New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham admitted she made a mistake after a report this week revealed she spent thousands of taxpayer dollars for personal expenses in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
The story: Lujan Grisham spent nearly $13,500 in taxpayer money from July and December, about half of which she spent on groceries, including a Wagyu beef and tuna steaks, as well as bottles of several alcoholic drinks like tequila, vodka, gin, wine, and beer, according to public records cited in a new report by the Santa Fe New Mexican.
The governor’s extravagant spending practices drew criticism from state Republicans.
“It really appears in the Governor’s Office as if she really believes herself to be more privileged than everybody else in New Mexico,” said Republican state House Minority Whip Rod Montoya.
The New Mexican’s report comes after Lujan Grisham gave raises of up to $12,000 to several of her employees.
“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,” Montoya said. “Legislators are all up here doing our job, and we’re doing it on per diem.”
State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, a Republican, said: “It’s not what tax dollars ought to be spent for. In the 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 said the governor behaves “like she’s better than everyone else” after the New Mexican reported that she had also been holding meetings at her Santa Fe home while urging residents to avoid interacting with people from different households.
The governor’s spokesman, Tripp Stelnicki, defended the meetings Thursday, saying: “There’s a difference between inviting someone into your house for the Super Bowl or someone’s birthday and having three or four Cabinet secretaries there to talk about their budgets amid an unprecedented economic downturn and to work out what we’re going to propose or recommend to the Legislature given the changing economic forecast.”
Stelnicki also said the food and drinks Lujan Grisham had purchased were not just for her but also for some of her staffers.
According to the New Mexican, Lujan Grisham spent $200 on at least five bottles of tequila, two bottles of vodka, two bottles of merlot and a bottle of whiskey, and a bottle of gin.
In a statement Friday, the governor admitted the purchases looked bad and said she regrets she didn’t “push harder” to donate groceries to those who need it most.
“When people are struggling, should it be fair that residents [of the governor’s mansion] literally have a locked-up grocery store closet … that has libations and catering stuff and food?” the governor said.
“I don’t want New Mexicans to feel like I don’t take seriously their hardship,” she said.
“Let’s take that routine grocery store purchasing that happened and let’s get it out and feed people in a way that I can in this pandemic,” she said. “I regret that I didn’t push harder to make that happen.”
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Author: Damjan Tutarkov
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