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The State Ethics Commission ruled that State Treasurer Laura Montoya, a Democrat, violated the state Campaign Reporting Act while she was a candidate in 2022.
Retired judge Alan C. Torgerson served as the hearing officer and found that during Montoya’s candidacy, she violated two parts of the Campaign Reporting Act when she knowingly, or seemed to have known, a donation came from one place but was attributed to having come from another, known as a straw donor, and by not treating the donation as such, Torgerson’s decision states.
Torgerson ruled that Montoya must pay a $1,000 fine for the two violations of state law.
“Straw donor contributions, like those uncovered in this administrative case, undermine transparency in our elections,” State Ethic Commission Executive Director Jeremy Farris said in a press release about the decision. “If wealthy individuals want to give thousands of dollars to candidates for office, that’s their right; but they can’t do it in secret.”
Montoya received a $10,000 donation from property developer Gary Plante that was, instead, reported as having come from political action committee Adalante Sandoval.
In court records, the donation came following a campaign event at Corrales Bistro in September 2021.
Montoya maintained throughout the case that she had no knowledge that the $10,000 donation came from Plante or two of his companies.
Torgerson concluded that Montoya’s testimony was not credible based on evidence presented in the case including text messages, bank documents and testimony from Adelante Sandoval’s manager Chris Daul.
“The Hearing Officer also finds it highly unusual that the memories of the witnesses have faded so completely that they are virtually unable to recall anything substantive about the September 21, 2021 afternoon in question, or the fact that a large, apparently unexpected, contribution appeared immediately after a campaign event in Corrales and yet they have no memory of the circumstances or details of that contribution,” Torgerson’s decision states.
In addition to Montoya, Plant, Daul and Donald “Donnie” Leonard, a former Sandoval County Commissioner who was a volunteer for Montoya’s campaign, all said they could not remember the campaign event.
Montoya can appeal the decision.