Thursday, May 26, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 26, 2005

Gov. Bill Richardson is catching flak in the blogosphere for amassing a $3 million re-election campaign treasury.

But the complaints aren’t coming from Republicans, who have yet to find an obvious frontrunner to challenge Richardson in 2006. They’re coming from fellow Democrats — specifically the progressive wing of the party, or as some of them call themselves, the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

Over on the Democracy for New Mexico blog, a site that grew out of Howard Dean’s national Democracy for America group, Dems have been going back and forth over a recent post by the blog’s co-founder and webmaster Barbara Wold.

“Is it just me, or is anyone else put off by Gov. Richardson’s already large campaign fund for the 2006 governor’s race?” Wold pondered .

“What peeves me is that we frequently hear ‘we have no money’ when we suggest that the Dems, particularly our County Parties, do something about building our Party BEFORE the next election cycle,” she wrote. “No wonder it’s so difficult to raise funds for party activities when the big honcho at the top sucks all the bucks into his own personal coffers for a race that’s way down the line.”

Noting a couple of major donors on Richardson’s contribution list — namely Miguel Lausell, a political and business consultant based in Puerto Rico who gave the governor $25,000, and California real-estate investor Richard L. Bloch, who also pitched in $25,000 — Wold wrote: “Hmm. I wonder what they expect to get from such generous donations to a governor’s race in New Mexico? We once were truly the party of the people. What are we now? The party of the big bucks contributors?”

This initial post prompted just a handful of replies. But one Democrat who noticed was Amanda Cooper, Richardson’s political director.

In a lengthy reply, Cooper defended her boss, saying Richardson “has taken the lead here in New Mexico and across the country when it comes to the importance of investing and strengthening the Democratic Party. New Mexico is the first state in the country to put grassroots organizers on the ground. The grassroots organizer program was conceived, developed and funded by Gov. Richardson and his organization. Gov. Richardson not only placed the organizers at the Democratic Party, he continues to raise and donate the money for them to work in communities around the state in an effort to help move the party forward.”

Cooper denied the guv keeps all his campaign contributions for himself.

She wrote that Richardson “invested over a half a million dollars in helping candidates run for office here in New Mexico just last cycle, over a million dollars registering people to vote, holding campaign trainings, and turning out people to the polls.”

Cooper’s post elicited major response. And some blog regulars weren’t impressed.

“Are these organizers working for Richardson or the Democratic Party?” one poster asked. “Is the party just a parking lot for Richardson organizers before they go over to his campaign in ’06?”

Another wrote: “We are all happy we have a Democratic governor. And we are all glad that Richardson has brought more attention and resources to our state. ... What we (are) concerned about is someone making a private kingdom out of donations from large donors and sucking up all the capital for himself instead of for ALL our candidates, and our on the-ground operations.”

Some defended Richardson.

“As the leader of our party and the executive branch, and with a punch clock on the national playing field, the governor is the most obvious recipient for special interest largesse, which is why he has three million in the bank,” one man wrote. Richardson, he said, “has shown that he is able to say no to some of his biggest donors.”

Another wrote: “Instead of sitting around complaining about Richardson, we should be happy that he’s investing in the party both in NM and across the nation. We have the chance to have a two term gov running for President of the United States. What’s not to like about that?”

One poster got all historic on us: “Machiavelli would be pleased, reacting like a Jacobin Mob, which one of our leaders will we bring to the guillotine today!! Need not worry about the GOP, we will cut the throats of our own.”

But keeping quiet in the name of party unity doesn’t seem likely with these folks. These guys think the higher-ups might learn some things from the lower-downs .

In one of her posts, Wold said: “I think one thing people in higher positions in the Party here and nationally don’t seem to fully understand is how much mistrust and disgust there is within the Dem base about how things have gone and who’s in charge of the message and how it’s communicated and disseminated. There is a massive sea change happening from the ground up and people are very frustrated with the business as usual attitudes of many of our ‘leaders.’ ”

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