Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has paid $150,000 to settle a claim of sexual harassment from a former campaign spokesman, according to financial documents filed Monday.
A campaign finance report from April revealed that Lujan Grisham’s campaign had paid $62,500 to a law firm representing James Hallinan, who alleged that the then-gubernatorial candidate had poured a bottle of water on his crotch in front of other staffers during a meeting and then grabbed his genitals through his clothes while she laughed.
Monday’s filing included an updated schedule of payments amounting to $87,500 between April and September, bringing the grand total to $150,000. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the last payment was made Sept. 29.
Lujan Grisham, who served three terms in the House of Representatives before her successful 2018 run for governor, has repeatedly denied Hallinan’s claims, including that he struggled to find a job after leaving her campaign. Campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said in a statement to the Journal that the settlement was reached last year “due to the expense of litigating business disputes and to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Hallinan, who now runs a public relations and political consulting firm, came forward with his claim against Lujan Grisham in 2019 and alleged he was talked out of reporting it by her then-campaign manager Dominic Gabello. Gabello, who has denied that claim, went on to become a senior policy adviser to the governor before stepping down in April, though he is likely to play a significant role in her bid for reelection next year.
The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office has said the payments are allowed under state law because they relate to an employment dispute. The state’s Republican Party, meanwhile, accused Lujan Grisham of paying “hush money” to Hallinan.
“This governor is a habitual hypocrite,” party spokesman Mike Curtis said in a statement Monday. “During former New York Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo’s sex scandal, Lujan Grisham cried out for transparency and a full investigation. When she’s the accused, however, our Governor sweeps it under the rug and pays off her accuser with cash, disguised conveniently as ‘legal expenses’ in campaign finance reports.
“The Governor’s latest payments again expose her hypocrisy and her true character,” added Curtis.
“Sexual harassment is a serious offense, and she seems satisfied to pay her way out,” Republican National Committeewoman Tina Dziuk added. “This is offensive, and tells you a great deal about her moral character. She doesn’t deserve a second term.”
Lujan Grisham has been lambasted over the past year for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has included some of the most stringent public health orders in the nation. Meanwhile, her administration has also been criticized for an estimated $250 million overpayment of unemployment benefits amid limited oversight of fraudulent claims, the use of an auto-deleting messaging app at the state’s child welfare agency and missed deadlines for the state to receive federal education funds.
Monday’s report showed Lujan Grisham has raised $2.5 million since April for her reelection bid. Six Republicans have already declared their intent to challenge her next year. Among them is state Rep. Rebecca Dow, who raised more than $440,500 since announcing her candidacy in early July. Her campaign said she has received contributions from more than 1,300 donors.
With Post wires
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