SANTA FE Every modern book about state politics should have a chapter entitled "Fallout from Pete's Deceit."
The duplicitous, tabloid life led by former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici changed New Mexico politics in ways that only this month have come into full view.
Domenici served for 36 years in the Senate, more than anyone in state history. Thirty of those years were built on his lies and his audacity in telling them with a master politician's sincerity.
The details are dirty, but we can keep them brief and move on to the fallout.
Domenici, a married man and an avowed Roman Catholic, admitted this year that he fathered a child with a youthful Washington insider in 1978.
Domenici was 46 and in the midst of his first Senate re-election campaign when his secret son was born. The mother was Michelle Laxalt, who was 24, the daughter of former U.S. senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada. Paul Laxalt chaired Ronald Reagan's last three campaigns for president.
As a senator coveting another term, Domenici covered up his affair with Michelle Laxalt. Winning was the only thing that mattered to him.
Had New Mexico voters learned that Domenici was not the loyal family man he portrayed in his ads, they would have elected Democrat Toney Anaya to the Senate in 1978.
Even with Domenici's scandal under wraps, Anaya proved to be Prevaricator Pete's toughest opponent for the Senate. Domenici defeated Anaya with 53 percent of the vote.
Anaya made a comeback in 1982, winning a rough-and-tumble campaign for governor. He never would have run for that office, much less held it, if the truth about Domenici had been known.
Anaya, now 72, might still be in the U.S. Senate if the underbelly of Domenici's biography had been exposed. Instead, Anaya's highest office was governor, and his one term was a turbulent one. He served during a time when oil prices plummeted to $15 a barrel and unemployment shot up.
In the 1980s, New Mexico governors could not succeed themselves. Anaya would have had no chance to be re-elected anyway.
During 1986, his last year as governor, the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. attorney all were in a locked courtroom, purportedly building some sort of case against Anaya.
His popularity sank. A bumper sticker ridiculing him "Does Toney Annoya?" caught on. Both candidates to succeed him as governor, Republican Garrey Carruthers and Democrat Ray Powell, criticized Anaya in their campaigns.
Back in Washington, Domenici's seniority and influence grew as he played the part of a straight-shooting GOP senator.
Carruthers defeated Powell, becoming the first Republican governor of New Mexico in 16 years. On Anaya's way out of office, he added to his unpopularity by commuting the sentences of all five of the state's death-row inmates to life in prison.
Carruthers served one term as governor. He also could not succeed himself. With a Ph.D. in economics, he eventually became dean of the business college at New Mexico State University.
The school's regents this month hired Carruthers as NMSU's president. Carruthers has a fresh career at age 73, but he may never have been governor or a university president without the Domenici dominoes.
As for Anaya, he eventually would receive a sort of vindication for his stand against the death penalty. New Mexico outlawed capital punishment in 2009, deciding the best way to deal with the worst criminals was a sentence of life in prison.
In the years when Anaya was an outcast, Domenici was on George H.W. Bush's short list of vice presidential candidates. Bush's choice of Dan Quayle as a running mate now looks wise, given the powder-keg scandal that Domenici could have touched off.
Domenici remained in the Senate until 2009. A symbol of all things good, Domenici's name even was placed on the federal courthouse in Albuquerque. A place where oaths to tell the truth are spoken carries Domenici's name.
In his lifetime of lies, Domenici's most brazen moment occurred in 1999, during President Clinton's impeachment trial over a sex scandal.
Domenici's secret son was about to turn 21, but this did not stop Domenici from denouncing Clinton. Domenici said this about why he would vote to remove Clinton as president:
"Truthfulness is the first pillar of good character in the Character Counts program, which I have been part of establishing in New Mexico. Many of you in this chamber have joined me in declaring the annual Character Counts Weeks. This program teaches grade-school youngsters throughout America about six pillars of good character. Public and private schools in every corner of my state teach children that character counts; character makes a difference; indeed, character makes all the difference.
"Guess which one of these pillars comes first? Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness."
"So what do I say to the children in my state when they ask, "Didn't the president lie? Doesn't that mean he isn't trustworthy? Then, senator, why didn't the Senate punish him?' "
To be sure, voters in New Mexico would have punished Domenici if only they had known about his own record for trustworthiness.