Leaders of New Mexico’s Domestic Violence Community Continue Drumbeat: Governor Susana Martinez Must Give Abuser’s $120,000 Contribution to DV Shelters

Leaders of New Mexico’s domestic violence community continued to call today for Governor Susana Martinez to donate the $120,000 of campaign contributions she accepted from convicted batterer Marcus Hiles to abuse victims programs and shelters. Senator Linda M. Lopez (D-11-Bernalillo), the author of many of the state’s laws to protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse, spoke out in the State Capitol about the Gov.’s refusal to hear advocates’ plea. Lopez questioned whether it is ethical to not donate Hiles’ campaign contributions to programs and groups that help women and their children who are victims of violence.

“It is ethically wrong and also hypocritical of Governor Martinez to keep this vicious abuser’s money. Frankly, she ought to be too ashamed to keep it,” said Sen. Lopez. “Just this week, senators voted unanimously in support of my bill that puts strong new protections in place for women who are victims of violence. But all we heard from Governor Martinez is that she is keeping the money from abuser Marcus Hiles. That is callous disregard for our concerns. When we in the Senate rejected her unqualified political ally, Matt Chandler, for an appointment to the UNM Board of Regents recently, she called the decision ‘extreme’, ‘disgusting and pathetic’, and said it was ‘despicable politics at its worst’. Governor Martinez has no such outrage for a terrible and violent perpetrator who beats women. Her inaction on returning these campaign funds is truly despicable politics at its worst. That man is the top contributor to her PAC and a valued supporter whose contributions she is keeping.” Gov. Martinez’s response to the recent news of Marcus Hiles 2013 conviction for domestic violence stands in stark contrast to that of neighboring Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. They immediately announced last month that they are donating a combined $702,600 — the amount the Texas developer Marcus Hiles gave to their 2014 campaign — to services for abuse victims throughout Texas.

Hiles choked a nightclub dancer in October, 2012 – long before he gave Gov. Martinez $120,000 – after the two had been out drinking, and began to fight in a cab on the way to the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to news reports. Hiles then was captured on a security camera punching the woman in the hotel, throwing her to the ground on an elevator, and stomping on her cellphone. The woman told police that Hiles later choked her to unconsciousness in their hotel room.

Gov. Martinez said through her spokesman that she did not know about the donor’s criminal history when she accepted the donations. She will not return the $120,000, or alternately give it to domestic violence programs or shelters, because “the campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent.” [Albuquerque Journal. 3/16/15]

However, last summer when her Democratic opponent Gary King returned $35,000 in campaign contributions he received from the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, Gov. Martinez referred to Epstein as King’s “largest donor”, and had this to say:

“I certainly think you would know where your money comes from… and it just so happens to be a sex offender.” [Santa Fe New Mexican 9/9/14]

On Tuesday the Senate passed unanimously Senate Bill 660 (SB 660), sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez. The legislation permanently prohibits those convicted of a domestic abuse crime from having contact with their victims as a condition of their probation or parole. Currently, domestic abuse victims must deal with their violators face-to-face in the courts for hearings; this bill also allows them to appear at hearings telephonically or have a representative present. Sen. Lopez calls on the Governor to make sure this bill is enacted into law.

On Wednesday women’s and community groups called on Gov. Martinez to donate the $120,000 from Hiles to DV programs and shelters in New Mexico. The groups include Strong Families NM, Ending Gender Based Violence Taskforce, Tewa Women United, One Billion Rising Santa Fe, and the NM Forum for Youth in Community.