New Mexico’s fake electors have not (yet) been charged with any crimes related to their interference in the 2020 election–but they’ve become central to an unprecedented criminal case against former president Donald Trump.
Now, Source NM can reveal, one of them donated thousands last year to former Republican Congresswoman and current congressional candidate Yvette Herrell.
Deborah Maestas, a fake elector who was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee last year, is a former chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico. She has a long history of campaign donations in New Mexico, giving a combined tens of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians over the past two decades, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
In August 2022, more than a year and a half after Maestas submitted a fraudulent electoral vote in support of Trump, Herrell accepted $2,900 dollars from Maestas, the maximum contribution allowed for that election cycle.
Herrell served four terms in the New Mexico House of Representatives before running for Congress in 2018, losing to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. Herrell won election to Congress in 2020 but was defeated the following election, losing to Democrat Gabe Vasquez last year.
What are fake electors?
After votes are counted in a Presidential election, each state meets to certify the election results and send the tally of electoral votes to Congress.
Republican parties in seven states that Trump lost – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – sent “alternate” electoral college votes to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to have the votes counted for Trump instead of Biden.
Legal scholars generally consider these votes to be fraudulent, and even some of the Trump campaign’s own lawyers involved in the scheme privately questioned whether they were breaking the law.
She is running again in the 2024 election, and has received around $400,000 in political contributions this year, according to the latest FEC reports.
Herrell’s campaign disclosures have raised eyebrows in the past; according to the Associated Press, in 2018 she failed to disclose $400,000 worth of state contracts she had received through her real-estate company.
Herrell did not respond to a request for comment.
Source NM sent an email seeking comment from Maestas to DeliverFund, an anti-human-trafficking organization where she serves on the board, but received no response.
Ash Soular, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of New Mexico, told Source NM via email that the party has no comment on Trump’s indictment or Maestas’ donation to Herrell at this time.
New Mexico’s fake electors in the Trump indictment
The latest indictment against Trump, the third this year, alleges he broke federal law by conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Central to the scheme, according to the indictment, were fake electors in seven states.
This follows a separate federal indictment over his handling of classified documents, and an indictment in New York state alleging he illegally falsified business records.
Trump and his co-conspirators “organized fraudulent slates of electors in seven targeted states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), attempting to mimic the procedures that the legitimate electors were supposed to follow under the Constitution and other federal and state laws,” according to the indictment.
It adds that some of the fake electors “were tricked into participating based on the understanding that their votes would be used only if the Defendant succeeded in outcome-determinative lawsuits within their state, which the Defendant never did.”
In New Mexico, the fake electoral votes cast by Maestas and four other Republicans (Jewll Powdrell, Lupe Garcia, Anissa Ford-Tinnin and Rosie Tripp) contained a caveat that the votes were being submitted “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President.”
Trump lost New Mexico by over 100,000 votes, or more than ten percent. According to the indictment, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in New Mexico six minutes before the deadline for the electors to submit their votes, “as a pretext so that there was pending litigation there at the time the fraudulent electors voted.”
That lawsuit focused on ballot drop boxes in New Mexico, seeking to throw out some or all of the absentee votes deposited in drop boxes around the state. The campaign voluntarily dropped the lawsuit less than a month later.
New Mexico-based attorney was central to the scheme
The mastermind behind the fake-electors scheme, according to the latests indictment as well as the Jan. 6 committee report and extensive reporting by national news outlets, was Santa Fe-based attorney John Eastman.
Eastman is referred to only as “Co-Conspirator 2” in the indictment, but he is easily identifiable based on a detailed description of his background and actions included in the indictment.
Eastman, who is fighting a disbarment proceeding in California over his actions following the 2020 election, allegedly helped craft a plan to overturn the election using the fake slates of electors in seven states, and wrote a memo proposing that then-Vice President Mike Pence step in to overturn the election results, using the fake electors’ invalid electoral votes to appoint Trump president for a second term. According to the indictment, Eastman acknowledged at the time that his proposal violated the Electoral Count Act.
Eastman has not contributed to Herrell’s campaign, but he has contributed to several other New Mexico campaigns in past cycles, including donations to failed gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti and state representative John Block (R-Alamogordo).
The Jan. 6 committee recommended that Eastman be prosecuted for his role in attempting to overturn the election results, but like New Mexico’s fake electors, he has yet to face criminal charges for his actions.
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