Wednesday, January 21, 2009


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 22, 2009

Earlier this week, I reported that one of the listed directors of the secretive Moving America Forward Foundation — a “charity” founded by Gov. Bill Richardson in 2004 to encouraging minority voting — had been a lobbyist for a corporation that runs private prisons in New Mexico.

Another director of MAFF — which by law doesn’t have to disclose contributions or expenditures and has chosen not to do so — also has ties with a company that has benefited under the Richardson administration.

Anthony Correra was a major contributor to Richardson’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, giving more than $13,000, according to the Institute of Money in State Government.

According to a story in The Albuquerque Journal last November, Correra, who has hosted fundraisers for prominent national Democrats with Richardson, is the father of Marc Correra of Santa Fe, who owns 30 percent of Horse Racing at Raton, the company approved last year by the New Mexico Racing Commission for a $50 million racetrack and casino in northeastern New Mexico.

Richardson, who appointed all five members of the commission, denies his association with Anthony Correra had anything to with Marc Correra’s company getting the nod from the commission for New Mexico’s final “racino” license.

Marc Correra didn’t return a phone call Wednesday. His father has an unpublished number.

While Anthony Correra was generous with Richardson in 2002, according to campaign finance reports, neither he nor his son contributed to the governor’s 2006 re-election or his 2008 presidential race.

Both Correras, however, did drop a lot on other Democratic candidates and organizations.

Anthony Correra gave out more than $65,000 in 2008, including donations to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (All contributions to these presidential candidates were made after Richardson dropped out of the presidential race.) He contributed to party organizations in several states. His biggest contribution was $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee.

Marc Correra gave $38,950 to Democratic candidates and committees, including $28,500 to the DNC. His wife, Claudia Correra, who worked for Richardson as a “protocol officer,” gave more than $6,000 to various Democratic candidates.

The other MAFF director I mentioned was Joe Velasquez, a former adviser for Richardson’s presidential bid. He also was a registered lobbyist in the state in 2006 for a subsidiary of The GEO Group, which runs three private prisons in the state.

MAFF has raised at least $1.7 million since 2004.

Did any of the Correras or Horse Racing at Raton or The GEO Group give to MAFF? We don’t know. Richardson’s team still won’t release the names of contributors.

Meanwhile, back at the CDR investigation: reported Wednesday on a Sept. 22 subpoena of the Governor’s Office that basically confirms the federal grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into the activities of former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino, political adviser Mike Stratton, former Richardson economic adviser David Harris and JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Chris Romer of Denver.

“The subpoena shows that the grand jury investigation centers on Beverly Hills-based CDR, which donated $100,000 to Richardson’s political committees in 2003 and 2004. During 2004, it was awarded a contract worth almost $1.5 million to advise the New Mexico Financial Authority on bond deals,” Bloomberg reporters William Selway and Martin Z. Braun wrote.

Stratton of Littleton, Colo., worked as a lobbyist for CDR and JPMorgan. He also was a top adviser in Richardson’s 2008 presidential campaign.

According to the Bloomberg piece, the feds also are interested in Richardson’s tenure as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. The subpoena, according to Bloomberg, also requested correspondence with staff of the DGA, which Richardson chaired in 2005 and 2006.

On Wednesday, I revisited the DGA’s reports, filed with Internal Revenue Service during the Richardson tenure. In the past, reporters have gotten several stories out of those reports, mainly about plane trips by Richardson paid for by companies having business before the state, such as payday loan and tobacco companies as well as large contributions from The GEO Group and Stanley Fulton, a racetrack owner who was fighting the approval of a potential rival in Southern New Mexico.

But no, there’s no record of contributions to the Democratic Governors Association from CDR or its chief executive, David Rubin, in the reports covering 2005 and 2006.

It’s more likely they’re interested in Stratton, who, as a consultant, was paid more than $233,000 by the DGA during that time.

(Also check out AP reporter Barry Massey's story on the state having to post $16 million in collateral because of a drop in value of the CDR transactions.)

Fading green: Longtime local Green Party leader Rick Lass has jumped ship. Lass, who last year ran a tough campaign against Democratic Public Regulation Commission candidate Jerome Block Jr., registered Democratic earlier this month.

“I switched a couple of weeks ago,” Lass told me in an e-mail Wednesday. “The Dem party is making great strides for progressive causes these days, and I want to be in a place where my political work can be more effective.”

Lass lost to Block in the general election. But he did manage to carry Santa Fe County — the largest county in the PC’s 3rd District — as well as Los Alamos. He attracted the support of a group called Democrats for Lass formed by longtime local ward chairman Bernie Logue y Perea, former state Democratic Party Chairman Earl Potter and others.