Thursday, April 20, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: CHARITABLE KICKBACKS

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 20, 2006

New Mexico charities should get together and name former state Treasurer Robert Vigil as “Man of the Year.”

No kidding. If nothing else, the state treasurer scandal has created a windfall for charitable organizations.


On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Richardson’s boxing buddy and campaign contributor Guy Riordan was implicated in the scandal by former Treasurer Michael Montoya. Montoya, testifying at Vigil’s trial in federal court, said he received as much as $100,000 in kickbacks from Riordan in exchange for investment contracts. Most of this money, Montoya said, was passed to him at restroom stalls at restaurants.

Riordan’s lawyer hotly denied this. And the Albuquerque investment broker/commercial-hunting ranch owner hasn’t been charged with any crime.
But Richardson wasn’t taking any chances.

Shortly after the story hit the wires, the governor’s office zapped out a press statement saying Riordan had been yanked off the state Game Commission, and Richardson would donate the $24,000 in campaign donations he received from Riordan to “New Mexico charities.”

Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley said Wednesday that first lady Barbara Richardson’s office will determine which charities will get how much money.

Chain reaction: By Wednesday, several other politicians who have accepted Riordan’s generosity in recent years were following suit.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s re-election campaign announced it will donate $10,000 to the United Way of Central New Mexico. Denish chef of staff Chris Cervini said Riordan gave Denish $5,000 in 2004 and $5,000 last year.

I found an e-mail from Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, in my in box saying “my campaign donated $500.00 today to the Santa Fe Children's Museum representing the amount Guy Riordan/Wachovia Securities gave in May 2004.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s congressional campaign said the $740 Madrid received from Riordan in 2002 is going to the dogs. Madrid will be giving the money to the American Humane Association, Heather Brewer said. Madrid is having some of her money people check to make sure $740 is the total amount Riordan has given Madrid, Brewer said.

Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, said Wednesday that he’ll be donating his $1,000 in Riordan money to charity. He hasn’t decided which one.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez said Chávez’s mayoral-campaign organization will donate the $1,500 it received from Riordan to the Albuquerque Public Schools Foundation for programs promoting early-childhood literacy and helping homeless students.

Riordan also donated $200 to Chávez’s 1992 state Senate race. Chávez spokeswoman Deborah James said that campaign organization folded years ago. But to avoid any appearance of impropriety, James said, Chávez would personally donate $200 to the APS Foundation.

What a deal: Riordan gave $250 to the New Mexico Democratic Party in 2002. Party executive director Matt Farrauto said the party probably won’t be giving that donation to charity.

But he said he’d make a deal with U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M. “We’ll give the $250 to charity if Heather donates all the money she got from Tom DeLay,” he said.

Wilson, between 1998 and last year, received nearly $47,000 from the indicted former House majority leader’s political-action committee. Last year she returned the $10,000 she’d collected from DeLay's PAC in June, but not the $36,959 she received from the PAC between 1998 and 2003. Wilson campaign officials have said she won’t be returning that money.

Wilson in January did donate $1,000 she received from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, after he pleaded guilty to a fraud charge, to the Boy Scouts.

Don’t forget Vigil: As reported several months ago in this column, the former treasurer — on trial for 28 felony counts of extortion, racketeering and money laundering — started what I dubbed a “Kickbacks for Kiddies” program.

According to records in his court file, Vigil was captured on tape talking with a “cooperating witness” about helping Vigil’s wife's favorite charity — Big Brothers Big Sisters — by soliciting contributions from investment advisers who contract with the state.

At one point, Vigil tells the informant, “Where is there a law that doesn't allow you to help kids, you know. Bunch of (bovine manure) ...”.

Refining the national message: This week, Wonkette — that Washington, D.C.-based blog whose motto is “Politics for people with dirty minds” — described a meeting, supposedly taking place this week on Mansion Ridge Road in Santa Fe.

Gov. Richardson, the blog said, “is hosting several top political consultants at the Governor’s mansion this week, as part of a two-day retreat to ‘refine his national message’ leading up to his 2008 presidential bid.”

Not so, says Richardson’s political director Amanda Cooper.

Cooper said there was in fact a recent meeting in Santa Fe that involved several Richardson campaign consultants, including Steve Murphy of Murphy Putnam-Media, in Alexandria, Va., who was U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt’s national campaign manager in 2004; Doc Sweitzer of the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group, who worked Richardson’s 2002 campaign; and Dave Gold of Taos.

But Cooper claimed there was no talk about refining any “national message.” It all had to do with Richardson’s re-election campaign and “moving New Mexico forward,” she said Tuesday.

Blog on Break

I'm on vacation this week and so is this blog. Don't worry, I'll be back Friday night with the Santa Fe Opry playlist and b...