Thursday, August 10, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: OIL MONEY

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 10, 2006

Early this week, Gov. Bill Richardson’s re-election campaign released a statement blasting Republican opponent John Dendahl for not filing his July campaign-finance report on time.

Besides implying that Dendahl was trying to hide something, Richardson campaign chairman Dave Contarino commented on what the GOP candidate had said was his major source of contributions — the oil and gas industry.

“At a time when big oil companies are reaping record profits and New Mexican families are struggling to pay $3 per gallon,” Contarino was quoted, “the public deserves to know whether or not he’s received a large percentage of his contributions from these large oil and gas corporations.”

Right on, Dave! It’s about time someone stood up to the oil barons. It’s good to know that our governor would never touch their filthy lucre.

Oh, wait a minute ...

According to Followthemoney.org, the Web site of the Institute on Money in State Politics, Richardson’s campaign, as of the end of May, had pumped the oil and gas industry for $234,263. Only three other sectors have contributed more to Richardson: lobbyists and lawyers; real estate; and his own now-defunct political action committee, Moving America Forward.

In his 2002 campaign, according to Followthemoney.org, the Richardson campaign took in $201,558 from the oil and gas industry.

To be fair, most of these contributions aren’t from “these large oil and gas corporations” Contarino was lambasting. Many are from businesses that service the oil and gas companies. His biggest single oil-and-gas contributor in this election cycle was Calloway Safety Equipment Co. of Hobbs, which gave two checks totaling $30,000.

Major multinational oil and gas producers don’t contribute that much to New Mexico politicians. But Richardson has received more money from the big boys than any other candidate in the state: $5,000 from Alon USA (which produces Fina gasoline), $4,000 from Chevron and two contributions totaling $3,000 from Conoco-Phillips.

Dendahl who finally submitted his finance report Wednesday, didn’t show any money from major oil companies.

The Cargo wing of the GOP?: I received an e-mail from a New Mexico congressional candidate Wednesday who declared that antiwar candidate Ned Lamont’s victory over incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in Tuesday’s Connecticut Democratic primary was “a victory for all Americans.”

No, it wasn’t Rep. Tom Udall, a progressive Democrat who voted against the Iraq war. It was his Republican opponent, Ron Dolin.

And no, Dolin wasn’t coming from a “yippee-the-Democrats-are-divided” point of view.

“We witnessed the birth of a movement,” Dolin said in his news release. “Grass-roots Americans, tired of professional politicians who have forgotten the people they represent, are taking back their government. ...”

“I believe Americans want a return to a citizen-based form of government,” Dolin wrote. “Incumbents in Congress no longer represent the people. Incumbents view politics as a career not as a service. Thomas Jefferson would be pleased to see a common citizen topple an entrenched incumbent.”

This goes against the typical Republican line of praising Lieberman and using Lamont’s victory as evidence the Democrats have been taken over by left-wing weirdoes.

Indeed, Dolin, a homeland-security expert with Los Alamos National Laboratory, seems to be a different kind of Republican — perhaps a “Lonesome” Dave Cargo for the new century.

A few weeks ago, Dolin attacked Udall for voting for a telecommunications bill opponents say jeopardizes the concept of “net neutrality” and an open, democratic Internet.

Later on Wednesday, Dolin unleashed another e-mail, this one blasting Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman for refusing to endorse the Republican candidate in the Connecticut Senate race.

“This is one of the most upsetting political betrayals I have ever witnessed,” Dolin wrote. “I feel bad for Republican candidates across America who have the courage to stand for election against an incumbent.”

(Dolin never mentioned his name in his statement, but the Connecticut candidate is Alan Schlesinger.)

Nobody’s expecting Udall to have any real trouble in this election. But Dolin’s making the race a lot more interesting than I expected.

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