News Column

Gov. Martinez Releases Out-of-state Travel Costs

September 24, 2013
Susana Martinez

Taxpayers spent more than $27,000 this year to send Gov. Susana Martinez, her staff and state police security detail on 11 out-of-state trips between the end of the legislative session in mid-March and early June.

This is according to information The New Mexican received late last week from the Governor's Office and the Department of Finance and Administration in response to a public records request.

The lion's share of the expense -- $24,021 of the $27,169 -- was for transportation, lodging and food for the governor's state police security team. Another $2,479 paid for the travel expenses of the governor's staff who accompanied her to the various out-of-state events. Only $668 was spent on Martinez herself for these 11 trips. Most of her expenses were paid for by her re-election campaign or by organizations who invited her to the various events.

The out-of-state travel during the time period of the records request reflects Martinez's status as a rising national star in the Republican Party. Her travel this spring included a trip to Rome in March as part of the U.S. delegation to attend the installation of the new pope, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., for the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the invitation of Vice President Joe Biden.

There are also several out-of-state speeches and conferences included in the total. And in some cases, the state paid travel expenses for staff and security for campaign fundraising events for Martinez.

For instance, at a Washington, D.C., gala in early June, Martinez raised $220,000 for her re-election campaign, according to The Hill, a Washington publication that covers Congress. While her campaign paid for Martinez's travel expenses, taxpayers paid $6,460 for transportation, lodging and food for her state police security detail, plus $948 for transportation for the governor's staff members.

How much Martinez raised for her campaign at other events won't be known until she files her next campaign finance report, due Oct. 15. She is seeking election to a second four-year term next year.

Martinez isn't the first governor to travel with staff and security to out-of-state political events. Her predecessor, Bill Richardson, spent a huge part of 2007 in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states campaigning unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.

During that campaign, a Richardson spokesman told the Associated Press that New Mexico taxpayers covered the salaries of Richardson's security team on campaign trips, but his political committee paid for other travel expenses of his police detail.

Information released on Martinez's trips in the spring included:

--March 16-20: Martinez traveled to Rome as part of the official U.S. delegation to the installation of Pope Francis.

--March 21-22: Martinez attended a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Utah, plus Lobos and Aggies basketball games at the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City.

--April 11: The governor had a campaign fundraiser in Denver as well as a meeting with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.

--April 18-21 : Martinez was the top-billed speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Spring Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., along with House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The meeting was held at the Venetian, a hotel and casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican benefactor.

--April 21-23: The governor went to a fundraiser in Palm Springs, Calif.

--April 30-May 1: Martinez spoke at a fundraiser in Bakersfield, Calif., for House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy.

--May 2-3: Martinez went to the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House.

--May 6-7: The governor spoke about tax cuts at an event sponsored by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Arizona. She also attended a separate political event

--May 13-17: Martinez traveled with New Mexico Amigos, a nonpartisan group promoting the state, to Colorado Springs, Colo., and Salt Lake City. She then went to Texas for political fundraising events in Houston and Dallas.

--May 29-30: Martinez attended a reception and dinner in Austin, Texas, for the Republican State Leadership Committee's Future Majority Project. She co-chairs the committee.

--June 3-5: The governor went to Washington, D.C., for a Washington Post event on early literacy and a National Association of Manufacturers executive meeting. During this trip, she also held a major political fundraiser for her re-election. The guest list included GOP Congressional leaders as well as possible presidential contenders, including Rubio; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The New Mexican on June 7 requested out-of-state travel records for Martinez under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act. In the subsequent months, the administration informed the paper four times that it needed more time to fulfil the request. Some -- though not all -- of the requested information came on Friday.

The administration declined to let The New Mexican inspect actual records of travel, such as receipts, citing security concerns.

"Disclosure of procurement card statements create security risks to the governor and the governor's family," a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration said in a response to the request. "Procurement card statements for the Governor and the Governor's security detail identify the officer assigned to protect the governor and/or her family on specific dates and include transaction-level detail, including the transaction date, vendor name (e.g., hotel or restaurant), and city and state of the transaction."

This is the same reasoning the administration used for several months as it refused to release to news organizations, including The New Mexican, travel records for a 2011 alligator-hunting trip for Martinez's husband, Chuck Franco, and two state police officers acting as his security. In July, a spokesman for Martinez told The Associated Press that some of the expenses were paid for by a relative of one of the officers.

The lieutenant governor, under state law, is entitled to an extra $250 in pay each day when the governor is out of state. However, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez "has chosen not to accept it," a spokesman said Monday. Sanchez's predecessor, Diane Denish, made the same decision in 2007 when Richardson was running for president.

Martinez has made other trips since The New Mexican's records request in early June. For instance, she gave the keynote address at a June 29 dinner for the Ohio Republican Party in Columbus, Ohio, and went to Aspen, Colo., in late July for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

Contact Steve Terrell at sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog at roundhouseroundup.com.

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(c)2013 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

Visit The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) at www.santafenewmexican.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Governor releases info on out-of-state travel costs



Source: (c)2013 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)


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