Secretary of State Rules Sen. Mary Jane Garcia Violated Campaign Laws, Double-Dipped on Legislative Expense Reimbursements
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New Mexico Secretary of State Diana Duran has ruled that Sen. Mary Jane Garcia committed twelve separate violations of the Campaign Reporting Act and double-dipped by paying herself in campaign cash for travel expenses for which she was also reimbursed by the State of New Mexico. The Secretary of State fined Garcia $1,200 and has given her 10 days to provide an explanation of her conduct under penalty of perjury.
The Secretary of State issued her ruling in response to a complaint by Bryan Steagall, campaign treasurer for Lee Cotter, the Republican challenging Garcia in the race to respresent the 36th Senatorial District. Garcia, a Dona Ana Democrat, has served in the State Senate since 1988.
You can read the entire ruling by the Secretary of State at this link.
Garcia’s double-dipping on legislative expense reimbursements was brought to the attention of the Secretary of State by a New Mexico Watchdog investigation that compared Garcia’s cash payments to herself to cover legislative expenses against her requests to the State of New Mexico for per diem and mileage reimbursements for the same legislative committee meetings. New Mexico Watchdog found that Garcia had paid herself thousands of dollars in campaign cash for legislative expenses doubly reimbursed by the State of New Mexico.
In addition, New Mexico Watchdog documented Sen. Garcia’s practice over the past several years of paying herself in cash in amounts as high as $1,500 for legislative expenses, either as an advance or as payment for travel completed. The New Mexico Campaign Reporting Act prohibits withdrawals of campaign cash in amounts exceeding $100.
The Secretary of State in accordance with Section 1-19-34.4 (C) NMSA has given Sen. Garcia ten working days from the date of her ruling (October 16) to provide a written explanation, under penalty of perjury, stating why the twelve violations occurred. If a timely explanation is filed and good cause is found to excuse the violations, the Secretary of State may waive the fines.
We were unable to contact Sen. Garcia by telephone to obtain her reaction to the ruling by the Secretary of State. No press release has yet been issued by the Secretary of State’s office on her ruling. We expect to receive a comment from Duran about her ruling and will update this report accordingly. Any comment we receive from Sen. Garcia will also be added to this report.
UPDATE: Ken Ortiz, Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Duran, called to inform us that she would withhold any comment on her ruling until the time period for Sen. Garcia’s response has expired and she has reviewed any statement provided by the Senator.