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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bill Richardson's "Coffers", Puerto Rican Money and other thoughts

If you're like me, and chances are you are (albeit probably taller and slightly less neurotic) you read today's Journal North story Richardson's Coffers Already Stuffed and asked yourself a few questions:

1. What exactly is a coffer?
2. Is GOP party chairman Allen Weh serious when he says the party will field a "credible" candidate? Who, exactly, would that be?
3. Why did a Puerto-Rican political consultant named Miguel Lausell give Richardson $25,000?

First things first.

A "coffer" according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is derived from the Latin word (I think Latin) cophinus, just like coffin. It means: 1. a chest or strongbox in which money or valuables are kept, 2. a treasury; funds 3. a decorative sunken panel as in vault, dome or ceiling 4. a cofferdam 5. a lock in a canal

I have no idea why newspapers feel compelled to use words like coffer. Probably because we can't get away with headlines like: Richardson has a shitload of cash

2. Weh can not be serious. Who is really going to take Richardson on for governor from the GOP and get anywhere? A, the guv has $3 million. B, the number of Republicans with the ability to run a succesful statewide race—emphasis on statewide—is pretty freakin' negligible. I don't think the GOP has even been able to find anyone to run for AG yet, not to mention the Mayor of Albuquerque. Of course, I can't really believe people keep voting for Heather Wilson, so, we'll see. Maybe there's a bunch of high-profile state Republicans with money burning holes in their pockets who I've never heard of.

3. As soon as I get a chance, I plan to go to the Secretary of State's Office and look at Richardson's most recent campaign report up close and personal, as I really don't like the way the dailies and the AP just give you a run-down of the top spenders (and I really don't like the fact that I can't view it online. Why is that? I thought they were all online now, but I went to check and the most current one is from May, 2004. How is that helpful?)
Anyway, one of Richardson's top contributors is listed in the Journal story as: Miguel Lausell "a political and business consultant based in Purto Rico." (Richardson also got $5,000 from Sylvester Stallone for some reason).
Anyway, I started wondering about Miguel Lausell and, while waiting for pages to come back to me, did a little websurfing.
From what I can tell Lausell works for Valesquez Magana Lausell, a political consulting firm geared toward Hispanic issues. Read more about them here
Lausell has been in the news quite a bunch over the last 10 years, mainly because he's one of the most gangbuster of the gangbuster Puerto Rican fundraisers around. Puerto Rico has become notable for the amount of money they raise for US politicans, in the hopes of gaining some influence (despite the fact that they can't vote in US elections). Mother Jones documented the phenomon, as well as some additional info on Lausell. The story is called Island of Influence
At any rate, old Bill is listed under the PR firm's list of former and/or current clients (don't know which it is), so I guess, perhaps, that explains why Miguel is handing over some cash. Or, it sort of explains it. Maybe. I'm still thinking, OK?

Speaking of thinking, I've been forced to rethink my belief that the New Mexican would never list me on their local list of blogs as they did so this morning and the web editor, Stefan Dill, sent me a very nice note. I fear for his life now, but perhaps I am being overly suspicious of the powers that be next door. Anyway, you can find my link at this address and now I promise to never say anything bad about The New Mex again. OK, wait, no, I don't promise that at all. (Also, Dill said the paper did post online the photos they ran last Saturday of the convention center and I think, if one can't make it to the Sweeney Center by tomorrow, you should look at them online. For amusement's sake if nothing else).

Finally, yesterday I was pondering the founder's decision to incorporate community journalism into his site, and his belief that online blogging amateur journalists were going to fill the void that regular journalists have left. I started thinking to myself about this blog—what I think it is, what purpose it serves and, most importantly, do I think of it as journalism?
My answer to the latter (I can only answer one self-posed question at a time) was a resounding NO. This blog is not journalism. It's got a newsy component, for sure. I read a lot of media and I do run a newspaper and I am interested in the news. But it's rare that I make a call or conduct an interview for this blog. I don't report for it. I read stuff, I hyperlink things, I mouth off, I do a little preliminary research here and there. Sometimes questions I pose to myself here make their way into our staff meetings and I send the writers off to do reporting, but there's a difference. I don't feel compelled to spell things right here. If I screw something up, I can go back and fix it. I sure don't think of this as definitive information, although I attempt to be accurate to a degree—although a degree that is far, far below the standards we employ for The Santa Fe Reporter. In other words, this is a venue when I feel like writing about something, but I don't think there's anything I have ever put on this blog that I would put in the paper (with the exception, perhaps, of coverage of John Kerry's energy speech here last year, but that was pretty straightforward).
So, to me, that's the difference. I write this blog because, as my friend Darius says of me, "Girl Got Something to Say." But having something to say isn't quite the same as Doing Journalism, in my opinion. And that's my one and a half cents. Back to work, yo!