Former Gov. Bill Richardson was paid $10,000 for two months consulting work for Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California under an arrangement that ended in September, according to a published accounts of the spaceport’s oversight board meeting held earlier this week.
The spaceport was seeking passage of an “informed consent” law that would protect private spaceflight operators from most civil lawsuits by passengers, but a Richardson spokeswoman said in a letter to the Journal on Thursday that the former New Mexico governor never worked as a “lobbyist.”
A Journal story published last week reported that Richardson “was going to work” for the spaceport to lobby on its behalf, based on a telephone interview with Mojave spaceport CEO Stuart Witt.
During that interview, Witt declined to discuss terms of Richardson’s contract with the spaceport. Contacted Friday by telephone, Witt declined to discuss the story.
On Wednesday, however, he told the East Kern County Aviation District Board that Richardson’s two-month contract was completed, according to a published report.
A Richardson spokesman objected to the term lobby in an email letter to the Journal, stating that Richardson provided strategic advice to the spaceport on the legislation.
“The Governor did not lobby the Legislature and simply was providing advice …,” Richardson aide Caitlin Wakefield said in her email. “The governor is not a lobbyist and does not lobby in his post-Governor activities.”
On Monday, before the story was published, Wakefield was sent two emails to addresses on Richardson’s website asking for a statement from Richardson about his work for the California spaceport. The Journal did not receive a response.
In her email Thursday, Wakefield said Richardson’s work for the Mojave Air and Space Port ended Sept. 21 when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill imposing limited restrictions on civil lawsuits against private space flight operators.
That legislation provides protections similar to those now in place at New Mexico’s $209 million Spaceport America, and, like New Mexico, it does not extend to manufacturers in the fledging space flight industry.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and others have argued that the expanded protection, which is opposed by trial lawyers, is needed to keep New Mexico’s spaceport investment viable as competition from other states grows.
“Governor Richardson is committed to commercial space travel in New Mexico as well as around the country and around the globe,” Wakefield said in her email.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal