Senate 2008: It's Time to Force Pete Domenici into Retirement
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 10:31:05 AM EST
I have written for some time that New Mexico's aging Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, should be amond the Democrats' top targets in 2008, not only because his conservative views are way outside of the mainstream -- particularly for a state as balanced politically as New Mexico -- but also because his Jim Bunning-like actions (walking around the Senate in pajama bottoms) raise real questions about his competence to serve another six years. But new questions surrounding the possibility that Domenici abused his office for partisan political reasons should further enlarge the target on the Senator's back. First, the details of the allegations from Paul Kiel over at TPM Muckraker.
Well, our list of suspects just got a whole lot shorter.
Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told McClatchy Newspapers (and The Washington Post) that two members of Congress had called him in mid-October to pressure him about an ongoing corruption investigation of a state Democrat. He refused to identify the lawmakers in any way, because he feared retaliation.
But in comments to the Albuquerque Journal, he was a whole lot more specific. He told the paper that "two members of the New Mexico delegation" had contacted him.
Now, there are only two members of the New Mexico delegation that we haven't heard from: Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R). And it's not just us. The pair have ducked calls from everyone (a partial list: McClatchy, The Washington Post, the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune). Back in October, Wilson was fighting for her political life in one of the closest races in the country. Domenici, as the state's sole Republican senator, is the White House's state contact for the U.S. attorney in the state -- he would have been originally responsible for Iglesias' nomination and the nomination of his successor.
For a lot more on the story -- and I do mean a lot more -- check out Joe Monahan's coverage out of New Mexico. In short, though, there are serious allegations that Domenici used his position as Senator to try to exert power over a United States Attorney (a Republican appointee) in order to ramp up an investigation of a former Democratic lawmaker in the state, presumably for the gain of the Republican Party. True, this could be viewed as a case of he said, she said. But as Josh Marshall notes over at Talking Points Memo, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey had very glowing things to say about the Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney in question and, what's more, The Washington Post's Dan Eggen writes that Iglesias' work as a defense attorney in the Navy served as the basis of the Tom Cruise film "A Few Good Men" (for whatever that's worth).
But getting beyond the specific details of this story, the headline remains that Domenici potentially used his office for partisan political gain, a big no-no, as it were. And given the possibility that Domenici just might not be up to a heated campaign that not only questions his fitness to serve but also his intentions and trustworthiness, it's incumbent upon the Democrats, both inside New Mexico and those trying to extend the party's majority in the U.S. Senate, to begin to put pressure on Domenici to retire rather than stand for reelection, as he has indicated an intention to do. If this means an investment of $50,000 of $100,000 today for television and newspaper ads throughout New Mexico calling Domenici out for his alleged actions I think it would certainly be worth it.
Additionally the Democrats also need to ramp up their recruitment drive in the state. A number of potential Democratic heavyweights -- Rep. Tom Udall and Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez, to take two examples -- have stated an unwillingness to run for the Senate in 2008 if Domenici were to run for reelection. Yet if they, or other candidates of their potential strength, were to flirt with a run today, they might, along with an ad buy by the DSCC or the Democratic Party of New Mexico, be able to sufficiently scare Domenici so that he decides against seeking another term. There is little potential downside to such a move but great potential upside, and as such there seems to be little reason to me why such a combined effort should not be undertaken at this point.