Campaign funds can be used for hair and makeup expenses, a lawyer for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign argues in a letter sent Monday to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Therefore, the secretary of state should rule there is no basis for an ethics complaint on whether the governor can use funds from her campaign to pay for such costs, attorney Sara Berger wrote.
Berger, an Oregon-based attorney who represents New Mexicans for Michelle, wrote that state law allows such expenditures, particularly as the governor takes part in campaign-related public appearances.
Berger wrote John Block, editor of the Piñon Post, a conservative online news site, is misreading New Mexico laws and regulations related to campaign finance.
Berger cited a state law that says expenditures “reasonably attributable” to the candidate’s campaign and not for personal use are permissible.
“If the expense would exist even in the absence of the candidacy, or even if the legislator were not in office, then it is not considered to be a campaign-related expenditure,” the law says. As such, Berger wrote, “Hair and makeup expenses would only be impermissible if the expenses would exist in the absence of a candidacy (or office).”
In his original complaint, filed in mid-May, Block wrote the use of those funds is a “flagrant violation” of state law.
He took issue with the governor’s decision to use $6,000 in payments from campaign funds to her daughter Erin Grisham, a hair and makeup specialist, since 2017. The governor’s campaign finance reports list the expenses as “media preparation” services.
Now it is up to the Secretary of State’s Office to make a decision on the complaint. The office has 30 days from the date of the original complaint — May 13 — to rule on the issue, said spokesman Alex Curtas.
“We are in the determination process,” he said Tuesday. “Now our office and general counsel can actually look at the law, the administrative rule, anything else that is applicable and make a determination.”
Berger’s letter includes an affidavit signed by Dominic Gabello, former senior policy adviser to Lujan Grisham, listing seven campaign report payments to “Beauty by Erin Grisham” between August 2017 and April 2021.
The payments ranged from $400 to $2,080. The most recent, for $400, was for the governor’s State of the State address in late January.
“The committee’s financial reporting demonstrates that it has been transparent in its use of media preparation services by Beauty by Erin Grisham,” Berger wrote in the letter. “Each of these expenditures had a clear campaign purpose, and the phrase ‘media expenditure’ used to describe the services accurately conveys that political purpose.
“As such, my client respectfully requests that the Office of the Secretary of State make the determination that no violation has occurred,” Berger continued.
Neither Block nor Berger returned calls seeking comment.