NM AG says there’s no GOP vote-buying probe.
Says that party conventions are private affairs that are not subject to the state’s election code
By Dennis Domrzalski
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office said today that it is not investigating allegations of vote-buying at the recent state GOP pre-primary conventions because party conventions are private matters that aren’t subject to the state’s election code.
AG spokesman Phil Sisneros said the office sent a memo to the Secretary of State’s Office saying that unless there is more to the allegations there’s noting to be investigated.
Secretary of State Mary Herrera said on Wednesday that her office was working closely with the AG’s Office to finish the investigation before the state Republican Party held its statewide nominating convention on Saturday. Herrera said at the time that she had never heard of people having to pay to attend party nominating conventions and that she thought the practice was “very odd.”
“We sent them a memo saying that they need to come up with more information before we can do anything,” Sisneros said. “Because for us, the Republican convention is not under the state election code. It’s the same thing for the Democrat Party’s caucuses. They’re private organizations and they do not come under the state election code. It is really going to be a party issue.”
SoS spokesman James Flores confirmed that Bureau of Elections Chief Daniel Miera had received the AG’s memo.
The vote-buying allegations stem from the Bernalillo County Republican Party’s pre-primary convention on Feb. 17 in Albuquerque. Former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo, a Republican, said attendees had told him that their $30 registration fees had been paid by certain campaigns. Cargo also said he had been told that some campaigns might have paid attendees $35-an-hour to be at the convention.
Attendees to the convention elected delegates to the state GOP’s statewide convention to be held on Saturday. Those delegates will decide which candidates will be on the party’s June primary election ballot.
Cargo, a lawyer, said the allegations, if true, amounted to vote-buying and bribery, which under state law are fourth-degree felonies. Cargo was not immediately available for comment Friday morning.
Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign initially refused to answer questions about whether it had paid people to attend the conventions. Later it admitted it paid the $30 registration fees of five people who attended the conventions.
Bernalillo County GOP records show that Wilson’s campaign paid four people’s fees by check—two from Ward 31, and one each from Wards 23 and 24.
The vote-buying allegation story was broken by then-KKOB Radio drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum. She quit her job after station News Director Pat Allen pulled the stories. Allen said in a memo to MacCallum that he didn’t think the story was valid because bloggers and other news outlets hadn’t picked it up.
State GOP officials have said that the party has charged registration fees to convention attendees since the mid-1990s. They said the fees help pay the overhead costs of running the conventions.