New Orleans Pay to Play Similar to the Dirty Downs Deal

The US Attorney for Louisiana indicted Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans, on multiple corruption charges stemming from alleged pay-to-play contract awards.

The US Attorney brought charges under Title 18 of the United States Code, Sections 666(a)(1-2). This code is enforceable by US Attorneys throughout the US.

There are some similarities between the conduct Nagin was indicted for and the actions of Governor Susana Martinez, high-level members of her administration and individuals close to her regarding the awarding of the contract in the Dirty Downs deal.

Nagin received “direct campaign monies” from those contractors involved in the pay-to-play allegations. 

Through a middleman, contractors paid for lodging and vacation expenses for Nagin’s family.

Nagin performed official acts to ensure that the contractors received the contracts.

Martinez received large amounts of direct campaign monies from those connected to the Downs at Albuquerque. Both the timing and amounts of the contributions were capable of influencing the process.

Martinez’s husband, Chuck Franco, went on a hunting trip to Louisiana during a critical time in the process. Franco chose this time to go there for the first time. 

The Martinez administration has refused to produce documents concerning Franco’s trip even after being ordered to do so by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office. The Martinez administration refused to cooperate with the AG’s office while it sought the records from this trip. Franco reportedly hunted prior to this trip with Paul Blanchard, the New Mexico based owner of the Downs. Blanchard’s two co-owners of the Downs both reside in Louisiana. 

Martinez prevented legislative oversight and review of the Downs deal, by altering the terms of the contract. She removed qualified RFP evaluators and replaced them with a ringer, Charles Gara, with a track record of using his position to influence the outcome of government procedures in order to benefit his own contributors.

Martinez also pressured a voting member of the board tasked with approving the contract in an effort to prevent him from speaking out against the contract.

These similarities simply scratch the surface. There are many more similarities in conduct. While it is difficult to see a man of Nagin’s stature charged with corruption, the Louisiana US Attorney’s office is to be commended for giving no safe passage to public officials involved in alleged corruption.

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