April 22, 2016

KOB: Lt. Gov. Sanchez pocketed $43K of campaign cash; ethics questioned

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First Dianna Duran, now John Sanchez?

When Republicans took control of the top three statewide offices in 2011 they promised to run “the most open and ethical administration” ever.  Fast forward five years and Republican campaigns have put more money into politics than any other period in New Mexico history and it looks like they are having a hard time keeping their hands off of it.

Just months after former-Secretary of State Dianna Duran completed her jail sentence for stealing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay personal expenses and a growing casino habit, KOB-TV discovered that Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez “pocketed” $43,000 in campaign cash.

An investigative report by KOB-TV’s Ryan Luby detailed tens-of-thousands of dollars – as much as an entire year’s income for New Mexican families – of rent Sanchez paid himself for rent of a “campaign office” in a building he already owned, to “run” a campaign where he ran unopposed in the primary and on the coattails of the governor in the general election.

From KOB-TV, “4 Investigates: Lt. Gov. Sanchez pocketed $43K of campaign cash; ethics questioned,”:

Wouldn’t it be nice if other people paid your rent?  What a deal that would be.  New Mexico Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez did just that and is now the subject of questions about his ethics.

 

The 4 Investigates team analyzed the rent payments Sanchez reported for a campaign office during the most recent election and learned it’s in an industrial building he owns.

The building is also the home of his family’s longtime roofing business, Right Way Roofing, near 1st Street NW and Aspen Avenue NW in a heavily industrialized area of Albuquerque.

According to campaign finance data maintained by the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, Sanchez received $43,000 in rent payments — initially $1,500 per month, followed by an increase to $2,000 per month — from January 2013 through November 2014.  The data show his campaign paid him $3,000 for rent in 2011.

To be fair, statewide campaigns often need space to host phonebankers, volunteers and staff; but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of anyone but his own private roofing business using the property during the campaign – nor in the two years before he was even on the ballot.

Again, KOB:

“When you look at what other people are spending, it’s nowhere near that [amount],” Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico said.  The organization champions open and ethical government.

She reacted to an analysis of the campaign finance data conducted by the 4 Investigates team.  It shows Sanchez paid more for rent than any other candidate who’s ever reported campaign office rent expenses to the Secretary of State in the last decade.

The analysis shows Governor Susana Martinez paid roughly $27,000 in rent for several campaign offices across New Mexico during the 2014 election.  Gary King reported expenses of roughly $39,000.

Martinez’s campaign office rent expenses for the 2014 election began in March 2014 and ended in November 2014.  King’s began in May 2013 and ended in October 2014.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Debra Haaland did not report any campaign office rent expenses, according to the data.

There’s no indication in the campaign finance data that any candidate — including King and Martinez — has rented campaign office space in a property they own.

The Republican-era in New Mexico politics is known for the massive amounts of cash candidates, operatives, PACs and Republican-leaning non-profit groups raised and spent before, during and after elections.

Governor Martinez’s campaign and inaugural fundraising were notoriously under FBI and federal grand jury investigation for most of 2015.  Dianna Duran resigned when she pled guilty to felonies relating to mismanagement and embezzlement of campaign funds.  She conducted all of those crimes while serving as the state’s chief ethics officer, responsible for enforcing campaign finance rules.

Before and after Duran’s resignation, she was criticized for not enforcing rules governing campaigns and for failing to investigate campaign spending.

Associated Press (AP) — During her tenure as the state’s top elections official, Duran issued hundreds of fines to candidates and elected officeholders for violating campaign finance reporting requirements. However, her office collected only a fraction of those fines and failed to forward a single case to state prosecutors between 2010 and 2014, fueling criticism from open government advocates…

“Right now, enforcement is based on tattle-tail resources,” Kari Fresquez, the state’s elections director, told lawmakers during a recent meeting in Santa Fe.

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