New Mexico candidates and political action committees have paid more than $7 million in consulting fees and media buys to Jay McCleskey and his company since early 2011, an analysis of state campaign finance records shows.
McCleskey, Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser and viewed as the mastermind of her 2010 election and 2014 re-election, received another $110,000 in 2014 from a top GOP group Martinez is set to lead next year.
It is no secret what McCleskey has pulled down in recent years as a top political consultant, but the money now appears to be under the microscope of an ongoing federal investigation. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Friday night that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into money the Martinez campaign spent on McCleskey’s services. The influential GOP consultant created McCleskey Media Strategies in 2011 after Martinez took office.
Using a database from the Secretary of State’s office, New Mexico In Depth analyzed campaign and political action committee dollars paid to McCleskey, his firm and his wife’s firm since 2011.
The analysis found that much of the money McCleskey and his firm have made since 2011 – about $5.4 million – went to media buys on radio and television, with nearly $4.7 million of that spent by Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign account. The Martinez campaign spent another nearly $800,000 on consulting and other services from McCleskey.
Records show the Republican governor’s campaign account and her political action committee, Susana PAC, continue to pay McCleskey consulting fees, even though Martinez is no longer running for office.
That included nearly $67,000 for consulting services from the governor’s campaign committee in January, February and April and more than $128,000 for consulting from Susana PAC from May through September.
Here’s a look at how money paid to McCleskey and his firm was spent:
Other candidates who’ve employed McCleskey include recently resigned Secretary of State Dianna Duran; House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque; Reps. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, and Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces; Sen. John Ryan, R-Los Ranchos de Albuquerque; former Doña Ana District Attorney Amy Orlando, who Martinez appointed to the job she once held; and New Mexico Court of Appeals Justice J. Miles Hanisee.
Here’s a look at spending by candidates for McCleskey’s services:
PACs spent nearly $886,000 for McCleskey’s services. Here’s a look at that spending:
Included in the Susana PAC spending is $6,000 in travel expenses to McCleskey’s wife, Nicole McCleskey, in 2013 and 2014. Nicole McCleskey is a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, a GOP political polling firm.
Public Opinion Strategies has done more than $1.3 million of work for New Mexico state-level candidates and PACs, with $940,000 of that spent by Martinez and Susana PAC, in addition to what McCleskey and his firm have earned.
The Republican Governors Association also paid McCleskey’s firm $110,000 in 2014 for consulting services. Martinez is vice chairwoman of the RGA and is set to become chairwoman in 2016.