Martinez bets big with public money and big donor takes the purse - ProgressNow New Mexico
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Martinez bets big with public money and big donor takes the purse

Martinez's "Super Committee" Gives Commission Just One Option to Approve
Governor's Handcrafted Process Gives 25 Year Multimillion Dollar Contract to Big Donor

Albuquerque, New Mexico -- The State Fair Commission's "surprise" vote this afternoon to award a big Martinez donor a multimillion dollar state contract was no surprise at all to members of the public and State Fair Commission.  

As late as this morning, commissioners were cited in the Albuquerque Journal questioning whether the public notice for a "workshop" to discuss the procurement process was improperly posted to allow for a possible vote today.
With time running out, the commission took a squeaker 4-3 vote on the only proposal they had been given, bringing to a successful conclusion the result of the governor's hand-designed process to award the state's most lucrative and long-term contracts to major out-of-state political donors who already owe the state millions in unfulfilled promises from previous contracts.  

The Downs proposal also reportedly offered to pay the state substantially less over its 25 year life than the only other proposal submitted. The governor does not normally personally appoint proposal review members for independent state commissions. 

Placing millions in public money on the line, Martinez made sure the odds favored one of her biggest political donors. 

"When the State Fair Commission votes could not be assured to vote her way, the governor created a new 'super commission' of three personally selected reviewers to limit the State Fair Commission's choice to just one bidder: one that gave $70,000 to her campaign just last year," says Patrick Davis, Executive Director of Progress New Mexico. 

"Everyone knows that the house stacks the odds when it comes to casinos, but she is playing with public money and this is no game."

Governor Susana Martinez ran promising to end "pay-to-play" and to be totally transparent when dealing with public money. But when elected, she hand selected the State Fair Manager and all three "super committee" members who negotiated behind closed doors on a twenty-five year multimillion dollar renewal of the Expo New Mexico lease to the Downs at Albuquerque despite a recent audit showing the Downs is millions of dollars in arrears on payments to the state in its current lease. 

Previous disclosures by the Downs show revenues of as much as $28 million a year generated by the lease. 

Follow the timeline and judge for yourself:
2010:  
March 2011:  June 2011: 
  • Mourning announces that he has independently negotiated a new lease extension with the Downs without public input. The legality of lease extension is called into question since contracts are not permitted to extend beyond 25 years.
  • In response to criticism over the back room lease negotiations, Governor Susana Martinez promises to place the Downs lease on the call for the Special Session so that the public and legislature can weigh in.  She never does. 
  • Governor Martinez appoints a "super committee" of three hand-picked reviewers to select one bid in a closed-door process with Mourning. 
  • Mourning hastily issues a 30-day Request for Proposals for a twenty-five year multimillion dollar plan to lease portions of the Expo.
August 2011:   October 2011: 
  • An audit of the fair shows that "The state fair's lease with the Downs at Albuquerque "is fraught with problems," the evaluation reported, pointing out the Downs is underpaying its electricity bill; is not meeting its obligation to provide $420,000 in promotional events, marketing and advertising; and owes the state fair $215,000 in revenue from horse racing." 
  • The "super committee" begins secret negotiations a winner they selected, but they refuse to tell the public who it is.  Secret negotiations with the Downs, Mourning and Downs attorney Pat Rogers, a well-known Republican political operative notably sued for allegations of working to suppress Democratic turnout, begin. 
November 2011:  
  • (Nov. 9): The State Fair Commission meets and delays a vote after members and the public state that they have never seen the evaluation process or actual proposal. They agree to come back on November 21 to host a "public workshop" to review the proposals and to vote in December on the proposal. 
  • (Nov. 11): The public notice of meeting includes notice of the "workshop" and states that the commission may vote on the proposal, an item not included in the meeting notes from the week before.  Commissioners cry foul.  The commission, a majority of its members appointed by Martinez, votes 4-3 to give the Louisiana-owned Martinez donor group the lease. 
The next stop in the lease approval process is the State Board of Finance, which Martinez chairs. She also appoints four of the seven members. 
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