Thursday, July 26, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: THE CNN/CARTOON NETWORK DEBATE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 26, 2007


People who read my music column or listen to my radio shows know that I like a lot of crazy music. I also like some strange movies, television shows, books and art. Captain Beefheart, R. Crumb and David Lynch are all heroes of mine.

But when it comes to the political process, I guess I’m pretty much a stuffy traditionalist. Monday night’s YouTube/CNN Democratic presidential debate made me feel like an old fuddy-duddy.

Don’t get me wrong. I like that this new format gave several “average Americans” (whoever they are) the chance to question politicians. I thought it was great that people whose children have died in the war and people struggling with real health issues had a platform to address the candidates. And the lesbian couple who asked about same-sex marriage put human faces on this wedge issue.

But despite all the praise lavished on the YouTube format, someone has to throw a wet blanket on some of the silly stuff.

It just didn’t seem quite right for these potential leaders of the free world to have to respond to talking snowmen, fake hillbillies and bad musicians.

I’m waiting for the Cartoon Network to host its own forum, where each of the candidates gets interviewed by Space Ghost.

Bundles of money: Richardson, based on a campaign finance report released earlier this month, has raised more than $13 million for his presidential campaign — which is considered a respectable amount, though far less than front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and slightly less than John Edwards.

So who is bankrolling Richardson’s campaign?

OpenSecrets.org (the Web site of the campaign finance watchdog group Center For Responsive Politics) breaks down contributions by the donor’s employer. By far, the biggest employer is New Mexico’s state government. State employees so far have coughed up $244,730 for the chief executive’s campaign.

Employees from American Income Life Insurance, a Waco-based company, gave Richardson $34,300.

University of New Mexico employees contributed $31,950, closely followed by those who work for the Sutin, Thayer and Brown law firm, which gave $31,365.

Employees of BGK Group, a Santa Fe-based real-estate company, gave $27,500. Eddie Gilbert, who heads the company, hosted a fundraiser for Richardson in May, New Mexico Business Journal reported.

People who work for a California company called National Recreation Properties raised $20,700 for Richardson. According to Answers.com, “The company markets residential real estate most notably through television advertising, including infomercials, generally featuring actor Erik Estrada or game show host Chuck Woolery.”

Forest City Enterprises employees handed Richardson $20,100. That company is involved in developing the 12,900-acre site in south Albuquerque.

Other companies whose employees have been generous to Richardson include Qwest ($19,100); the Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt law firm ($18,650); Time Warner ($18,300); and PNM Resources ($15,700).

The top industries contributing to Richardson are miscellaneous businesses ($1,767,924), lawyers ($861,022), real estate ($418,775), civil servants and government officials ($354,043), securities and investments ($351,000), business services ($206,474), education ($203,685), entertainment ($165,150), miscellaneous finance ($161,150), general contractors ($135,500) and health professionals ($131,225).

People who list their occupation as “retired” have provided $1.3 million to the campaign.

Blue acts: A huge source of Richardson’s campaign money has been Act Blue, the self-described “online clearing house for Democratic action.”

OpenSecrets, using figures from campaign finance reports, places the amount raised for Richardson via Act Blue at $238,285, though Act Blue’s own Web site, which presumably is more up to date, reports $301,810 raised for Richardson from 1,427 supporters.

While all the candidates have received some money through Act Blue, only two have raised significant amounts there. One is Richardson. But he’s raised far less Act Blue bucks than John Edwards, who has raised more than $3.5 million.

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