March 12, 2015

Gov’s nominee likely to face new questions about Super PAC donor; Republicans give away donations from convicted major donor

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Susana Martinez endured a small setback Wednesday when the Senate abruptly halted debate on the confirmation of Martinez’s appointee, former fellow-District Attorney turned pro-Martinez political operative Matt Chandler, to the UNM Board of Regents. Republican leadership sponsoring his nomination realized he did not have sufficient votes for confirmation and asked to revisit it later this week.

But Chandler may face new questions in that second debate, thanks to a story which just appeared in New Mexico In Depth:

The largest individual  donor to a New Mexico Republican super PAC pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Las Vegas in 2013.

Marcus Hiles, a developer from Grand Prairie, Texas, donated $100,000 to Advance New Mexico Now. That political action committee raised more than $1 million last year to support GOP candidates, mostly in their successful effort to take over the state House, state records show.

Hiles and his wife, Nancy, also donated $10,400 each to Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.

The revelation of Hiles’ domestic violence guilty plea, reported by the Dallas Morning News, has caused several Texas candidates to donate the equivalent of Hiles’ contributions to groups working against domestic violence…

Hiles’ attorney denied his client choked the woman and told the Morning News Hiles pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid a felony trial.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other elected officials donated the equivalent of their contributions from Hiles to groups working against domestic violence, the Morning News reported.

Read more here.

Pressure will surely mount for Chandler, as the treasurer of the pro-Republican Super PAC, to follow the example of other Republican recipients of Hiles’ money.  Though, as the NM In Depth points out, that may be tough.  The PAC reported less than $3000 on hand in its latest filing.

Susana Martinez will likely face similar calls to return or donate Hiles’ contributions.

Follow New Mexico In Depth for more on this developing story.

For more on Chandler’s uphill confirmation, we turn to the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler, one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s close political allies, was facing rejection Wednesday by the state Senate for a seat on The University of New Mexico Board of Regents, so both floor leaders said they abruptly agreed to delay the vote on his confirmation.

Chandler had received a 6-3 vote of support for his confirmation from the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday morning. But by the time Chandler descended two floors to the Senate chamber, where he faced an afternoon vote by all 42 senators, he was facing a humiliating defeat in public…

Chandler, 39, is the former district attorney of Curry and Roosevelt counties. A Republican, he ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 2010, when Martinez was elected governor on the same GOP slate.

Last year, Chandler was treasurer of a Republican political committee, Advance New Mexico Now, that attacked Democratic candidates in a series of vitriolic advertisements.

Chandler was listed as the political committee’s point man on mailers denigrating then-state Rep. Liz Thomson of Albuquerque and sitting state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos.

The ads, to which he attached his name, said Thomson “took money from schoolchildren” and “voted to give money to lobbyists.” At best, these charges were gross distortions, and at worst, they were lies.  Read More.

The Senate is expected to take up Chandler’s nomination, again, today or Friday.