Sen. Phil Griego Responds to Ethics Charges; Spent $3,800 on Restoring his Classic 1955 Chevy Truck with Campaign Funds
(Classic 1955 Chevy Truck)
Senator Phil Griego recently responded to an ethics complaint filed with Secretary of State Dianna Duran regarding how he managed to blow through $83,294.96 of the $98,092 he raised from April 2010 to October 2011.
Aside from personally reimbursing himself, spending $7,500 on a campaign office (unheard of for a state senator), and season tickets to the Denver Broncos, Griego has bewildered many constituents with his response to the $3,795 he spent on his “campaign truck.”
It turns out Griego was using campaign funds to not just work on the truck that gets him around or a truck he uses to commute to the legislator- but he was using campaign funds to restore his classic 1955 Chevy truck and legitimately thinks it is a legal and ethical expense according to his response to the Secretary of State.
“These expenditures are for an antique/historic 1955 Chevy Truck that I use exclusively for campaigning,” stated Griego in a letter to the Secretary of State. click here to read the entire response
As baffling to the everyday taxpayer as this may be, Senator Griego actually feels entitled to do what he wants with his campaign funds without any recourse as represented in his statement: “Obviously the restorative/historical nature of the vehicle requires upkeep and specialized maintenance.”
Although restoring classic cars may seem like a stretch for campaign funds Griego justifies this expense bay saying that the classic truck he is restoring is “used for attention and is popular attraction at events such as parades and other related campaign rallies. I routinely have the account pay all related expenses as the campaign has the sole use of the vehicle,” stated Griego.
Jack Sullivan, Griego’s opponent released a letter to the Secretary of State:
I am writing to follow up the delayed response Phil Griego filed last Friday, May 25, 2012 to the ethics complaint I filed on April 27, 2012 with your office. In my complaint, I contend that in his capacity as a public official and candidate, Senator Griego has violated New Mexico campaign finance laws by inappropriately using campaign contributions on personal expenditures, expressly prohibited by law.
I have read his response and find that it raises more questions than it answers. In the campaign finance reports Senator Griego filed from 2010-2011, he shows he raised $96,000 and spent $83,000 when no election was taking place. Thousands of dollars in expenditures for NFL tickets, office furniture, truck maintenance, and paying off his credit card are listed on his reports.
In his response to the questions I raised, Senator Griego selects which questions to answer and provides incomplete answers for others without providing receipts or evidence to the nature of the expense.
- Senator Griego spent $955 on the purchase of Denver Broncos tickets. Originally, Senator Griego listed this expenditure as a “constituent event,” but now says in his response that this expense was for a fundraiser. If indeed these tickets were auctioned off in a fundraiser and not simply given for free to a supporter, which of Senator Griego’s July 2011 contributors purchased these tickets? Was it the Anheuser Busch Corporation? Or the Polk Oil Company? Or the New Mexico Bankers Association? Furthermore, there does not appear to be a corresponding intake of money if this was in fact for “fundraising”. The Secretary of State should interview the alleged buyers of these tickets to verify that they were indeed auctioned off for a campaign purpose.
- Regarding the $1,300 payment to Senator Griego for “credit card payment for legislative expenses and $800 for “reimbursement for 2011 session expenses,” Senator Griego offers no explanation for how he spent $2,100 in campaign contributions. The Secretary of State should request receipts for these expenditures from Senator Griego immediately.
- Regarding his truck, he does not explain why two people were paid on the same day for the same “truck repair” job ($635 was paid to Margarito Ulibarri for “campaign truck repair” and $800 to Wayne Sedan, both of San Jose, NM ). Apparently Mr. Ulibarri was also canvassing voters that same day because he was paid $480 for his efforts, according to Griego’s reports.
- Regarding Senator Griego’s claim that his campaign car, with nearly $3,000 in campaign expenses, is used “exclusively for campaigning.” The Secretary of State should request a sworn affidavit from Senator Griego that this campaign car is used exclusively for campaigning, and has not been used for any personal matters, which would then constitute a violation of the Election Code.
- A $2500 trip to Silver City should include hotel, food receipts and an explanation for the nature of the trip.
- Receipts for the $7500 in furniture he spent for his temporary campaign office should be produced as well.
It’s these sorts of expenditures that raise questions and why I encourage the Secretary of State to take further action. The voters of District 39 deserve a complete and honest investigation into these expenses, not the vague and ambiguous responses in Senator Griego’s statement to the Secretary of State.
According to the New Mexico Campaign Report Act:
It is unlawful for any candidate or his agent to make an expenditure of contributions received, except for the following purposes:
2. expenditures of legislators that are reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held, including mail, telephone and travel expenditures to serve constituents, but excluding personal and legislative session living expenses;
Sections (l-19-29.1(A.2) NMSA 1978)
The law states that penalties for violating the Campaign Reporting Act should be referred to the attorney general or district attorney for further investigation and may include a civil penalty of two hundred fifty dollars for each violation not to exceed five thousand dollars. (Campaign Reporting Act, 1-19-34.6 Civil Penalties NMSA 1978.)
It is my hope that you forward the complaint I filed to the attorney general or district attorney for further investigation.