Wednesday, May 10, 2006


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 11, 2006

The race for governor of New Mexico is over. At least if you believe the Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

In a story published Wednesday, CQ’s Marie Horrigan wrote: “New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who is seeking a second term this year, appeared a solid favorite over little-known Republican challenger J.R. Damron — even before their latest campaign-finance filings were posted.

“But the reports, posted this week by the New Mexico Secretary of State, document that the race is a financial mismatch and suggest Richardson now appears virtually certain to secure re-election, and has led to change its rating on the race to Safe Democratic from Leans Democratic. ... it appears at this juncture that Richardson is a shoo-in.”

The article notes that Richardson, who has raised close to $7 million in the race, has “a monumental 267-to-1 advantage in cash reserves over Damron ...”

Richardson is one of two Dem governors on CQ’s “Safe” list. The other is New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, who Richardson has visited a couple of times in the past year.

Candidates love revealing huge amounts of campaign contributions for the same reason Soviets loved having big parades with missiles and tanks: It discourages potential enemies.

Or, as then-state Treasurer Robert Vigil explained to investment councilor Kent Nelson (in a conversation taped by the FBI), “If you don't have any money man, you'll get 'em lined up like hot cakes.”

A modest proposal: So if Richardson is a “shoo-in,” it raises the question why he needs to keep raising money, as he surely will do.

Consider the recent news that the Richardson campaign gave more than $44,000 of “tainted” money from his pal Guy Riordan to 70-plus charities in the state. Albuquerque investor and former state Game Commissioner Riordan, if you haven’t been paying attention, was implicated last month in Vigil’s federal corruption trial.

This raises another interesting scenario.

Since Richardson’s such a sure bet, why doesn’t he give the rest of his campaign war chest to charity? Or, if not the whole thing, give enough away so he only has, say, 100 times the amount Damron has.

It had to have felt great giving away $44,560 to homeless shelters, literacy programs, fallen firefighter memorials, libraries, animal-protection sanctuaries, museums, domestic-violence shelters and junior rodeos. Just think how wonderful it would feel to give away a few million.

The only people who would suffer would be campaign consultants and television-ad reps.

And what Richardson would lose in campaign cash-on-hand, he’d be repaid 10 times over in national publicity. He’d get to play the good guy on Larry King and Bill O’Reilly, talking about how campaigns really have gotten too expensive and, doggone it, someone finally had to take a stand, and how it wouldn’t hurt other politicians to follow suit.

Dream on.

Truckin’ down the campaign trail: Or, if you’re swimming in campaign bucks, you can always do what state Land Commissioner Pat Lyons did — buy yourself a pickup truck.

According to his campaign-finance report, filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office, last October Lyons paid himself $29,700 for a “campaign truck.”

It’s a Ford Diesel F-250 Supercab, Lyons said Wednesday. So far, he’s put 20,000 to 30,000 miles on the truck, he said.

In the 2002 campaign, Republican Lyons said, he bought a truck — out of his own pocket — for $22,000. After the campaign, he was able to get only about $6,000 for it, he said.

“I didn’t want to do that again,” he said. So after discussing it with his campaign committee, he decided to buy a new truck with campaign funds.

The two Democrats competing for the land-commissioner nomination — both former land commissioners — were quick to blast Lyons. “It may not be illegal, but it strains ethical considerations,” Jim Baca said.

Ray Powell said he was appalled and this illustrates the need for public financing of land-commissioner campaigns.

Lyons has raised more than $373,000 this year for his campaign.

Where the politicians and the antelope play: One unusual campaign expense on Lyons’ report were several payments — totaling more than $18,000 — for antelope permits. “I bought antelope permits for $800 each and sold them to raise funds,” Lyons said.

Sounds like more fun than a rubber-chicken dinner and a no-host bar.

One of the ranchers who sold the permits was the commissioner’s brother, Phil Lyons of Cuervo. He was paid $8,000 for 10 permits. Both Baca and Powell found this questionable.

Lyons got a refund on one batch of permits (totaling $7,200) from another rancher because he couldn’t sell them, he said.

A bipartisan Guy: Lyons is the first Republican I’ve seen to receive money from Riordan. According to Lyons’ report, he got $2,000 from Riordan last September.

Like all the Democrats who got Riordan money, Lyons got rid of his in late April, just days after former Treasurer Michael Montoya testified at Vigil’s trial about taking kickbacks from Riordan in restroom stalls.

But unlike the Democrats, Lyons didn’t give his Riordan money to charity. Instead, he deposited it in the state general fund. “I don’t think you should be giving it to your favorite charity,” Lyons said Wednesday. “It’s a state investment scandal. The money belongs to all the people.”

1 comment:

  1. So if Richardson is a “shoo-in,” it raises the question why he needs to keep raising money, as he surely will do.

    Because he needs more to look like a credible Presidential candidate.


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