SANTA FE – Secretary of State Dianna Duran has ruled that Attorney General Gary King, the Democratic nominee for governor, accepted three campaign contributions that exceeded the state’s established donation limits.
In a letter sent to King this week, the ethics administrator for the Secretary of State’s Office told King to either put $10,900 – the sum of the three contributions in question – in the state’s public election fund or lay out why he should not be required to do so.
“Absent additional information received in writing from your campaign … it is the finding of the Secretary of State that the contribution limits have been exceeded,” ethics administrator Billy Velarde wrote in the letter, dated Monday.
In response, King’s campaign manager, Keith Breitbach said Tuesday that the campaign had not received the letter.
“The attorney general is confident that current state law allows political campaigns to accept contributions in order to pay off past campaign debts,” Breitbach told the Journal.
He said King will determine how to respond once he receives the letter, and questioned whether the secretary of state’s interpretation of the law means Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign has also violated the state’s law on contribution limits.
Martinez, who is seeking re-election to a second term, has received numerous donations in excess of $5,200. However, all those contributions appear to have been made before the primary election, which the Martinez campaign has said makes them allowable under state law.
New Mexico lawmakers in 2009 established campaign contribution caps, though the limits did not take effect until after the 2010 general election. Previously, most candidates and political committees could accept donations of any amount.
The current limit on a donation from an individual to a candidate for statewide office is $5,200 per primary and general election cycle.
In the case of King’s scrutinized contributions, he reported receiving $10,400 each from Trudy and Ed Healy of Taos on June 25. He also reported receiving $5,700 from Amelia Carson of Santa Fe on June 28.
The timing of the donations is important because they were received after the June 3 primary. The general election cycle began the next day, according to Duran’s office.
Martinez, a Republican, has a sizable financial advantage over King with four months remaining until the Nov. 4 general election.
The incumbent governor reported having $4.3 million in her campaign war chest earlier this month, compared with $116,078 for King. King has lent his campaign about $540,000.