Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Contributing to Long Gone Campaigns

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 23, 2009

Elections end. Campaigns crash and burn.
BILL RICHARDSON in Manchester the night before the NH Primary
But one thing that seems to be eternal is the fundraising machinery of campaign committees of both successful and unsuccessful candidates. That and the checks to campaign consultants long after the election is over.

Take Bill Richardson. His campaign for president ended in early January 2008, but in the first three months of this year, he found enough people who like him to raise more than $64,000 for that long dormant campaign. That enabled Richardson to pay off his remaining $27,000 campaign debt and still have more than $24,000 in the bank. That's according to his presidential campaign's latest campaign finance report filed last week.

Nearly all of the debt was owed to a Hobbs company owned by U.S. Rep. Harry Teague and state Transportation Commissioner Johnny Cope for air travel during Richardson's presidential run. That was paid off in early January, according to the report.

Only one of the contributors listed in the federal report, which was filed last week, is from New Mexico. That was Tariq Mussani, who listed his occupation as business manager for Sundance Services Inc. in Eunice, an environmental consulting firm for the oil and gas industry.

Richardson's largest contributor in his most recent report was the political action committee of Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, which gave $5,000 to his presidential campaign.

Re-elect Bill: But the presidential campaign committee is not the only organization of a long-gone Richardson campaign that still is showing signs of financial life. Richardson's re-election campaign — remember the 2006 election, which supposedly ended in early November 2006? — received more than $30,000 last year, including a $25,000 contribution from a local art collector and philanthropist.

This was Gene Thaw, a nationally recognized art collector who turned his 5,000-acre Wind River Ranch in Mora County over to a conservation and education nonprofit.

Thaw also is a partner of Richardson benefactor Gerald Peters in a local aviation company. That company has loaned Richardson its jet for campaign purposes. According to campaign finance records, Thaw made his contribution in early May 2008.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Thaw said he couldn't remember why he gave $25,000 to Richardson's campaign last year. "I like Bill Richardson, and I've always supported him," Thaw said.
GOV.  BILL RICHARDSON the night he won re-election in 2006
According to the Institute of Money in State Government, Thaw also contributed $31,000 to Richardson before the 2006 election. He's also been generous to other Democrats. He gave a total of $88,000 to federal candidates last year, including Barack Obama and New Mexico congressional candidates. Of that, $2,300 went to Richardson's presidential campaign.

F L Electric of Truth or Consequences was the only other contributor listed in the report. The company gave the re-election committee $5,000 last May.

Leave no consultant behind: The Richardson 2006 re-election campaign not only raised money last year, it spent some, too. In May 2008, the campaign spent more than $26,000 on consultants for unspecified work.

Dan Sena, whose address was listed in Arlington, Va., was paid $13,021 by the re-election campaign, while Dan Kloke of Albuquerque got $10,800 and Tasha Caldwell, also of Albuquerque, was paid $3,350.

Both Sena and Caldwell had been employed by Richardson's presidential campaign. Sena — who has worked for Richardson's PAC Moving America Forward and the Democratic Governor's Association, which Richardson chaired — was field operations director of the campaign. Caldwell was deputy compliance director of Richardson's fundraising effort.

All three were paid May 16, 2008, one week after Thaw's contribution, according to Richardson's campaign finance report filed last year. (Not that he really needed Thaw's money to pay the consultants. According to the report, Richardson's re-election campaign had more than $527,000 in the bank as of May 27. The campaign's next finance report is due next month.)

All this raises the question of what the Richardson campaign needed consultants for in the spring of 2008.

Legally, the governor can't run for re-election. And surely it wasn't for advice on seeking some federal office. There are strict laws that say money raised for state campaigns can't be used by federal candidates and vice versa.

So what did these consultants do for Richardson last May?

Nobody who could say could be reached for comment Wednesday. Directory assistance said the number for a Daniel Sena in Arlington had been disconnected. Kloke is not listed, and Caldwell couldn't be reached for comment.

Amanda Cooper, who held high positions with both the Richardson re-election campaign and the presidential campaign, did not return a phone call Wednesday. Pahl Shipley, a Richardson spokesman who worked on the presidential campaign, also didn't return a call.