Press Releases

GOP chairman directs Greens toward financial support

By Barry Massey, The Associated Press
Saturday July 13, 2002

SANTA FE, N.M. — State Republican chairman John Dendahl wooed the Green Party with an offer of potential “six-figure” political support from an unidentified source if the Greens ran candidates in two congressional races. 

Dendahl said Thursday that the offer of campaign contributions didn’t come from the Republican Party, but that he didn’t know the source of the potential donations to the Green Party, which often draws Democratic-leaning voters. 

Dendahl said he had been asked by an acquaintance in Washington, D.C., to make the offer, but Dendahl declined to identify the individual. 

“I can’t say that this source has no Republican connection of any kind. I don’t recognize this as a Republican connection and it was not Republican Party money,” he said. 

Dendahl talked last month with several Green Party members and a party co-chairman. He told them that a donor might provide “six-figure” financial support if Green candidates ran in the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts. The Greens turned down the offer, and none of the party’s candidates filed for the offices. 

“We disavow and condemn any attempts to manipulate or use New Mexico voters as pawns in the game of politics as usual,” party co-chairwoman Lisa Houston said in a statement. 

Many political analysts say Green candidates can potentially tip a race in favor of a Republican by taking away Democratic votes. 

The Albuquerque-area 1st District is represented by Republican Heather Wilson, who for the first time will be in a general election race for the seat with only a Democratic opponent. Greens fielded candidates in 1998 and 2000. There’s no incumbent in the race for the 2nd District seat in southern New Mexico because Republican Joe Skeen is retiring. 

Jamie Koch, the head of the state Democratic Party, called for Dendahl to resign, saying the GOP leader had “stepped over the line.” 

David Contarino, a senior adviser to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Richardson, called the offer a “flat out bribe” to try to improve GOP chances in the congressional and gubernatorial races. 

“It’s simply to defeat the Democrat. That’s a dirty trick,” Contarino said. 

But Richardson, Koch and Contarino also met with Green Party leaders earlier this year. 

Xubi Wilson, a Green Party co-chairman, said the Richardson camp tried to discourage the Greens from running a candidate for governor. 

The message from Richardson, Wilson said, was that “if we played ball with him and he was elected governor, he would change the law to make it easier for us to become a major party.” 

The Greens hope their candidate for governor, David Bacon, will help them regain major political party designation under state election law by receiving at least 5 percent of the vote in the general election. 

Contarino stressed that no deals or promises were made to try to keep a Green candidate out of the race. 

“Bill did express sympathy for their position and support for ballot access,” Contarino said. “He said he would be very open to those kinds of electoral reform.” 

He said Richardson also had asked to speak at a Green Party convention about common grounds on issues. 

Dendahl said he forwarded the offer to the Greens because Democrats and their supporters recently have “defined a whole new political landscape” by trying to alter the outcome of GOP primary races. 

One of Richardson’s supporters, a labor union representing public employees, spent more than $150,000 on advertising and mailings mainly against GOP gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez. California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat seeking re-election, spent $10 million on attack ads against former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan in the state’s GOP primary earlier this year. 

Had a deal been made with the Greens, Dendahl said, the source of the money would have been disclosed through campaign finance reports. He said he told the Greens that the money could not have been spent directly on congressional candidates but would have been for “party-building” activities because of restrictions in federal election laws.