Record crowds expected to descend on DC for inauguration

Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to afford getting to the inauguration. The hundreds of dollars for the flight, coupled with a few  hundred more for a hotel room, puts this trip beyond most peoples budgets this January.

And according to the Associated Press, we are missing out.

One ton each of chocolate and cheese. About 1,500 cases of beer. Eight hundred pounds of bison. 

Those are just a few items that the Marriott Wardman Park, Washingtons largest hotel, is stocking for the 49,000 meals it expects to serve Jan. 17 through Inauguration Day. The hotel is among many businesses and government agencies trying to quantify whatever they can before President-elect Barack Obamas swearing-in on Jan. 20.

Just one question: Where does one purchase 800 pounds of bison?
Of course this is all to feed and make money off the estimated 3 million to 5 million people who will be in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.

Of course, can that many people even fit in the area around the inauguration? The Champaign News-Gazette spoke to Clark McPhail, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois and author of the book The Myth of the Madding Crowd.

He puts the possible size of the crowd at 1,207,000, assuming a density of 5 square feet per standing person. Putting the density at 2.5 square feet would make it 2,115,000 people. But dont expect this number.

It is unlikely that this many people could safely or comfortably remain in such limited space for the several hours prior to and throughout the inaugural ceremony and the parade in what will likely be very chilly weather. 

Of course there is a tendency to overestimate the numbers at any event with a very large crowd. Just ask John Fleck, the Albuquerque Journal science writer, who debunked the myth of a million-person Rose Bowl Parade crowd. This is something he still gets props for, two decades after the fact.…

UBS consultant also worked for Guvs PAC « New Mexico Independent

Theres another fly caught in the web of connections between Richardsons advisers, fundraisers and the companies doing business with the state. Fred DuVal was working as a consultant for financial services company UBS, trying to win business with the state of New Mexico, while at the same time he was helping to raise funds for Richardsons ¡Si Se Puede! political action committee. According to Bloomberg News:

UBS credited DuVal & Associates, the lobbyist’s firm, with helping land an assignment to sell a portion of $1.1 billion of bonds for the New Mexico Finance Authority in April 2004, according to Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board records. That was two months after, Duval 54, was named as a director of ¡Si Se Puede! Boston 2004 Inc., a committee Richardson formed to pay Democratic presidential convention expenses, filings with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service show.

DuVal said in an interview he didn’t play a role in landing the New Mexico authority bond deals for Zurich-based UBS and he hasn’t been contacted by investigators. The firm’s bankers already had ties with the administration, he said.

According to filings with securities regulators, DuVal & Associates was paid $10,000 a month to find business for UBS in 10 states, including New Mexico.

DuVal’s firm “obtained or retained” underwriting duties on three authority bond deals in April 2004, totaling $1.1 billion, according to UBS records filed with the MSRB for the second quarter of 2004. DuVal said the bank may have credited his firm with arranging that work unnecessarily.

“There’s a tendency to over-report and be extra transparent,” he said.

DuVal is a member of the Arizona board of regents. His bio, posted on the regents Web site, reveals that he, served as senior staff to former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, where his portfolio included the Regents, and spent seven years in the Clinton Administration in Washington D.C.

And according to Bloomberg, both DuVal and UBS gave money to the Guv:

DuValdonated $1,000 to Richardson’s presidential campaign in March 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records. UBS contributed $25,000 to ¡Si Se Puede in June 2004, IRS records show.

DuVal said he played no role in that committee aside from agreeing to sign on as a director at its inception, and said there was no connection with the bond deals. He said he agreed to act as a director on the committee because he thought it may fund voter activity in his home state of Arizona. That never happened.

“My involvement was saying yes to lending my name and nothing after that,” he said.

As the Santa Fe New Mexican has reported, 

¡Sí, Se Puede! raised $336,000 from the time it was formed in February 2004 until Nov. 19, 2004 — about four months after the convention — when Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. of New Jersey contributed $10,000 to the cause. 

Richardsons then-political director Amanda Cooper was listed as executor director of the PAC. Other directors included David Smoak, a state Judicial Standards commissioner; Fred Duval, a Phoenix consultant; Denver lawyer Ted Trimpa; Washington, D.C., businessman Miguel Lausell; and banker and Richardson crony Guy Riordan. 

NM reps want more emphasis on rural issues

All three freshman congressmenfrom New Mexico signed on to a letter from fellow freshman Rep. Betsy Markey, a Colorado Democrat, to ask Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to fight for rural communities. In all, 20 of the 32 freshman Democrats signed on to the letter.

The infrastructure of rural economies is in crisis, Markey wrote. The economic recovery and reinvestment plan must invest significantly in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure in rural and other distressed communities, which will create local jobs.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of the 3rd Congressional District serves a mostly rural area. The largest city in his district is Santa Fe, which the U.S. Census says had just 72,056 people in 2006.

“The many rural communities in New Mexico need relief as our economy continues to struggle,” said Luján in a statement. “The economic recovery package should include programs and funding that help rural families and create jobs in rural communities. The rural communities in my district need assistance during these difficult economic times, and I will continue to fight to create jobs and get our rural economies back on track.”

Rep. Harry Teagues 2nd Congressional district, like Lujans, is mostly rural.

“Making sure that rural interests are represented as we develop the economic recovery and reinvestment plan is a top priority for me,” said Teague in the statement. “If we can convince leadership to make significant investments in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure in rural communities, we will create local jobs and stimulate local economies.”

As of this writing, the 1st Congressional Districts Rep. Martin Heinrich had not issued a release. He did, however, sign onto the letter.

The text of the letter, including the signatories, is included below.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker

U.S. House of Representatives

H-232, U.S. Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

January 13, 2009

Dear Madam Speaker,

As the 111th Congress begins, we of the freshmen class strongly urge you to consider the many ways in which rural communities can benefit from the national economic recovery and reinvestment plan. Rural areas are among the hardest hit in these tough economic times, and with this economic recovery plan we have an opportunity to provide necessary aid to these communities. We need to ensure that the funding streams contain formulas which make certain that money is funneled directly to rural America. If the funds go through the State, then State governments must be required to allocate equitable portions to rural areas.

The infrastructure of rural economies is in crisis. The economic recovery and reinvestment plan must invest significantly in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure in rural and other distressed communities, which will create local jobs. Among other viable options, the quality of life in rural America can be improved by expanding broadband technology, public transportation, and water and sewage systems.

Rural development funds should also be allocated to benefit local schools, police and fire stations, hospitals and community centers. The USDA reported that rural counties with high educational levels saw more rapid earnings and income growth over the past two decades than counties with lower educational levels. Failure to invest in education may offset or diminish the benefits realized through other investments. Moreover, funding for hospitals and rural and community health care centers is essential because of the enormous responsibility placed on rural family doctors. Because rural areas lack the population base to support many specialty practices, rural physicians are frequently called upon to treat patients across a wide range of specialties.

Assistance to education, health care and other programs is critical if we want all Americans to benefit from this economic recovery and reinvestment plan.

Obama Indicators | New Mexico Independent

Some of my progressive brethren have been giving President-elect Barack Obama the dickens for weeks now. They charge him with being centrist, latently Clinton-esque. They say hes falling on his face already, tripping into the wrong-headed mainstream when it comes to the changes hes promised. Obamas appointments dont please them, his views on the bailout strike them as Bush-like, they question his environmental commitment, and they want him to be more aggressive about the Middle East.

The criticism began almost immediately after his election. Most of it though, I think, is in the spirit of eternal vigilance, trying to push a good man to become even better. And thats an honorable role. It should be pursued energetically.

As Jim Hightower recently wrote, People really do want change — not as a political buzzword, but as a fundamental matter of national direction and policy. We must stand up and speak out on every move the insiders make; we must propose and propel progressive ideas and ideals; and we must certainly expose and vigorously oppose any capitulations he may be pressured to make to the corporate powers.

Nevertheless, I remain, for the moment, in a state of enthused quiescence. The America we love has a chance to be reborn. For now, that is more than enough.

I do have a short list of Obama indicators that I believe will give me some sense of how that rebirth is really going. They include:

  1. The effectiveness of Obamas plans for small business
  2. His seriousness about redoing solar and wind tax credits 
  3. His long-term view of repealing the Bush tax cuts for the super rich 
  4. His ability to make Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs own up to their history of toxic waste dumping and start a serious cleanup 
  5. His toughness in requiring bailed-out U.S. auto makers to produce cars that frugal Americans will buy
  6. His risk-taking abilities in putting a moratorium on in-situ uranium leaching among the Navajos and shale oil extraction in the Rockies, with their imminent danger to drinking water
  7. His commitment to enforce the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, stopping warrantless surveillance of American citizens and restoring due process for everyone
  8. His talent and tenacity in working to elevate political discourse and restore civility and reason to Americas ongoing, institutionalized argument among the parties
  9. The details of his efforts to end torture and other police-state tactics in America, drummed up in the war on terrorism

If he does well on all of these fronts, that will indicate to me hes moving in the right direction, no matter what the prevailing opinion might be.

Let me take just two of these issues — New Mexicos national labs and shale oil — and explore their connection to a rebirth of the America we love.

Its well-documented now, by the New Mexico Environment Department and others, that Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories have an intolerably bad record of irresponsible toxic waste dumping. In fact, the whole Department of Energy nuclear lab complex across America, from Hanford in Washington state to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, is a festering mess of toxicity. The Obama administration would take a giant leap into reality by enlisting New Mexicos senators, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, to help design a transformation of New Mexicos national labs with independent citizen oversight. First, the labs would have to stop fudging, dodging, and lying about their toxic waste history and clean up their own mess. When theyve demonstrated that it can be done, the Obama administration could assign them the task of spearheading the clean up of all the waste for entire …

An update on drilling « New Mexico Independent

A drill rig near the town of Pinedale, Wyo. (Photo by Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

A drill rig near the town of Pinedale, Wyo. (Photo by Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

In November, 2008, ProPublica investigated the possibility that natural gas drilling is contaminating our water supply. At issue is a process pioneered by Halliburton called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals several miles underground to break apart rock and release the gas. The process has been considered safe since a 2004 study (PDF) by the Environmental Protection Agency found that it posed no risk to drinking water. After that study, Congress even exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Today fracturing is used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States.

Over the last few years, however, a series of contamination incidents have raised questions about that EPA study and ignited a debate over whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing may threaten the nations increasingly precious drinking water supply.

An investigation by ProPublica, which visited Sublette County and six other contamination sites, found that water contamination in drilling areas around the country is far more prevalent than the EPA asserts. Our investigation also found that the 2004 EPA study was not as conclusive as it claimed to be. A close review shows that the body of the study contains damaging information that wasnt mentioned in the conclusion. In fact, the study foreshadowed many of the problems now being reported across the country.

Since then, ProPublicas reporting has come under fire, but it stands by the original story. Heres an update:

In his Jan. 10 column in the Rocky Mountain News, Independence Institute analyst David Kopel significantly misstates the record on the environmental risks posed by the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

Using carefully culled quotations and selected statistics, Kopel asserts indisputably false facts in ProPublicas reporting on this subject.

In fact, it is his column that is indisputably misleading.

Kopel quoted a press spokesperson for New Mexico as saying the state had never compiled numbers about groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing the actual forcing of water into rock. He cites a similar remark from a Colorado official.

These are classic examples of framing a precisely tailored question to elicit a misleading response, much as the tobacco industry used to ask scientists whether smoking could be conclusively identified as a cause of lung cancer.

Here are the facts.

State and federal officials have identified what several said was an alarming pattern of water contamination in and around drilling sites across the country. Until ProPublica began asking questions last year, few environmental officials had examined what role hydraulic fracturing may have played in this contamination.

Colorado records (PDF) cite some 1,500 cases from 2003 to 2008 in which drilling companies reported a hazardous spill, with 300 instances leading to what state officials determined was a measurable impact on water supplies. A tally of Colorado data was performed by the advocacy group Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

In New Mexico, Mark Fesmire, director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Division, said his state had documented some 800 cases in which water has been contaminated by oil and gas operations, half of them from waste pits that had leaked chemicals into the ground.

As ProPublica has reported, its difficult for scientists to say which aspect of drilling the hydraulic fracturing, the waste water that accidentally flows into the ground, the leaky pits of drilling fluids or the spills from truckloads of chemicals transported to and from the site causes such pollution.

Heres why: The industry has adamantly refused to make public the ingredients of the chemicals …

Understanding the GRIPgate scandal | New Mexico Independent

(Photo by Steve Wampler)

(Photo by Steve Wampler)

The concept of pay-to-play has grabbed the attention of New Mexicans since Gov. Bill Richardson’s quest to be Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration was derailed by a federal investigation.

That investigation is centered on whether or not Richardson or his staff instructed the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA) to give a couple of lucrative state contracts to CDR Financial Inc., a financial investments advisory firm, after several large donations were made by the firm to two of Richardson’s political action committees in 2003 and 2004.

CDR contributed a total of $100,000 to the PACs but wasn’t alone. According to The Albuquerque Journal, 20 financial companies, advisers, lawyers and agents made at least $12 million for work they did on Gov. Richardsons Investment Partnership (GRIP) in 2004. Of that, Bloomberg reports that CDR raked in $1.48 million for advising the NMFA on interest-rate swaps and restructuring escrow funds for $1.6 billion of transportation bonds issued by the agency.

These reports illuminate the heart of the scandal that the New Mexico Independent has dubbed GRIPgate: the complex process of issuing government bonds that is difficult for outsiders to understand and perhaps easier for insiders to manipulate.

What investigators want to know is, did the Richardson administration dole out investment consulting fees (play) in return for political contributions (pay). What New Mexico taxpayers need to know is, did insiders game the process to benefit themselves with the publics money? And, if so, what can be done about it?

“People focus on the pay-to-play, but thats chump change compared to the money were talking about,” Sherman Golden, a municipal bond expert told NMI. “Any time a bond issue is happening, a big question is whether or not the bidding was fair, unbiased, at market rate, or was it rigged?”

The complex bond market

The federal investigation in New Mexico stems from a larger national probe into possible bid-rigging in the municipal bond market.

The issue is whether financial advisory companies such as CDR rigged the bidding process for banks wanting to provide investment services for government bond issues, so that banks bid lower than they would have, had the process been competitive, and knew ahead of time which bank would win. The resulting increased profits to the banks would have allowed for kickbacks to the financial advisory firm that arranged the whole thing.

According to a recent report in The New York Times, the financial advisers being investigated referred to the rigged bids as sloppy bids:

the evidence amassed so far included tape-recorded phone calls, in which the independent specialists who are supposed to help local governments pick their bankers could be heard telling bankers: “We want you to bid on this deal, but you’re not going to get it — you’re going to get the next one. We want you to submit a sloppy bid.” Unsuspecting governments then accepted the recommended bids, and paid too much

Since the investigation began, about 20 cities, counties, and school districts including Los Angeles have sued CDR along with a number of big multi-state banks, alleging that the firm got kickbacks from the banks for steering public bond business their way.

Along with CDR, one of the banks in the national investigation is also central to the story in New Mexicos specific investigation: JP Morgan Chase. The bank paid $269,000 to a Denver-based political consultant named Michael Stratton to lobby the NMFA for business. Stratton also lobbied on behalf of CDR. JP Morgan was a primary underwriter of the GRIP bonds. And Stratton is one of Richardsons buddies he arranged tickets to …

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

David Harris, a former Richardson adviser at the center of the GRIPgate investigation, received a $10,000 raise and $50,000 in deferred compensation from UNM, just months before the university announced a hiring freeze, the Albuquerque Journal reports today. Harris, the former executive director of the New Mexico Finance Authority, is now vice president and chief financial officer at the university. Hell make $428,000 this year. Not that theres anything wrong with that. But as the Journal reports, Its going to be received extremely badly, Im fairly certain, UNM biology professor Tim Lowrey said. He said faculty and staff are committed to doing their share to deal with the economic crisis but are demoralized when they see administrators getting such perks.

Southern New Mexico State Representative Dub Williams resigned yesterday. The move comes as Williams would have traveled to Santa Fe to begin his eighth two-year term. Williams wife has had pneumonia for the last few months and she told the Alamogordo Daily Times that although she is doing better, There was no way we could go to Santa Fe. According to the Times, Williams asked that county commissioners in Otero and Lincoln counties consider nominating Zack Cook, a Ruidoso lawyer and Capitan village attorney, to fill the vacancy created by his resignation. The commissioners will send their recommendations to Gov. Bill Richardson to name a successor.

In Farmington, the City Council voted last night to allow ConocoPhillips to drill a huge gas well, and theyre going to allow the company to exceed maximum noise levels while doing so, but they said Oh, hell no (or something like that) when the gas company asked to be allowed to drill 24-hours a day. The drilling is expected to take three days, says the Farmington Daily Times.

In other news, well, dont even read the New York Times today. Its all bad. Economy, war, torture, tax returns, vanity and misery. All on the front page. Pretty much the same deal at the Washington Post, except a Post columnist says, Its Ugly, But the Bailout is Working. Some intriguing logic in that story. And speaking of ugly, whatever you do, dont read this story on Talking Points Memo about former DOJ official John Tanner. It will ruin your day.

Oh boy, you guys are going to need a unicorn chaser now, huh? Well.lets see, some kids in Clovis found a dinosaur.…

The Associated Press sad, new beat

Last week I told you how surprised I was when an Associated Press “analysis” piece published locally in the Albuquerque Journal on Aug. 24 resembled a John McCain press release. It was like finding out that your churchy maiden aunt pushes cocaine  the AP, sometimes dull, was above suspicion, its stock in trade the straight scoop. This week, after hours of googling, I can report the joke’s on me  I was ignorant. I had no idea there’s a new AP.

Here is some of what I have learned after visiting Editor and Publisher, the Huffington Post, the Washington Monthly and, most importantly, Politico.com.

First, it’s not just about Ron Fournier, author of the questionable story. It’s also about the reporters in the AP Washington bureau he leads.

Secondly  and here’s where I was way out of touch  their stories reflect AP’s considered new approach to political reporting.

Specifically, the old conventions of news writing no longer apply. Reporters may call it as they see it, personally, with emotion. Which may explain, from a Fournier lead paragraph in January 2008, “Obama is bordering on arrogance.”

Back on July 14, Michael Calderone reported the AP turnabout at length for Politico.com. He wrote that Fournier rejects the old, balanced approach because that’s “what prevented the media from challenging the Bush administration more aggressively on the Iraq war and other issues.”

“Others warn,” Calderone continues, “that what Fournier and other proponents see as truth-telling can easily bleed into opinionizing exactly the opposite of the AP’s mission of ‘delivering fast, unbiased news’.”

Of the Fournier approach, James Taranto, Wall Street Journal Best of the Web columnist and a frequent critic of what he sees as AP’s liberal bias, told Calderone, “It seems to me there’s a conscious effort to inject bias in the story, though obviously Fournier would see it differently. It’s a conscious move in the direction of advocacy journalism.”

Significantly, the AP’s big brass is defending Fournier against criticism from liberal blogs.

So there we have it. What I stumbled on is bigger than bias, it’s the Associated Press’s reinvention of self.

Understand  I don’t think Fournier is entirely wrong. Journalism does need to improve upon that old “objective” model. “He said, she said” doesn’t help readers sort out truths. In fact, to the extent we pretend to objectivity (impossible, except for the gods), we distort reality. But what are the new rules?

The Fournier “analysis” that grabbed my attention passed off opinion as fact. And AP writer Tom Raum adduced as evidence that McCain and the President aren’t very close on policy  get this  that McCain avoids Bush on the campaign trail. Silliness. (The story, in the Albuquerque Journal August 22, cited some real differences, too.)

And the AP’s new beat goes on. After Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, which most commentators (including neo-con Bill Kristol and conservative Pat Buchanan) agreed contained specifics, AP’s Charles Babington wrote it was lacking in specifics.

So where does this leave us? Newspapers and broadcasters can and do select what they use from the Associated Press. They can edit, too. So the buck stops with the editors at our local news businesses. I guess they know what I didn’t, that they can no longer assume AP copy is the straight scoop.

How unfortunate! Thanks to the Web and cable, we have a surfeit of opinion. What’s in short supply is what AP seems to be turning its back on  trustworthy basic information. Makes me sad. Probably makes a lot of AP staffers sad, too.…

Well, Udall isnt at the VERY bottom of seniority

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

While there will still be a massive drop in seniority from Pete Domenici, who served six terms in the Senate, to freshman Sen. Tom Udall, at least Udall will not have to start at the very bottom of the pecking order.

According to CQ Politics, Tom Udall will only trail his Colorado cousin Mark Udall in terms of seniority — among freshmen, at least. Seven new freshman senators were sworn in on Tuesday with a few more on the way.

The Senate refused to seat Roland Burris as Illinois junior senator Tuesday morning, and the fate of the Minnesota Senate seat still has not been resolved. Add to that Vice President-elect Joe Bidens Delaware Senate seat (which he will resign in the next few weeks) and the seats of Secretary of Interior-designate Ken Salazar and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, and there will be a total of 14 new senators. New Mexicos Udall will be ahead of 12 of them in seniority.

Why does seniority matter? Legislators in both houses with more seniority are generally given better committee assignments and, usually, lawmakers with more seniority are given the committee chairmanship. A recent exception is Rep. Henry Waxman, who successfully wrested control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from his fellow Democrat, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, late last year.

Other benefits include having a desk closer to the floor of the Senate and a better office when those higher up the seniority food chain vacate their offices. You can ask Udall about his first office in Washington, D.C., when he was first elected to Congress. Or you can ask freshman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan — he was given the same office this year.

Udalls seniority is a far cry from Pete Domenicis, however. Domenici would have been the most senior Republican in the Senate, had he decided to run for another term as senator. And had he won, of course.

In fact, Domenici would have been fourth behind just Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in terms of seniority had he retained his seat.

But it could be worse for Udall. If the Minnesota case drags on for months as expected, Al Franken will come into the Senate as 100th in seniority out of 100 senators.

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Balderas asks prosecutors to look at housing audit

State Auditor Hector Balderas has completed and is asking prosecutors to take a look at a long-awaited special audit of the state’s scandal-plagued regional housing authority system.

Balderas is also releasing the special audit and other reports to the public today. The move follows a two-year investigation that began when the state Legislature asked him to take a look at the state’s affordable housing system in early 2007. Balderas says his work confirms previous reports detailing widespread problems with the system.“In my opinion, the five regional housing authorities audited by my office were plagued by weak internal controls and a lack of adequate oversight,” Balderas said today in a news release. “The poorly managed fiscal operations were a colossal failure to low-income citizens and the state of New Mexico.”

The attorney general’s office has already been investigating — most of the housing authority system collapsed in 2006 — and plans to take its case before a grand jury next month. How the auditor’s work might affect the attorney general’s plans is not immediately clear, and the AG’s office does not comment on or even confirm grand jury proceedings because they are secret.

In addition to referring the audit to the AG, Balderas is referring it to the FBI.

The scandal began when one of seven regional housing authorities in New Mexico, the Albuquerque-based Region III authority, defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state in mid-2006. Soon thereafter, the State Investment Council released a report that found widespread misuse of the bond money, which was supposed to be spent on houses. Instead, almost $600,000 went to former Region III Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos as salary and benefits. Almost $700,000 was loaned to the Las Cruces-based Region VII authority, which did little to provide affordable housing and has since shut down.

Perhaps the most intriguing misuse of money revealed in the investment council report was a $300,000 loan the housing authority made to a private company owned by Gallegos under the guise of purchasing more than 30 lots in Las Cruces lots that had already been purchased by the authority.

In 2007, the Legislature gave Balderas’ office $200,000 to perform an accounting of all Region III assets, because the situation was such a mess that it was difficult to even determine what had happened and how much was lost. Last year, the Legislature extended the appropriation and asked Balderas to conduct a special audit.

Balderas’ office had to conduct 15 financial audits for the regional authorities that had never been completed before conducting its larger, special audit of the system.

In today’s news release, Balderas said his office found that two of the seven regional authorities are current with their audits and fiscally sound. He referred in the release to the other five, including regions III and VII, as “troubled.” Most have shut down since the scandal began.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov Diane Denish and Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, are pushing a bill in the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday that would reform the housing authority system to restructure them and expand oversight.

NMI hopes to have a more detailed report on the audit findings later today.…