Campaign 2010

May 01, 2008

Darren White:  Partisan Politics Before Ethics

Sworn to uphold the law as Bernalillo County Sheriff, Darren White used his authority to inappropriately advance a political agenda by complaining to Senator Pete Domenici and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ staff about U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. Last week, the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Senator Domenici for his role in Iglesias’ dismissal and the House Ethics Committee is investigating Representative Heather Wilson for her role.

 

“A federal prosecutor was fired only after he refused to bend to political pressure Darren White helped orchestrate. If he were in Congress, White would likely be under investigation for violating ethical standards,” said Yoni Cohen, Western Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Senator Domenici is paying the price for listening to Darren White -- he was punished by the Ethics Committee. The people of New Mexico deserve better than another Republican Member of Congress who believes playing politics is more important than playing by the rules and honoring America’s system of checks and balances.”  

 

In 2004, White served as the New Mexico Chairman of the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign and pressured Iglesias to investigate trumped up charges of voter fraud. Not satisfied with Iglesias’ response, White in 2006 complained about Iglesias to Sen. Domenici and Attorney General Gonzales’ chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sen. Domenici subsequently called Iglesias about the investigation, Sampson recommended his dismissal and Iglesias was fired.

 

The Senate Ethics Committee recently admonished Sen. Domenici for his role in Iglesias’ dismissal. The House Ethics Committee also started an investigation into Representative Heather Wilson, who like Senator Domenici called Iglesias and who White is seeking to replace in Congress.

 

Timeline:

 

August 2004: White Calls Iglesias about Investigation of Voter Registration Issues. In August 2004, White, serving then as the Chairman of the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign, asked U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to investigate voter registration issues in the state. [Albuquerque Journal, 3/15/07]

 

September 2004: Iglesias Creates Voter Fraud Task Force. Iglesias established a voter fraud task force to investigate complaints about election fairness, however the voter task force never led to even a criminal charge. White called the task force “ridiculous… Just do the case,” White said. “It was very frustrating.” [US News and World Report, 3/15/07; Daily Breeze, 3/18/07; Albuquerque Journal, 3/15/07]

 

2005: NM GOP Chair Complains About Iglesias. In 2005, Allen Weh, the New Mexico Republican Party chairman, complained about Iglesias to an aide to Karl Rove and asked that he be removed from office. [US News and World Report, 3/15/07; Daily Breeze, 3/18/07; Albuquerque Journal, 3/15/07; Post-Tribune, 3/18/07]

 

Spring 2005: White Complains to Kyle Sampson at DOJ About Iglesias. In the spring of 2006, White took his complaints directly to the Department of Justice where he met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ chief of staff, Kyle Sampson and others. [Albuquerque Journal, 4/15/07]

 

Sometime in 2006: White Complains About Iglesias to Domenici.  In 2007, the Albuquerque Journal reported that White had taken a “laundry list” of complaints to Sen. Pete Domenici about Iglesias previously. Iglesias later said White was part of a "political chorus that got to Pete Domenici.” [Albuquerque Journal, 3/15/07, 4/15/07, 4/19/07]

 

October 2006: Rep. Wilson Calls Iglesias. Iglesias receives a telephone call from Republican Rep. Heather Wilson and is asked about sealed indictments in the corruption case against Democrats. Her question "raised red flags in my head," according to Iglesias. [US News and World Report, 3/15/07]

 

October 2006: Domenici Calls Iglesias. Iglesias has a brief telephone conversation with Republican Sen. Pete Domenici in which he tells the senator that indictments against Democrats in a corruption case regarding courthouse construction projects would not be handed down before the November election. The conversation ends abruptly when Domenici hangs up. "I felt sick afterwards," says Iglesias. [Albuquerque Journal, 3/07/07]

 

November 15, 2006: Iglesias Appears on List to be Dismissed. Kyle Sampson sends a document to Harriet Miers and William Kelley entitled “Plan for Replacing Certain U.S. Attorneys.” Iglesias is on the list of those slated to be dismissed. [http://judiciary.house.gov/media/pdfs/DOJdocsPt2070313.pdf, Page 15-16]

 

Late 2006: NM GOP Chair Complains to Rove About Iglesias. Weh visits the White House and asks Rove again about Iglesias. Weh claims that Rove remarked, "He's gone." [New York Times, 3/29/07]

 

Dec. 7, 2006: Iglesias Is Asked to Resign. Iglesias is asked to resign. The spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office says that Iglesias "has had discussions with officials in Washington, D.C. Based on those discussions, he has decided to move on." [US News and World Report, 3/15/07]

 

March 13, 2007: Sampson Resigns. Kyle Sampson resigns his position as Chief of Staff for Gonzales, after acknowledging he did not tell other Justice Department officials earlier about the extent of his communications with the White House about firing the prosecutors. [Reuters, 3/13/07]

 

April 2007: Senate Votes to Probe Domenici. In April 2007, the Senate adopted a resolution (S. Res 153) to launch a "preliminary inquiry" over his involvement in the firing of Iglesias. [Politico, 4/17/07]

 

August 2007: Ethics Committee Investigates Wilson’s Call. Iglesias was interviewed by the staff of the House Ethics Committee on Aug. 1 about the phone call he received from Wilson. [Associated Press, 7/31/07]

 

April 24, 2008: Domenici Is Admonished by Senate Ethics Committee. The Senate Ethics Committee issued a "qualified admonition" of Domenici for the phone call he made to Iglesias. [Politico, 4/24/08]