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Thursday, September 22, 2005

I saw the news today, oh boy

Although I am a "reader" I understand why people, particularly in times like these, watch TV news. For one, it's more visceral and up-to-the-minute; for another, it seems to feed a less-than-savory human desire for the squalid, for adrenalin, car-crash-watcher tendencies that must be rooted in some sort of biological necessity, although our current culture is so far removed from our early days on this planet that a greater mind than mine will have to tackle the relationship between foraging for food in the elements and Nancy Grace.
Anyway, the coverage of the emergency landing of the Jet Blue plane whose landing gear was cockeyed was harrowing, made more so by the commentaries and various TV anchors urging prayer amongst viewers with barely-hidden glea over the events of the evening (a possible plane crash! A level 5 hurricane! A tornado sweeping Minnesota! Paula Zahn seeemed almost unable to fathom THREE news stories at once! I can't believe I'm in the same genre as these people). I kept thinking of the Don Henley song, "Dirty Laundry" and was, yet, unable to switch off the TV.
Well, back here in the quiet print world, I have been attempting to read and re-read the stories on the NM Treasurer and Ex-Treasurer's racketeering charges. And then, as one might imagine, started looking back to find things SFR had written on these folks in the past and make sure I hadn't endorsed any of them in the recent past (you'd think I'd remember but it's kinda stunning how many endorsements I've written over the years; sometimes I lose track).
Anyhow, as regular SFR readers know, we do a series called "Pop Quiz" where we call up candidates and ask them questions and make them answer on the spot without any time for research (hence the "pop"). So I found the one we did before the June, 2002 primary election for treasurer, which I thought was interesting. Here it is (and this is copyrighted material from SFR):

Pop Quiz
Democratic Candidates for State Treasurer

1. How much money does the state have in reserve?
2. How are those funds invested?
3. Three days after 9.11, State Treasurer Michael Montoya made a controversial play with state funds. How much money was involved and what did he do?
4. Do you support that move?

Jan Goodwin
Director, New Mexico Board of Finance; former deputy director, state investment office; past president, Santa Fe County League of Women Voters
1. $400 million
2. Agency paper, overnight investments, repurchase agreements, certificates of deposit and corporate bonds.
3. He put $400 million from the overnight repurchase agreement into a mutual fund.
4. No. That was an illegal investment. He used a broker, which was unecessary, and the broker wasn’t under contract with the state. When you’re dealing with state money, legality, safety, liquidity, and return are all to be considered, in that order. That did not happen.

Ken Sanchez
Bernalillo County commissioner; vice-president of operations for family-owned tax/accounting firm; past chair of Bernalillo County Board of Finance, member of National Association of Counties Taxation and Finance Committee

1. The state probably should have close to approximately I would think $5 million.
2. US government obligation bonds, corporate bonds, bank savings and loans, associations or credit deposits, commercial paper and asset-backed obligations.
3. The amount of money that was paid out in commissions was approximately $88,000 and it was an overnight investment with mutual funds. The approximate dollar amount I don’t recall; I think maybe it was $110 million.
4. No. If we would have a chief financial officer working between the legislative finance commitee, the governor, and the state treasurer’s office we could reduce the amount of commission we’re paying out.

Robert Vigil
Deputy state treasurer, past state auditor, CPA.
1. You don’t know what the reserve ended up being until you close the books. It’s a percentage. You have to go by projections. This is what the fight is all about between the legislators and the governor.
2. There’s no answer to that. Reserve money is part of the pool, split between a number of different funds.
3. The state treasurer’s office took $400 million from the overnight account and invested it in a mutual fund.
4. I’m not in that situation, there’s no way for me to know.

1. The state has $205.4 million in operating reserves, $114.4 million in an appropriation contingency fund, and $87.7 in tax stabilization reserve. Total: $407.5 million
2. Certificates of deposit, corporate bonds, agency paper, US government obligations, short-term notes, overnight investments, repurchase agreements and savings accounts.
3. Montoya took $400 million from the overnight repurchase agreement and deposited it in a mutual fund.

We endorsed Jan Goodwin in that race and wrote, about Vigil: "Deputy State Treasurer Robert Vigil, in contrast, had underwhelming answers to simple factual questions about the state’s investments. He also would not comment on the problems with the administration he’s served on, and was combative and aggressive in interviews with his opponents."