Thursday, August 26, 2004

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: SWIFT BOATS & N.M. POLITICS

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Aug. 26, 2004

Texas millionaire home-builder Bob Perry isn't just interested in John Kerry's military career. Perry also has used his checkbook to become involved in New Mexico politics.

Perry has been in the national news for being the major contributor to the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In case you've been living in a distant dimension the past week or two, that's the Vietnam veterans group who have dominated much of the nation's political discussion due to their television ads and a book claiming the Democratic presidential candidate lied about his Vietnam experiences.

The New York Times and other publications have identified Perry as a close friend of President Bush's political director, Karl Rove, and a past contributor to Bush. Perry, a Houston resident, donated $200,000 to the anti-Kerry veterans.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Perry also has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various conservative and Republican political action committees, such as U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Majority Issues Fund; former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey's Majority Leader's Fund; The Club for Growth, an influential PAC dedicated to lower taxes and smaller government; and the College Republican National Committee.

According to an Aug. 8 story in the Los Angeles Times, Perry has donated more than $1 million to the Texas Republican Party and at least $200,000 to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a tort-reform advocacy group.

Perry also has jumped into New Mexico politics. In 2002, he was the biggest individual contributor to Republican gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez. According to the Washington D.C.-based Institute on Money in State Politics, Perry gave the Sanchez campaign $183,000, while Perry's wife Doylene gave another $55,000.

Combined, that's more than what the Perry family gave the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

In May the Associated Press reported that Bob Perry was the top contributor to the Republican Party of New Mexico for that reporting period. Sometime between late 2003 and May he gave the party $37,500.

Contacted Wednesday, Sanchez, who is regional director of the Bush-Cheney campaign, said he wasn't aware that Perry was main contributor to the Swift Boat group.

"He was a good supporter of ours," Sanchez said. "I never met him (face-to-face) but I talked to him on the phone."

Sanchez took the official party line on the Swift Boat controversy: "That's an individual group entirely separate from the campaign."

Governor of where? Carmen Villa Prezelski, an Arizona delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month, wrote a column in the Tucson Citizen recently in which she expressed some bemused frustration at people mixing up her state with ours.

"Not being one to let my state take a back seat, I always corrected them, and believe me, they kept me busy, and New Mexico was especially prominent since its governor, Bill Richardson, was the chairman of the convention," she wrote.

Prezelski told of an encounter with a convention volunteer at Paul Revere Mall.

"'Geez,' he said, 'Did you get a load of that paint job on the RV that your governor has been riding around in?'

"Well, of course I had seen that RV. It was a sight to behold. It had a bright yellow background and had all sorts of glorious Western scenes painted on it.

"'Oh that,' I said. 'That belongs to the governor of New Mexico.'"

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Wednesday the yellow RV wasn't actually the governor's. It belonged to the state Tourism Department, which was in Boston promoting the state (New Mexico, not Arizona) and is expected to be in New York next week for the Republican convention.

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