(TRENCHES) New Mexico Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran was charged on Friday with embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations by the state’s attorney general Democrat Hector Balderas.
Balderas’ officer filed the 64-count complaint in state district court in Santa Fe. Balderas didn’t make a statement of hold a news conference to announce the complaint against Duran, one of the high-ranking GOP lawmakers in the state.
James Hallinan, a spokesman for Balderas, said the office wouldn’t release any information beyond the court filing. “Our office will proceed transparently by way of preliminary hearing,” he said.
The attorney general’s investigation stemmed from a confidential tip received in July 2014. Duran was accused of funneling contributions intended for her campaign into personal accounts for her own use.
The investigation centered on deposits of large amounts of cash as well as campaign contributions into both person and campaign accounts controlled by the secretary of state, the complaint says. The movement of money often culminated with cash expenditures at casinos throughout the state, according to the complaint.
Investigators obtained subpoenas for multiple casinos where Duran withdrew cash. Records show those electronic debits totaled more than $282,000 in 2014 alone. Another $147,641 was withdrawn in 2013. The complaint also cites a series of detailed bank transactions as well as donations from supports and questions her campaign finance reports.
Duran is also facing counts of tampering with public records, conspiracy and violating the state’s Government Conduct Act.
“Dianna J. Duran did use her powers and status as a public officer, employee and office of the Secretary of State to obtain personal benefit or pursue private interests, conduct herself in a manner that did not maintain the integrity, ethics, responsibilities of public service,” the complaint states.
Balderas and Duran have sparred over campaign finance reports for months. In February, the two announced a joint task force to study the reporting and enforcement of campaign finance laws. However, just three months later, Duran accused Balderas of submitting late campaign finance reports during his time as state auditor.
Balderas called the allegations incorrect and said they highlight flaws in the state’s reporting process. He said at the time he was concerned about the integrity of the data and records at the Secretary of State’s Office.
State law requires that candidates’ reports list donations and expenditures. The public documents are also supposed to list the donations’ sources.
Balderas said his office had received only one criminal referral from the secretary of state for a violation of the reporting law.
A review by The Daily Times newspaper in Farmington also showed that Duran’s office collected only 4 percent of roughly 2,000 fines imposed on candidates during the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections.
In response, Duran said she had been working diligently since taking office in 2011 to address problems tied to the campaign reporting system.
Duran, a former Otero County clerk and state lawmaker, is serving her second term as the state’s top elections official. She was the first Republican to be elected to the office in eight decades, inheriting an agency that had been plagued by scandal.