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New Mexico’s Democrat governor is on the defensive after a report this week detailed her office’s spending from a taxpayer-supported expense fund.
Records show Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spent nearly $13,500 over a six-month period in 2020 on items such as groceries, dry cleaning and alcohol, the Sante Fe New Mexican reported.
The booze spending included a purchase in September of more than $200 for five bottles of tequila, two bottles of vodka, two bottles of Merlot and single bottles of whiskey and gin, the report said.
In the same report, the newspaper disclosed that Grisham was hosting in-person staff meetings at the governor’s mansion at the same time that she was urging the public against mixing households in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
About half the $13,500 went toward food for the governor’s Cabinet members and staffers during those meetings, Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki told The Associated Press.
State Republicans were outraged by the governor’s use of taxpayer cash.
“I didn’t realize the governor was so underpaid that she has to use discretionary money for things that she should be paying for herself,” state House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, a Republican, told the New Mexican. “Legislators are all up here doing our job, and we’re doing it on per diem.”
“I didn’t realize the governor was so underpaid that she has to use discretionary money for things that she should be paying for herself.”
“It’s not what tax dollars ought to be spent for,” New Mexico House Minority Leader Jim Townsend of Artesia told the paper. “In a time when people are hurting all over the state, using their tax dollars to buy Wagyu beef has got to be a little bit disenchanting to many people.
“I think it’s just more of indication of the problem that we have had, and the governor has had, connecting with people,” he added.
“It’s not what tax dollars ought to be spent for.”
After the newspaper’s report appeared, Grisham addressed the matter Friday during a virtual news conference.
“I don’t want New Mexicans to feel like I don’t take seriously their hardship,” Grisham told reporters.
“I don’t want New Mexicans to feel like I don’t take seriously their hardship.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. (Associated Press)
Grisham said she did not personally make the purchases. Instead, they were made by a “woman who works here [who] is a rock star,” the New Mexican reported.
On Thursday, Stelnicki explained the $200 booze purchase. He said it was for a planned holiday party that was ultimately canceled. He claimed the purchased bottles of alcohol remained unopened.
The spending came despite a state law enacted in 2019 that set new limits on use of the governor’s discretionary funds. That law was signed by Grisham’s predecessor, former Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who also took criticism for how her office spent cash, the New Mexican reported.
Grisham, 61, a native of New Mexico who is in her first term as governor after serving as a member of the state House and prior to that as the state’s health secretary, has taken heat from businesses because of her coronavirus restrictions.
In December, sources told Fox News she turned down an offer to serve as interior secretary in the Biden administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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