And I didn’t approve this message


I’ve always thought giving money to a political candidate was stupid. If you care about the environment, give money to the Sierra Club, not to producing TV commercials about how a guy who might help the environment loves his family and flags.

So usually, I junk campaign contribution e-mails right away. But this week, I got one from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, which interested me because Richardson dropped out of the presidential race in January. It read: “Please, as one last gesture to Bill Richardson’s extraordinary leadership in our democratic process, help us close our books and live up to our obligations by making one last contribution to retire his campaign debt.”

This was the most shameless request for money I’d ever gotten from someone not living in Nigeria. Richardson was asking me for money not so that my interests would be reflected during his presidency, but just because he’s a good guy in a spot of bother. If this works, I might be getting e-mails for the rest of my life from Richardson. “It’s Bill again. Bad run at the blackjack table, but I’m pretty sure I can get out of it :)” “Bill on the Blackberry again. In the checkout line at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and it seems I went a little crazy with the Frette. Want to help, buddy?” “Dude, I totally want an iPhone!”


Curious, I clicked over to his contribution page and dialed the phone number. Which was no longer in service. The e-mail I sent to bounced right back. The guv really does need some money.

So I called Richardson to see if he could persuade me to help him out of the $380,000 hole he’d dug. He didn’t try all that hard. It seems that he’s in no physical danger -- none of his debts are to loan sharks, and he’s not paying a vig on any of it.

“This is a very moderate debt,” he said, noting that other failed campaigns also owe money. But he clearly thinks he still has political weight to make people want to buy his friendship: “Because I’m still going to be around as a governor, and possibly nationally, people remember me.” He threw a fundraiser at a bar near Coors Field after the Rockies’ opening-day game and pulled in $60,000. Richardson’s very smart strategy seems to involve requesting money from people so drunk that they might think he’s still running.

When I pushed him for a reason for my donation, he said something about helping small-business owners who apparently weren’t following the race and dawdled in sending bills for all those car rentals and political consultations. But when I asked which of these needy small businesses he was into the most, he said: “The biggest is charter jets.”

I threw a bunch of awesome fund-raising ideas at Richardson, but he had already done or considered most of them. He sold the campaign’s furniture and computers, sold his e-mail list to other politicians and rejected one staffer’s idea to let the highest bidder shave off his post-campaign Gore beard. I suggested that he switch his Barack Obama endorsement to Hillary Clinton because she paid off candidate Tom Vilsack’s debt, but he just laughed. “I don’t think she’d be very interested in helping me right now,” he said. He also shot down my other idea: Ask his new friend Obama for some sweat-soaked campaign clothes to auction on EBay.

As far as repaying the debt himself, that isn’t going to happen. Whereas Clinton lent her campaign $5 million, Mitt Romney gave himself $35.4 million, Dennis Kucinich lent himself $150,000 and even Duncan Hunter pitched in a $50,000 loan, Richardson only gave his campaign the $2,300 individual donor maximum. “I barely was able to convince my wife to give the max. I said, ‘Come on, we have a show to put on.’ ”


Impressed by his confidence, his integrity and this vague threat of being around “possibly nationally,” I offered Richardson $20 if he’d record my outgoing answering machine message. He immediately agreed. Unfortunately, callers to my house now hear a long speech about how they should give Richardson money instead of the little speech I asked for, which said that even though I wasn’t home, he fully endorsed me. The guy is a pro.

Duncan Hunter, I hear you owe $250,000. I’ve got a cellphone with a voice mail that could use some work.