SANTA FE – After winning election last year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham received roughly $873,000 in contributions for her inaugural celebrations, including big donations from labor unions, tribal groups, health insurance providers and racino operators from around the state.
Inaugural financial records were released this week – a few weeks later than previously promised – and show the governor spent slightly more than $720,000 on inaugural events, on staffing, entertainment, hotel fees, alcohol and other expenses.
A spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham’s inauguration committee said Thursday that some leftover funds will be used to pay outstanding bills, with the rest to be given to unspecified charities.
Among the listed expenditures by the governor’s inaugural committee was $16,808 to Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign for the “rental” of an email list.
That list was used to promote inaugural events to Lujan Grisham campaign supporters, inaugural spokeswoman Liz Collins told the Journal.
“It’s fairly common for campaigns to rent and buy an email list,” Collins added.
But similar payments by other governors have drawn scrutiny, such as when former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe spent more than $200,000 for rental of email lists in 2014.
In New Mexico, there are few if any state laws that cover spending for inaugural events, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
However, other laws do apply. A federal grand jury investigation into how money was raised and spent for former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s 2010 inaugural celebration ended with no criminal charges being filed. Martinez’s inaugural committee raised nearly $1 million.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, was sworn into office on Jan. 1 after defeating Republican Steve Pearce in last year’s open race for governor.
The former three-term U.S. representative held a free public inaugural ceremony in downtown Santa Fe on New Year’s Day. It featured Lujan Grisham’s first public speech as governor, as well as musical performances.
She also held two inaugural ballroom celebrations later in the day. Attendees had to pay at least $100 for tickets to attend those balls, which were closed to the media.
Lujan Grisham’s inaugural committee voluntarily limited contributions to $11,000 per donor or business, Collins said. That was also the maximum total allowable donation to a candidate during last year’s election cycle, under the state’s campaign contribution limits.
Several contributions that exceeded $11,000 were partly refunded – in the amount exceeding that figure – to the donor, Collins said.
Among the entities making the maximum contribution to the governor’s inaugural committee were:
• The Pueblo of Pojoaque.
• Devon Energy, an Oklahoma-based natural gas and petroleum exploration company.
• Steve Chavez, the former owner of WisePies Pizza & Salad.
• Johnny Cope, a Hobbs businessman and former chairman of the state Transportation Commission.
• Dan Perry, a Santa Fe lawyer who owns a fly-fishing and hunting operation.
• Paul Blanchard, a businessman who is co-owner of the Albuquerque Downs Racetrack & Casino.
• Presbyterian Health Plan.
• Coca-Cola North America.
In all, Lujan Grisham received roughly $873,602 in contributions and spent $721,676, according to the financial disclosures posted to her inaugural committee’s website.