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Griego warned he may be in violation of campaign finance laws

SANTA FE – The acting New Mexico secretary of state has warned former state Sen. Phil Griego that he may have violated the state’s campaign finance laws by spending thousands of dollars in campaign funds since resigning from the Legislature this year.

In a letter sent this week, acting Secretary of State Mary Quintana gave Griego until Nov. 9 to provide her office with a written explanation of eight expenditures in question, which total $6,500.

Griego, a San Jose Democrat, reported spending the campaign funds on constituent meetings, office space rental, travel and political consulting during the past six months – all after he resigned from the Senate under the cloud of an ethics investigation.

He told the

Journal this month that he has nothing to hide and believes the expenditures were allowable, saying, “I’m not doing anything, I think, that is violating the rules or regulations.”

Griego also said he feels he still has a duty to assist constituents and that, while still a member of the Senate, he signed a lease for office space that runs into next year.

However, outside experts on New Mexico campaign finance laws have said that Griego’s continued spending does not appear to comply with the state’s Campaign Reporting Act, which limits the types of expenditures candidates and former officeholders who still have money in their campaign accounts can make.

Depending on Griego’s response and the ultimate findings in the matter, the Secretary of State’s Office could levy a fine on Griego or forward the matter to outside prosecutors for further review.

New Mexico’s campaign finance system has come under heightened scrutiny in recent months, in large part due to the criminal case against former Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

Duran resigned from office last week and pleaded guilty to reduced charges that included embezzlement and violating several of the campaign laws she was elected to enforce.

Specifically, Duran was accused of using campaign donations to cover gambling expenses at casinos around the state.

As for Griego, he resigned from the Senate on March 14 – with one week remaining in the 60-day legislative session – rather than face disciplinary action over his role in a real estate deal involving the sale of a historic state-owned building in Santa Fe.

After Griego’s resignation from the Senate, Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Ted Barela, an Estancia Republican, to serve out the remainder of Griego’s four-year term representing Senate District 39. That term ends next year.

Griego has been noncommittal about whether he plans to run again for office, though he recently acknowledged doing so would be “politically unrealistic.”

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