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In New Mexico, cloud over Gov. Richardson includes $290,000 from Forest City affiliates and representatives

It's been common knowledge for at least month now that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who withdrew as Commerce Secretary nominee under a cloud, has a cozy relationship with developer Forest City Enterprises, as it provided the "second-largest corporate source of money in his 2008 presidential bid," the DC Examiner reported December 6.

Last week, when Richardson withdrew, the reason was a federal investigation into CDR Financial Products, which contributed to his campaign, then got work on state bond contracts, the Wall Street Journal reported.

$290K from FCE

Yesterday, the New York Times expanded on Forest City's role:
One of the largest donors to Mr. Richardson has been Forest City Covington, a joint venture that is developing Mesa del Sol, a 12,900-acre tract of state-owned land just south of the Albuquerque airport.

From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Richardson’s two political action committees, his re-election campaign and his presidential campaign received more than $290,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from Forest City Covington and members of the families that control the company.

In that time, the University of New Mexico’s board of regents, controlled by Mr. Richardson’s appointees, and the state land office engineered a complicated three-way deal that made it possible for the developer to buy a 3,000-acre piece of the tract from the university for $9 million and a share of future profits. Overseeing the deal was the regent’s board president, Jamie Koch, a Richardson appointee and former state Democratic Party chairman.

The Legislature, with strong urging from the governor, also changed state law to let the developer divert tax receipts to underwrite bonds that would be used to pay for infrastructure on the site. In April 2007, Mr. Richardson signed off on legislation authorizing the developer to issue up to $500 million in bonds. Mr. Gallegos said Mr. Richardson supported the project because it would create jobs.

Michael Daly, president of Mesa del Sol, said the company donated to Mr. Richardson’s campaigns to support his pro-business policies, not to win particular legislation.

“Our job is to attract jobs to the state,” Mr. Daly said. “We think he does a great job to attract tenants.”

In New Mexico, scrutiny for many months

It wasn't like the press hadn't been pointing this out. On 4/10/07, the AP ran an article bluntly headlined Richardson Signs Bill Benefiting Donor. It began:
Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson received about $150,000 in gubernatorial campaign contributions the past two years from a developer that benefits from taxpayer-subsidized bonds authorized in legislation he signed last week.

Among its contributions, the developer, Forest City Covington, gave the New Mexico governor the use of a leased corporate airplane for three trips last year that were valued at $21,727, according to a review of lobbyist expenditure and campaign finance reports by The Associated Press.

Richardson's office said the company's political contributions didn't influence his decision to sign the bonding legislation. "The governor makes decisions based upon what is best for the state - period," said Jon Goldstein, a spokesman for Richardson.

The company emphasized that its campaign contributions complied with state election law. New Mexico allows unlimited contributions from corporations and other donors. Federal law, however, limits contributions to presidential campaigns.

"The only influence we desire is that of continued economic growth and development for New Mexico," Anne Monson, a spokeswoman for the development, said in a statement.

But Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, said $150,000 was "a lot of money from one company to one politician."
(Emphasis added)

In New York

In New York, Forest City Ratner has mostly shied away from campaign contributions, though Bruce Ratner's brother Michael has done the company's bidding.

Last year, breaking a no-donation pattern, the developer gave $58,420 to a committee controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, far more than could be given to any individual candidate.

(Was that insurance against any Assembly inquiry into Atlantic Yards, one Brooklyn legislators have wanted since last spring?)

And charitable gifts from the company and its foundation also help build friendships with elected officials and nonprofit groups.


  1. Actually, scrutiny of this "cozy relationship" has gone back to the early days of the 2008 presidential race.

    NoLandGrab readers may recall that in May 2007, The Columbia Dispatch reported on the Richardson-Ratner relationship.

  2. If NoLandGrab had been searchable when I wrote this Sunday night, I would've made the point... the search function was down.


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