Thursday, May 19, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 19, 2005

Gov. Bill Richardson had some rosy news Wednesday. The state Tourism Department will have a float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.

That parade, which is part of the annual Rose Bowl game, is in Pasadena, Calif. — coincidentally the city where Richardson was born.

The state’s float will cost an estimated $125,000 to $150,000 Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley said. Although the state might seek private donors, it’s already part of the Tourism Department’s budget, Shipley said.

Last year an estimated 22 million households around the country tuned into the parade, a news release from Tourism said. “This even will allow us to become a stronger presence in southern California, which has always been one of our major markets,” Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti said in the release.

Could this be a ploy for more national exposure for the governor?

“He wants to go to the game but not be in the parade,” Shipley said.

No word yet on a Bill Richardson balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

California roses: Speaking of a stronger New Mexico presence in southern California, six staffers from the state Democratic Party hopped in a van and headed to Los Angeles to help out in the successful mayoral campaign of Antonio Villaraigosa, who ousted incumbent L.A. Mayor James Hahn by a landslide vote Tuesday.

“This was our field staff,” party spokesman Matt Farrauto said. “We viewed that election as an exciting opportunity for our field organizers to get on-the-ground, real-world experience.”

Villaraigosa is the first Hispanic mayor of L.A. since 1872.

A story in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times said, “In an instant, his victory Tuesday bestowed on him the prominence of the (Democratic) party's highest-ranking Latinos, among them New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado.”

While Farrauto downplayed talk of Richardson himself sending the staff to California, he said he might have first heard the idea from Richardson’s political director Amanda Cooper. Cooper couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

While nobody’s claiming the New Mexico Six were pivotal in Villaraigosa’s election, it almost certainly would be viewed as a friendly gesture. And someone running for, say, president, surely wouldn’t mind the mayor of the second-largest city in the U.S. on his side.

More fun with campaign contributions: The Richardson campaign contribution report is the gift that keeps on giving.

One contributor with a Beverly Hills address who nobody has paid much attention to is Kirk Kerkorian, an 87-year-old billionaire investor.

According to a recent story in The Associated Press, Kerkorian “bought and sold MGM three times, changed management more than once and dealt away major assets, including the studio’s soundstages and much of its film library, including such classics as Gone With the Wind.

“He built some of the largest hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, including the MGM Grand. He sold his empire there once, then returned to buy out rival casino mogul Steve Wynn.”

But though, according to Forbes magazine Kerkorian is worth around $8.9 billion, he only gave Richardson’s re-election $2,000. Perhaps Kerkorian is watching his budget due to his current $870 million offer to double his investment in General Motors Corp. If successful that would boost Kerkorian company’s holdings to about 9 percent and make him one of the auto maker’s largest shareholders.

Last week in this column I listed several of Richardson’s entertainment industry contributors, including singer Andy Williams and Virginia Mancini, widow of composer Henry Mancini, who wrote Williams’ greatest hit, “Moon River.”

But there’s another Williams/Mancini connection, one that involves Richardson’s biggest contributor so far, Univision honcho Jerry Perenchio.

An August 2004 feature in Business Week Online says this of Richardson’s benefactor: “He's a jet-hopping, 73-year-old former boxing promoter who pals around with George Bush (41 and 43) and lives in the sprawling Bel Air (Calif.) mansion featured in the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. He loves throwing lavish parties — once he even flew in Henry Mancini and Andy Williams to perform at his son's 1981 wedding.”

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