Summer 2009: Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez, a Republican, launches her campaign for governor. She makes ending corruption a central talking point, promising to bring a new level of transparency to state government.
July 2009: Jamie Estrada begins working as Martinez’ interim campaign manager. He’s given access and a username to the campaign domain, Susana2010.com.
December 2009: Estrada leaves Martinez’ campaign. Years later, Martinez says she fired Estrada for his “suspect character.” (In an email sent to Jay McCleskey, the governor’s top political adviser, on Dec. 23, Estrada allegedly wrote, “I can’t understand how she wouldn’t think there are political consequences for treating me poorly and unfairly.”) Estrada launches a bid for the Public Regulation Commission and later denies he was ever fired from the campaign.
June 2010: Martinez wins the Republican nomination for governor; Estrada loses the Republican primary for a seat on the PRC.
July 2010: Email records later released by Estrada’s attorney, Zachary Ives, appear to show Martinez personally contacting Estrada to ask if it’s “ok” that she give him “a check for $5,000 and I will try to do another $5,000 in a month or two to pay you for your help and support.” After Estrada apparently forwarded the message to McCleskey, thanking him for “anything you did to make this happen,” McCleskey replies, “No worries...you deserve it.”
November 2010: Martinez is elected governor. Text message records released by Ives suggest that Martinez personally requested that Estrada attend her pre-inaugural ball.
January 2011: Martinez takes office, but she and her staff members continue to use their Susana2010 campaign email addresses.
July 18, 2011: Martinez staffers’ campaign emails allegedly start to bounce back. According to the federal indictment of Estrada, the governor’s staffers attempt to re-register the domain, but fail because they can’t locate or remember the username or password of the domain’s original registrant, David Hiss. In a humorous twist, they also fail to remember Hiss’ name.
July 29, 2011: According to the indictment, Estrada creates a profile on GoDaddy.com under the name “Sylvia Tacori,” using his username and password from the campaign. He allegedly changes the domain’s settings to have all Susana2010 emails redirected to his own email account. According to the indictment, the Susana2010 emails no longer went to their recipients, but rather to Estrada. Over the next year, Estrada allegedly receives “a consistent flow” of emails intended for governor’s office staffers.
July 2011: When problems arise with the Susana2010 domain, Martinez’ team creates a new domain, SusanaPAC.com. They continue to use their new, private SusanaPAC email addresses for state business.
June 2012: Emails from the Susana2010 domain—including the list of nonunion teachers sent by Public Education Department spokesman Larry Behrens to the governor’s top political operative, Jay McCleskey—are leaked to the media by the left-leaning Independent Source PAC. Other emails link top Martinez staffers and advisors to the controversial racino deal involving the Downs at Albuquerque. One of those advisers is GOP attorney Pat Rogers, the Downs’ lobbyist. Ironically, Rogers is also a board member of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. Facing criticism, Martinez orders state employees to conduct all public business on public email accounts.
June 18, 2012: The Santa Fe New Mexican reports on a sworn affidavit from Martinez’ former Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez that describes a 2011 cabinet meeting in which the governor’s chief of staff, Keith Gardner, told everyone present “to, whenever possible, use our private emails when communicating, because doing such would prevent them from being discovered through public records requests.” Darnell calls Lupe Martinez’ affidavit “simply false, and she knows it.”
June 20, 2012: Noting some of the dates on the leaked emails, SFR files an IPRA request to test whether the governor’s office views state business on private email accounts as a public record. SFR asks for “All emails sent from and received by firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and Gov. Susana Martinez' Susana PAC email address from the following dates: August 17, 2011; May 2, 2012; and June 13, 2012.”
June 25, 2012: The governor’s office responds that SFR’s records request is “broad and burdensome” and will need additional time to respond.
June 26, 2012: Independent Source PAC, a liberal organization run by private investigator and Democratic political opposition researcher Michael Corwin, releases three email messages sent to Susana2010.com email addresses. They relate to a controversial, multimillion-dollar racino deal approved by the Martinez administration and guided by GOP national committeeman and power attorney Pat Rogers, among others.
The emails show Downs at Albuquerque lobbyists and attorneys, including Rogers, communicating privately with governor’s office staffers about the racino deal before it had been officially approved. Corwin and other critics say the emails are proof of corruption within the governor’s office. Rogers, a board member of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, comes under heavy scrutiny. Several media outlets, including SFR, pick up the story over the next few days.
June 28, 2012: The governor’s office alleges that the leaked emails were stolen. Governor's Office spokesman Darnell downplays the content of the Downs emails to the Albuquerque Journal and says the intended recipients never received them. He tells NMPolitics.net that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the matter and stops commenting on the content of the emails. Starting now, the governor’s office declines to comment on the content of the emails, claiming an official investigation is underway.
July 2, 2012: Political reporter Heath Haussamen calls on Rogers to resign from FOG, arguing that the emails show Rogers communicating about the Downs contract “with people close to Martinez privately—hidden from the government sunshine for which he’s spent so much time fighting.”
July 17, 2012: After receiving roughly 65 printed copies of leaked emails from Independent Source PAC, most of which illuminated Rogers’ key influence with the Martinez administration, SFR publishes the Rogers profile “A Higher Power.” The emails reveal a more extensive private email network within the administration. Several media outlets subsequently pick up the story.
July 21, 2012: Rogers resigns from the FOG board,
saying that his leave will allow FOG to continue its open government
mission and “avoid further distractions by an issue that has become
Aug. 7, 2012: More than one month after filing the June 20 records request, SFR has still not heard from the governor’s office. SFR sends an email to the governor’s office asking for an update.
Aug. 14, 2012: The governor’s office responds to SFR’s records request with only one unrelated email sent to Scott Darnell’s SusanaPac.com email address. Notably absent is the Behrens email listing nonunion teachers that was sent to Darnell’s SusanaPAC address on May 2. Both the date and address were listed in SFR’s record request. SFR files a formal Inspection of Public Records (IPRA) complaint with Attorney General Gary King’s office.
Aug. 22, 2012: Using several records and documents, including some of the leaked emails, SFR reports in-depth about how the Downs at Albuquerque racino deal went down. SFR also writes about its trouble getting public records with the governor’s office.
Aug. 31, 2012: Rogers resigns from Modrall Sperling law firm after scrutiny over one of the leaked emails, an insensitive comment about Native Americans, receives national attention.
Sept. 4, 2012: Sam Bregman releases a 24-second audio recording of Gardner telling a friend that he never uses his state email address because he “doesn’t want to go to court or jail.” Gardner accuses Bregman of using “a snippet of a private conversation about two young girls in a sexual assault case to mislead the press.” Gardner then releases a transcript from part of the conversation and says he’ll be filing an ethics complaint against Bregman.
Sept. 5, 2012: A visibly angry Martinez in a video interview accuses Bregman of stooping “to the level of using two young girls” for political purposes. Bregman soon releases the entire conversation to the media. “I can’t imagine the administration wants these things out there,” he tells Capitol Report New Mexico. “But if they want it, they get it.”
Sept. 11, 2012: SFR publishes “Giant in the Dark,” which profiles Gardner, examines the full leaked recording and focuses on the parts of it that “provide a rare window into the inner workings of the Martinez administration and one of its most powerful members.” Political Blogger Joe Monahan publishes the entire recording.
Oct. 19, 2012: The Albuquerque Journal files a public records request with the governor’s office asking for all communications between the office in the FBI regarding her complaint. On the same day, the governor’s office provides them with a letter from the US Attorney’s Office confirming an investigation into whether the leaked emails were stolen or not.
Oct. 21, 2012: The Journal reports on the developments in “Feds Confirm Email Probe.”
Nov. 14, 2012: Based on ISPAC’s public statements that it turned over all of the Susana2010 emails to the Attorney General, SFR files a public-records request for the emails.
Nov. 30, 2012: The AG’s Office complies with SFR’s request and hands over hundreds of emails it received from ISPAC, which include bank statements and personal purchases.
Dec. 18, 2012: SFR publishes “The Year in Closed Government,” an in-depth look at the scandal that became known as “Emailgate.” On its website, SFR also publishes all of the emails it received from the AG’s office.
Feb. 5, 2013: In response to SFR’s IPRA complaint, the Attorney General’s office writes a letter to the governor’s office asserting that its office didn’t properly respond to SFR’s June 20, 2012 records request. The Albuquerque Journal soon reports on the developments.
Feb. 8, 2013: The Albuquerque Journal changes the tone of its story on the SFR IPRA complaint and softens its language about the governor’s office. The governor’s office accuses the attorney general of “playing politics” with public records.
Feb. 12, 2013: The governor’s office sends a letter to the attorney general arguing that it properly complied with SFR’s June 20, 2012 records request.
March 1, 2013: The governor’s office sends another letter to the Attorney General’s office about SFR’s June 20, 2012 IPRA. “Our office has already informed both you and Mr. Peters, we have produced all responsive documents.”
March 6, 2013: NMFOG sends a letter to the governor’s office in support of SFR’s public records complaint in regarding SFR’s June 20, 2012 IPRA with the governor’s office.
May 28, 2013: SFR publishes “Downs Doings” after confirming that the FBI had been recently questioning former Martinez staffers about the Downs deal, as well as about consulting payments to McCleskey. SFR cites its sources as former Martinez campaign staffers and one of their attorneys. The story is picked up by a national outlet.
May 30-31, 2013: Using social media, Martinez’ supporters attempt to discredit SFR’s reporting on the Downs. KRQE-TV reports that SFR’s “Downs Doings” is “not accurate” and that unidentified “sources” tell them the FBI is only investigating the emails. (Later proven wrong, KRQE still refuses to retract its original statement about SFR’s story.)
May 30, 2013: Estrada is indicted on federal charges of illegally intercepting emails intended for the governor and her top staffers, and then lying to federal authorities about it. Martinez says the indictment is vindication of what she had been saying all along—that the emails were unlawfully obtained. Estrada releases a statement maintaining his innocence and alleging that “individuals in whom the public has placed its trust have come after me in an attempt to divert attention from their own improper actions, including the suspected Albuquerque Downs racino bid rigging.”
June 1, 2013: Former Martinez campaign finance director Andrea Goff comes forward “due to intense speculation and misinformation” and says she recently complied with an FBI request to “answer questions related to various activities including those related to the Downs racino.” She adds that the FBI’s questions for her “were not related to the recent investigation and indictment of Jamie Estrada,” verifying the accuracy of SFR’s reporting.
June 3, 2013: Democratic Party operative Jason Loera is indicted for possessing child pornography. SFR reports that Loera’s house was originally searched by the FBI in relation to Emailgate.
June 4, 2013: The Albuquerque Journal publishes a news story on Goff’s statement three days after its release. The story quotes the governor’s spokesman, Enrique Knell, claiming that FBI interviews about the Downs did pertain to the email investigation. It quotes McCleskey claiming that no one associated with Susana PAC or any other “political organizations aligned with Martinez” has been interviewed or subpoenaed in relation to a possible Downs investigation.
June 5, 2013: The US Attorneys Office unseals affidavits for the search warrants linking former Martinez campaign assistant Anissa Ford, Loera and liberal-leaning Independent Source PAC contributor Bruce Wetherbee. The affidavits say that Estrada sent the Susana2010 emails to them. Ford’s attorney says she only served as a witness in the Emailgate case. The affidavits on Loera confirm that his house and computer was originally searched for ties to Emailgate. Wetherbee, who with ISPAC leaked some of the Susana2010 emails to the media, says the FBI never searched or interviewed him. He refuses to give his source’s name. Another connection is made with Sam Bregman, chair of the NM Dems and power lawyer.
June 17, 2013: At his arraignment in Albuquerque, Estrada pleads not guilty. “This is just the very beginning of a legal process that will allow us to expose legal and factual problems with the government’s case,” his attorney, Zachary Ives, says in a statement.