Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham understated her income from Delta Consulting – the company that helps run New Mexico’s high-risk insurance pool – when she filed a 2013 financial disclosure form as a member of Congress.
Rep. Lujan Grisham reported about $138,000 in “passive income” from Delta Consulting – the firm she co-founded in 2008 – on her 2013 tax return.
But she reported just $50,000 to $100,000 in income from the company on the financial disclosure report she filed for that year with the clerk’s office of the U.S. House of Representatives. The form requires ranges, not an exact amount.
Lujan Grisham’s campaign said Saturday that the congresswoman has already submitted an amendment to the U.S. House to fix the discrepancy.
“An honest mistake was made,” campaign manager Dominic Gabello said Saturday. “When we were going through her tax returns, we noticed the discrepancy.”
Lujan Grisham voluntarily posted five years of tax returns to her campaign website last week as a show of transparency.
Politico, a national news organization, reported the income discrepancy Saturday morning.
State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces lawyer and one of Lujan Grisham’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, said the misstated income is “not a rounding error” or similar mistake.
It’s an inaccuracy of up to $88,000, he said, the difference between the $50,000 range she reported to Congress and the $138,000 on her tax return.
“How many New Mexicans are off in their reported income by $88,000?” Cervantes said in an interview.
Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive also seeking the Democratic nomination, used the discrepancy revealed Saturday to announce a three-part anti-corruption plan.
As governor, he said, he would push to prohibit elected officials from having state contracts, require candidates to release their tax returns, and establish an online database to track campaign donations to lawmakers who sponsor bill affecting the donors’ industry.
“The Grisham/Delta scandal exposed how New Mexico lawmakers have abused their power to bilk taxpayers out of millions – charging our sickest New Mexicans more – while lining their pockets,” Apodaca said in a written statement.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat from Albuquerque, has faced intense criticism from her opponents over the last week, centering on her ties to Delta, which has repeatedly won state contracts to run an insurance pool for people who otherwise have trouble getting coverage.
Critics say the pool is obsolete now that the Affordable Care Act is in place – which Lujan Grisham strongly disputes.
In any case, she divested herself from the firm last year. She co-founded Delta in 2008 with Deborah Armstrong, her campaign treasurer and a Democratic member of the state House.
Apodaca has called on Lujan Grisham to drop out of the gubernatorial race, accusing her and Armstrong of exerting political influence to help their company.
State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini, chairman of the medical insurance pool’s board, told the Journal last month that Delta won the state contracts through a competitive bidding process.
The state’s Governmental Conduct Act allows elected officials to contract with state government, but only if the contract is issued after competitive bidding and if the elected officials publicly disclose their interest – conditions that appear to have been met, at least in recent years.
Cervantes and Apodaca, meanwhile, also attacked Lujan Grisham in recent days over her introduction of a bill in Congress that would have affected high-risk insurance at the federal level. The 2013 bill, HR 3783, sought to extend a “temporary high risk health insurance pool program” for a year. It was never passed.
“Democrats need a candidate for governor who’s committed to ethics and beyond question in terms of their motivations for wanting to hold that office,” Cervantes said Saturday.
Gabello, in turn, said Lujan Grisham was simply trying to ensure people had access to health care coverage.
“The Obamacare markets were in disarray in the fall of 2013,” he said. “They suffered from a failed rollout, and there was a concern that too many seriously sick people would sign up for plans, thus causing a huge spike in premiums the following year.
“In response to calls from her constituents to work to save the Affordable Care Act and keep premiums low, Michelle offered a solution to her colleagues to stabilize the markets.”