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Gov. Susana Martinez has repeatedly refused to respond to SFR’s inquiries.
Alexa Schirtzinger

Legistlative Committee to Discuss Controversial Racino Deal

Lawmakers want governor's presence at Rules Committee hearing to discuss racino contract under federal scrutiny.

February 5, 2014, 11:30 am
By Justin Horwath
The state Senate's Rules Committee wants Gov. Susana Martinez and her top political advisor to appear at a hearing to discuss a racino deal that's been subject to scrutiny from state and federal investigators, the committee chairwoman wrote in letters this week.

The State Fair Commission and the state Board of Finance, both comprised of Martinez appointees, agreed in 2011 to let the Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack and Casino lease the state fairgrounds for another 25 years. The deal, estimated to bring in an billion in revenue, has drawn attention from state Attorney General Gary King along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Louisiana-based owners of the Downs and their entities have contributed at least $80,000 to Martinez and her political action committee, leading critics of the deal to call it a pay-to-play arrangement that harkens back to state contracts doled out by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Citing that the lease was vetted through a competitive bid, the Martinez administration has maintained the deal was above board.

And now it appears the deal will also be the subject of scrutiny by the Democratic-controlled Senate Rules Committee.

State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, sent letters on Feb. 4 to Martinez, her political advisor Jay McCleskey, State Fair Manager Dan Mourning and State Auditor Hector Balderas, asking them to appear before the committee in its consideration of three Martinez appointments to the State Fair Commission. 

Lopez is also seeking the Democratic Party nomination to take on Martinez in the November gubernatorial election. Martinez has charged that Lopez is playing politics through the confirmation process of her committee. 

"State Senators on the Rules Committee intend to discuss recent affairs regarding the State Fair Commission, its role as a policy making board and interaction with Fair Management, the State Auditor's recently completed audit, and media accounts related to the awarding of the long-term horse racing and casino lease to the Downs at Albuquerque," reads Lopez' letters.

It's not a surprise that Sen. Lopez, a candidate for governor, is playing political games while more than 100 people are waiting for her to act on their confirmations. The Governor is focused on passing a budget, creating jobs, and reforming education, while Linda Lopez is wasting time and taxpayer dollars on yet another petty political sideshow.


The hearing is scheduled to begin at 8:30 am on Feb. 10 in Room 321 at the State Capitol, reads the letters.

Feb. 5 update: Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell forwarded SFR the following statement:

It's not a surprise that Sen. Lopez, a candidate for governor, is playing political games while more than 100 people are waiting for her to act on their confirmations. The Governor is focused on passing a budget, creating jobs, and reforming education, while Linda Lopez is wasting time and taxpayer dollars on yet another petty political sideshow.



It's not a surprise that Sen. Lopez, a candidate for governor, is playing political games while more than 100 people are waiting for her to act on their confirmations. The Governor is focused on passing a budget, creating jobs, and reforming education, while Linda Lopez is wasting time and taxpayer dollars on yet another petty political sideshow.

 

 

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