FBI investigations into NM Gov Susana Martinez fundraising, administration goes public

A long-rumored federal investigation into campaign funds and fundraisers for New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez were confirmed late Friday, advanced primarily by the Santa Fe New Mexican and New Mexico Political Report.

First, a look at the developing coverage.

The Santa Fe New Mexican was the first to confirm, through an unnamed source, that the FBI was interviewing Republican donors to Susana Martinez and the network of Republican PACs connected to Martinez and GOP political operative Jay McCleskey.

The first witness to break his silence came from the New Mexico Political Report. Joey Peters interviewed a Martinez administration official who confirmed that he had been interviewed "10-20 times... most recently as August" and had turned over evidence to federal investigators. His interviews centered around conducted by Martinez appointees and within state agencies, a disclosure that, if true, greatly expands the scope of the federal investigation.

And on Sunday, after the NM Political Report reported that the FBI was looking into the Martinez administration itself, the Santa Fe New Mexican followed that "federal investigators subpoenaed documents from the department while looking into whether or not audits were performed in retaliation of former members of Martinez's administration," including the witness who spoke to the Political Report.

"The newspaper says that three former members of the administration and a former fundraiser for Martinez, who all fell out of favor, confirmed they had been audited." At least one state labor leader, also a frequent critic of Martinez, has also reported being audited.

The state's Taxation and Revenue Department, where the subpoenas were allegedly served, is already under investigation by the state's attorney general and state auditor after a whistleblower produced audio tapes allegedly showing the secretary, appointed by Martinez, attempting to assist her former CPA client obtain a tax break.

The targets
Persons interviewed say at least one investigation focuses on the governor's aggressive fundraising strategies and network of campaign and PAC accounts, organized by Jay McCleskey, a well-known GOP operative.

Multiple reports say that the fundraising investigation has expanded to include not just Martinez's campaign fundraising, but also into financing behind her 2011 inauguration committee. Nicole McCleskey, wife of Jay and herself a well-known GOP operative and pollster, served as the executive director of the inauguration.

Danny Diaz, now campaign manager for Jeb Bush, was staff to Martinez's inauguration and served as her communications director for part of the campaign and inauguration.

In 2014, Martinez and several of her administration officials aggressively pursued an email hacking investigation that revealed a private email network used by officials to blur official and political business. Martinez's former campaign manager was convicted, but not before Martinez's scheduler and deputy fundraiser received immunity from the US Dept. of Justice.

Another former fundraiser turned over emails and text messages between herself and McCleskey; at least one leaked to the media showed McCleskey directing a large donation from bidder on a large state contract to a new pro-Martinez 501(c)4 organization instead of to a PAC to avoid public disclosure.

Could this investigation could derail Martinez's bid for RGA chair?
The timing couldn't be more important for Susana Martinez. She is the odds on favorite to succeed scandal-plagued Chris Christie as RGA chair when the group meets at its annual meeting in Las Vegas next week.

But, the targets of the investigation aren't just working for Martinez here in New Mexico.

Both Jay and Nicole McCleskey's roles with the RGA were highlighted by New Mexico press in 2014 after finance reports showed McCleskey receiving $10,000 in "consulting" fees from the RGA while his wife's firm, POS, was also paid to from RGA accounts.

These new allegations have many wondering if the RGA will think twice before turning its financial future over to Martinez, McCleskey and the federal investigators trailing them.