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$386,000 Given to Candidates

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE— Lobbyists and their employers contributed $386,000 to candidates for state, legislative and other offices during the first four months of the year, with Gov. Bill Richardson receiving the largest share of the political money.
    Richardson, who is running for re-election this year, collected $171,500 in campaign donations from lobbyists and their clients from January through late April, according to disclosure reports filed by lobbyists with the secretary of state's office.
    Among the contributions to the governor's re-election was $75,000 from a private equity real estate fund, RS Property Fund V. The fund is affiliated with a San Francisco-based investment company, RS Investments. Company employees also contributed $2,000 to Richardson's campaign.
    J.D. Bullington, a lobbyist for the company's New Mexico partnership, said the company recently started doing business in the state.
    He said the contribution was made to Richardson because "they want their presence felt in New Mexico and they're strong supporters of the governor and his agenda."
    Other contributors to the governor's re-election: $27,500 from Geo Group Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which operates private prisons used by the state; $25,000 from Presbyterian Health Plan, one of the managed care companies under contract with the state to provide health care through Medicaid; $5,000 from Community Loans of America, a payday and auto title loan company; and $5,000 from Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits offered through insurance plans, including for some state retirees.
    Other large political contributions included $10,000 each to Jim Baca and Ray Powell, Democratic candidates for land commissioner, from Forest City Covington, a real estate developer involved in the Mesa del Sol project on state trust land in the Albuquerque area. Baca and Powell are former land commissioners.
    Lobbyists and their employers also spent $173,930 for meals, drinks, gifts, entertainment and special events for legislators, the governor, state agency officials and staff from January through April 25, according to the latest disclosure reports.
    Among the spending:
   
  • $2,422 worth of pens for the Governor's Office by a lobbyist whose clients include New Mexico Highlands University and UST Public Affairs Inc., part of a smokeless tobacco company. The pens were described in the lobbyist's disclosure report as a "gift to the citizens of New Mexico." Richardson gives away pens that he uses to sign legislation.
       
  • A dinner for the governor and his staff after the legislative session. At least six lobbyists shared the tab, which they reported at nearly $1,800. Clients of the lobbyists included the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Phelps Dodge Mining, the Association of Commerce and Industry and Public Service Company of New Mexico.
       
  • $2,578 for "bags of groceries" for each of the 112 legislators. The lobbyist, Joe Nestor Chavez, said Friday that he provided an assortment of goodies, including crackers, cheese dips, cookies and some bottled water to lawmakers and some legislative staff.
        "They put them in their office and just have them for snacks when the days get long," said Chavez, whose clients include the New Mexico Grocers Association.



    Copyright ©2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.