Thursday, June 09, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 9, 2005

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Gov. Bill Richardson traveled around New Hampshire on Wednesday, making contacts and trying to build his name recognition for a possible presidential bid, New Mexico Republicans launched an ad campaign designed to embarrass him in two states.

The New Mexico Republican Party began airing radio spots in both New Hampshire and New Mexico criticizing Richardson for what they call his “extravagant lifestyle at taxpayer expense.”

The ad labels Richardson as a “high-class showboat” and compares him with entertainers P. Diddy and Britney Spears.

The attack apparently was inspired in part by news reports that the Richardson administration spent $5.5 million to buy a new jet airplane — though the 30-second commercial blasts him on other issues as well.

Marta Kramer, executive director of state Republican Party, said Wednesday, “When people heard about this plane, our phones were ringing off the hook.”

A Richardson spokesman issued a statement denouncing the ads. “This is a desperate, pathetic, partisan attack filled with lies and complete fabrications, and about what you would expect from a party that lacks leadership and any real ideas for moving New Mexico forward,” Gilbert Gallegos wrote.

A GOP news release said the ad campaign — called “Operation High Roller” — will run statewide in New Mexico for at least the next week and that the ads aired Wednesday on three New Hampshire stations. The New Hampshire ads, the announcement said, are “designed to coincide with Richardson’s pursuit of the Democratic nomination for President.”

Richardson has told several New Hampshire audiences this week that he is keeping his options open for 2008. He has repeatedly said his main focus is getting re-elected governor in 2006.

Political experts in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., have said this week’s trip to New Hampshire appears to be a “testing of the waters” for Richardson.

Kramer declined to say how much her party had spent on the ads or what stations would be airing them. But the party released this transcript of the ad:

It’s the lifestyles of the rich and famous ... who is this high-class showboat?
$5.5 million for a brand new jet airplane ...
Three personal chefs ...
Travels with a large entourage of body guards and staff to places like Europe and Las Vegas ...
Gets front-row seats to all the best events ... and isn’t bothered by speed limits ...
Is it P-Diddy? (Britney) Spears?
No ... it’s Gov. Bill Richardson ...
And how does Gov. Richardson pay for it all ... he doesn’t — you do ...
That’s why Bill Richardson has raised taxes by 740 million dollars ... and raided our children’s permanent fund ...
And the most creative way to keep the money rolling in? Bill Richardson taxes the elderly in nursing homes at $9 a day ... that’s over $3,000 a year for every patient ...
Nursing-home patients may have to dig deep to pay the tab ... But Governor Richardson just wouldn’t be the same without his 5 million dollar jet.
Announcer: Call Gov. Richardson at 827-3000 ... tell him to stop living the rich and famous lifestyle ... on the backs of New Mexico taxpayers.

The controversial jet is a 2005 Cessna Citation Bravo, which can carry eight passengers and two pilots at a speed of 463 mph. Delivery is expected in August.

Speaking to reporters before hearing the news about the Republicans radio ads, Richardson defended the purchase of the plane, saying Republican critics were “just playing politics.”

“Every Republican in the Legislature voted for the plane,” he said.

Richardson said he’s not the only state official who will be using the plane. “A lot of people will benefit from it,” he said, adding that the governor’s office will only use it 7 percent of the time.

Gallegos said the Department of Transportation uses state aircraft the most at 28 percent of the time, followed by the School for the Visually Handicapped at 20 percent; the Department of Health Children Medical Services uses state planes 9 percent of the time.

The new jet will replace a “39-year-old, unsafe plane,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos’ news release challenges most the points of the Republican ad.

He said the Governor’s mansion staff employs only one chef.

He noted that Richardson has successfully pushed for personal income-tax cuts as well as ending gross-receipts taxes on food. Republicans argue that these tax cuts have been more than offset by increases in taxes and fees in other areas, including various taxes on the trucking industry, a huge raise in cigarette taxes and other increases.

He argued that Richardson rarely takes a state plane on his out-of-state trips and that most of Richardson’s travels are within the state.

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