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Whistle-Blower Letter Never Got to Madrid

By Jeff Jones
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Politics Writer
    Attorney General Patricia Madrid's congressional campaign says it can prove Madrid never received a whistle-blower's warning about possible corruption in the New Mexico Treasurer's Office.
    The campaign on Wednesday released a May 18 letter from the state Department of Finance and Administration saying DFA had no record of sending Madrid's office a 2002 warning about problems in the Treasurer's Office.
    The warning letter became public during the recent public corruption trial of former Treasurer Robert Vigil.
    The new letter from DFA was produced as Madrid's opponent, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., unleashed a second round of television ads accusing Madrid of doing nothing to prevent dealings in the Treasurer's Office that led to federal indictments of Vigil and his predecessor, Michael Montoya.
    "Madrid was asked to investigate, and she did nothing," says the new Wilson ad, which began airing this week. "A whistle-blower wrote Madrid a letter with details on the scheme. Still, Madrid did nothing."
    Madrid spokeswoman Heather Brewer called on the Wilson campaign to pull the TV ad, calling it untrue.
    "Heather Wilson likes to talk a lot about her integrity and her honesty. She's got an ad on the air right now that is a patent lie," Brewer said.
    Wilson campaign spokesman Enrique Carlos Knell said the campaign stands by the new TV spot.
    "The New Mexico media ... have well documented Madrid's failure to investigate corruption in New Mexico," Knell said. "We stand by our ad."
    The FBI's "Midas Touch" investigation into corruption and kickbacks at the Treasurer's Office has led to several guilty pleas, including an extortion plea from Montoya and a mail-fraud plea from a California investment adviser, Kent Nelson, who was doing business with the Treasurer's Office.
    The federal racketeering, conspiracy and extortion trial of Vigil ended in a mistrial earlier this summer, and federal prosecutors are planning to retry him next month.
    During Vigil's first trial, former State Board of Finance director Jan Goodwin— now head of the state Taxation and Revenue Department— testified she had become concerned about Nelson's work for the Treasurer's Office.
    She prepared a letter in January 2002 asking Madrid's office to investigate apparent violations of state investment policy. Goodwin said during the trial, she believed the letter, which was prepared for the signature of then-Taxation and Revenue Secretary Harold Field, was sent to Madrid's office.
    But the letter used during Vigil's trial was not stamped as being received by Madrid's office, Goodwin testified in April. The Attorney General's Office said it never got such a letter.
    The just-produced, May 18 letter from Department of Finance Administration Secretary Katherine Miller— whose agency oversees the board of finance— backs Madrid's position.
    "Our office conducted an extensive search and found no documentation in our current files or archives of such a letter being signed and sent by then-Secretary Field," the letter from Miller says.
    Miller said she wrote in response to an inquiry from an assistant attorney general in Madrid's office.
    Miller's letter doesn't say what happened to the letter drafted by Goodwin.
    Goodwin, a Democrat, unsuccessfully ran against Vigil in the Democratic primary for treasurer in 2002. The Vigil defense team characterized her complaints as sour grapes.
    Field was an appointee of Republican Gov. Gary Johnson. Miller is an appointee of Gov. Bill Richardson, who like Madrid is a Democrat. She succeeded James Jimenez, who is now Richardson's chief of staff.
    Ethics questions are playing a front-and-center role in the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District race between Wilson and Madrid— a race getting off to an early start and expected to be one of the highest-profile congressional battles in the country this year.
    Wilson last month aired the first TV ad accusing Madrid of doing nothing while corruption spread in state government. Madrid fired back with her own ad that denied Wilson's initial claims. Madrid also questioned Wilson's ethics for taking substantial campaign money from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.