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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."
Private contributions
    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