Claims in a recent newspaper guest column that Gov. Susana Martinez “absconded” from the 2011 legislative special session on two taxpayer-funded political trips were wrong, according to Journal fact checking.
ProgressNow New Mexico Executive Director Pat Davis, in a column published in the Journal on April 6, accused Martinez of being out of touch during the Legislature’s debate on redistricting last September. Davis alleged she was preoccupied with “political junkets” to Louisiana and California while legislators were at work in Santa Fe.
“And all of it at taxpayer expense,” Davis wrote.
The Governor’s Office says there’s no truth in those statements. State GOP Chairman Monty Newman called Davis’ allegations a “smear job” in a guest column published in the Journal on Wednesday.
Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said the governor never took a trip to Louisiana in September. It actually was her husband.
The trip to California was paid for by the National Republican Party and took place after the state Senate concluded its session Sept. 24, he said.
Taxpayers didn’t foot the bill for either trip, although routine State Police protection was provided, the Journal found.
Davis said he concluded Martinez took a five-day trip to Louisiana, starting Sept. 5, after reviewing state documents showing the governor’s security detail made the trip by car and refueled along the way. But Davis said he never asked whether Martinez was in the car.
The governor’s spokesman on Wednesday said it was first gentleman Chuck Franco who made the trip to Louisiana, for a hunting vacation, paid for by himself, with two security officers sent at the direction of the State Police chief.
While Franco was in Louisiana, Martinez was present for at least two public events in New Mexico.
A regular State Police security detail accompanied the governor to the events she attended in California after the legislative session ended, Darnell said.
ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive, nonprofit political advocacy group that does not disclose its donors, previously reported on its website that Martinez’s September trip to Sonoma, Calif., was funded by the governor’s campaign donations.
Davis said the differing claim in his recent column – that the trips were “all” at taxpayer expense – referred to the security costs.
“At best, I think it was a poor choice of words to use the words ‘all’ (referencing trip expenses) instead of ‘public portion’ or ‘security detail,’ ” Davis said.
He added: “We did what we believe is the due diligence and the research, and have not seen anything to refute the claims we are trying to make.”
The governor’s spokesman said all political trips Martinez takes are scheduled to avoid conflict with state business.
Martinez planned to attend a high-profile GOP leadership conference in Michigan but canceled the trip because the Legislature was still in special session, said Martinez adviser Jay McCleskey.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal