As a cub reporter in Northern New Mexico, I got stuck with the job of rooting through the flight logs for the state planes, looking for trips by Bill Richardson. He loved taking those planes--to San Francisco, opening day at the racetrack, and a personal favorite, Los Alamos--which is about the same distance from the Governor's mansion as the Santa Fe airport. While I was there, he also convinced the state to purchase a new jet for luxury travel. I've been on it (on the ground) and it's pretty swank.
None of this, I should note, is illegal. But it's how he liked to live: much larger than life. And as much as people in New Mexico were frustrated by his tendency to flit off to North Korea while the state school system remained one of the worst in the country and my little town boasted the highest heroin overdose rate nationwide, they also loved having such a heavy at the top.
It's a kind of Huey Long approach to governing tends to breed a touch 'o the graft. New Mexico's had its share of indicted politicians in the last few years. And I can't say it was shocking to find out Richardson now has the long eye of the law pointed his way. He may have done nothing wrong, but when your politicians live like kings, you can't expect them to not rule like one.
Of course, like with Chicago, it's hard to stay very clean and actually
get anything done. Politicians there must keep somewhat corrupt
company, since that's the leadership in many of the small towns and
counties throughout the state. The man he has his arm around in the
photo above is a well-connected former
county commissioner who just so happens to have been involved in the
kidnapping of an AP reporter and a couple of cops in a raid on a
courthouse and was once busted with a trunk full of pot (though that
might have been a frame job by another shady political patron,
according to local legend).
We didn't get along all that well, Richardson hates the paper I worked for, but he's also managed to get some much needed federal dollars for the state and it would be a shame to see him go.