Senator Robinson’s Rugby Team

State Senator Shannon Robinson is a true throwback. Huddling with lobbyist cronies in his State Capitol office, the Albuquerque lawmaker holds court in a “smoke-filled room” from whence clouds of tobacco mephitis waft into the hallways, defying the smoking ban in public buildings. It’s the unofficial smoking section at the Roundhouse.

“Smokey” Robinson is not a Senator to be trifled with to be sure. A staunch ally of former Senate boss Manny Aragon, Robinson today serves as the powerful chairman of the Senate Corporations — the committee where it’s said that good bills go to die. Robinson takes care of business that takes care of him. He’s what you would call a “corporate Democrat”.

Robinson wields his power in the service of his priorities. Take the women’s rugby club at the University of New Mexico as one example. He happens to be the coach. Now from a fine investigative piece in the Albuquerque Journal this week by Colleen Heild, we learn that Robinson “convinced” UNM officials to funnel $350,000 of taxpayer dollars from a university think tank, supposedly dedicated to Southwest studies — and hand the money to his rugby club. It was then used to pay for scholarships and club travel.

You can read about the story here and here (Journal subscription).

It should be noted that a key piece of Governor Richardson’s ethics reform package is the creation of an independent ethics commission. Many legislators protest that New Mexico doesn’t need such a body and that the legislature does a great job policing its own ethics, thank you very much. However, Senator Robinson’s rugby club is just one more of a long list of examples that argues to the contrary.

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