Thursday, May 14, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Hot Potatos and Christmas Hams

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 14, 2009

The first "hot potato" returned campaign contribution of the year in New Mexico was reported this week.
Hector Balderas
The campaign organization of State Auditor Hector Balderas late last month returned a $10,000 contribution to Sandia Asset Management, a Santa Fe firm associated with Marc and Anthony Correra. 

Marc Correra is a local investor who has made recent headlines for sharing in $15 million in finders fees as a third-party placement agent, paid by companies awarded contracts to invest state money. His father, Anthony Correra, is a friend, adviser and financial supporter of Gov. Bill Richardson.

"After recent issues concerning this company were brought to his attention, he reviewed his records," Balderas spokeswoman Caroline Buerkle said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "He felt the most appropriate action to take was to promptly return the contribution."

Neither Correra has been charged with any wrongdoing.

In 2006, according to the Institute of Money in State Politics, Sandia Asset Management gave $5,000 to Balderas' campaign. The company also gave $5,000 to Secretary of State Mary Herrera's campaign, plus $1,000 to both Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and unsuccessful attorney general candidate Geno Zamora. In 2002, Sandia Asset Management contributed $15,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson's first gubernatorial campaign — plus $250 to Richardson's Republican opponent that year, John Sanchez. Anthony Correra contributed another $12,832 to Richardson that year under his own name.

Balderas could seek re-election to the auditor's post next year. However, he's been rumored to be considering a run for lieutenant governor.

His campaign finance report says he has $26,651 in the bank. He raised more than $25,000 in the past 12 months and spent more than $20,000 — though nearly half of that was the returned Correra contribution.

Hooters!Who gives a hoot? Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who could become the state's first female governor, is a hero to many New Mexico feminists. However, she did get a contribution from a place not usually associated with feminism. 

According to her report, on Dec. 4, Denish got a check from Albuquerque Hooters Inc., which operates two restaurants in Duke City.

Maybe she just likes the hamburgers.

More fun with campaign finance reports: Not much pork came out of the state Legislature this year. But a month before the session, some constituents of House Speaker Ben Luján got some ham.

The Committee to Re-elect Ben Luján spent $555 at Zanios Foods on Christmas Eve for "Hams for needy people."

Though none of the Santa Fe-area delegation faced any election opposition in the general or primary election — and some of them, including Luján, haven't had any opponents in several election cycles — most of them maintain healthy campaign treasuries, using campaign contributions to help defray costs associated with legislating.

Here's a quick look at the fundraising and fund-spending of the local delegation.
Speaker Ben Lujan in Denver last August* Speaker Luján: The speaker has $137,201 in the bank. In the last year he raised only $500 — $250 each from Comcast and Blue Cross/Blue Shield — and spent $4,626.

Many of his expenses were charitable donations related to sports and music. The Luján campaign gave $650 to the Pojoaque Valley High Athletic Department, $200 to Pojoaque Valley Youth Basketball team, $200 to Mariachi Sol de Valle, an Española high-school band that played at the Obama inauguration in Washington, D.C., and $200 to the New Mexico Hispano Music Association. Other charitable donations from Luján included $140 to Santo Niño Regional Catholic School and $100 to the American Red Cross.

Luján also contributed $500 to the campaign of Ben Rodefer, a Democrat who won a House seat in Albuquerque.

* Rep. Brian Egolf: The first-term representative reported $17,257 cash on hand. He raised $3,855, including a $500 contribution from local lawyer Donna Lynch.

Egolf spent $31,592. Of that, $13,192 was for a legislative survey conducted by Gold Communications of Valdez, N.M. He also spent $4,505 for computer equipment and $338 for a camera from Best Buy.

Some expenses might reveal some ambition on the part of Santa Fe's freshman representative. He spent $750 on a campaign data base from a Washington, D.C., company and $500 for consulting fees to an outfit called Election in Motions, a local firm specializing in fundraising, which has been used by the state Democratic Party.

Egolf also reported spending $121 at the Dish and Spoon restaurant for a Capital Outlay Committee lunch and $166 at the Mission Cafe for a breakfast for the same committee. Didn't anyone tell him that the lobbyists are supposed to pay for committee meals?

As far as charity goes, Egolf's campaign gave $500 to the Center for Contemporary Arts and $140 to Santo Niño Regional Catholic School.

* Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela: He reported $71,844 cash on hand. Varela raised only $67 in the past year and that was interest from his campaign bank account. He spent $2,700 on printing and mailing to constituents during session as well as $4,100 for unspecified constituent services during the session. Varela also donated to charity — $250 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters and $250 to the Annual Catholic Appeal for Youth Program.

* Rep. Jim Trujillo: He reported $3,516 cash on hand and raised $800 — $500 of which came from a title company PAC — and spent $3,483. His biggest expenses were $809 for radio ads and $566 to Best Buy for a mini-laptop computer.

* Sen. Peter Wirth: Wirth's campaign has $49,723 in the bank. He raised $300 ($250 of which was from a physical therapists PAC) and spent $11,492. His biggest expense was $6,515 on mailing services to constituents.

* Sen. Nancy Rodriguez: Rodriguez reported $10,641 cash on hand. She raised $1,250 — $1,000 from the New Mexico Realtors Association and $250 from a physical therapists PAC. Rodriguez reported no expenditures. But the campaign does have an unpaid debt of $9,352. The report doesn't specify to whom she owes the money.

(Here's the link to the Secretary of State's Web site. Warning: It might help if you have a degree in forensic computer scuience to navigate this site. Here's one hint - once you get the link to a candidate's reports on your screen, click on the most recent year. In most cases, at least, it won't say 2009.)