Campaign funds can be used for hair and make-up expenses, says campaign lawyer for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in a letter sent to the Secretary of State’s office Monday.
Therefore, the secretary of state should decide that there is no basis for an ethics complaint over whether the governor can use his campaign funds to pay for such costs, wrote the lawyer Sara Berger.
Berger, an Oregon-based lawyer who represents New Mexicans for Michelle, wrote that state law allows such spending, especially when the governor participates in campaign-related public appearances.
Berger wrote to John Block, editor of the Piñon Post, a conservative online news site, that he misinterprets New Mexico’s campaign finance laws and regulations.
Berger cited a state law that says expenses “reasonably attributable” to the candidate’s campaign and not personal use are permitted.
“If the expense would exist even in the absence of a candidate, or even if the legislator was not in office, then it is not considered an expense linked to the campaign”, specifies the law. As such, Berger wrote, “Hair and makeup expenses would only be ineligible if the expense existed in the absence of an application (or office).”
In his initial complaint, filed in mid-May, Block wrote that the use of these funds is a “flagrant violation” of state law.
He has challenged the governor’s decision to use $ 6,000 in campaign fund payments to his daughter Erin Grisham, a hairstylist and makeup specialist, since 2017. The governor’s campaign fundraising reports list the expenses as “media preparation” services.
It is now up to the Secretary of State’s office to make a decision on the complaint. The office has 30 days from the date of the original complaint – May 13 – to rule on the matter, spokesman Alex Curtas said.
“We are in the process of determining,” he said on Tuesday. “Now our office and our general counsel can look at the law, the administrative rule, whatever is applicable and make a decision. “
Berger’s letter includes an affidavit signed by Dominic Gabello, former senior policy adviser to Lujan Grisham, listing seven campaign report payments to “Beauty by Erin Grisham” between August 2017 and April 2021.
Payments ranged from $ 400 to $ 2,080. The most recent, for $ 400, was for the governor’s state of state speech in late January.
“The committee’s financial reports demonstrate that it has been transparent in its use of the media preparation services by Beauty by Erin Grisham,” Berger wrote in the letter. “Each of these expenses had a clear campaign objective, and the term ‘media expenses’ used to describe the services accurately reflects this political objective.
“As such, my client respectfully requests that the Secretary of State’s office determine that no violation has occurred,” Berger continued.
Neither Block nor Berger returned calls for comment.