Herrera said she's never heard of campaigns paying for people to attend party conventions; calls the practice "very odd."
Exclusive interview with Herrera!
The paper trail: Copies of the checks that Wilson's campaign wrote to convention attendees are headed to the AG's Office.
Those checks might be the reason Wilson's Senate campaign fessed up to paying
By Dennis Domrzalski
New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera said her office is working closely and quickly with the state Attorney General’s Office to finish the investigation into the state Republican Party’s vote-buying scandal.
The agencies want the investigation completed before the state GOP’s statewide convention on Saturday, Herrera said late Tuesday in an exclusive interview with this blog.
Herrera also said she was troubled by the allegations that the
campaigns—including Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign—had paid people to attend the Bernalillo County GOP’s ward conventions on Feb. 17 and vote for certain delegates.
“It’s something new—people being paid to get to conventions. I’ve never heard of it. I’ve been attending (Democratic Party) ward and state conventions since I’ve been 18 and I’ve never heard of anything like this. Now we have paying people to do it. It sees very odd,” Herrera said during the face-to-face interview in
And new evidence emerged in the case that offers a reason why
The AG’s office is expected to get copies of those checks today.
“We are working fast because their convention is Saturday, and we are working closely with the Attorney General’s office,” Herrera said.
GOP Party Chair Confirms Investigation
Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman Fernando C. de Baca confirmed that he had been called by the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday morning about the vote-buying allegations and that he talked to Bureau of Elections chief Daniel Miera for more than an hour about the issue.
“I was called by the head of the Bureau of Elections. He asked me about the convention procedures and asked if I had seen any checks written by Heather Wilson’s campaign and if the checks had any names,” C. de Baca said.
“I told him that there were four checks, that they were made out to the Bernalillo County Republican Party and that they had no names. He told me he would need copies of them, that he would be meeting with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office and that they were conducting an investigation.
“I informed this party’s executive board about the allegations and that there was an ongoing investigation of the matter by Secretary of State’s Office.”
Wilson’s Campaign Checks
Copies of the checks written by
The investigators have asked for all the county party’s convention records so they can try to match
Two checks were received from Ward 31 in
The checks were the large, business-type design. The check from Ward 24 was numbered 7291, while the one from Ward 23 was numbered 7292—which shows they were written in sequence. The two from Ward 31 were numbered 7254 and 7263. That interruption in sequence could lead investigators to ask whether
Dave Cargo Vindicated
Dave Cargo and his wife, Ida Jo (left)--photo by Mark Bralley
The 31st Ward is where the controversy over the vote-buying scandal erupted. Cargo was the ward’s chairman, and he’s the one who went to the news media with allegations that certain campaigns had paid people’s registration fees for the conventions, which were held to nominate delegates to the state GOP’s March 15 statewide nominating convention. Those delegates to the statewide convention will vote on which candidates will be on the party’s June primary election ballot. Cargo also said he heard people at his ward convention say they had been paid by certain campaigns $35-an-hour to attend the function.
State GOP officials blasted the 79-year-old Cargo after he made the allegations. And, when then-KKOB Radio afternoon drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum aired stories about Cargo’s complaints and the alleged vote-buying scheme, state party officials and
KKOB News Director Pat Allen eventually killed MacCallum’s stories on the subject, saying in a bizarre memo that the stories weren’t valid because other news outlets and bloggers had not picked them up.
MacCallum resigned in protest.
Cargo has also said that the vote-buying scheme is a fourth-degree felony under New Mexico law. The law says it's a crime for someone to over a bribe for a vote and to accept a bribe to vote a certain way.
Cargo said the checks vindicate his allegations and prove that state Republican Party operatives "are a closed little group who operate on the basis of hate."
"This happened right in my ward, which is what I said," Cargo added. "They pait me as being disloyal and they were the ones doing the corrputing. Instead of admitting what they did, they tried to smear me."
And the Ward 24 caucus was where state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, said she had that people had been paid by certain campaigns to attend.
State GOP officials have said that the convention fees were legitimate charges because they paid to rent a ballroom at the Albuquerque Marriott where the conventions were held.
Checks Could Cause
Cargo says that in the eys of the FEC, "buying votes is not a legitimate campaign expense."
Investigators might eventually be looking at that, as well.