Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mad Money: Blizzard Of Candidate Reports Hits; Analysis Powered By Enchiladas, Starbucks, A Senior Alligator & A Jim Baca Talk; Now We're Bloggin' 

Bobbi & Jim Baca
For a moment, we thought the politicos finally got the best of us--that they had us snowed under with a blizzard of campaign finance reports filed on the FEC Tuesday deadline. How on God's Green were we to unearth the juicy stuff in those digital diaries in the span of a couple of hours? Well, it turns out nothing is impossible when fueled by enchiladas smothered in red chile, an inexhaustible supply of Starbucks, major assistance from a Senior Alligator and a power pow-wow with political junkie and former NM Land Commissioner Jim Baca.

I ran into Baca and his wife Bobbi at Garcia's near downtown ABQ where he asked the dreaded question: "What are you going to write about tonight?" That reminder of the stack of FEC reports from the NM congressional candidates awaiting perusal brought reality home in a way that caused a longing for substances not thought of since University days. But after environmentalist Baca told me that global warming means that in five years I won't be able to cruise I-25 in my Honda, I was actually kind of optimistic about the work ahead. I gathered up the enchiladas (don't even think flat) and headed back to the ranch. There, the post-chile Starbucks kicked in, the phone started ringing and we were off to the races with the Senior Alligators. And what a race it is.....


The big story of the night was here. Dem US House candidate Don Wiviott gave so much personal money to his campaign--nearly $900,000-- that he triggered the so-called FEC Millionaires' Amendment allowing rival Ben Ray Lujan to collect contributions way above the $2300 limit. And that he did. Big Bill and Lady Di buddy Johnny Cope came with $6900 for Lujan, son of state House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan. And Bill buddy and Downs at Santa Fe owner Paul Blanchard and wife Kandace were good for a whopping $12,000. But it was the billionaire Maloof family that really put the icing on the Lujan cake. The family, formerly of ABQ and now of Las Vegas, kicked in a total of $29,600 in the first quarter. And how about this one: Former NM GOP State Party Chairman Edward Lujan gave his namesake $1000. Is that La Familia over La Politica?

By busting the money limits, Wiviott made it possible for Lujan to have a bigger money quarter than expected. He raised over $328,000 and had cash of $270,000 as of March 31. But Wiviott has put the fear of God into Lujan and ended the quarter with $430,000 in the bank. Wiviott is sparing no expense. How about $70,000 to produce a couple of campaign spots? Or over $600 for a night in a Boston hotel? Don spent a total of $500,000 in three months on his campaign--mostly his own money. Men across New Mexico want to know the secret of getting Mrs. Wiviott to go along and whether she has any sisters.


Ben Ray wasn't the only Northern congressional hopeful to raise outsized cash because of Wiviott triggering the millionaire rule. Native American Benny Shendo surprised everyone by reporting he raised $113,000 in the first quarter. (He loaned himself $10,000.) $13,800 of his contributions came from a Chicago couple, William and Irene Beck. Another $6900 came from Jemez Pueblo and ditto for Isleta Pueblo. Benny can thank Don for the super-sized donations. Benny had about $79,000 in cash at the end of March. We may be seeing more of him than we thought. That's not a vision that pleases Ben Ray who is trying to consolidate the Hispanic and Native American vote. The other candidates in the race--Harry Montoya, Jon Adams and Rudy Martin--are not raising significant money.

Wiviott's crew is saying the endorsements the young Lujan has been getting from environmental and labor groups are due to the power of his father and don't mean momentum is headed towards the public regulation commissioner. In fact, polls right now, after a big wave of Wiviott TV, may show the race to be close. But the NM Dem establishment showed its hand in Tuesday's report and appears determined not to let the young Lujan get run over by the Wiviott money machine.


What a muddled race its become for the GOP Southern congressional nomination. Restaurant chain owner and rancher Ed Tinsley showed $425,000 cash on hand at the end of March, but he has booked some $300,000 of ABQ TV time--apparently not paid for by March 31--and that would leave his cash kitty at about $125,000. He put $200,000 of his own into the race in March and raised $109,000 in the quarter. Ed, you need to have a power lunch with Jim Baca. The Alligators say you have been too tentative and left the door open to challengers Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman. Read on...

Dunn reports $287,000 cash on hand, He raised about $107,000. He has loaned his campaign $300,000. And how about Newman, who has made good money in Lea County real estate? He loaned himself $100,000 and raised almost $195,000. Not bad, Monty. This is a guy who could not get enough delegate support at the GOP pre-primary to make the ballot. He's a better cash counter than vote counter, for sure. And don't forget Greg Sowards, the Las Cruces day care center owner. He has loaned his campaign $300,000 and his report says he still has it in the bank. If he isn't bluffing, he could join this Second CD party. Come on in Greg, the water's fine.

If they voted on personality, T or C realtor Earl Greer would win hands-down. The affable Greer reports, however, has less than $30,000 to play with, but he's still smiling.

The betting line is still on Tinsley, but they aren't handing out seats in the US Congress and analysts are just not yet seeing the aggressiveness from his campaign that they want to. That could change as we head into May, but right now it's time to make a direct dial call to D.C.:

Fellas, this seat is looking like it could actually be taken by the Democrats after 28 years of GOP control. Is anyone listening?

Harry Teague
If Hobbs oilman Harry Teague can't have this one in the can by Memorial Day, he and his political sponsor, Light Guv Diane Denish, are going to have some explaining to do. Teague says he raised $170,000 in the quarter and had $337,000 in cash. He probably spent a bunch of that on TV time in April, but he has mucho personal loot at his disposal.

Teague has self-financed to the tune of $200,000. He could do another $150,000 without triggering the Millionaires Amendment. Teague rival Bill McCamley has been saving his money and had $235,000 in cash at the end of the quarter. He says he raised $85,000, but lists several thousand as "in-kind travel" donations. That's gas, not cash. Still, Teague may be letting McCamley get too close. If you got 'em smoke 'em. And if you have it, spend it. With the R’s struggling to assert dominance, the day of the D’s could finally arrive, but if the Dem primary race ends in a muddle, Harry could find himself in a world of regret. You want power? You need an overpowering win in June.


If Martin Heinrich correctly manages the over $350,000 in cash he reports having on hand at the end of April, he should be able to take the Dem nomination without major trouble. If he doesn't, it will be an epic study in campaign mismanagement. Michelle Lujan Grisham, after losing a court case Monday to keep former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron off the ballot, reported she had $139,000 on hand to wage battle in the final three months. She needs more. We see that her relative and former Republican Chair Ed Lujan popped $1400 for Michelle, showing the blood line that could make her oh so formidable in the November election against GOP presumptive nominee Darren White.

Vigil-Giron had a hard to understand FEC report that said she charged $15,000 to her American Express card and has cash on hand of minus about $9,000. "We've never heard of reporting a minus amount of cash on hand," reports a Senior Gator. "Expect an FEC letter to Rebecca."

Me Working
I’m caffeine crashing, but the money totals for GOP US Senate candidates Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson are not startling and the details are here. Pearce was again out raised, but not overwhelmingly. Heather has $1.2 million in the bank; Pearce over $850,000. The only question is: What are they waiting for? There's a country to run and a Senate to help run it. Let’s get it on.

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