Thursday, June 16, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 15, 2005

The radio war between Gov. Bill Richardson and the New Mexico Republican Party escalated Wednesday.

The GOP unleashed two more commercials -- in English and in Spanish -- that blast the governor for his administration’s purchase of a $5.5 million jet airplane and what they call his “high-roller lifestyle.”

Both ads make pointed references to the eight-passenger jet and to Richardson having a “make-up artist” on staff. Both will be running on six stations across the state for the next week, state GOP executive director Marta Kramer said Wednesday.

The ad comes a week after a similar GOP radio ad ran in New Mexico and New Hampshire, where Richardson made a political trip last week. Richardson quickly responded with his own ad that ran on New Mexico stations defending his purchase of the jet.

State Republican Chairman Allen Weh said the notion that Richardson leads “the lifestyle of the rich and famous” — at taxpayer expense — will become a theme in next year’s gubernatorial race. Richardson has said he’ll seek re-election.

“I don’t know of another governor in any of the other 49 states who has such a pampered lifestyle as Bill Richardson,” Weh said.

Richardson’s political director Amanda Cooper said the ads are “full of lies.”

Cooper it was “unconscionable” and “disgraceful” that the Republicans would run such ads during a time when the governor is working with Sen. Pete Domenici and other Republicans to save Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, which the Pentagon has recommended for closure.

“Bipartisan work needs to be done,” she said. “Let’s save Cannon”
But she said it’s likely the Richardson re-election campaign will pay for another round of ads attacking the new GOP spots.

One ad features a narrator acting as a pilot, welcoming passengers to “Gov. Richardson's new Cessna Citation Bravo.”

The “pilot” continues, “This 5.5 million dollar jet is the lap of luxury, with leather seats and wet bar.”

The ad gives a little history of Richardson’s efforts to get the new plane, specifically how he tried to purchase it without approval by the Legislature, until Attorney General Patricia Madrid issued an opinion saying that plan was illegal.

The “pilot” also talks about Richardson’s “$4 million helicopter, a Cadillac Escalade, three chefs and the largest personal staff of any Governor in the state's history ... that even includes a make-up artist.”

The ad claims Richardson has raised taxes to pay for personal extravagances. “Well, maybe that 's why he wears all that make-up.

“I guess it's hard to look at New Mexicans with a straight face while he raises taxes on the sick and elderly to pay for his high-roller lifestyle.”

The ad concludes, “So sit back, strap in and hold on to your wallet. Gov. Richardson is taking you for a ride... so he can fly first class.”

The second ad consists of a man and woman discussing Richardson’s response to the jet controversy, also referring to the leather seats and wet bar.

“Bill Richardson says it's the Republicans fault,” a woman says.

“How can he say that?” a man says. “ The Legislature never voted on the jet itself. It says right here that the jet was tied to funding for schools, senior centers, and over 3,000 other projects. ...”

The jet was in the general appropriations bill.

The couple jokes about Richardson having a staff make-up artist, whose job included fetching the governor cigars. This was based on a 2003 Washington Post story in which a reporter followed Richardson the day of a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Albuquerque.

That staffer, whose job title was executive assistant, now works for another state agency.

Cooper said there is no make-up artist on staff. She also said Richardson has only one chef, not three.

She said the image of Richardson as a pampered high roller isn’t fair. “Gary Johnson had a car. He had a cook,” she said. She added, “The governor does not do politics at taxpayer expense.”

But Weh said the Republican ads are resonating with New Mexicans who see Richardson as “an egotistical guy who indulges in perks."

“The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes," Weh said. "and we’re going to tell people.”

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