Records show Susana Martinez' campaign had enough money in its bank account to return contributions made by a Texas developer charged by Las Vegas, Nevada, police with physically assaulting a woman in an October 2012 incident. The revelation contradicts public statements made by the Republican governor's spokesman.
Enrique Knell, then a spokesman for the governor, told the Albuquerque Journal in a March
that shedding thousands in contributions donated by the developer, Marcus Hiles, would not be feasible.
On June 3, 2014, Hiles contributed the $10,400 limit to Martinez' campaign, reports show. His wife, Nancy Hiles, also contributed $10,400.
“The campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent,” the Journal quoted Knell as saying.
But new reports filed with the secretary of state's office for the April 13 campaign reporting deadline show that the same day the Journal published Knell's quote, Martinez' committee had roughly $70,000 cash-on-hand.
Officials with the governor's campaign and administration have not yet returned voicemails and emails left by SFR Wednesday.
The Dallas Morning News
in early February that Lone Star Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, gave just over $700,000 of Hiles' political contributions "to services for abuse victims throughout Texas" after the paper inquired to leaders about the incident in a Las Vegas hotel. He pleaded guilty to a domestic violence misdemeanor.
"At no point in time was Governor Abbott or any member of his staff aware of this deeply disturbing incident," the governor's press secretary Amelia Chasse told the newspaper. "Governor Abbott believes that any violence against women is deplorable, unacceptable and shameful."
And Martinez' campaign has returned donations in the past. In October 2013, following
to Martinez' campaign made by SFR, officials said they would return $25,000 in contributions given by the former owner of an abortion clinic chain and his wife. A campaign spokesperson told SFR that Martinez "strongly disagreed" with the racist remarks against Hispanics made by Edward Allred in a 1980 San Diego Union Tribune article.
And Martinez' campaign said that it
a registered sex offender from the host committee of a fundraiser held in June 2013 when SFR asked about his inclusion on an invite.
Yet Martinez, a former prosecutor, has resisted pressure from legislative Democrats to give Hiles' contributions to anti-domestic violence causes.
Police records obtained by SFR that document the October 12, 2012, incident allege Hiles slapped, choked and dragged the woman by the hair after a night of drinking that included a stop at Sapphire's Nightclub, a strip club.
The two, who were in a relationship, took a cab back to the Wynn Las Vegas, a high-rise luxury resort on the Sin City's strip, where he slapped the woman "in the face with the back of his hand," according to the records.
The police reports, based partly on video surveillance, state Hiles "was seen grabbing [the woman] by her hair and pulling her into the elevator."
"Once inside the room," states the police report, "Marcus began to punch [the woman], drag her by her hair, and choke her. [The woman] stated she went unconscious. She woke up and ran out the room."
Hiles told police "he could not remember the details of the altercation," states the report.
Hiles did not return SFR's request for comment left with his office Wednesday. His attorney, Lawrence Friedman, did not return a message left Wednesday.
Friedman, however, told the Dallas Morning News that "his client disputes the police version of the incident and was the victim of an effort to extort money from a wealthy man." The paper quoted Friedman as saying Hiles "did not hit her" and "did not touch her."
“To be a victim of domestic violence is horrible. Also horrible is being falsely accused of being the perpetrator of domestic violence,” Friedman told the newspaper. “Marcus Hiles is the victim.”
"Through injury severity and footage of the surveillance video," an officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department wrote in a report, "Marcus showed to be the primary aggressor."
The report states that video surveillance footage corroborated her story to police that Hiles threw her to the ground in the elevator and stomped on her phone. Injuries on the woman, including scratches to the neck, indicated she had been strangled, according to the report.
Police charged Hiles with battery and domestic violence strangulation and booked him in Clark County Detention Center, records show. He pleaded guilty to a domestic violence misdemeanor in February 2013, reported the Dallas Morning News, while the court dropped a felony domestic violence charge.
On March 12, New Mexico In Depth made the connection that Hiles had also given donations to Republicans in New Mexico.
In the following weeks, campaign finance reports show, Martinez' campaign committee spent down most of the roughly $70,000 it reported having in the bank when Knell indicated to the Journal otherwise in an article published online on March 17.
Instead of giving Hiles' contributions to anti-domestic violence causes, as with Republicans across Texas, Martinez' campaign reported spending $15,000 on Republican Albuquerque school board candidate Peggy Muller-Aragon on April 1; $7,738 in travel on April 6; $10,000 in contributions to another Martinez political committee, Susana PAC, on April 6; and $21,400 on "professional services" to McCleskey Media Strategies, run by her top political advisor Jay McCleksey, on April 6.
While it's possible some of those vendors billed for those services prior to the revelations about Hiles, the governor's political machine is still well financed. Susana PAC, which lists the same address as McCleskey Media Strategies, reports a balance of $102,615.
Also on April 6, Martinez' campaign committee reported giving another $15,000 to Advance New Mexico Now—a Republican super PAC which told state regulators in reports that it received $100,000 from Hiles on August 19, 2014.
The committee reported on April 13 that it had $27,768 in the bank.