First we lose cockfighting. Now this. Our culture and customs are under attack. Somebody needs to talk with Attorney General Gary King, somebody he might listen to. And they need to sit him down pronto.
What’s wrong with the man? Sure, he’s New Mexico’s top crime fighter. Sure, ferreting out weasels in state government is supposed to be his job. But those are worn-out words every AG tosses around for the cameras. For the cameras, Gary! Problem with King, the guy seems to believe it.
Maybe it’s not his fault. He’s only been in office six months. We could try giving him the benefit of the doubt. But maybe not, because he’s already crossed the line. He’s actually filed criminal charges against the wife of State Rep. Richard Vigil, a Las Vegas school board member, and two other cads for swindling public education funds intended for bilingual programs. King has charged them with misusing the money to hire Big Al Hurricane and his band for a late-night boozefest, and buying massage chairs, stereos, a plasma TV and an electronic billboard—all of which vanished when investigators started looking.
And here’s where Gary King has really gone and done it: He’s prosecuting Democrats, his own people, his tribe, his clansmen, blood of his blood.
Didn’t he get the memo? Democratic AGs don’t prosecute Democratic corruption. Not in this state, anyway. We’ve got traditions, you know.
He needs to do lunch with people who had the job before him, maybe ask some Legislative leaders to join him for martinis at the Bull Ring. He could learn something from legislators who think Robert Vigil was vindicated when he was convicted of only one federal felony, or who still insist Manny Aragon has always been a man of honor and integrity.
Look, Mr. King, here’s how you handle public corruption in this state: Say someone comes forward with evidence one of our officials has too much Stickum on his fingers. You announce an investigation, grab all the documents that could get the guy in trouble, lock them away in your office and declare the investigation “ongoing.”
Better yet, you empanel a grand jury. That shows you’re really serious, gets you good press, but nobody can ever know what you’re doing in there behind closed doors. You send out subpoenas, make people think the wheels of justice are rolling forward, issue updates when you feel like it, then let the thing die out. Blame it on the grand jurors who wouldn’t issue charges, even though you controlled what they saw and heard.
The absolute last thing you do is work with the feds. Seriously. If the feds file charges with the help of cooperating witnesses, you go after their witnesses. You hit them with state charges to mess with their heads and screw up their testimony. You snipe at the feds in the media. You don’t let your people talk to their people.
That’s another thing Gary King’s already got wrong. He’s helping the feds on the courthouse corruption cases and other “matters”—a nice way to describe turning on the people who have made New Mexico what it is today.
Patricia Madrid used the excuse that her office didn’t have the resources to go after big-time corruption. You’d think that would be good enough for Gary King. But no. Mr. Clean Jeans has to go and build a special unit of prosecutors and investigators, something he calls the “Government Accountability Division.” He’s already got two prosecutors and eight investigators on board, with more muscle on the way. He’s asking the Legislature to give him first crack at public corruption anywhere in the state, meaning he won’t have to wait for local DAs to step back. There’s a word for that: proactive. Last thing we need, a proactive AG fighting for clean government.
Gary King is out of control. I called his office to demand an explanation. “Fighting public corruption is very important to Gary,” says Phil Sisneros, King’s spokesperson. Not good, not good at all. That’s a line you use before you’re elected. But King won’t let it drop.
Gary King is blind to the damage he might do to this state if he doesn’t wise up. We have little enough to boast about in New Mexico. We’re at the bottom of so many lists. The worst in this, the poorest in that. But when it comes to corruption, we’ve always been No. 1. Why can’t Gary King just leave well enough alone?