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King to return more than $30K in contributions

SANTA FE – Democratic gubernatorial challenger Gary King said Tuesday he’ll return more than $30,000 in campaign contributions from companies affiliated with a wealthy financier who’s a convicted sex offender in Florida.

The contributions came from companies with a Virgin Islands address that Jeffrey Epstein lists as a place of business or a residence in government documents, including a New York sex offender registry and New Mexico corporation records.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 in Florida to a charge of soliciting prostitution, and served just over a year in jail. Epstein made the plea after federal authorities dropped an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his mansion in Palm Beach.

“My campaign has had an ongoing rule that I would not accept any contributions directly from Mr. Epstein and upon further review, we have learned that he has an interest in the companies in question,” King said in a statement. “Unfortunately my fundraising staff missed this in the vetting process. I believe the right thing to do is to return the contributions from all companies in which Mr. Epstein has an interest. This will be done immediately.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported a possible link between the contributions and Epstein, who owns a ranch in Santa Fe County near Stanley and bought the land from King’s family two decades ago.

Epstein and one of his companies – different from the ones contributing to King this year – previously have given money to New Mexico candidates, but they returned or donated it to charities. King received $15,000 for his 2006 campaign for attorney general. Former Gov. Bill Richardson had received $100,000 for his campaigns for governor in 2002 and 2006.

Contributions by five Epstein companies – totaling $30,400 – were disclosed in a campaign finance report filed Monday by King’s office with the secretary of state’s office. King previously reported receiving $5,200 in June from another company with the same Virgin Islands address as the other businesses.

The campaign reports listed the names of the companies and their address but there was no reference to Epstein. The report listed the occupation of the donors as “unknown,” “real estate” or “investments.”

In addition to his ranch in New Mexico, Epstein has homes in New York City, the Virgin Islands and an apartment in Paris.

Epstein’s plea deal in Florida has come under criticism from women who say they were among his victims. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that two women are entitled to see documents from the plea bargain talks between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers.

The women’s lawyers contend Epstein received special treatment, but his attorneys have denied that.

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