SANTA FE, N.M. — As expected, a woman who briefly managed the mayoral campaign of City Councilor Patti Bushee filed a complaint with the Santa Fe Ethics and Campaign Review Board on Monday, alleging that Bushee has violated the city’s public campaign finance code.
Tarin Nix’s complaint centers around a $1,750 check Bushee gave Nix in June for campaign management services. Bushee, who at the time anticipated running a privately funded campaign, wrote the check from her personal funds. Bushee later decided to seek public financing.
“I believe this has violated the Public Campaign Finance Code by obtaining seed money contributions in excess of the amount allowed ($100),” Nix said in the complaint, referring to the June check. “By her own admission, Ms. Bushee contributed $1,750 of her own money, which violates the $100 contribution limit.”
Santa Fe’s public campaign finance code requires publicly financed candidates to swear under oath that they’ve made expenditures using private funding only from the seed money allowed to candidates for initial campaign expenses. Seed money is limited to $6,000 and individual seed money contributions must be no more than $100.
Nix said that Bushee didn’t report the June payment to Nix nor Bushee’s own “contribution” that paid for it and that Bushee violated an oath stating, required for public financing, that she would only make expenditures from seed money.
“She has also maintained that she has reported $6,000 of seed money contributions, but Ms. Bushee did not disclose the payment to me in June, which would put her over the $6,000 limit,” Nix said.
Nix also alleged that the expenditure for Nix’s services wasn’t spent in accordance with a code provision mandating that seed money be spent “to defray expenses incurred in obtaining qualifying (public finance) contributions and in seeking certification as a participating candidate.”
Bushee and her campaign team have made “false and inaccurate statements” about Bushee’s public campaign financing funding, Nix said in the complaint.
Bushee reported the $1,750 expenditure to Nix in a city filing as a November campaign expense.
Bushee told the Journal last week that when she decided to switch gears from private to public financing she was advised by an expert to reconcile the June Nix expense by writing a second check to Nix out of seed money.
“It’s not like we’re trying to pretend it didn’t exist. We’re trying to figure out how to follow the code to the best of our ability. These are unusual circumstances,” Bushee told the Journal last week.
Nix said in her complaint that Bushee agreed in late May to hire Nix as her campaign manager for $3,500 per month. Nix said she left a job in Texas to work for Bushee.
Bushee has previously said Nix didn’t do much work for her, but Nix said in her complaint that during her month-long stint with the Bushee campaign Nix attended “numerous team and individual meetings on behalf of the campaign,” assisted with website development, candidate talking points, campaign messaging and creating a summer campaign plan.
Nix said that after a month on the job she was asked by Bushee and her team to take a salary reduction “because the private fundraising was not going as well as they had hoped (and) they wanted to revisit the idea of running a publicly funded campaign.” Nix was let go after she declined the request.
Bushee said Nix was let go because she wasn’t a good fit for Bushee’s campaign.
“On Friday, November 15, I received a call from Joe Lennihan, on behalf of the Bushee campaign, asking me if I would swap checks, so my payment was noted as coming from the Bushee’s Seed Money Account and not from the account the check I was given on June 19,” Nix said.
Nix said she told Lennihan she would not swap out the check and give back the money she got in June.
“I also advised Joe Lennihan that I wanted to make sure the June 19 cashier’s check was reported in Ms. Bushee’s filing, because that was when I actually received the initial payment,” Nix said.
“Mr. Lennihan acknowledged that he did not know what checks would be reported, but the decision was up to me to decide what to do with the additional check,” she said.
Nix included with her complaint several emails between herself, Bushee and Bushee’s campaign team.
The emails outline the work Nix did for the campaign. They include Nix’s “talking points” explaining why a privately-funded Bushee wasn’t seeking public financing, chiefly because publicly financed candidates can’t spend non-seed money until December and that $60,000 in public money isn’t enough money to run for mayor.
Nix has also included with her complaint photocopies of the cashiers check she received in June from Bushee and the check she got in November from Bushee’s campaign.
All five of Santa Fe’s mayoral candidates are seeking public financing. Candidates turned in qualifying contributions this week and are expected to be certified by the city clerk early next month. The election is in March 2014.