February 7, 2019

Donors, spending for governor’s inauguration detailed

Organizers of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s inauguration spent more than $700,000 on last month’s festivities, according to financial disclosures published Thursday.

The newly elected governor’s inaugural committee reported raising nearly $873,000 to ring in the Democrat’s ascendance to New Mexico’s highest office, with many of the single biggest donors coming from the insurance, gambling and energy industries.

Unlike campaigns and political action committees, the committees that organize inaugural events for New Mexico’s governors are not required to disclose details of spending or fundraising. But Lujan Grisham said shortly after her election in November that she would make the finances of her inaugural committee public. And Thursday’s reports offered insight into the money behind the biggest party of the season in New Mexico politics.

Lujan Grisham’s inaugural committee elected to cap donations at $11,000.

And more than three dozen donors gave the maximum.

Several of the biggest donors are in the insurance industry, including Presbyterian Health Plan, Torchmark Corporation, Health Care Services Corporation, Molina Healthcare, Poms and Associates, and Delta Dental Plans.

Others are in energy and mining, such as Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Select Energy Services and Intrepid Potash.

The gambling industry gave big, too, with companies including Sunray Gaming of New Mexico as well as All American Ruidoso Downs.

Moreover, several people with ties to groups that are either seeking the state’s approval to build a new horse-racing track and slot machine casino — or actively opposing it — gave tens of thousands of dollars to Lujan Grisham’s inaugural committee, too.

The funds paid for a public swearing-in ceremony and $100-a-ticket ball at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on New Year’s Day as well as another ball at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa later that evening with tickets starting at $500.

The committee reported spending nearly $112,000 on the Eldorado Hotel and Spa as well as $88,000 on Walter Burke Catering and nearly $86,000 on Occasion Services, an event planning firm. The committee spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expenses such as audio and video, rental fees for the convention center, staff, entertainment and advertising.

The committee published these details as two PDFs posted to its website, providing a name, home state, amount and date of contribution for each donor.

Inaugural committees for past governors have disclosed some financial information, too.

The committee that organized the 2011 inauguration of Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, Susana Martinez, reported raising about $966,400, for example. However, it did not initially disclose its spending.