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Domenici snubbed; Bingaman to think tank

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Former Sen. Pete Domenici has gone from longtime friend to he-who-must-not-be-named in U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s book.

Domenici, a Republican who represented New Mexico for 36 years before retiring in 2009, is on the outs with his Democratic colleague from Nevada after disclosing in February that he fathered a son out of wedlock in the 1970s with Michelle Laxalt, the daughter of then-Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada.

Laxalt was 24 at the time; Domenici – now 81 – was 46.

Reid raised the changed relationship in a recent interview with Nevada’s Las Vegas Review-Journal while discussing mental health legislation and Domenici’s involvement on the issue.

“I don’t mention Domenici’s name anymore because of what he did to Michelle Laxalt,” Reid told the paper in the interview, published May 6.

The Senate’s top Democrat, who served alongside Domenici for 22 years, went on to say he declined to see the longtime New Mexico senator when Domenici recently attempted to schedule a visit.

“I wouldn’t let him come and see me,” Reid told the Review-Journal.

Domenici, in a phone interview on Wednesday, told me he was surprised by the rebuke. “I’m surprised he had anything to say about this matter that happened 35 years ago,” he said.

Later, Domenici called back to say he hoped the relationship with Reid might one day be mended.

“I have occasion to call him every now and then. Harry has been a longtime friend,” Domenici said. “I’m sorry for what happened 35 years ago, and I look forward to any opportunity to talk with him about these matters.”

Domenici and Michelle Laxalt disclosed their relationship to the Journal in February, with Domenici saying he had kept his fathering of the son a secret for decades because Laxalt had asked him to.

Domenici and Laxalt said they made the disclosure because they believed someone else intended to go public with the secret to smear Domenici.

Think tank time: Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman has been tapped to help steer a highly regarded research center based in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe Institute on Wednesday said the New Mexico Democrat, who has kept his home in Santa Fe, was elected to serve a three-year term on the nonprofit’s board of trustees.

The institute describes itself as dedicated to interdisciplinary research into factors “that underlie many of the most profound problems facing science and society today.”

The 29-member board of trustees oversees the institute’s operation and finances.

Bingaman, who retired from the U.S. Senate earlier this year after 30 years, has also accepted a fellowship with the Stanford Law School’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

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