Thursday, October 3, 2002
PAC Money Covers Mayor's Travel Expenses, Phone Bills
By Jim Ludwick
Copyright © 2002 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Mayor Martin Chávez is using thousands of dollars donated by private contributors to defray family expenses, ranging from his wife's telephone bills to the cost of taking his family on a goodwill trip to Japan.
Money has been donated by high-ranking city employees, real estate developers, lawyers, bankers and other supporters to a political action committee known as ABQPAC, formed during Chávez's first week in office.
The mayor in an interview Wednesday said it was an appropriate arrangement and a good deal for city taxpayers. One councilor decried it as a "personal-benefit slush fund."
Committee financial reports filed with the secretary of state show nearly $64,000 in contributions and about $51,000 in spending.
An additional $35,000 to $40,000 was raised in two recent events a golf tournament at Santa Ana Pueblo and an event at the home of city public works director Ted Asbury. That money is not yet reflected in financial reports, according to Chávez.
Political action committees typically raise money to contribute to candidates who are running for office, but this one has a different purpose. Most of its funds have been used for the Chávez family, not for conventional campaign contributions.
Chávez talked about the arrangement during a telephone interview Wednesday. He was in Mexico traveling with his family on a Sister Cities trip. Sister Cities is a program designed to improve cultural ties. The Chávez family's travel expenses are being paid by the PAC.
Keeping family together
The mayor said the arrangement allows his family to stay together when he travels as mayor.
"I can't stand to be away from them," he said.
Using a political action committee "seemed to be the most proper way" to raise money, he said, because there is public disclosure and it does not depend on government funds.
It saves money for taxpayers, he said, because it involves the use of private donations to cover some expenses that might have reasonably been charged to city government such as certain travel costs and his cell phone.
Several city councilors criticized the fund-raising practice and said it could put undue pressure on people who do business with the city.
Councilor Hess Yntema said he's "greatly saddened to learn about this that the mayor would do it, that our public ethics would be such that it might be considered acceptable, that so many important members of our community would participate in a personal-benefit slush fund."
Chávez said he would be "shocked" if anyone feels pressured to provide a contribution.
"That is not the strategy. ... That is something that is never done and would not be countenanced," he said.
At least 10 high-ranking city employees have contributed to the political action committee, according to the financial reports. At least $28,000 has been provided by people in real estate or development businesses.
The fund paid about $14,000 to a travel agency for the Chávez family's trip to Japan. The mayor traveled there in March as part of a Sister Cities delegation.
On four occasions, Chávez has been given disbursements totaling $14,700 that are listed on the financial reports as loan repayments. He said it was to reimburse him for loans he made to his mayoral campaign when he ran for his first term nearly a decade ago. The loans were not repaid at the time because it would have caused his campaign to exceed a legal limit on spending, he said.
Collecting repayment of his old campaign loans "made life a lot better with my wife. She's been mad at me for years over that one," he said.
The financial reports said there were nearly $780 in disbursements for phone bills of Margaret Aragón de Chávez, the mayor's wife.
Miscellany of expenses
Numerous other expenditures include $1,521 for food at the mayor's inauguration; $803.51 for beverage expenses at La Posada; $534.49 to Margaret Chávez as a hotel bill reimbursement; and a total of $7,000 in payments to the mayor to reimburse him for various unspecified expenses. There were also campaign contributions of $750 for Ken Sanchez, who ran for state treasurer, and $150 for Robert Lucero, who ran for the Bernalillo County Commission.
A similar fund-raising effort was launched during Chávez's previous term as mayor but it did not involve the formal registration of a political action committee, Chávez said Wednesday.
At the time, a group of his campaign supporters began raising money to help cover the cost of out-of-town trips and other expenses that would be incurred by the mayor and his wife. Chávez quickly brought it to a halt after it prompted criticism.
This time, a political action committee was registered Dec. 5. The paperwork was signed by Bruce Perlman, who had served as Chávez's campaign treasurer.
The registration document says the purpose of the committee is "to promote local government by providing financial and other support for elected officials and their families, candidates for office, and other community and political initiatives."
Hoyt Clifton, who serves as a consultant to the secretary of state's office on campaign reports and other issues, said the Chávez effort is unusual.
"Political action committees are established, basically, to support a question or bond issue or a candidate who is running for office. It is different than what we would expect," Clifton said.
"But to tell you there is something illegal about it not without some real intense study could I say that. It's just strange. I can't say that there's anything wrong with it."
The following contributions, totaling about $64,000, were listed on reports filed with the Office of the Secretary of State. An additional $35,000 to $40,000 has been contributed in recent fund-raising events that have not yet been reflected in financial reports, according to the mayor. (Asterisks denote the report's illegible letters.)
Contributor's Name Occupation Amount
1st State Bank Bank $2,500
Steve J. Abraham Cab Company Owner $500
Richard Ackerman (none listed) $100
Albuquerque Firefighters Local 244 Union $200
Associated Insurance Professionals Inc. Insurance Agency $200
Avila Retail Development and Management Real Estate $1,500
AWB Interests Property Mgmt. $1,000
Augustine C. and Jeanette E. Baca Retired $500
N.S. Bakas (none listed) $100
Baker Law Firm Attorney $1,000
Balleau Ground Water Inc. Well Drilling $250
M. Oma* Barbarossa (none listed) $200
William Kevin Bell (none listed) $100
Biehler and Harris LLC Law Firm $500
Teresa M. and Scott H. Binder (none listed) $100
John F. and Joan Black Developer $500
John Black Developer $125
David P. Bucholtz Attorney $500
Builder Services (none listed) $100
Ron G. Bustos (none listed) $100
California Water Service Co. Water Utilities $500
Dewey Cave (none listed) $50
Don Chalmers Car Dealer $1,000
Champion Truss Inc. Construction $2,000
John Chavez Developer $5,000
Travis Clark Student $2,000
COA - Firefighters Union Union $500
Committee to Elect Tom Mills (none listed) $100
Francie Cordova City of Albuquerque $125
Doug or Ann Crandall Realtor $500
Peter Dinelli Attorney $250
Bruce W. Donisthorpe Consultant $125
Paul Donisthorpe LLC Lawyer $500
Barney L. and Sandra Doyle (none listed) $50
DSB Ventures LLC Realtor $250
CM Dziak Insurance $100
Tim and Sandra Eichenberg Realtor $250
Jay Lee Evans (none listed) $50
Will Ferguson Attorney $250
Forbes Toppino Creative Group (none listed) $100
Arthur L. Gallegos (none listed) $100
Phillip J. and Ida Gallegos (none listed) $100
Gara Commercial Realtor $1,000
Leonard and Suzanne Garcia (none listed) $50
Garrity Enterprises LLC Public Relations $1,000
Julian S. Garza Auto Dealer $500
Gilbert Gawin (none listed) $50
Gerry Ward and Associates Inc. Concessionaire $2,500
James and Deborah Giannelli Revocable Trust $1,000
Harold H. Gonzales Retired $1,000
Paul Gorder Realtor $1,000
Robert Gurule Retired $100
Donald and Amy Harris (none listed) $100
Trevor Hatchell Land Specialist $500
Frank and Zora Hesse Retired $250
Blanca B. Hise (none listed) $100
Blanca Hise City of Albuquerque $25
William J. Holguin (none listed) $50
Earl A. Holmes (none listed) $100
Steven and Robin House Engineer $125
J R Hale Contracting Co. Contractor $2,500
J.R. Hale Contracting Co. Inc. Contractor $500
Mark S. Jaffe (none listed) $100
Kyle K*mbrell (none listed) $100
Kaufman's West LLC Surplus $1,000
Nora J. and Richard R. Kennedy (none listed) $100
Kennedy, Moulton & Wells PC Law Firm $1,000
Mushtaq A. and Arif M. Khan (none listed) $100
Bernadette Lithgow (none listed) $50
Los Suenos LLC Development $1,000
Maddox and Company Realtors (none listed) $50
Christopher Madrid Bondsman $300
Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk, PA Law Firm $3,000
Orion International Technologies Technology Ventures $100
Robert and *acinta Ortega (none listed) $100
Robert and Jacinta Ortega City of Alb. $1,000
Tony and E*inda J. Ortiz (none listed) $100
Manny Ortiz Accountant $125
Tina M. Oteni (none listed) $200
Sosimo Padilla (none listed) $100
Bryon Paez Consultant $250
Barbara Page (none listed) $100
Bruce Pearlman Educator $1,000
Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 412 Labor Union $125
Queston Construction Inc. Construction $100
F.W. Reed (none listed) $100
Jeffrey and Traci Remington (none listed) $100
RMCI Contractor $1,000
Ira S. Robinson (none listed) $100
Marie Saenz (none listed) $100
Victor and Viviian Sanchez (none listed) $100
Emilia and Vidal Santillanes (none listed) $100
Marc Schiff (none listed) $100
Marc Schiff Architect $125
Maria E. and Joe Sena (none listed) $100
Simon M. Shama (none listed) $200
Thomas K. Sims (none listed) $50
Sivage Thomas Homes (none listed) $100
David Smoak Realtor $800
Steve Garcia Enterprises Ltd. Realtor $300
J.O. and Marlene Stewart Retired $750
Rosetta Stewart (none listed) $50
Rosetta Stewart (none listed) $50
Paula Still Educator $1,000
STV Investments Realtor $500
Sun Country Redi-Mix Cement $2,000
Sunset West Realty $500
Technical Management Support and Services Consulting $500
The Anchor Mortgage Group (none listed) $40
The Earth Day Recycling Co. Inc. Recycling $1,000
The Hilltop Landscape Architects and Contractors Contractors $1,500
Vaughn Company Real Estate $1,300
Valorie Vigil (none listed) $50
Valerorie Vigil City of Albuquerque $25
Virgi* Gil Construction Construction $1,000
Walz and Associates Law Firm $125
Wells Fargo New Mexico PAC PAC $2,000
West Side Golf Inc. Golf Course $250
Westwood Realty Co. Realtors $500
Westwood Realty Ltd. Real Estate $500
Robert M. White Attorney $50
-- From the Office of the Secretary of State