Thursday, May 25, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: DGA WON'T SAY WHERE AMERIQUEST CATERED

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 25, 2006


A spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association contacted me to inform me that last week’s column about an in-kind $102,000 contribution to the DGA from a mortgage company that just settled a multimillion-dollar deceptive-practices class-action suit with New Mexico and 48 other states contained an error.

The contribution from Ameriquest — which according to a federal disclosure report was for “catering and facilities” — was not used for a spring DGA conference in Arizona, spokesman Jon Summers said.

The dates of in-kind contributions listed on the disclosure reports, Summers explained, are the dates on letters from the contributors listing the value of the contributions — and usually are different from the dates when the contributions were used.

In this case, the listed date of the contribution, March 31, coincided with the DGA conference in Phoenix.

So I erred in connecting those dots.

Ameriquest is a company founded by DGA chairman Gov. Bill Richardson’s friend Roland Arnall, who now is ambassador to The Netherlands. Many Democrats opposed his nomination last year because of the class-action suit, which was prompted by thousands of consumer complaints around the country. That didn’t stop Richardson from endorsing him for the post last year, even while New Mexico was suing his company.

So if the $102,000 worth of catering and facility rental didn’t go for the Arizona shindig, what was it used for?

The DGA isn’t saying. “We won’t go beyond what is on the report,” Summers said this week.

Frozen Lightning: Here’s the perfect gift for the opposition research operative on your shopping list.

Frozen Lightning, subtitled "Bill Richardson’s Strike on the Political Landscape of New Mexico," is a quality paperback written by “Bill Althouse & a Thousand and One New Mexicans.”

Althouse is a Santa Fe author and longtime Richardson critic. The index cites works by everyone I know in the press corps, including yours truly. The book, whose cover is a photo of Richardson with lightning coming out of his underarms and a mushroom cloud exploding from below his belt — is scathing.

“Richardson rules his empire much like a prison warden,” Althouse writes, “walling off his enemies by stripping them of rank and placing them in a kind of solitary confinement that is the political equivalent of purgatory.”

And that’s just Page 1.

Almost any Richardson flap, foible or fumble you can think of can be found in Frozen Lightning. Wen Ho Lee; Guy Riordan; Eric Serna; Gerald Peters; the gov-ex-temp employees; Milton Sanchez and the Retiree Health Care Authority; the hiring of a good chunk of the state press corps; Sen. John Grubesic’s “flabby king” op-ed; the Hollywood connections; Billy the Kid; trains, planes, speeding sport-utility vehicles and spacecraft.

There are recaps of well-known stories and outright innuendo from anonymous sources that you haven’t read anywhere else (and probably never will).

Sometimes the rhetoric goes way overboard, such as calling Richardson a “tool for fascism” and “a politician driven to evil by his presidential aspirations.”

But anyone interested in New Mexico politics will have fun reading it.


And an inside color photo of the governor surrounded by a bevy of buxom belly dancers is itself almost worth the $12.95 price tag.

Election notes: The e-mail arrived too late to include it in my secretary of state candidate profiles Wednesday.

But a couple of groups active in election reform — VerifiedVotingNM and United Voters of New Mexico — made a joint endorsement of Stephanie Gonzales in that Democratic primary.

These groups pushed the bill requiring paper-ballot voting in all New Mexico counties.

Roxanne Rivera, who is working for state Sen. Joe Carraro’s U.S. Senate campaign, e-mailed me saying that I was wrong to say one of Carraro’s rivals was the only GOP candidate to have paid staffers.

Rivera said she’s being paid as communications director. Plus the Albuquerque senator has a paid campaign coordinator and a paid staff to handle campaign signs.

The Lamb that roared: Former state Election Director Denise Lamb said I made a slight error in a recent article where I paraphrased a quote about her frustrations with a former Bernalillo County clerk.

I said Lamb wanted to hang the clerk out of her window at the Secretary of State’s Office. But Lamb, who originally was quoted in The Los Angeles Times, says she wanted to dangle the clerk out of the clerk’s own window.

The difference? The Secretary of State’s Office is only two stories highs. The clerk’s office in Albuquerque was on the sixth floor.

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