Government Accountability Division and a resolution in the best interests of justice and the general public.

As always, not everyone is satisfied with the end results. We have heard from a few who think Jerome Block, Jr. should have faced a firing squad or that the Attorney General be flogged for going "too easy" on the defendant. And as usual, these sanguinary-minded few are lacking the basic facts. 

Perhaps everyone can benefit from the rest of the story in this case and maybe, just maybe...gain a better understanding of what has taken place in the Jerome Block, Jr. case.  

First, the state legislature appropriated one million dollars during the just concluded Special Session for the express purpose of impeaching the million of yours and my tax dollars, the majority of that sum would have gone to the Special Prosecutor as legal fees. That is a fact...not an assertion.

Secondly, Jerome Block, Jr. plead guilty to about eight thousand dollars in improper state credit card usage. If you or I had committed the same crime it is highly unlikely we would serve prison time if we also agreed to pay the money back like he has.  He was treated no differently than any other person who committed the same crimes.

Let me further break it down and repeat some of the penalties Block now faces.

1. He will resign from office, savings to taxpayers $90,000/yr.
2. He can never again hold any public office.
3. He pleaded guilty to multiple felonies.
4. He is required to successfully complete rehab and drug court for his substance abuse problems.
5. He must repay between 8-10 thousand dollars involved in the state credit card offense.
6. His impeachment trial is now moot, savings to taxpayers about a $1,000,000.

And yes, charges against his father Block, Sr. will be dropped in relation to the misuse of campaign finance money from several years back...why? Because Jerome Block, Jr. took responsibility for committing the crime. 

Here is one more fact...Jerome Block, Jr. is a first time offender.  I think any reasonable person would agree that this was the best possible outcome for the state of New Mexico and for the cause of justice. Unfortunately, some folks still subscribe to the theory that facts should not get in the way of a story. 


Finally, congratulations to the AGO Consumer Protection Division for a major victory against a lawyer in Las Cruces who was found to be victimizing his own clients. As Attorney General King put it, "The ruling was very significant and a good beginning for the people who ended up being victims of a lawyer who was supposed to be protecting them. Our next focus is to help these consumers get back some, if not all, the money they paid in legal fees." 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

AG Responds to Criticism in Records Case

More often than not, Attorney General King does not respond in kind to attacks against him and the Office, resorting to tu quoque is not his style. Occasionally, however, the verbal assaults are so egregious, misinformed, and outright wrong that at least setting the record straight is needed. The following is the unedited version of AG King's Letter to the Editor in an Albuquerque newspaper.


In a series of editorial articles, the Journal has been critical of the Attorney General's Office (AGO) for pursuing our legal rights under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Most recently our actions were called absurd. Such an editorial conclusion is, however, an oversimplification that does a great disservice to an understanding of IPRA. Here is the rest of the story.

The AGO is indeed tasked with enforcement of IPRA. Our office does this in many ways, including training of public officials in compliance, investigation of complaints and advice to agencies we believe are non-compliant, and enforcement through litigation.

Enforcement of IPRA is also personally important to me because I drafted, sponsored and passed the modern version of the Act while in the Legislature in 1993. Therefore, no one understands the irony of a finding of violation of IPRA against my agency more than I do myself. So, how does the AGO find itself in court, defending against a claim that it is in violation of IPRA?
At no time has my office argued that the documents requested are not public records. This battle is exclusively about the propriety of delivering the records to a specific attorney who has been ordered by a Federal Court to refrain from filing such a request with the AGO. Journal reporter Thom Cole was provided with substantially similar documents in a request he filed in a parallel case without delay or incident. The important difference, Mr. Cole is not subject to any court orders, that I am aware of, prohibiting him from such a request.

In the State action, Judge Brickhouse based her finding of violation on the fact that there is no specific exemption to IPRA that fits the facts of this case. We believe the judge should have applied the exemption within IPRA that is available when there is a sound public policy reason for a denial. As the drafter of the legislation, I included this provision because I knew that it would be impossible to foresee every reason for exemption that could be thought of and listed in the bill in 1993. I can assure you that I never intended for the law to be used as a tool to thwart a court's discovery order. Nor was the law intended to allow forum shopping by a Plaintiff for collateral attack on a valid court order from a different jurisdiction.

In the underlying Federal case here, the Judge ordered the Plaintiffs' lawyer to stop (or "stay") their requests for information (discovery) from the AGO for good reason. Many of the claims brought against the office in the federal suit were clearly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the Federal Magistrate cautioned the Plaintiff's lawyer at the initial scheduling conference that the prohibited claims would likely result in a motion and order staying discovery and urged him to drop the claims, which he refused to do.  Consequently, the order staying discovery was entered. When opposing counsel used an IPRA request in State Court to subvert the Federal Court's order, he was found to be in contempt and fined. This cavalier attitude toward the Federal Court order should not be taken lightly.

In order to mask his true reason for making this IPRA request, the Plaintiffs' attorney represented to the State court that he was not using the Act to subvert the order of the Federal Court. However, when we delivered the documents for review recently, he had all three of his clients in tow. Clearly he misled the State court judge to support his IPRA request. Upon learning of his subterfuge, my office asked the Federal Court judge to find that opposing counsel continues to be in contempt of the discovery stay that is currently in effect and issue a penalty that will ensure compliance. We are asking for a significant penalty this time because he has continued to violate the court’s order even though he was previously fined for contempt.

I believe the question of application of discovery stays to IPRA requested information is very important and worth the litigation we are pursuing. I certainly do not believe it is absurd for the State of New Mexico to have its day in court.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Report on AGO Road Show in Roswell

Attorney General King’s traveling Road Show rolled into the city of Roswell in Chaves County this week. For those not familiar with this event, personnel from various divisions in the office regularly bring many of the services of the Attorney General’s Office, free of charge, to communities all over New Mexico. AG King joined several of the separate presentations and met with community members. Nearly 50 individuals attended the training session.

As always, the highlight of the trip was the “Sunshine Laws” compliance presentation for local government and the general public. Our Civil Division attorneys explained the Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act and what responsibilities public employees have under both laws. All attendees received a copy of the IPRA and OMA Compliance Guides. Nearly 50 individuals attended this presentation.

The AG’s Communications Division delivered an Internet Safety presentation to about 300 students at Mountain View Middle School. 7th and 8th grade students were told about the dangers that lurk on the Internet and how to avoid being victims of child predators.

At a different event, nearly 90 sixth graders from the same school attended a presentation on Underage Drinking Dangers. Preventing underage consumption of alcohol has long been an important cause for Attorney General King.

The AG’s Anti-Meth Initiative Train the Trainer program was also made available to interested volunteers. Under this program, community volunteers are taught to present a pre-packaged anti-meth instructional in their own towns.

All of these presentations and others are part of a continuing effort by the Attorney General’s Office to bring government services to the people of New Mexico in as many communities as possible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teaching New Mexicans to Fight Meth Abuse

One of Attorney General King's most important ongoing initiatives is the fight against Methamphetamine abuse. A few years ago an anti-meth outreach program was researched and developed by AGO personnel and the result was a very comprehensive publication and in-person presentation for parents and school-age kids. Office staffers took the anti-meth message out to communities all over New Mexico. Following the hugely successful campaign, Attorney General King directed that the program be modified and updated. The program evolved into the Train-the-Trainer Project that we have today.

Now, instead of presenting the anti-meth information directly, we are training volunteers across the state to become presenters themselves, thereby further increasing the numbers of people who can be reached with the anti-meth messaging. Each volunteer who agrees to learn the AGO's presentation also agrees to spread the word to as many people as possible in their own communities. Volunteers have stepped up from local police and fire departments, medical facilities, government, and community groups to join the fight against what many consider to be the most deadly drug in the world. Hundreds of people have been trained already and the Train-the-Trainer project continues to teach volunteers around New Mexico.

One of the many free community services offered by Attorney General Gary King's office, the Train-the-Trainer presentation will next be held in Chaves County at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, Monday, September 12. Please see details below and help us spread the word in your community.

WHAT: Methamphetamine Awareness and Prevention Train-the-Trainer Project
WHERE: Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main Street
WHEN: September 12, 2011; 1:00-3:00 PM
WHY:  The grant-funded training is offered in cities and towns across New Mexico to teach volunteers how to put on the AG's Meth Initiative presentation in order to take the knowledge into their own communities.
MORE INFO: Since October 2010, the Train-the-Trainer program has trained 350 community members in:
  • Hobbs
  • Los Lunas 
  • Albuquerque  
  • Zuni Pueblo
  • Alamogordo
  • Otero County 
  • Carlsbad
  • Roswell
  • Farmington
  • Santa Fe
  • Logan 
  • Tucumcari
  • Gallup 
  • Albuquerque
 Interested community members should register by calling Doris Budris at 505 222-9173 or via email at 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AG King Files Lawsuit to Protect NM Water

It is one of the biggest battles Attorney General Gary King is leading on behalf of New Mexico.  The stakes could not be more important to the people of our state.  The details are here in a Report from The Attorney General.

Report Fr AG BOR Suit 8-22-11

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Governmental Accountability Act Training a Success

Attorney General Gary King began making good on his promise to help ensure that every state and local government body in New Mexico knows about changes to a state ethics law.

One of Attorney General King's most important legislative accomplishments last year was SB 432, sponsored by Senator Tim Eichenberg. The bill was passed during the last legislative session. It amends the Governmental Conduct Act to do away with the patchwork of ethics laws that currently apply to government by creating a uniform body of ethics laws that apply to all public bodies, officials, and employees.

Among other things, the bill expands and clarifies the definition of a public officer or employee covered by the Act and the prohibition against certain designated political activities to include elected or appointed officials and employees of state and local government agencies. The bill also extends to local government agencies the prohibitions against state agencies entering into contracts with former state agency employees. 

The Attorney General's Office formulated a training program to explain the Act to state and local government agency employees who are now subject to the stronger Governmental Conduct Act provisions. The training is designed to educate county and municipal officers and employees about their new responsibilities under the law. The first of these training sessions was held this week at the Capitol in Santa Fe. About 40 public employees attended the training conducted by Attorney General King and his Chief Deputy Al Lama. A few photos of the event are posted below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AG King: NM Water Has Been Sold Down the River

All one has to do is look outdoors to see the effects of the drought around New Mexico. In an effort to avoid making a bad situation even worse, Attorney General Gary King is legally fighting to hang on to our state's water resources. This week AG King filed suit against the federal government to stop the illegal reclassification of what arguably is New Mexico's most precious resource.

NR BOR Lawsuit 8-8-11

Here is a copy of lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

BOR Lawsuit

Friday, August 5, 2011

PRC Commissioner Vehicle Search

Many people have been calling Attorney General King's office in the past 24 hours concerning reports about a search of a state vehicle used by PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. I can now verify that a search was conducted by Special Agents from the Attorney General's Office. The search is part of an AGO investigation, the results of which will be turned over to the 1st Judicial District Attorney's Office. This is standard operating procedure in cases like this. Further details about the investigation can not be discussed at this time. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Some important news from recent days to report on several fronts. First, Attorney General King was successful in obtaining a district court ruling that allows him to move ahead in the Vanderbilt Capital investment case.
NR_SIC_Case_7_28_11 (1)
Secondly, the NM Court of Appeals reversed a state district judge’s dismissal order and reinstated charges against PRC member Jerome Block Jr. and his father.
Jerome D. Block

Next, federal indictments were returned against defendants in the former Secretary of State’s Office Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds case. Two of the co-defendants in the state’s corruption case involving the same pot of money were indicted on additional federal charges. AG King’s prosecutors were originally handling the state’s case until District Judge Pat Murdoch removed the Attorney General because of what he believed were “shadows” cast over the case. Judge Murdoch, however, specifically noted in his ruling that, “I see no wrongdoing on the part of the office of Attorney General...I don’t see the prosecution coming from a vindictive place...I don’t see it being created by political agenda...”

Additionally, the state’s corruption case against Rebecca-Vigil Giron, et al., is now being handled by Special Prosecutor Joseph CampBell, appointed by Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Attorney General King Helps Feds Help New Mexico

AG King's Governmental Accountability Division, principally charged with fighting government corruption, worked behind the scenes to obtain a guilty plea to federal charges in a bribery case that involved the state Corrections Department.  That little detail seems to have been lost in most accounts of this victory for the people of New Mexico, so in case you missed's the rest of the story.


Attorney General King Prevails in Legal Fight to Represent NM

Despite repeated claims of some sort of "conflict" by the lawyer trying to get a share of any recovery of state money in the Vanderbilt pay-to-play case,  AG King is allowed to take over the languishing matter. Speaking only for myself as a public information officer, I wonder why this news did not make the front pages, above the fold? 


Friday, July 22, 2011

Attorney General Gary King Consumer Alert

AGO Consumer Alert Counterfeit Check Data Base

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attorney General King's Consumer Protection Division on Public Radio

The Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection Division Director, Karen Meyers, was a guest this past Saturday on the Women's Focus radio program on KUNM 89.9 FM.

She discussed a number of important consumer issues and schemes, some of which target women in New Mexico. For example, research shows that women, particularly women of color, bore the brunt of risky sub-prime lending practices during the last decade.

Meyers gave listeners tips on how to avoid unscrupulous schemes that take advantage of consumers. She also answered calls from listeners; discussed New Mexico consumer laws; and described warning signs that consumers should look for to protect themselves from scammers. She also explained how people can file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office.

Listen to the radio interview podcast by clicking on the link below:

Monday, July 18, 2011

AG King Briefing on Real Reasons for Pay-to-Play Conflict Allegations

In his briefing to reporters last month, Attorney General Gary King thoroughly explained the Frank Foy pay-to-play cases. Mr. Foy is represented by attorney Victor Marshall, who has made a number of allegations that the AG has conflicts of interest that should disqualify him from prosecuting these cases on behalf of the State.  AG King explains that the reason his office moved to take over parts of Marshall's cases is because the cases were languishing.  AG King also says the interests of the State come before Marshall's financial stakes in the cases.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AG King Briefing on Corruption Cases

The three major government corruption cases that Attorney General Gary King has been involved with have generated plenty of interest, criticisms by those not involved, and accusations by defense attorneys who are trying to save their clients' bacon. AG King conducted a briefing for reporters last month in hopes that some would use the opportunity to educate themselves and the public about the major corruption cases. Unfortunately, very little of the material ever made it into the mainstream media.  In the following clip, AG King discusses both the Region III Housing case and the Rebecca Vigil-Giron case.

Monday, July 11, 2011

ID Theft Victims Don't Have to Wait for Help

Identity theft is a growing problem in New Mexico but there IS help for those who have had their lives turned upside down by criminals who have disguised themselves as the victims. Attorney General Gary King has developed a database for NM law enforcement to use to help them comply with a state law that became effective in 2009. To date, not all law enforcement agencies have registered with the AGO in order to access and use the system but we expect the number of compliant agencies to rise soon. AG King is reminding every law enforcement agency in the state that they need to register as soon as possible.  In the meantime, there are things ID theft victims can do to help resolve the predicament they find themselves in after having their identity compromised.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Pay to Play Cases #2

A lot has been said recently about the Attorney General's Office handling of the Foyqui tam cases. Most of what has been parroted has come from Mr. Foy's attorney.  For those truly interested in the rest of the story, here is what the AG's office has to say, part 2.

StateNM Reply Foy Response Partial Dismiss Vanderbilt-6!30!11

Pay to Play Cases #1

A lot has been said recently about the Attorney General's Office handling of the Foy qui tam cases. Most of what has been parroted has come from Mr. Foy's attorney.  For those truly interested in the rest of the story, here is what the AG's office has to say.

StateNM Reply Foy's Response MotParrtialDismissal Austin-6!30!2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tobacco Bill Veto Puts NM in Danger

Hello again, readers of the Rest of the AGO Story. Today's offering is a Report from the Attorney General concerning the Governor's veto of an important tobacco bill from the last legislative session.

But before we get into that, one last thing about my previous posting. I find it interesting that of the two most vocal critics of the Attorney General, one didn't bother to send a representative and the other didn't ask a single question during the AG's 90 minute detailed explanation of what his office is doing to combat corruption and pay-to-play cases. Go figure.

Tobacco Bill Veto Puts NM in Danger

On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Governor Martinez vetoed Senate Bill 397, a bill that would level the playing field for all cigarette manufacturers by requiring that they all pay their fair share of the health care costs their products cause in New Mexico. The veto was in direct contradiction to the legal advice provided to her by my office, which for years, has been in charge of maintaining the historic Master Settlement Agreement with major tobacco companies. Besides clearly putting the interests of the tobacco industry ahead of the health of New Mexico citizens, the veto enables a continuation of unequal treatment for cigarette makers who did not join the Master Settlement Agreement. The biggest benefactor of the Governor’s veto is a large cigarette manufacturing plant in New York.

It also puts at risk tens of millions of dollars that are currently flowing into the general fund and a separate escrow account. That is not the worst of it. New Mexico may be on the hook to pay back roughly $160 million that tobacco manufacturers have paid the state under terms of the MSA.  If these funds are lost, New Mexico may be forced to repay the $160 million by giving up our MSA payment of $40 million per year for the next four years.  Where will replacement funds come from? Unfortunately, increased taxes for all New Mexicans is the likely answer. I do not believe this is what the Governor intended as a result of her veto.

The real possibility of New Mexico having to repay tobacco settlement monies would be just one more step toward our state having to face a near catastrophic financial setback.

State Representative Gail Chasey, who co-chairs the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee tells us, “The legislature understands the importance of diligent enforcement to protect our permanent funds and future effective anti-smoking programs. Additionally, this legislation would have it made it very difficult for MSA participating members to prevail in claims against the state for failure to diligently enforce its escrow statutes; at the same time the bill would provide statutory support for the state to bring claim against non-participating members who fail to pay escrow."

One of Representative Chasey’s concerns, shared by my office, has already happened. MSA participating members have just filed notice with the Independent Auditor for the Tobacco Settlement funds alleging New Mexico no longer has a qualifying escrow statute. This notice appears to be triggered by the veto of Senate Bill 397. This could result in a claim against New Mexico that calls for refunding tobacco payments for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. New Mexico could be found liable for our entire payments for those years (roughly $160 million), and would then have to forfeit our payments for the next 4 years.

The bill the Governor vetoed would have cured that problem for 2012 going forward.  Now, we may have to wait until 2014 before a statutory change can be implemented for an entire calendar year to fix the problem in a way that protects New Mexico from the loss of MSA funding. We believe New Mexico is and has always been compliant with the tenets set forth in the MSA, but we must continue to fight the legal challenges brought by the tobacco manufacturers that argue to the contrary.

There is no question that all of us in New Mexico are and will be paying for the health care costs of tobacco for the foreseeable future. This bill would have ensured that these costs be shared more equitably by tobacco manufacturers and smokers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Really Stinks

Opinions are like certain parts of the human anatomy, almost everybody has one. Unfortunately, certain opinions have been proffered about Attorney General King’s handling of several important legal cases that are so far off the mark that they must be addressed publicly.

The comments and criticisms of Gary King are not only based on obvious misinformation, but they are personal attacks on the character of the man. And yes, these lies are hurtful to me. Not just because I work for the Attorney General, but because I know the person he is and the real dedication he has for serving the people of New Mexico.

I made a living for many years making fun of and criticizing politicians, most of it was just for laughs. My personal guideline though, was to try hard not to attack a person’s character. Unfortunately, sometimes I went too far and immediately regretted what I said and I apologized. Some in today’s media are a different sort. Innuendo, outright lies, and personal or corporate agendas serve as “news” and “commentary.” Individuals are publicly sliced and diced and ripped apart as if the “commentary or opinion” were some sort of perverted macabre blood sport. There seems to be an increasingly pervasive media attitude that growls, “Yeah, we ripped him good! Who else can we shred?”   

Most politicians are used to that kind of treatment though, it comes with the territory. Why they subject themselves to it I will never truly understand. I know why Attorney General King does it though. He subscribes to the theory that one person, working hard and doing the right things, can make a positive difference in the lives of the people he serves.

The bottom line, AG King will publicly address his critics’ concerns very soon. He’ll talk about what really has happened in the Vigil-Giron case, including the truth about alleged conflicts; he will discuss the AGO’s involvement in the so-called whistleblower Foy case and alleged conflicts; and to the extent allowed, anything else anyone interested in the truth wants to know. I am curious to see if those with the loudest mouths about their own twisted perceptions will be interested in the rest of the story.  Details to follow.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Former State Police Officer Going to Trial for DWI

We just received word from the Supreme Court of NM that the writ of superintending control in the Abraham Baca case was denied and the stay was lifted, meaning the case gets sent back to district court. The AG's special DWI prosecutor, Donna Bevacqua-Young will once again handle the case.  The trial will likely be set sometime over the next two months or so in district court depending on the judge's schedule.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Whistling the Conflict of Interest Tune

The phrase "Twinkie defense" comes from Twinkies, a food product high in sugar.

I just had a flashback to 1978 and the infamous "Twinkie Defense," coined by reporters during their coverage of the trial of defendant Dan White for the murders of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone.(Thanks to Wikipedia)

How does this relate to the Victor Marshall/Frank Foy allegations that AG King and his office have "irreconcilable conflicts of interest" and should be barred from any further participation in New Mexico's pay-to-play litigation? Well, it seems trendy these days to accuse the AG of having conflicts of interest whenever one of the Office's prosecutions seems to be getting too close to going to trial. You may recall that following the "Twinkie Defense" it seemed that every defense attorney in America began using similar claims in hopes of improving their cases' chances. In the years that followed there was a proliferation of defenses that blamed drugs, alcohol, hypoglycemia, space aliens, "voices in my head," or late night pizza, for causing people to commit crimes. It's the same principle here, if you don't like what the Attorney General is doing, just accuse him of having a conflict of interest.

Before we go any further, let me state that there are no conflicts of interest involved with the AGO's litigation of the cases in question and no one is getting a pass on being held responsible. The rest of the story that Mr. Marshall has not told anyone is that he's known about all of the alleged relationships for more than two years and that he only now is claiming them to be conflicts because the AG took some parts of his play-to-play litigation away from him for non-performance. 

"Victor Marshall has been totally ineffective after two years," says AG King. "I have to put the interests of the state ahead of the interests of Mr. Marshall and his attorney's fees."

But before I leave this topic, one important thing should be pointed out. No other NM Attorney General has ever been this involved in prosecuting corruption and investment fraud. It is not surprising then that some are quick to whistle the conflict of interest tune, hoping no one remembers the old "Twinkie Defense."  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DWI Prosecutions by the AG's Office...Is There a Message Here?

The long holiday weekend is over and the work-world gets back to normal, kids are out of school, weather is warming up, and we have given due recognition to our men and women in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  But for some New Mexico families, all they will remember is that they lost loved ones to drunk drivers over the three day weekend.

Last week we announced that the NM Supreme Court refused to further delay the trial of a former state police officer involved in a drunk driving death.  The defendant was a passenger in the car that struck and killed a pedestrian, the driver was convicted and sent to prison. Attorney General King's special DWI prosecutor is handling the former officer's trial on behalf of the State.

I was asked by reporters whether this signals that the AG's Office is going to begin targeting passengers in vehicles whose drivers are busted for DWI.  The short answer is no.  However, under the theory of accomplice liability, circumstances could again dictate that such a prosecution is necessary.  I tried to explain to reporters that there is no template for DWI prosecutions; that each case is evaluated on its own set of facts.  "DWI-passenger-prosecutions" are not commonplace in New Mexico so I was asked why other prosecutors around the state have not been doing so.  That is a good question, but I can only speak for our office.

Another question posed to me was whether the AGO was targeting law enforcement officers involved in drunk driving cases.  Again, no.  But we will not look the other way either.  The Attorney General, like most people, believes law enforcement should be held to a higher standard.  No one likes to see police officers involved in DWI or any other crimes but as this Attorney General has said on many occasions, he will follow the evidence no matter where it leads or to whom.

To answer my own question as to whether there is a message in the Attorney General's Office prosecution of DWI cases of all types: yes, and the message is that too many people have already died because of drunk drivers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Attorney General King Meets with Israeli Leaders

President Obama was speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was responding while the U.S. Congress listened; and during it all, AG King was in Israel discussing law enforcement and other issues with the President of Israel Simon Peres.  Read all about it here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Binge-In-A-Can" Drinks Less Potent Now

Good news to report in the continuing battle against alcoholic products popular with young and underage drinkers in New Mexico. 

Anhueser-Busch says it is lowering the alcoholic content in large containers of its popular Tilt malt beverage. The company announced that it will reformulate Tilt to contain 8% alcohol by volume, compared with the current 12% for its 24-ounce product. A-B's newly reformulated drinks are expected on store shelves soon with all products in containers over 16 ounces conforming to the new cap on alcoholic content.

Late last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began an effort to ban highly alcoholic, highly caffeinated beverages after a number of incidents involving young drinkers.

Attorney General King has long been at the forefront of efforts in New Mexico to reduce underage drinking and has involved this office in several national legal actions involving manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks and other products that target young consumers. Anhueser-Busch's actions seem like positive steps in the right direction.