March 17, 2016

Ex-Martinez campaign aides want answers on dropped FBI probe

Andy Lyman

Susana Martinez speaks to reporters in November 2015 about FBI probes into her adminstration

Two former fundraisers for Gov. Susana Martinez are demanding answers on why the federal Department of Justice dropped an investigation into Martinez’s top political operative.

Earlier this month, both Andrea Goff and Cecilia Martinez wrote letters to U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez detailing their cooperation with the FBI investigation into Jay McCleskey and the retaliation they said they experienced as a result.

New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan first reported on and published the letters earlier today.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed receipt of the letters but would not comment further on them, citing a policy that the office doesn’t comment on investigations. When asked if that policy includes closed investigations, the spokeswoman said, “correct.”

NM Political Report also sent voicemails and emails to McCleskey and a spokesman for Gov. Martinez. We’ll update this post if we receive a response.

Cecilia Martinez, who did fundraising for Susana Martinez’s campaign committee and inaugural committee in 2010 and 2011, writes in her letter that her cooperation in the FBI investigation came at the request of Damon Martinez’s office roughly one year ago. She also notes that she complied with an FBI subpoena of her records while a fundraiser.

“For the last 11 months, I have been regularly contacted by FBI agents with follow-up questions and I have respectfully cooperated fully, honestly, thoroughly, and in a timely manner,” Cecilia Martinez (no relation to the governor) writes. “Complying with this investigation has come at an enormous cost to me, my company and my family. We have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees, travel costs to Albuquerque and lodging costs in Albuquerque.”

Cecilia Martinez also writes of the “professional and personal retribution” she experienced as a result of her FBI cooperation, writing to Damon Martinez that he is “well aware of it.” The retribution included “instances where the Governor’s security detail followed me around at private events” and a “personal threat made to me by the Governor.”

She does not describe the “personal threat.”

Cecilia Martinez writes that she discussed the retaliation against her with Damon Martinez on Feb. 26.

“You, your office, and the FBI office in Albuquerque are aware of the harassment my clients have encountered (including pressure to fire me),” Cecilia Martinez writes. “You are aware that donors were told not to contribute to my clients; you are aware that potential clients I was interviewing with were instructed not to hire me.”

Goff’s letter mentions similar retaliation she experienced from both McCleskey and the governor’s office for her cooperation with the FBI investigation. She adds in her letter that McCleskey’s wife, Nicole, was also under FBI investigation.

“In my case, after I was publically acknowledged as a FBI witness, [two] clients that I work for received calls expressing that I should be fired –’cut from the herd’ – for my participation and cooperation with the investigation,” Goff writes. “These calls were placed by allies of Jay McCleskey in an effort to have several of my contracts terminated.”

Goff adds that, through news stories and social media, she has “been accused of conducting a smear campaign as a result of my cooperation with the FBI’s investigation into McCleskey and for giving truthful comments.”

She details a January phone call from “an employee of McCleskey Media inquiring about my physical whereabouts for that evening,” adding that “these instances have caused me to be fearful for my family’s safety, as well as my own personal safety.”

Goff’s letter continues: “Recently, a very close ally of Jay McCleskey slandered me for my cooperation with the FBI in front of a group of business/community leaders and even tried to tie me to a man accused of possessing child pornography, though I have never met this individual,” a reference to Jason Loera, a former Democratic Party operative who has been associated with the leaked email scandal surrounding Gov. Martinez and some of her operatives.

Supporters of Gov. Martinez in the past have used Loera’s name against those who mention the allegations against McCleskey.

Both Cecilia Martinez and Goff question why Sally Yates, the deputy U.S. Attorney General, decided not to present an indictment to a federal grand jury that had been, according to Cecilia Martinez’s letter, “seated for over five months.”

According to Cecilia Martinez’s letter, Yates instructed Damon Martinez’s office not to pursue an indictment on Feb. 18. Her letter adds that FBI agents told her “that they had a strong case with forensic evidence (including bank records).”

Goff writes it is her understanding Yates decision came after “FBI agents from New Mexico flew to Washington D.C. and met with the FBI Director, James Comey, who reviewed the case and gave the pursuit of an indictment his full backing.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last weekend that both Cecilia Martinez and Goff were informed of Yates’ decision by an FBI agent and an attorney from the US Attorney’s office “on a belief that federal prosecutors would not prevail at trial.”

The New Mexican also delved into the FBI’s focus on spending from Gov. Martinez’s first inaugural committee. According to the story, more than $130,000 of money raised from the inaugural committee went to companies controlled by McCleskey, despite a promise to donors that all unspent money would go to charity.

Goff served as executive director of that committee.

Both Cecilia Martinez and Goff’s letters ask Damon Martinez what his office will do to protect them from retaliation for cooperating now that the FBI investigation is over.

“It is my sincere hope that in the two weeks since last we spoke and you declined to answer my questions, you and your office can provide the truth in this matter and put an end to the bullying, intimidation and harassment of the witnesses in this case,” Cecilia Martinez writes.

Goff also sent her letter to New Mexico’s congressional and senatorial delegation, Deputy U.S. Attorney James Tierney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tera Neda and FBI agents John Fay and David Backlund.

Cecilia Martinez sent her letter to Neda, Fay, Backlund as well as FBI special agent John “Jack” Howard and both U.S. senators from Virginia and three U.S. congressmen from northern Virginia, where she lives.

Read the letters below:

Cecilia Martinez Letter to US Attorney by New Mexico Political Report

Andrea Goff Letter to US Attorney Letter by New Mexico Political Report