Big names throw cash into New Mexico gubernatorial race

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Hungarian-born billionaire investor George Soros and his son were among top contributors to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, while former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his wife were among Republican hopeful Steve Pearce’s biggest backers.

Campaign finance reports filed Monday (Oct. 9) with the Secretary of State’s Office show both members of Congress have each taken in more than $1 million for their bids to win their party’s nomination for governor of New Mexico in the June primary elections.

Lujan Grisham reported that she collected in excess of $1.3 million in the last six months, far more than any of her opponents in the Democratic primary. But Pearce, the only candidate seeking the Republican nomination for governor, raised almost as much – just more than $1 million.

The elder Soros – a major moneyman for Democrats who makes Republicans foam at the mouth the same way the conservative billionaire Koch brothers drive Democrats crazy – gave Lujan Grisham $11,000, the maximum allowed under state law. His son, Alexander Soros, gave an equal amount.

Rumsfeld, one of the architects of the Iraq War during the administration of former President George W. Bush, gave Pearce $11,000, as did his wife, Joyce Rumsfeld. The Rumsfelds own property near Taos, but listed a Washington, D.C., address on their contributions. They have given to other Republican campaigns in New Mexico in recent years.

Republican incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez is not allowed to seek a third consecutive four-year term.

Lujan Grisham, who announced her candidacy late last year, reported spending $519,873 over the last six months, leaving a balance of $1.59 million.

Pearce, who didn’t officially start running until July, spent nearly $89,000 and has more than $911,000 in the bank.

As for the other Democratic candidates, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, of Las Cruces, reported his campaign took in just more than $555,000 since July, of which $400,000 came from a personal loan from himself. He reported spending $53,000, leaving more than $747,000 cash on hand. His campaign treasury includes money left over from his state Senate campaign account.

Jeff Apodaca, an Albuquerque businessman who is the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, reported $900,306 in campaign contributions, with $450,000 coming from personal loans to his campaign. He spent $203,356, leaving $696,949 cash on hand.

The fourth Democratic candidate, political unknown Peter DeBenedittis, of Santa Fe, had not posted a financial report on the secretary of state’s website. On Monday morning, his campaign sent a news release saying, “People understand that career politicians are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than in doing what’s right. I’m proud I will be outspent in this election.”

As of the April reports filed with the state, DeBenedittis had raised a little more than $2,300.

Besides Soros and son, other $11,000 contributors to Lujan Grisham included Maryland beverage retailer David Trone; his wife, June Trone; Judy Ortiz, a Santa Fe homemaker; Los Angeles lawyer Joseph Mannis; Connecticut investor Daniel McKinnon; Sandia Holdings LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut; Karl Pergola, of Albuquerque, who owns Rock House LLC; the Davita Medical Group of Tacoma, Washington; and Tom Chavez, CEO of a San Francisco digital company.

She also took in $10,000 from Troutstalker Ranch LLC of Santa Fe and an equal amount from Dan Perry, of Santa Fe, a Troutstalker partner who owns the 1,300-acre ranch near Chama, where sportsmen pay a fee to fish or hunt. Earlier this year, another Perry limited partnership, Chama Troutstalkers, gave Lujan Grisham another $11,000. Perry also founded the New Mexico Habitat Conservation Initiative, which last year gave more than $50,000 to various Republican political committees and candidates. Perry in 2014 gave Martinez more than $10,000 in political contributions.

Lujan Grisham also received a $10,000 contribution from Diana Blank, a major Democratic Party contributor from Bozeman, Montana.

Besides Soros, Lujan Grisham’s most famous contributor in the latest report was film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who gave $1,000. His wife, Nancy Katzenberg, contributed another $1,000.

Five solar companies that listed the same address in Albuquerque – Affordable Solar Group LLC, Affordable Solar Installation, Affordable Solar Silver City LLC, Zia Energy Group Inc. and Zia Solar Holding LLC – each gave Lujan Grisham $5,000 for a total of $25,000.

Lujan Grisham’s expenses over the last six months included more than $80,000 for salaries and nearly $85,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based fundraising and advertising firm Anne Lewis Strategies. The campaign paid nearly $41,000 to the fundraising agency Berger Hirschberg, which is based in New York City and Washington, D.C. And the campaign paid a total of $12,750 to Jones Mandel, a Seattle company that bills itself as offering research and “political intelligence.”

Perhaps the most exotic expenses for Lujan Grisham were $684 at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel and $97.88 at West Restaurant and Lounge, both in Los Angeles, California, and $40.90 at The Peninsula Beverly Hills in Santa Monica, California.

Pearce listed 27 contributors who gave the maximum $11,000. Among those were many reliable GOP contributors from oil and gas country; Pearce for years has owned and operated an oil-field service company in Hobbs. These included Mack Chase, of Artesia; Mack Energy Corp. of Artesia; Chase Petroleum Service & Supply of Artesia, Chase Oil Corp. in Artesia; and Mark Murphy, of Roswell.

Others who gave Pearce the maximum amount included Broken Arrow Royalties of Artesia, Strata Production Co. of Roswell, Chase Farms of Artesia and Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.

Both Pearce and Lujan Grisham received large contributions from Native American tribes.

Isleta Pueblo gave Pearce $5,500, while the Zuni Tribe gave him $5,000.

Lujan Grisham received $5,500 each from the pueblos of Pojoaque, Ohkay Owingeh and Sandia.

Compared with Lujan Grisham’s campaign, Pearce’s uncontested campaign has operated on a shoestring. More than $48,000 went to Andrea Goff, a veteran Republican fundraiser who worked on Gov. Martinez’s campaign before a falling out with Martinez’s top political consultant, Jay McCleskey.

Pearce’s campaign also spent $7,945 on Orange Circle Strategies, a firm run by former National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer Greg Blair, and paid more than $10,000 to a Georgia-based social media firm, Stoneridge Group.

The only purchase by Pearce that might be considered exotic was a $507 bill at the Oceanaire Restaurant in Washington, D.C., labeled as a fundraising expense.

Reporter Andrew Oxford contributed to this report.

Contact Terrell at (505) 986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his blog at santafenewmexica­n.com/roundhouse_roun­dup.This story was first published in The Santa Fe New Mexican, a sister publication of The Taos News.

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