Thursday, May 12, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: FROM MURDOCH TO MEATHEAD, THEY GIVE TO THE GOV

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 12, 2005


It looks like Gov. Bill Richardson’s well-publicized overtures to the entertainment industry is starting to pay off. At least for him.

According to Richardson’s re-election campaign finance reports filed this week, better than 10 percent of the $3 million he’s raised so far comes from southern California, much of that from the world of movies, music and television. And the overwhelming amount of this was collected at a fundraiser in Los Angeles late last month, Richardson’s political director Amanda Cooper said.

It’s already been reported that Richardson’s contributors include Sylvester Stallone, Disney CEO Michael Eisner and music producer Quincy Jones are among those who care enough about New Mexico state government to give thousands of dollars to Richardson’s campaign.

Others include actor/director Rob Reiner ($2,000); Tijuana Brassman Herb Albert ($5,000); former talk-show host Merv Griffin ($2,000); Film producer Brian Grazer ($2,000); former Paramount Studio head Sherry Lansing ($5,000); Universal Studio head Ronald Meyer ($2,000).

There’s a couple of celebrity widows on the list. Jackie Autry, who was married to singing cowboy Gene gave $5,000 to put Richardson back in the saddle again. And Virginia Mancini, wife of the late composer Henry, gave $2,000.

There’s another possible Mancini connection: There’s a $2,000 contribution from one Andy Williams in Branson, Mo. Cooper couldn’t confirm that this donor is the crooner in the sweater who had a big hit in the ‘60s with Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.” But that Williams does have his own theater in Branson.

Richardson’s old pal Jerry Perenchio provided for about half of the governor’s So-Cal cash. The president of Univision gave $100,000, which his wife Margie Perenchio, — modestly described in the report as a “homemaker” — kicked in another $50,000. Perenchio’s son John Perenchio, a music executive, gave $4,000. Those who listed their occupation as being part of Perenchio’s Chartwell Partnership chipped in $6,000, while Univision vice president Andrew Hobson contributed $2,000.

In 2003, Richardson lent his name to a full-page advertisement Univision placed full-page ads in national papers. In the ad, Richardson urged Democratic Congressional leaders to back a controversial merger between Univision and Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. The Federal Communications Commission later approved the deal.

A fair and balanced contribution: But Perenchio isn’t the most famous television mogul to donate to our governor. Rupert Murdoch chipped in $2,000 to Richardson’s re-election campaign. The Australian-born Murdoch is CEO of News Corporation Ltd., which includes Fox News, the favored cable news channel of conservatives, as well as the neo-conservative journal The Weekly Standard and the right-leaning newspaper The New York Post.

Asked about the contribution, Cooper said “What can you say? He loves the governor.”

Other interesting contributors: At least two cabinet secretaries from the Clinton administration donated to Richardson — former Transportation Secretary Federico Pena and former Commerce Secretary William Daley. Daley is the brother of the Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley. (Richardson was Energy secretary and United Nations Ambassador during Clinton's last term.)

Then there’s Michael Johnson, CEO of Herbalife, the vitamin supplement company that sells its products via a pyramid-style distribution structure. He supplemented Richardson’s campaign by $4,000. (Hey, Richardson is working Republican state Sen. Steve Komadina's side of the street here!)

There’s a Dr. Peter Bourne of Washington, D.C., who gave $1,000. Neither Cooper nor Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks could verify that this is the same Peter Bourne who served as President Jimmy Carter’s drug policy adviser. Bourne resigned after being accused of snorting cocaine at a Christmas party. (He has denied that allegation.)

An online resume for the former Carter aide at the Institute of Human Virology (where Bourne is on the board of advisers), says of the doctor, “He was an adviser on foreign policy to U.S. Congressman Bill Richardson and in that capacity he negotiated a variety of agreements with foreign governments, including Iraq, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.”

My kind of town, Chicago: But even more striking than the famous names on this contributor list are all the names from other parts of the country.

Richardson has never been shy about collecting cash from beyond this Enchanted Land. In 2002 a full 40 percent of the $8 million he raised came from out of state, a percentage far higher than those of governors from surrounding states.

As was the case in 2002, there are plenty of contributions from New York, Washington, D.C. and Houston.

And this year there are significant contributions from Illinois, mainly Chicago, totaling more than $125,000. Most of these were dated in early October or mid April. Among these are lawyers, consultants, bankers, developers, health care facilities, food industry people — all who apparently have some interest in New Mexico.

(One big contributor does have an obvious interest. Chicago businessman Martin Koldyke headed the group of investors that bought the baseball team that would become the Albuquerque Isotopes. His contributions to Richardson totaled $13,700.)

Cooper said these contributions usually come from Richardson fund-raising receptions in these cities.

“A lot of these people are old friends of the governor,” she said. “A lot of them knew him even before he was a Congressman. It says a lot for a person when you can keep those kinds of relationships.”

Indeed. It’s good to have friends.

UPDATE: In a wee-hour frenzy of Googling, I found a Perenchio/Mancini/Williams connection. Read the first paragraph (at least) of this story. (Richardson is mentioned down at toward the bottom of the story.)

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