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Lawmaker flip-flops on whether he read law

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – State Rep. James Roger Madalena, whose campaign spending is under scrutiny, told the Secretary of State’s Office last week he had never seen nor read the law governing the use of political contributions. But he changed his tune Monday, saying he had just been trying to make a point about needed reforms.

The Democrat from Jemez Pueblo told the secretary of state in an email Friday he feels he was “misled verbally” by other lawmakers about what contributions can be used for.

MADALENA: Campaign expenditures under review

MADALENA: Campaign expenditures under review

The Secretary of State’s Office is looking into campaign expenditures Madalena reported last year that include a surgery copay, clothing from a Nike factory store, Internet and satellite service, and help for a needy family in his district.

“In my years in our State Legislature I have never seen nor read our Campaign Reporting Act,” wrote Madalena, whose 31 years in the House make him its second-longest-serving member.

Madalena, however – along with dozens of others – was a co-signer on the 1993 legislation that put the Campaign Reporting Act in its current form, although he was absent when the bill passed the House unanimously that year.

Asked on Monday about his comments in the email, Madalena told the Journal in a statement: “Of course, I have read the Campaign Finance Reporting Act. In fact, I co-sponsored the Act.”

He went on to say that he had been trying to make a point to Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office that “they need to do more on campaign finance reporting.”

Madalena said he was frustrated with the reporting system that’s currently in place “and with the way the Secretary of State’s office assists legislators with finance reporting.” He said the reporting system is broken.

The Campaign Reporting Act is included in the Legislative Ethics Guide, which is available on the Legislature’s website and is handed out in booklet form at the ethics seminars held for lawmakers every two years.

Madalena signed in as an attendee at the most recent of those seminars, in December 2014, according to records kept by the Legislative Council Service.

The ethics guide for lawmakers also contains tips culled from previous rulings from the Secretary of State’s Office. For example: It’s a violation of the law to spend campaign money to treat a back injury aggravated by walking door to door, but it’s OK to use campaign funds to repair and maintain vehicles used for campaigning and legislative business.

Madalena in his Friday email said the secretary of state and the legislative leadership have failed to provide enough orientation for new lawmakers about the Campaign Reporting Act, and he suggested that providing copies of the law to every legislator is “past due.”

Under state law, campaign contributions can be used for campaign-related expenditures and expenses reasonably related to the duties of office.

“All I heard from my House colleagues was, use your campaign funds relative to your campaign. You can even buy clothes or whatever that impacts your campaign I was told,” Madalena wrote to the secretary of state. “Hindsight being 20/20, I feel I have been misled verbally.”

He asked the secretary of state to send him a copy of the law. Ken Ortiz, Duran’s chief of staff, said Monday he did that immediately.

Madalena’s 2014 campaign spending was first questioned by former state Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates Jr. Madalena contended that was an effort to distract from the legal troubles of Republican Secretary of State Duran, who has been charged by the attorney general with using campaign contributions to cover personal spending at casinos.

Madalena last week also said some Republican lawmakers had made mistakes on their campaign filings and singled out Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, as overpaying himself for loan debt.

The Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing Nuñez’s reports, as well as Madalena’s.