The Santa Fe New Mexican is reporting:
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday that she’s confident there’s no federal investigation of her administration’s handling of a lease for a horse-racing track and casino on state land in Albuquerque.
Martinez made the comments when asked about the FBI recently questioning her former campaign finance director, Andrea Goff.
Goff said in a statement over the weekend she had answered FBI questions related to The Downs at Albuquerque — which in 2011 was awarded a 25-year lease of the racetrack and casino at the state fairgrounds — and other matters. She provided no details.
In her statement, Goff insisted “none of the questions were related to recent investigation and indictment” of Jamie Estrada, Martinez’s former campaign manager. Estrada was charged last week with illegally intercepting email sent to the governor’s campaign computer system and lying to federal investigators.
One of Estrada’s charges involves an email sent by Goff to the governor and others.
Some of the emails, allegedly hijacked by Estrada, ended up in the hands of Martinez critics, including Independent Source PAC, which distributed hundreds of the emails to The New Mexican and other news organizations.
Some of the emails Independent Source PAC distributed were related to The Downs deal. These included messages sent by Albuquerque lawyer and Republican activist Pat Rogers, who represented The Downs at Albuquerque, to top administration officials. The administration has said those officials never received these emails because Rogers had sent them to campaign email addresses — which allegedly had been intercepted by Estrada.
In late 2011, the PAC went to the FBI, asking for an investigation of The Downs deal. The administration has long maintained there was no preferential treatment in awarding the lease.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said he couldn’t confirm or deny there is an investigation involving the racetrack lease.
Martinez said she believes agents interviewed Goff, who would have known of contributions by racetrack owners to the governor’s political committees, as part of the preparation for the Estrada prosecution.
But despite Goff’s statement, the governor said, “Absolutely, I am confident that this is all involving Jamie Estrada and the hijacking of my email.”
Martinez said she was certain there was no separate investigation focusing on allegations by her critics of possible influence peddling in her administration’s decision to allow the track to build a larger casino at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. Her spokesman, Enrique Knell, said later Monday that nobody in the Governor’s Office has been contacted by the FBI about a possible investigation of the track lease, which was approved in late 2011.
Estrada, who maintains he’s broken no laws, issued a statement last week that pointed to the racetrack lease and said, “Individuals in whom the public has placed its trust have come after me in an attempt to divert attention from their own improper actions.”
Martinez, who is a former state prosecutor, said she believed the FBI talked to Goff because the racetrack lease allegations could be raised as part of Estrada’s defense if the case goes to trial. Estrada could try to portray himself as a possible whistle-blower, for example.
Prosecutors allege Estrada was able to change the computer account for the governor’s 2010 campaign organization after Martinez took office as governor in 2011. As a result, when Martinez and her aides sent electronic messages through the campaign email system, the emails were directed to a computer account controlled by Estrada.
People connected to the racetrack and casino contributed $70,000 to Martinez’s campaign — although those connected with the company also contributed more than $50,000 to Martinez’s Democratic opponent in the 2010 governor’s race, Diane Denish.
In 2011 the lease prompted Tom Tinnin, a Republican and a Martinez appointee, to resign from the state Board of Finance.