Democrat New Mexico Treasurer Laura Montoya has been found guilty of violating the state’s Campaign Reporting Act by the state Ethics Commission. The Democrat was found to have misreported campaign contributions. The case, Montoya vs. Tim Eichenberg, the former state treasurer, a Democrat, revealed a significant breach in campaign finance transparency.
The commission, presided over by hearing officer Alan Torgerson, reached its decision on September 29. Central to the case was a $10,000 straw donor contribution allegedly made by Adelante Sandoval, a political committee, as reported by Montoya. However, it has been disclosed that the funds actually originated from property developer Gary Plante. During the hearing, both Montoya and other witnesses conveniently could not remember key details relating to the campaign cash.
Judge Torgerson found it “highly unusual that the memories of the witnesses have faded so completely that they are virtually unable to recall anything substantive about the September 21, 2021, afternoon in question, or the fact that a large, apparently unexpected, contribution appeared immediately after a campaign event in Corrales and yet they have no memory of the circumstances or details of that contributions.”
In an additional layer of complexity, two companies under Plante’s management channeled the $10,000 in campaign funding. The New Mexico Ethics Commission, in its report, underscored the discrepancy between the reported source and the actual contributor.
The Commission’s executive director, Jeremy Farris, emphasized the importance of transparency in electoral funding. He noted that while individuals have the right to support candidates financially, the public also has a corresponding right to be informed about the sources of such contributions.
Farris explicitly condemned straw donor contributions, such as the one exposed in this case, as undermining the transparency essential for fair elections.
Highlighting the broader implications, Farris stated, “Straw donor contributions, like those uncovered in this administrative case, undermine transparency in our elections. If wealthy individuals want to give thousands of dollars to candidates for office, that’s their right; but they can’t do it in secret.”
Farris added, “New Mexicans also have a right to know who is spending money to influence their votes. The State Ethics Commission works to ensure they do.”
“We disagree with the judge’s ruling,” said Montoya’s attorney, Kenneth Stalter. “I don’t think the evidence supports it, so we’re looking at the options for appeal.”
Montoya was given a slap on the wrist with a meager fine of $1,000.