Ethics commission still investigating Lujan Grisham's use of campaign funds

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Jul. 14—The State Ethics Commission is still considering a complaint alleging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham violated New Mexico's campaign finance laws by spending $6,000 on hair and makeup services.

The Secretary of State's Office announced last month it had found no evidence of violations.

But Alamogordo resident John Block, editor of the conservative online news site Piñon Post, said he received a letter Tuesday from State Ethics Commission Director Jeremy Farris that says the commission still has authority to investigate and has forwarded the complaint to its general counsel for review.

The commission does not comment publicly on complaints unless it finds evidence of wrongdoing.

Farris' letter, which Block provided to The New Mexican, also says the commission sent its attorneys a motion from the governor's campaign, New Mexicans for Michelle, seeking dismissal of the complaint.

New Mexicans for Michelle argued the State Ethics Commission does not have the authority to "adjudicate alleged violations" of campaign finance law because that falls under the Secretary of State's Office, according to the letter.

The campaign also argued that because the Secretary of State's Office determined there was no violation, the commission waived its right to weigh in on the subject.

Farris' letter said his agency does have jurisdiction over campaign finance laws under a joint powers agreement with the Secretary of State's Office.

Block initially filed an ethics complaint against the governor in mid-May, alleging the use of funds for cosmetic services was a "flagrant violation" of state law.

He took issue with the governor's decision to pay her daughter Erin Grisham, a hair and makeup specialist, $6,000 for services since 2017.

The governor's campaign finance reports list the expenses as "media preparation" services.

In dismissing the allegation in mid-June, Election Director Mandy Vigil wrote in a letter to Block that such expenses are "reasonably attributable to the candidate's campaign."

Block wrote in an email Tuesday he's pleased the State Ethics Commission is pursing the issue.

"I hope the commission will look at all the evidence showing the Governor's blatant campaign finance violations and make a final determination based on state law, not conjecture," he wrote.

Kendall Witmer, Lujan Grisham's campaign spokeswoman, sent an email Tuesday referring to a previous statement she made, calling Block's claim against the governor "blatantly sexist ... frivolous and without merit."