“I don’t want my constituents to think I’m a crook” – Mary Jane Garcia pays fine
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After saying she would pay a fine to the Secretary of State’s Office stemming from questionable campaign spending and then saying she would contest it, state Sen. Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana) announced Thursday (Oct. 26) that she would pay the $1,200 fine after all — as well repaying $3,980 that had been withdrawn from her campaign account.
“I’m just going ahead and paying the whole thing to get it behind me,” Garcia told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “I don’t want my constituents to think I’m a crook, because they know better.”
Ken Ortiz of the Secretary of State’s Office told Capitol Report New Mexico Friday morning that his office had seen Sen. Garcia’s news release announcing her decision to pay the fine but had not yet received a letter from Garcia confirming her decision.
Ortiz said the review of Garcia’s campaign receipts is still underway and said “my expectatation” is that a decision will be made before the Nov. 6 election matching Garcia with Republican Lee Cotter in Senate District 36, which is located in the Las Cruces area.
Earlier this month, the Secretary of State’s office levied the fine, citing 12 separate violations of the state’s Campaign Reporting Act after a review indicated Sen. Garcia double-dipped by paying herself in campaign cash for travel expenses for which she was also reimbursed by the state.
An investigation by the New Mexico Watchdog first reported Garcia’s questionable campaign reports and, separately, Cotter’s campaign treasurer filed a formal complaint with the state.
Right after the story broke, Garcia said she would abide by any determination made by the SOS’s review but then on Oct. 23, Garcia wrote a letter to the SOS Office asking for the fine to be waived and asking for the state Attorney General’s office to get involved. Now she says she’ll pay the fine as well as the $3,980 from campaign funds. Should the SOS clear Garcia in its review, the money can be returned.
Garcia says she only deals in cash when she travels on legislative business because she doesn’t use credit cards and most hotels and restaurants don’t accept checks.
“It has never been my intent or practice to use the cash expenditures for anything other than travel expenses,” Garcia wrote. “I have never used any of these funds for any personal living expenses.”
Garcia has held the Senate District 36 seat for 23 years. She faces Cotter, whom she has defeated in two previous elections, on Nov. 6.