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Gov.'s Camp Rolling In Dough

By Jeff Jones
Journal Politics Writer
    Gov. Bill Richardson got a lot of fundraising "satisfaction" over the past year, adding more than $3.8 million to an already hefty war chest for his 2006 re-election campaign.
    Contributions since last May ranged from modest cash donations from everyday New Mexicans to Rolling Stones tickets Richardson was able to use for a fundraiser in California.
    Richardson last May reported a campaign fund balance of more than $3 million, meaning he's raised nearly $7 million for this year's re-election bid, according to the latest state campaign finance disclosure.
    The first-term Democratic governor is well on pace to shatter his totals for the 2002 gubernatorial race— the most expensive in state history— in which he raised a total of about $8.2 million.
    Richardson, minus expenditures, had more than $5.5 million in campaign money in the bank as of the reporting period cutoff.
    His closing balance was nearly 270 times the amount Republican challenger J.R. Damron reported in his campaign reports.
    Neither Richardson nor Damron has any primary election opposition on the ballot.
    Monday's 300-plus-page contribution list filed with the Secretary of State's Office is "an incredibly strong testimony to a governor who has a very aggressive agenda to get things done for the state," Richardson campaign manager Amanda Cooper said shortly before the 5 p.m. filing deadline. "People are proud of this governor."
    Damron, a Santa Fe radiologist, reported total contributions of about $303,000 dating back to last February, with most of it— $190,000— coming in the form of loans from him and his wife.
    Damron reported a closing bank balance of just under $21,000.
    Paige McKenzie, Damron's spokeswoman and acting campaign manager, said Damron will be taking a leave of absence from his medical practice later this month to campaign full time. She said she expects his fundraising totals will rise.
    "Obviously, we want to raise more— and we will raise more," McKenzie said. "This is a marathon; it's not a sprint. J.R. is running his campaign like he'll run state government: lean and efficient. Bill Richardson is running his campaign like he runs state government: bloated and inflated."
    Cooper, responding to McKenzie's claim, pointed to a conservative think tank, the Cato Institute, naming Richardson the nation's most fiscally responsible Democratic governor. Cooper said the Richardson campaign expects the national Republican Party to pour cash into Damron's campaign as the November general election comes closer.
    Richardson's contributors include retirees, educators, business owners, state workers and lawyers, among others. Big business and celebrity names are throughout the report.
    Producer Norman Lear of Los Angeles plunked down $4,000 to the Richardson camp last spring, while a musician identified as "Mr. Don Henley" gave $5,000.
    A Don Henley is a member of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Eagles and an accomplished solo artist.
    Business contributions to the Richardson campaign included at least $10,000 from Lovelace Sandia Health System, $3,000 from mining company Molycorp Inc. and $2,000 from Coca-Cola.
    Gambling interests also wrote sizable checks to the Richardson campaign, including at least $5,000 from The Downs at Albuquerque president Paul Blanchard and $10,000 from SunRay Gaming of New Mexico.
    Richardson in November hosted one of his political fundraisers at a Rolling Stones concert in San Diego, courtesy of more than $2,500 worth of free concert tickets donated by a giant California mortgage firm.
    Ameriquest, a national mortgage company and a sponsor of the Stones' "A Bigger Bang" tour, gave 10 tickets to the Richardson gubernatorial camp for the Nov. 11 fundraiser, Cooper said in a recent interview.
    "They donated, in-kind, the tickets for us to be able to do the event," Cooper said, adding the 10 tickets were valued at an estimated $2,575.
    A list of in-kind contributions to the Richardson campaign shows Ameriquest donated more than $13,000 worth of travel to the campaign.
    Several messages left with Ameriquest seeking more details on the ticket donations were not returned.
The Golden State
    Richardson attended several gubernatorial fundraisers during the November California trip, including a golf tournament at a luxury Palm Desert development co-hosted by New Mexico casino and racetrack magnate R.D. Hubbard.
    Cooper, during an interview shortly after the November trip, didn't mention the Ameriquest donation and declined to release details on how much was raised at the golf tournament, saying the amounts would be available in Monday's required finance disclosures with the Secretary of State's office.
    New Mexico campaign-finance disclosure reports don't tie a particular contribution with a specific event. But reported contributions from the California weekend include: a $5,000 donation from the MetLife insurance firm; $20,000 from VCC Alameda, a California property management company; and $10,000 from the Zia Park racetrack and casino in Hobbs, which Hubbard owns.
    Richardson received $171,500 in campaign donations from lobbyists and their clients in the first four months of this year, the Associated Press has reported.
    Among those contributions was $75,000 from RS Property Fund V, a private equity real-estate fund.

E-MAIL writer Jeff Jones