A retired US Air Force Colonel denies any financial motivation behind his recent endorsement of Republican US Senate candidate Heather Wilson.
In Jan. 1996, Colonel Gary Van Valin says, he became the "100-percent owner" of Albuquerque-based consulting firm, Keystone International Inc., after purchasing the company from Wilson, who founded it in 1991.
"I don't think that's something that you need to know," Van Valin responds when asked about the cost of the purchase. "It has been published in a paper in the past, but I don't think you need to know that."
Last week, SFR reported on the web of private-sector income sources Wilson developed during the period between her career in the US House and her US Senate candidacy. From 2009-2011, Wilson consulted with various Department of Energy labs along with organizations that earn millions in revenue contracting with the federal government. If elected, Wilson will have sway over the purse strings of the federal agencies with which those clients have contracted.
Data shows Keystone International has earned at least $1.2 million from contracts with the federal government. Van Valin says that is not the reason behind his endorsement of Wilson.
"Any insinuation that there's some sort of quid pro quo is totally baseless," Van Valin says.
An ad paid for by Wilson's campaign features Van Valin saying he was the former chairman of a military affairs advisory committee formed by Wilson's opponent in the race, Congressman Martin Heinrich, D.
"When it comes to the defense cuts that are coming our way I think Heather will do a better job protecting the labs and the installations in New Mexico," Van Valin says in the ad.
By Van Valin's account, Wilson divested herself of financial interests in Keystone after the sale.
"Sixteen and a half years have gone by [since the purchase] and there's
been no professional cooperation in any way in the last sixteen and a
half years," he says. "Me with her or her with Keystone. And it was a
clean break. She left Keystone and I'm still here."
financial disclosure report shows Wilson earned between $5,000 and
$15,000 in capital gains income, listing the source as "Gary Van Valin,
Payment for Corp Stock." Wilson reported on the disclosure--which covers 1998--that the asset was worth nothing by
the end of the year. Capital gains income represents how much someone makes between the purchase and sale of a stock.
Christopher Sanchez, spokesman for Wilson, emailed a statement to SFR:
"Gary Van Valin bought Keystone International from Heather after she became New Mexico Secretary of Children, Youth and Families," the statement reads. "Van Valin is a registered Democrat who ran for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District in 1998. Congressman Heinrich didn't think there was a conflict when he made Van Valin chairman of his military affairs advisory committee, so there is not one now."
Heinrich's financial disclosure does not show he earned any outside income other than from investments. Heinrich spokeswoman Whitney Potter emails a statement:
"Martin seeks advice on policy from members of the community regardless of their political affiliations. In fact, he asked Heather Wilson to be part of the same advisory group Col. Van Valin served on," the statement reads. "Martin has fought for our military installations in New Mexico, such as finding a new mission for the 150th Fighter Wing, and that's what he'll continue to do in the U.S. Senate. When the Ryan budget was introduced, Martin led the fight in opposition to its deep cuts to critical funding for New Mexico's national labs while Heather Wilson remained silent."
If he earned the Democratic nomination in the 1998 special election, Van Valin would have faced off against Wilson. Democrat Phil Maloof got the nomination but he lost to Wilson--who went on to be a Congresswoman for a decade. A 1998 Associated Press article announcing Van Valin's candidacy paraphrased him saying that more federal money should be spent in New Mexico.