Vegas came out for Richardson

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas area residents contributed more than $50,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson’s unsuccessful presidential campaign last year, much of which was raised during a local event last year. The donors included an attorney who later became a district judge.

Many of the 40 local donors are government employees, elected officials or business people who have contracts with government agencies, according to Federal Election Commission records. The total was $52,163, a small chunk of the $22 million from 68,000 donors to the Richardson campaign.

Under federal campaign finance laws, a single donor can only donate $2,300 to a particular candidate during an election cycle. The Richardson campaign held one major fundraiser in Las Vegas — on May 23 at El Fidel Hotel.

Richardson raked in thousands from top state administrators who live in Las Vegas, including Abelino Montoya, assistant director of the state Workers Compensation Administration ($2,300); LeRoy Garcia, assistant deputy secretary for the state Transportation Department ($1,000); and state Historic Preservation Officer Katherine Slick ($2,300). Garcia was seen on TV campaigning for the governor in Iowa.

According to FEC records, Adjutant Transportation Secretary Rebecca Montoya gave more than the $2,300 limit — a total of $2,600 in four payments from March to November 2007. The FEC database shows that her contributions included two payments of $800 on Aug. 15. But the backup documentation indicates that one of those $800 payments was actually $100, putting her at $1,900, under the federal limit.

Richardson raised $3,000 from those associated with the Bank of Las Vegas and $1,000 from those with Community First Bank. Two members of the Franken family, which runs a local construction company that does much government business, contributed $4,400 to the campaign.

Gerald Baca, who became a district judge last summer, gave $2,300 after the state created the third judgeship position but before he applied.

“At the time the donation was made, the governor had no idea that I would seek the position here,” Baca said.

He said he has given to candidates before such as $1,000 to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s campaign in 2004 as well as contributions to the campaigns of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. He noted that Albuquerque attorney Charles Daniels also gave the maximum allowable contribution to Richardson’s campaign last year some months before the governor appointed him as a state Supreme Court justice.

“I was a big supporter of the governor’s campaign. I believed wholeheartedly in his presidential bid. After discussing the matter with my family, we thought we’d help him out as we could,” Baca said.

He said that as a judge now, he can’t endorse a candidate.

“I wouldn’t want to be caught up in a conflict-of-interest situation,” he said.

Top contributors

The following Richardson contributors gave the maximum allowable under federal law, which is $2,300:

Gerald Baca, district judge

Christi Franken, retired

Carlos Gallegos, former city councilman and businessman

Denise Gallegos, environmental engineer

Ralph Gallegos, Luna Community College employee

Abelino Montoya, state Workers Compensation Administration

William Sanchez, president of Southwest Financial Services

Katherine Slick, official in state Historic Preservation Office

Wid Slick, Plaza Hotel owner

Philip Wolff, Northern Insurance

Source: Federal Election Commission