A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 5, 2007
“Good friends having dinner together — no special purpose.”
That was the notation that lobbyist and former Albuquerque Mayor Ken Schultz made on a required 2002 expense report filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
Schultz reported he spent $141.95 on June 4, 2001, for a dinner with then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid “and spouses.”
What that document doesn’t say is that during the time he was dining with the state’s chief law enforcement officer, Schultz was neck deep in a criminal scheme to skim millions of dollars from the Bernalillo County Metro Courthouse.
That wasn’t disclosed until last week when the U.S. Attorney’s Office unsealed a plea agreement. Schultz pleaded guilty to federal counts of conspiracy and mail fraud and admitted his role in transferring payoffs from one of his lobbying clients.
“I participated as go-between in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the state of New Mexico ...,” the former mayor and one-time car dealer said in his plea agreement. He has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of former state Sen. Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, and others indicted by a federal grand jury.
Schultz’s client, architect Marc Schiff, also pleaded guilty in the case. Aragon, former court administrator Toby Martinez and two others face multiple charges in what prosecutors say was a $4.2 million rip-off of public money.
Madrid said Wednesday that she recalled having dinner with the Schultzes but doesn’t remember exactly where. “It was probably Yanni’s or some other Albuquerque restaurant,” she said.
Madrid doesn’t dispute Schultz’s “good friends” description. “I have been friendly with him,” she said. “I like his wife very much.”
The former attorney general, who last fall narrowly lost her bid to replace U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., in Congress, said she’s saddened by Schultz’s involvement in the scandal.
Six months after the dinner with Madrid and her husband, Schultz attended another gathering at an unspecified Albuquerque restaurant that also made its way into government documents. But this one allegedly did have a “special purpose” beyond “good friends having dinner together.”
“On or about Dec. 5, 2001, the defendant Manny Aragon met Marc Schiff, Ken Schultz, the defendant Toby Martinez and the defendant Raul Parra at a restaurant in Albuquerque,” the indictment says.
In Schiff’s plea agreement, the architect describes such a restaurant meeting. “The purpose of the meeting was to make a final payment of $30,000 to Aragon,” Schiff said. “Prior to the meeting, I had given Schultz $30,000 which Schultz passed to Aragon at the table.”
More good friendliness: Picking up the dinner check isn’t the only time Schultz has given Madrid something of value.
According to his lobbyist reports, Schultz donated $1,000 to her 2002 re-election campaign and, in 2005, contributed $3,000 to Madrid’s political action committee, Justice For America, to help pay for a “woman’s forum.” And, according to federal records, Schultz gave $500 to Madrid’s Congressional campaign.
“I can’t remember Ken Schultz ever requesting anything from my office,” Madrid said.
Aragon also contributed $250 to her Congressional campaign. “I don’t remember that, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Madrid said. “Manny and I graduated from law school at the same time.”
However, Madrid isn’t joining Gov. Bill Richardson, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and her successor, Attorney General Gary King, in giving campaign contributions from the courthouse-scam defendants to charity.
“How much did the governor get?” she asked me Thursday. “What I got is pretty minimal compared to him.”
According to Schultz’s lobbyist reports, he contributed about $15,000 to Richardson’s two gubernatorial campaigns — $10,000 of which was a contribution last year from one of his clients, Gandy Marley Inc., which owns a hazardous-waste site in Southern New Mexico.
Richardson also received $35,000 from others implicated in the courthouse scandal.
Schultz’s lobbyist reports show he has contributed to dozens of state politicians. He has given more than $70,000 to campaigns, though much of it was from clients including Gandy Marley and Comcast Cablevision of New Mexico. Schultz also loaned Richardson a motor home during the 2002 campaign.
He even gave money to Madrid’s 2002 opponent in the attorney general’s race, Republican Rob Perry — though Perry only got $250. (Similarly, although he gave King money — $500 in 2004 and $250 in 2006 — Schultz also contributed to King’s opponents in both those races. According to federal records and Schultz’s lobbyist reports, he provided $1,750 to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce in 2004 and $500 to Republican attorney general candidate Jim Bibb last year.)
Schultz’s reports list another $27,000 in other lobbyist expenses since 2001, including meals, gifts and knick-knacks for lawmakers, sponsorships of golf tournaments and other events, and the purchase of tickets to fundraisers.
The Legislature this year passed a bill putting limits on gifts to state officials. However, the state Senate voted against a bill to limit campaign contributions.
COURTHOUSE SCANDAL LINKS
* My first-day story
* Party reactions
* Where'd all that money go?
* Tainted Cash
* The Indictment
* Schultz Plea
* Schiff Plea
* Guara Plea
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