How do you measure a state's degree of corruption? Is it the number of indictments and convictions of public officials for fraud-related charges? Anecdotal evidence of the well-connected receiving kid gloves treatment from the criminal justice system? A general disdain for common folks in favor of the wealthy and powerful?
All of these examples suggest abuse of power, which can be hard to quantify but easy to intuit. Take, for example, the original Pizzagate, a well-known story of how Gov. Susana Martinez tried using her authority to bully a Santa Fe hotel receptionist and dispatcher into revealing who called in a noise complaint on her boozy party. (Listen to the slurred conversation here.)
On its face, no laws seemed to have been broken. Santa Fe police didn't even file a report, claiming Martinez' title had nothing to do with it. Yet the incident was clearly wrong and resulted in a lot of scorn heaped upon Martinez, who later apologized.
Similar high-profile instances of power abuse have been staples of New Mexico news coverage over the last couple of decades, and somebody decided to put them all in one place—specifically, a NCAA basketball-styled tournament bracket.
Earlier this week the person or group behind the anonymous Twitter account @Old_Man_Gloom, an homage to the 50-foot tall effigy of Zozobra symbolizing the communities' glooms and set ablaze annually by the Kiwanis Club, created a scandal bracket with 14 examples of not just political fraud in New Mexico but also institutional neglect, cultural grift, actual theft and irresponsible publishing, among others.
(Scott Wiseman, the art show curator for the ZozoFest event taking place next weekend at the Santa Fe Mall, tells SFR that the person or group behind the Twitter account isn't officially associated with the Kiwanis Club.)
The bracket is in keeping with @Old_Man_Gloom's public-facing persona since the account was launched in 2009: Lots of artillery lobbed at New Mexico's powerful, its strongly held beliefs, its institutions and, indeed, its actual existence.
It's part parody, part incisive, biting social and political commentary, part troll, part Greek chorus—all tweeted out anonymously. The account maintains a year-round presence, but ramps up in the months leading up to the annual torching of the real Zozobra.
The first round of the account's tournament, which took place in a Twitter poll, saw Martinez' Pizzagate pull far ahead of former Eddy County Magistrate Henry Castañeada using his state email account to solicit donations, as well as to accept and forward "offensive, degrading, pornographic, racist and sexist" messages.
There was a far closer competition between the scandal involving $700,000 in misspent funds at the La Promesa Early Learning Center in Albuquerque and the Human Services Department systematically doctoring people's applications for SNAP food assistance to avoid federal penalties. The SNAP scandal won in the end, to which we at SFR would say: Yeah, obviously! And it better damned well make it into the finals.
So, who's behind this admittedly smart scandal bracket?
SFR sent a pair of Twitter direct messages to the account, asking its operators to reveal their true identity. No dice. Why, then, do they prefer to remain anonymous? The person or group behind the account would not comment on the record but summarized the Zozobra persona on Twitter thusly: “A malignant narcissist who is more motivated by his hatred of New Mexico than by any political creed.” Cool, whatever.
Whoever it is, the bracket is a great aggregation of political reporting in the public interest, it’s funny, it shows a deep understanding of New Mexico corruption, it spares no partisan of any stripe, and it would adapt well to a syllabus for any government teachers reading this.