APRIL 03, 2007
Returning tainted campaign cash – only after being exposed by the media–has become an annual ritual for a Democratic governor who hopes to become the nation’s next president.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who raised $6 million in the first quarter of his presidential campaign, gave about $24,000 to charities last year after it was made public that the money was donated by a shady securities broker implicated in a state kickback scheme.
This week a national media outlet revealed that Richardson received $35,000 in contributions from key figures in a public corruption ring that has cost taxpayers in his state more than $4 million and has led to the federal indictment of a once-powerful state lawmaker.
The scandal involves the state’s former senate president pro tem, Manny Aragon, and a former metro court administrator named Toby Martinez who stole and laundered $4.2 million in public funds meant for the construction of a courthouse in Bernalillo County. Details of the public corruption scheme are laid out in a 24-page federal indictment issued earlier this month.
Several key figures involved in the case, who have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud, donated the chunk of the tainted money to Richardson’s gubernatorial campaigns. Fifteen thousand came from the indicted partner of a big company, $9,500 from an Albuquerque architect and $5,500 from an engineering subcontractor. Others involved in the scam also gave Richardson smaller amounts.
Richardson’s campaign manager says his staff is totaling up the amount donated by these corrupt individuals so that the governor can, once again, donate the questionable funds to charity. Perhaps the staff should create a process to screen the donors before they cut the hefty checks.
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