ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A newly released city investigation suggests Manuel Gonzalez III’s mayoral campaign broke numerous rules in an effort to gain access to more than $661,000 in public campaign financing. Lead by the city’s Office of Inspector General, the investigation found at least 23 instances where people indicated they did not sign paperwork and did not make a $5 donation as required by the city’s public campaign financing rules.
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The investigative report ultimately substantiates numerous allegations first made against Gonzales’ mayoral campaign in June. Those allegations were outlined in two complaints filed with the city’s Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices by the rival campaign of Mayor Tim Keller, who is seeking re-election.
Gonzales was initially accused of violating Albuquerque City Charter, election laws, and the City Clerks’ rules surrounding the collection of Albuquerque voters’ signatures and “qualified contributions,” or five-dollar donations. Albuquerque City Charter allows for mayoral and city council candidates to gain access to publicly sourced campaign funds if they collect a certain number of qualified signatures and $5 contributions.
According to the report, the OIG identified 15 instances where people indicated they signed a “qualifying contribution” receipt but did not pay the $5 toward the campaign, as required by the city charter. As part of the investigation, the Inspector General’s Office says it interviewed “a random sample” of 239 people from the 2,025 total accepted paper qualifying contribution forms submitted by the Gonzales campaign.
The report also suggests candidate Gonzales himself had the “highest number of instances” where people said they’d signed qualifying contribution receipt but did not pay the required $5 campaign contribution. The report says Gonzales had “four (20 percent) of the 20 qualify contribution receipts where the individual indicated that they signed the qualifying contribution, but did not pay or did not recall paying the $5.00.”
For the 2021 mayoral race, city rules set out for candidates to collect 3,779 valid signatures and five-dollar contributions in order to access more than $661,000 of public funding for campaigns. Those signatures and qualifying contributions were reviewed by Albuquerque City Clerk’s Office.
On July 9, Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson denied the Gonzales mayoral campaign access to public funding. Watson cited at least one known fraudulently obtained signature and concerns over several other signatures and campaign collections.