Since announcing his candidacy for governor late last year, Mark Ronchetti has accepted cash donations from three fake electors and one other person who’s accused of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, campaign finance documents show.
The Ronchetti campaign has accepted a total of $15,000 from Lupe L. Garcia, Rosalind Tripp and Deborah W. Maestas, three New Mexicans who attempted to falsely award the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump. Ronchetti also accepted a $500 donation from John Eastman, a former Trump lawyer who is under scrutiny by a congressional committee for his role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The $15,000 donated by the fake electors trickled into Ronchetti’s campaign over the course of four months, with the first donation coming on June 29, three weeks after Ronchetti won the Republican primary election. Source New Mexico has been following this story throughout the campaign cycle.
Why does it matter?
Jessica Feezell, an associate professor with the University of New Mexico’s political science department, put it this way in one of our initial stories on this subject:
“Ronchetti can accept money from whomever he wants to, and use it however he wants to,” Feezell said. “Probably the more important thing to recognize is that a fake elector sees Mark Ronchetti as the candidate for them.”
Kathleen Sabo, executive director of the nonpartisan New Mexico Ethics Watch, also raised transparency concerns:
“If you accept that transparency is a major tenant of an ethical undertaking of any kind, the ethical thing to do would be to reveal whether there was any connection to accepting this donation to supporting the fake electors’ attempt, or if that would be something he would support in the future,” Sabo said.
The latest donations are reflected in a campaign finance report filed last week that covers the period from Oct. 4 through Nov. 1. The report shows that both Tripp and Garcia made new donations to the Ronchetti campaign in October, with Tripp giving $1,000 on Oct. 21, and Garcia contributing another $1,000 on Oct. 25.
Previous reports show that Garcia, the first fake elector to donate to Ronchetti, gave $2,000 on June 29. The next influx of cash from a fake elector came from Tripp, who donated $1,000 on Aug. 19. That same day, Tripp’s husband, Donald Tripp Jr. — who has not been implicated in the fake elector scheme — donated $2,500 to Ronchetti.
The largest donation from a fake elector came on Sept. 16 when Maestas donated $10,000, according to campaign finance reports.
Maestas is one of at least 14 fake electors nationwide who has been subpoenaed to testify before the congressional select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A federal judge recently ordered that Eastman must provide the select committee with multiple documents, including emails related to efforts aimed at disrupting Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election. Eastman donated $500 to Ronchetti’s campaign on Sept. 27.
The fake elector scheme
Rosalind Tripp, Garcia, Maestas and two others signed a document in December 2020 as part of an attempt to allocate New Mexico’s electoral votes from the 2020 election to Donald Trump, even though Joe Biden won the state by 10 percentage points.
New Mexico was one of seven states that had fake electors file phony documents in a Republican scheme to have alternate slates of electors in place with the hope that Congress would accept those slates and reject the official slates.
The 84 Republicans behind the fake elector scheme saw it as a contingency in the event of a contested election. Electors in each state were required to sign documents certifying their state’s election results by Dec. 14. By that date, no evidence disputing the 2020 election results existed.
The Ronchetti campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story, nor has anyone there responded to requests for comment on two previous Source New Mexico stories about contributions made to the campaign.
Garcia, Tripp and Maestas could not be reached for comment.
We will update this story if we hear back from anyone.
During the four-week period covered by the latest finance reports filed last week by all three campaigns, Ronchetti raised a little more than $1.4 million while Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised just over $1.3 million. Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie is a distant third, raising a little more than $10,000.
Although Ronchetti leads in funding for the recent reporting period, Lujan Grisham has raised considerably more money throughout the course of the election. Lujan Grisham has brought in $12.5 million compared with $9.3 million raised by Ronchetti. Bedonie has raised a total of $147,000.
Finance records show that all three campaigns have spent most of what they’ve earned, too. Ronchetti has spent around $8.9 million, Lujan Grisham has spent nearly all of the $12.5 million she’s taken in, and Bedonie has spent $144,000.
In total, the three candidates have spent about $22 million this election cycle, making this one of the most expensive races in state history.
Delaney Corcoran, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign, said the governor is in an “incredibly strong position” heading into the final hours of the campaign, and that the governor will be working until polls close Tuesday night to encourage New Mexicans to vote.
“Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidate for New Mexico governor, Ronchetti, is being funded by John Eastman (and) New Mexico fake electors,” Corcoran said. “His friendliness with those determined to undermine our democracy is a dangerous sign about the extremist agenda he wants to force on New Mexicans.”
Corcoran also expressed concerns that Ronchetti’s willingness to accept funding from people who’ve already attempted to overturn an election could indicate that, if he were elected governor, Ronchetti might refuse to certify future elections in the state.
“The New Mexico governor is one of three positions in the state who certifies statewide election results,” Corcoran said. “Ronchetti’s many connections to election deniers is extremely concerning if he were to have that responsibility.”
Each campaign must file one more finance report on Jan. 9. The forthcoming report will show donations received by the campaigns in the final days before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
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