Alibi V.21 No.33 • Aug 16-22, 2012 

Election 2012

Across the Great Divide

State PAC contributions show deep partisan fissures

Jeff Drew

The heat we’ve experienced this year will persist long into the fall—and not only in the climatic sense. In the spring primary election season, state political action committees spent nearly $4 million. It’s only reasonable to expect that the funding game will intensify during the looming general election.

The next rounds of contribution reports aren’t due to Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office until Sept. 10. In the meantime, a review of the individual donors yields an illuminating forecast of the general election. The contributors’ sharply competing stances reveal a yawning chasm between industry and ecosystems.

During the primaries, the top 10 individual contributors to state PACs were split evenly into distinct factions. One side supported an environmentally conscious (and Democratic Party-leaning) agenda. The other was firmly aligned with Gov. Susana Martinez. Will this down-the-middle split hold up among the electorate?

Green-Minded Blues

All donated to Verde Voters (the fundraising arm of the Conservation Voters of New Mexico) except Boris Margolin, who donated to the Democrat-affiliated New Mexico House Majority Fund.

Sallie Bingham (Santa Fe): $25,000

Kentucky-born Bingham, heiress to a storied media empire, is also an award-winning writer. She further describes herself on her website as a philanthropist and feminist activist. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1989 that the minor share she received of her family’s fortune amounted to $62 million. Duke University named a library center in her honor and maintains an archive of her works. Bingham has made generous contributions to Democratic causes and candidates in the past, so it’s no surprise that she’s the heavy hitter in this group.

John Scanlan (Santa Fe): $15,000

A Harvard Law School graduate, Scanlan and his son own and operate a prominent photography gallery in the City Different. His family also has investment holdings in Texas.

Donald and Carolyn Neeper (Los Alamos): $10,000

The Neepers are retired Los Alamos National Lab scientists. Donald has a doctorate in physics and worked at LANL for 25 years as a thermal engineer. He’s also lent his expertise to advocacy group New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water. He’s appeared as their expert witness in proceedings about changes to the pit rule. According to her LinkedIn profile, Carolyn has had a varied career as a database consultant, teacher, community theater member and author. She also maintains a blog about her creative work, and the ins and outs of raising chickens, ducks and dogs.

Paul Rudd (New York, N.Y.): $10,000

Don’t get too excited. There may be a posh SoHo address listed on this contribution record, but the comedic actor from I Love You, Man has not, in fact, launched himself into the muddy waters of New Mexico politics. This particular Paul Rudd is an investor and software developer who co-owns Adaptive Analytics with Boris Margolin (see below). Late last year, he was appointed to the board of directors for the Roosevelt Institute (as in Franklin and Eleanor). His bio says he’s also “a partner in the Democracy Alliance, a group of business and philanthropic leaders committed to investing in long-term progressive infrastructure.” He has donated a lot of money to left-wing candidates.

Boris Margolin (Northampton, Mass.): $10,000

Democratic state representative Mimi Stewart confirmed that this is her stepson, who’s done research in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He’s a published scholar specializing in computer forensics, cryptography and data security. He’s also a programer and co-owner of Adaptive Analytics. Margolin gave money to President Obama’s campaign in 2008.

Captains of Industry

All five of these contributors gave to Reform New Mexico Now, the initially controversial PAC run by the governor's chief adviser and campaign strategist, Jay McCleskey. He and the governor say the PAC was formed to prop up the campaigns of legislators—Democrat or Republican—who support the governor’s long-term agenda.

Stephen Chazen (Pacific Palisades, Calif.): $50,000

The heavy hitter in this bout is an oil industry titan that CNN, Fortune and Money included in their joint 2010 compendium of the “25 highest-paid men.” Chazen’s total compensation that year alone as head of Occidental Petroleum Corp. was more than $38 million.

Occidental Petroleum concentrates oil exploration and production operations internationally, according to its website, “applying advanced technology to boost production ... and access hard-to-reach reserves.” The petroleum giant also operates a major chemical manufacturer, Occidental Chemical Corporation.

In an article published Aug. 7 in the Great Lakes Echo, a researcher with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment detailed concerns that pollution from an OxyChem plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., has directly contributed to high levels of toxic contaminants in surrounding plant and animal life. A spokesperson for the company disputed the findings.

Dave Hanna (Irvine, Calif.): $15,000

Hanna is a technology industries venture capitalist who’s helmed business deals worth billions. Businessweek says he got his high-powered start at IBM and went on to serve as president, CEO or director of “more than 10 high-technology companies.” He has a history of donating to GOP-leaning PACs and candidates, including Heather Wilson in her Senate bid.

Wayne Hughes (Malibu, Calif.): $10,000

B. Wayne Hughes Jr. sits on the board of the multibillion-dollar company created by his father. Hughes Jr.’s Facebook profile includes daily posts that highlight quotes and accomplishments of conservative figures like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell. His father, B. Wayne Hughes Sr., founded the self-storage company Public Storage Inc. in 1972 and grew it into holdings worth about $18 billion in 2006. The Hughes family used $200 million to establish a cancer treatment center in Minnesota and contributed $1 million to re-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to his second full term.

The elder Hughes was interviewed by GQ last month. He had this to say about Occupy Wall Street: "Those guys are a bunch of jerks. Politically I'm on the enemy list. I've lived my whole life doing what I thought was right, and now I'm an enemy of the state.”

Ben Spencer (Albuquerque): $10,000

Along with business partner Kevin Reid, Spencer has achieved financial success in commercial real estate development. They’re partners in several corporations, and they co-own Titan Development, which is responsible for some of the largest redevelopment projects in town. The New Mexico Business Weekly reported in April 2011 that even in the midst of a recession and floundering real estate market, Titan was “one of the few busy commercial real estate developers in the Albuquerque region.”

Kevin Reid (Albuquerque): $10,000

Spencer’s business partner graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in architecture. He’s active in eight business associations, including the Rio Rancho and Albuquerque Chambers of Commerce. Fun fact: In addition to business ventures, Reid owns an exotic wild game preserve. The website for his Morani River Ranch says the posh hunting retreat “unites Africa and the Texas Hill Country.”