ICYMI: Local News Calls Democrat Legislator’s Campaign Spending Into Question
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Local News Calls Democrat Legislator’s Campaign Spending Into Question
4 Investigates: Legislator fails to report more than $4K in campaign contributions
By: Ryan S. Luby,
September 4th, 2015
As New Mexico’s Secretary of State faces tough questions and charges over how she handled her campaign money, KOB’s investigative team identified a state legislator who failed to report thousands of dollars of campaign contributions. The inconsistencies raise concern about where the money went and who’s enforcing accurate campaign finance reporting.
Political donors and politicians are required to report the exchange of political dollars under state law.
If Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, had a campaign finance scale, his would be way off balance. It was, at least, when KOB analyzed his campaign finance records and compared them to records from political action committees and lobbyists spending money in New Mexico.
The 4 Investigates team found six political action committees and four lobbying groups reporting donations to Maestas in the 2014 election cycle. Among them are PACs representing New Mexico’s physical therapists, realtors, insurance and financial providers, and community bankers.
Altogether, the ten organizations collectively reported $5,250 of donations to Maestas’s campaign that did not appear in his records as monetary contributions.
4 Investigates contacted the organizations Thursday. Nearly all of them confirmed Maestas’s campaign cashed their checks.
On Friday, one of them — Farmers Group Inc. and its Affiliates — told KOB that it erroneously reported a donation to Maestas in the amount of $1,000. It amended its reports.
Late Friday afternoon, Maestas emailed KOB to say he amended his legally-required campaign finance reports to account for the previously unreported donations amounting to $4,250.
KOB offered Maestas numerous opportunities to speak on-camera, but he refused.
Indeed, the campaign record consistencies feel like a case of déjà vu.
“There’s no excuse and it will never happen again,” Maestas told KOB at the time.
He quickly filed the report after KOB contacted him.
“We weren’t trying to hide anything, I just– my campaign didn’t get it done, I take full responsibility,” Maestas said.
In regards to the inconsistent campaign contributions, Maestas sent a statement to KOB:
“I want to thank KOB for bringing this issue to my attention and I take full responsibility for any inaccuracies in my reports. Upon receiving verification from the bank of the dates these checks were deposited into my campaign account, I amended my reports accordingly.”
KOB wanted proof that the money was deposited directly into Maestas’s campaign accounts and where it went after that.
The station began asking questions of Maestas late Thursday morning.
Less than 90 minutes before the television version of this story aired on KOB’s 10 p.m. newscast Friday night, Maestas sent banks statements and copies of the cashed contribution checks to the station. The records were consistent with information shared by the contributing organizations themselves.
However, concern remains over how Maestas spent some of his campaign money overall. He recorded three separate expenditures of $1,000 each. The listed purpose for the expenditures: “cash for paid canvassing teams.”
New Mexico campaign finance law requires expenditures to be paid by check, unless the disbursements come from a petty cash fund and the expenditures are $100 or less.
Less than 60 minutes before KOB’s story aired, Maestas provided a list of people he identified as the paid canvassers — each earning between $300 and $1000. However, the names of those individuals do not appear in any of his official state campaign records.
The 4 Investigates team contacted the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office about the inconsistencies in Maestas’s campaign reporting.
New Mexico state law requires politicians to accurately and immediately record campaign expenditures or contributions.
“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on or draw conclusions about an investigation carried out by the news media,” James Hallinan, communications director for Attorney General Hector Balders said in a statement. “We would be happy to review their findings when and if they are submitted to us.”
The Secretary of State’s office is required by New Mexico state statute to examine at least ten-percent of campaign finance reports filed in a year at random.
In a statement, spokesperson Ken Ortiz said Maestas’s campaign records were not among those in the most recent examination.
However, due to KOB’s findings, Ortiz said, “the concerns regarding Representative Maestas’ reports have been assigned to the ethics staff to review and make a determination regarding whether further action is needed.”
He also said the state’s current campaign finance reporting system does not allow for automated cross-checks between a candidate’s filings and those of a political action committee or lobbying group.