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          Front Page




Candidates Question Truck Buy

By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE— State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons says the last time he ran for office he put 120,000 miles on his truck, wearing it out and ruining its value.
    So this year, for his re-election campaign, he decided to do it differently. He used campaign contributions to buy a pickup truck.
    The campaign finance report Lyons submitted to the secretary of state this week lists as an expenditure the purchase of a $29,700 truck.
    Lyons said Wednesday he is using the 1999 Ford F-250 SuperCab— which is registered to him— primarily for campaign events.
    "This year we've got the money, and I said, 'I'm not going to lose $30,000,' '' said Lyons, a Republican who reported raising more than $373,000 for his re-election bid.
    "Everybody knows I'm an active campaigner and drive all over the state," he said.
    He added that he wanted to be sure he couldn't be accused of using state-owned vehicles for campaigning.
    New Mexico law puts virtually no restrictions on how candidates may use campaign funds, except to say that members of the Legislature may not use campaign contributions for personal and legislative-session living expenses.
    Lyons said he "absolutely" saw nothing wrong with the truck expenditure.
    The two candidates running in the June 6 primary for the Democratic nomination to the seat— both former land commissioners— questioned the expense.
    Jim Baca said it "might be ethically questionable" to have the truck registered to Lyons.
    "When you ask people for donations to a campaign, they expect you ... not to convert it into personal assets," he contended.
    Ray Powell said he was "flabbergasted" by the expenditure. He recalled in his two land commissioner races spending campaign money for fuel, but "I bought my own tires and windshield wipers and washed the car myself," he said.
    Matt Brix, executive director of New Mexico Common Cause— which is promoting a system of public financing of campaigns— said the state has a "flawed system" under which candidates feel they must raise and spend huge sums of money.
    "Pat Lyons is following the rules. What is alarming is what is legal and what is permissible," Brix said.



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