BY RICHARD NEBEL
I was a little surprised that in Bill Redmond’s recent endorsement of Sharon Dry he seemed to talk more about me than he did about her. I’m not running for political office nor have I endorsed anyone for political office. In fact, given that I voted for the losing candidate in 7 of the last 8 presidential cycles, I doubt that any candidate would want my endorsement.
However, since Mr. Redmond brought it up there are a few things in his op-ed piece worth exploring. Let’s start with Paul Powell. Paul was a patronage politician and the Secretary of State in Illinois in the 1960s. At that time in Illinois, most of the administrative functions (things like the DMV) were under the Secretary of State rather than the Governor. He employed a lot of people. Paul loved to speak at public functions (like high school graduations) because afterwards people would come up to him and stuff $20 bills in his pockets for political favors.
In 1970 Paul, his mistress, and an entourage of political hacks went up to the Mayo clinic for Paul’s annual checkup. Paul died that night in the motel. Before his death was announced, his entourage high-tailed it back to Springfield, and among other things, took 12 large manila envelopes out of the safe in the Secretary of States office. They only found one of those envelopes. His mistress had it and it contained $50,000 in $100 and $1000 bills. Things got even more interesting when they opened up the closet in Paul’s Springfield hotel room (where he lived) and found over $600,000 in cash (mostly $20 bills) stuffed in old shoe boxes. They even pulled up the floorboards in an old rental home that Paul owned in Southern Illinois and found another $120,000. That was a LOT of money in 1970.
So how do I know all of this? My father was the First Assistant Attorney General (Republican administration) and he was one of the people who counted the money. Actually, my father and Paul were on a first name basis. At that time if someone sued a state official, their defense attorney was the Attorney General. Paul got sued quite a bit. One of the duties of the Secretary of State is setting the order of the ballot. In a primary election, having the first slot on the ballot can be worth as much as 10% of the vote, particularly for the less known down-ballot candidates. In one election, all of Paul’s buddies got the coveted first slot on the ballot. One of the other candidates sued Paul and my father had to defend him (even though they were in different parties). Before the trial, he went into Paul’s office to discuss how they were going to handle the case. Paul said to him: “Tell me Art, is there anything in the statutes that says how I have to set the ballot?” My dad said ”Well, no…”. Paul: “That means I can do anything I want, right?” My dad: “Well, within reason…”. Paul: “Fine. We’re done here.” So they went to court and Paul got on the stand to be interrogated by the Plaintiff’s attorney. He asked Paul how he determined the order of candidates on the ballot. Paul said: “I look down the list of candidates and if I see someone I know, I put them at the top of the ballot.” Then he points to my dad at the defense table and says: “He tells me I can do that!” That wasn’t exactly the response my father was looking for. I asked my dad how that turned out and his response was “I won that case, but all I could think of was that I sure hoped it didn’t come up on appeal!”
So what’s all this got to do with New Mexico? Turn on your TV set and watch the commercials from the people running for Attorney General. They would have you think that the Attorney General is all about prosecuting criminals. Although he does prosecute a few crimes, usually the Attorney General is the defense attorney defending the state. That kind of experience is more important than prosecutorial experience. Also, one of the candidates has been accused of defending some unsavory characters. Just like in my dad’s case, most attorneys don’t get to pick who their clients are. You defend them whether you like them or not and give them the best defense you can. That’s your job.
My family has had a long association with the Republican party. My father was the First Assistant Attorney General (i.e. he ran the downstate office) under 2 Republican administrations in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. My grandfather served a couple of terms as County Clerk (Dewitt County) and was the Republican party county chairman for decades. He was a delegate to the 1960 National Convention. My Great-great Grandparents were there when Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas came to Clinton in 1858 to discuss slavery and Popular Sovereignty. They were more impressed with Mr. Lincoln. One thing Lincoln said in Clinton was “You can fool all of the people some of time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”. That statement seems particularly relevant to today’s politics.
Frankly, I no longer recognize the Republican Party. It’s not like the party I grew up with. That’s even true of the Republican Party in Los Alamos. Let me give you an example. Both Mr. Reagor and Mr. Stradling have poo-pooed renewable energy and the LARES process in particular. Mr. Reagor even went so far as to say that people who support renewables were merely trying to appear virtuous. I have been accused of a lot of things in my lifetime, but being virtuous isn’t one of them. In 2020 my business installed Solar PV and a heat pump so we are emissions-free. We did that for two reasons. First of all, we ran the numbers and they indicated that we could save a considerable amount of money by going solar. In an earlier op-ed I discussed how we validated that conclusion with data from our system. Secondly, funding for our company is volatile and going renewable allowed us to almost eliminate our overhead costs. That makes us a lot more resilient, which became apparent when the pandemic came along. The choice to go renewable has looked even better since our recent bout with inflation. My energy costs are locked in and paid for.
Since the time of Amory Lovins and the Carter administration in the late 1970s, the Democrats have tried to make energy rare and expensive. They won’t admit that, but their attitude is that if you give the “unwashed masses” cheap and abundant energy they will use it to destroy the planet. Going renewable allows you to beat the Democrats at their own game. If you aren’t using natural gas or gasoline, they can’t control you by regulating the supply. If you produce your own electricity, they can’t force you to conserve it and live the life of perpetual sacrifice. On top of that, you don’t pay taxes on things that you produce for yourself. You don’t pay GRT on electricity, natural gas or gasoline and you don’t pay gasoline tax. If you are a Republican, what’s there not to like about that? The Republican party I remember was about the individual and self-reliance. That lines up pretty well with renewable energy.
PS: Bill, your timing on the Illinois Income Tax is incorrect. That was enacted during the Ogilvie administration (1969-1972). Springfield’s mil tax rejections were earlier than that.
PSS: Bill, if you are interested in the shenanigans of Mayor Daley, I’ll be happy to tell you how he stole the 1960 presidential election in Illinois. That one isn’t fantasy. There was an old saying in Springfield that there were two things that Chicago sent downstate: its sewage and its politicians. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference.