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Taxpayers pick up tab in campaign finance dispute

June 13, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico taxpayers will cover up to $133,000 in legal fees in a dispute between state campaign finance regulators and the gubernatorial campaign of Rep. Steve Pearce under a settlement agreement.

State prosecutors and the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office say they have agreed to pay 85 percent of legal expenses sustained by Pearce’s campaign in a federal court dispute over whether the congressman could legally transfer money from a federal campaign account to a state account to run for governor.

The Secretary of State’s Office initially said that only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce, based on a New Mexico law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election.

Pearce challenged that approach in federal court. He won access to a stockpile of campaign cash of more than $700,000 that he raised while in Congress, before signing settlement agreements with the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices that address legal fees.

Kevin Sheridan, a spokesman for the Pearce campaign, said Tuesday that the Secretary of State’s Office bears responsibility for those legal fees for attempting “to block legal funds from being used in a campaign, contradicting past rulings.”

State Attorney General’s Office spokesman David Carl said Monday the sides agreed lawyers can receive up to $133,000, or 85 percent of the legal fees incurred by the Pearce campaign.

Pearce, a Republican, is running for governor against Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a consecutive third term.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com

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