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Campaign Event Blasted

By Jeff Jones
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Politics Writer
    Some East Coast media seemed shocked that major Democratic donors Beth and Ron Dozoretz would host a presidential campaign event for Gov. Bill Richardson in Washington, D.C.
    The Washington Post in a political blog entry reported that the Dozoretzes hosted a "fundraising event" for Richardson on Friday and noted the couple has been chummy with the Clintons in the past.
    The blog didn't point out that Ron Dozoretz has major business interests in New Mexico.
    He runs the parent company of ValueOptions, which last fiscal year oversaw $300 million in mental health and substance abuse services under contract with New Mexico state government.
    Richardson presidential campaign spokesman Pahl Shipley said the event was a "meet-and-greet" and not a fundraiser, adding he didn't know if anyone wrote checks to the Richardson camp.
    The event drew fire from Senate Minority Whip Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces.
    "Looks bad, smells bad," Rawson said.
    ValueOptions is asking New Mexico legislators for an increase in the amount of money the state pays to service providers. It also is considering controversial changes in the way it does business, including scaling back some services in favor of less-expensive care.
    Rawson said the Dozoretz event sounded like a fundraiser to him, adding, "If it walks like a duck (and) quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck."
    The blog quoted a copy of an invitation that said while contributions were not required, checks could be written to the Bill Richardson exploratory committee.
    FHC Health System, the parent of ValueOptions, was one of several health care-related companies with a presence in New Mexico that wrote sizable checks to Richardson's successful 2006 gubernatorial re-election campaign. FHC gave $50,000 to that campaign.
    Rawson began criticizing Richardson's presidential exploratory fundraising shortly after the governor announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last month.
    Rawson has pointed to state elections law that specifies a governor cannot solicit political contributions during an ongoing legislative session— a prohibition that extends until 20 days after the session adjourns.
    The 60-day session in Santa Fe adjourns in mid-March.
    Shipley has said the prohibition applies to state elections, not to candidates for federal office such as Richardson. And he has accused Rawson of slinging "political mud."
    Rawson last month asked state Attorney General Gary King to look into the issue, and King is expected to weigh in within days.
    "When you take money from a company or an individual that has absolute gain in the outcome of the legislative process ... it's unethical," Rawson said. "A candidate has a responsibility to be above reproach."
    Shipley accused Rawson of making "another desperate attempt to attack the governor."