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Campaign filings of Rep. Nuñez to be reviewed

SANTA FE – A recent New Mexico campaign finance inquisition took another step forward Thursday, with the Secretary of State’s Office confirming it plans to look into the campaign filings of veteran state Rep. Andy Nuñez.

NUÑEZ: Confident he’s done nothing wrong

NUÑEZ: Confident he’s done nothing wrong

Nuñez, a Hatch Republican who previously served in the Legislature as a Democrat before switching parties, was accused by a fellow legislator this week of overpaying himself for loan debt.

He said Thursday that he had been in touch earlier in the day with the Secretary of State’s Office and planned to make fixes to his campaign reports, but he said he was confident he hadn’t done anything wrong.

“I’m not worried about anything, because I’m not doing anything like (overpaying myself),” Nuñez told the Journal.

Campaign reports filed last year by Nuñez appear to show that he lent himself more than $7,300 during the 2014 election cycle, primarily to cover mileage costs but did not report all the corresponding disbursements to himself as loan repayments.

In addition, the total amount of $15,600 he did report repaying himself for campaign loans was more than the $11,993 he had listed as unpaid debt entering the campaign cycle, according to a Journal review of online filings with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Under state law, campaign funds can be used for campaign-related expenditures and expenses reasonably related to the duties of office. State campaign rules also prohibit candidates from expending campaign dollars for personal use, though expenditures made to eliminate campaign debt are allowable.

New Mexico’s campaign finance system has come under increased scrutiny since Secretary of State Dianna Duran was charged last month with fraud, embezzlement and money laundering for allegedly using campaign contributions to cover personal spending at casinos. She is facing pressure to resign but pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the allegations against her.

Ken Ortiz, the chief of staff for the secretary of state, said Nuñez’s 2014 filings were not among the 10 percent of campaign reports randomly selected by the office for examination after last year’s election season, as is required by state law.

“Upon our office being made aware of a potential issue, Rep. Nuñez’s campaign reports have been assigned to our ethics bureau for review to determine if further action is needed,” Ortiz said in a Thursday email.

Nuñez is one of several state lawmakers to face recent questions about their campaign filings. Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, this week acknowledged making “clerical errors” and “honest mistakes” in his 2014 campaign reports, which showed money spent on surgery expenses, attire from a Nike factory store and help for a “needy family” in his legislative district.

But Madalena also said Republican legislators had made errors in their campaign filings and singled out Nuñez as an example.

Nuñez served 10 years in the Legislature as a conservative Democrat before switching his political affiliation to independent in 2011. After losing a 2012 re-election bid, he changed his party registration to Republican and won election to his old House seat last year.

He said the questions about his campaign reports were largely politically driven, claiming that at least some top House Democrats remain angry at him.