Wednesday, June 14, 2006


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 15, 2006

New Mexico’s Republican delegation on Wednesday complained to the Federal Elections Commission about a political-action committee started by Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid.

“It appears that Patricia Madrid has violated federal campaign-finance laws that prohibit the use of “soft money” in a federal election campaign,” says the letter to the FEC signed by Wilson, Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Steve Pearce.

The PAC, called Justice For America, raised nearly $500,000 between May 2005 and October 2005, when Madrid announced her candidacy for Congress. The PAC spent nearly $125,000 between May 2005 and this May and has about $492,000 in the bank.

The PAC was visibly raising money just a month before Madrid announced her candidacy. On Sept. 15, the committee hosted former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at a $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

Under federal law, a candidate for a federal office can’t use money raised for a state PAC. A spokeswoman for the Madrid campaign said that money is “frozen” and has never been used for the congressional race.

But the Republican trio said in their FEC complaint that some of the expenditures “seem to have benefited Madrid and her campaign (for Congress).”

Specifically, the delegation mentions $17,000 in payments to a Washington, D.C., political-consulting firm called Lake, Snell, Perry and Mermin between June 2005 and last September. There also is a Jan. 17, 2006, payment to the firm for $49.64 for “conference calls.”

Madrid campaign manager Caroline Buerkle said none of the firm’s services were for the congressional race. The conference calls took place before Madrid announced for Congress, Buerkle said.

Even if the PAC is dormant, the Republicans argued, Madrid’s husband, Michael Messina, is the chairman of the PAC. This indicates Madrid still has some level of control of the funds, the complaint says.

Part of the FEC complaint reads as if it was meant for eyes beyond the FEC bureaucrats who will deal with the complaint. In fact, at least one part sounds like an attack ad.

Referring to Justice for America, the complaints says, “Virtually all of its donors were wealthy lawyers, corporations or affluent businessmen, most of whom donated thousands of dollars, in excess of any federal limits.”

Madrid spokeswoman Heather Brewer said the complaint shows Wilson is “grabbing at straws” and trying to divert attention from the fact that she has returned only a fraction of the money that embattled former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay donated to her.

Since her first election in 1998, Wilson received nearly $47,000 from DeLay's political-action committee. Last year, she returned the $10,000 she'd collected from DeLay's PAC in June after DeLay was indicted on state charges in Texas. But she didn’t return the $36,959 she received from DeLay between 1998 and 2003. Wilson campaign officials have said she won't return that money.

Black-rubber clouds: If the sky seems dark over Albuquerque this afternoon, it might not be the weather.

A group calling itself PAC505 plans to protest today’s visit by President Bush by tethering some 200 helium-filled black balloons over buildings and homes.

“The balloons will be sufficiently large and elevated to significantly alter the skyscape of downtown and the greater metropolitan area,” PAC505’s Web site says.

“The Black Balloon Fiesta represents a new mode of peaceful political action,” the site says. “In an era when progressives are, for whatever reasons, less inclined to take to the streets and protest, PAC505 is formulating new ways of providing them with a unified voice.”

I guess that beats snorting tear gas and dodging police birdshot, like I remember from my Albuquerque protest days a few decades ago.

Bush is going to Albuquerque to help raise money for Wilson’s campaign.

It’s not clear who makes up PAC505. No names appear on the Web site and no one has filed with the FEC. We’re not sure whether the rubber and helium industries are contributors.

The Madrid campaign says it’s not associated with this PAC. But the state Democratic Party apparently has embraced the idea. “The balloons are symbolic of Wilson's reference during the Republican National Convention when she called George W. Bush her ‘beacon,’ ” a state party news release said.

1 comment:

  1. “In an era when progressives are, for whatever reasons, less inclined to take to the streets and protest,"

    It's tough finding enough wheelchair accessible busses for all those geriatrics from the '60s. And if the college whackjobs decide to get all, "Bush lied, kids died" their parents would want to come to the rally too. And what twenty-year old kid wants to be seen in public with his tye-dye wearing mom?


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