Friday, May 28, 2010

Martinez Gets $450,000 in Cash From Texas Developer & Wife; Largest Donation In State History; Too Much? 

Developer Robert Perry
In a gubernatorial campaign in which Susana Martinez says she holds the ethical high ground, she has opened the door to a debate over how much is too much when it comes to campaign contributions. In her latest finance report filed with the Secretary of State late Friday, the Dona Ana County district attorney reports that Texas home builder Robert Perry donated an astonishing $350,000 in the month of May to Martinez and Perry's wife came with another $100,000. That's $450,000, a sum that will raise questions about out-of-state influence on the state's gubernatorial campaign.

Martinez reported raising $711,000 since early May. The Perry largess represents 63% of all her donations during that time.

The full Martinez finance report is here (If SOS site is functioning.)

The $350,000 contribution has to be by far the largest ever in state history. Earlier this year Martinez raised eyebrows when she accepted $117,000 from Mack Energy in Artesia.

Research shows that that none other than Perry gave $250,000 to unsuccessful NM GOP Governor candidate John Sanchez in 2002 and $125,000 to Vickie Perea's GOP secretary of state bid in 2006, setting the then apparent all-time records for a single campaign donor.

Those previous Perry donations raised some fuss, but were not as sensitive as they are today because they did not come in a climate filled with news of corruption and alleged corruption--mostly all stemming from campaign contributions.

A Martinez operative points out that Perry does not currently do business in the state. But with the size of this donation, if he did choose to do business here would it buy him access? Or what about his associates who might want to set up shop in New Mexico?

We went through this with the Richardson presidential and governor fund-raising. Out-of-state financiers giving big money to Big Bill, followed by contracts for these donors and then the numerous pay-to-play scandals.

The Democratic Party was only too glad to use this opportunity to shine the light on Martinez after their own Governor's troubled history. They came with this:

Martinez talks a big game about ethics, but actions speak louder than words. By taking $450,000, the largest donation in state history from the people responsible for the dirtiest campaign ploy in years, Martinez is announcing that ethics reform will no longer be part of her campaign platform...Susana Martinez’s campaign strategy is simple: first saddle up to powerful oil companies, then to Sarah Palin, and now to the Swift Boaters. Meanwhile, New Mexico families are left completely behind.”

Perry is known for giving big money to Republicans and has a long history of such donations in Texas. Here is the Wikpedia profile of the developer. And there's more on the Perry New Mexico connection here.

Perry helped finance the infamous "Swiftboat" ads against 2004 Dem presidential nominee John Kerry.

Martinez has decried "pay-to-play' in the Richardson administration, but the size of these donations will again raise questions of how much influence the campaign money would have on her if she were elected.

Martinez has established a healthy polling lead and is expected to capture next Tuesday's primary for the GOP Guv nomination.

Certain Dem nominee Diane Denish has also taken some big individual contributions, but nowhere near the level of what Perry has come with.

Because of ethics and corruption issues the 2009 state legislature passed a limit on campaign contributions, but it wont take effect until after this year's election.

When it takes effect individuals could not give more than $2,300 during a primary election cycle and $2,300 during the general election cycle to a non-statewide candidate.

An individual could give $5,000 per primary election and $5,000 per general election to a candidate for statewide office, such as the governor or attorney general.

By taking these huge donations, Martinez may be betting that they will not become a dominant issue because of the millions that Denish will raise to finance her effort. But because Martinez is running as the outsider--the fresh face to clean up Santa Fe--that may or may not be the case.

The finance reports show Allen Weh loaned himself another $600,000 to finance the last few weeks of the campaign, bringing his personal loan total to a hefty $1.6 million.

No question that Martinez felt pressured to step up to the money plate to keep pace with Weh, but the incongruity of the donations with her anti-pay-to-play message shows how much she wants to win. Voters will get a chance to decide whether it's too much.

Here's the AP wrap on the Guv candidates latest finance reports.


More late money news for the final weekend that will get them chattering. The Republicans are trying to elect certain Democrats in contested legislative primaries this Tuesday and they are putting up big money to do it:

A conservative political action committee founded and run by state Republican Party leaders has given big donations to three Democratic candidates who are challenging incumbent state Representatives Eleanor Chavez, D-Albuquerque, Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, and Richard Vigil, D-Ribera.

The New Mexico Turn Around political committee gave $4,000 to Chavez’ challenger, Matthew Archuleta, representing nearly half of the $9,083 he raised last reporting period.

Archuleta is now saying he will return the donation.

And so it goes in these final hours of the final weekend of Primary 2010.

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