Governor Susana Martinez holds a press conference at her office to address the end of the 2013 Legislative Session on Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Luis Sanchez Saturno,The Santa Fe New Mexican/AP Photo

GOP governor faces controversy in New Mexico

It’s obviously far too early to start talking about presidential running mates, especially given the uncertainty surrounding who’ll make the 2016 general-election campaign. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked about his thinking on the subject yesterday, and according to a Reuters report, the senator specifically mentioned New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
 
It’s hardly the first time Martinez’s name has come up in VP conversation, and it’s not hard to understand why. As we’ve noted before, she’s the nation’s first Latina governor and an effective former prosecutor with a high approval rating in a relatively blue state. On paper, Martinez seems to be a running mate out of central casting.
 
That said, Rubio’s timing could be better. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week that the FBI has spent “several months” talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez’s campaign fundraising activities.
One prominent New Mexico Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed being interviewed in recent months by federal agents about funds from Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee, going to the governor’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey.
 
This person also said agents asked questions about different “fundraising vehicles,” such as political action committees, used by Martinez’s political wing, though it was unclear what potential violations federal agents are investigating.
The same paper reported soon after that federal investigators “have subpoenaed records from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department looking into whether the agency performed retaliatory audits on former members of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political team or state officials who ran afoul of her administration, according to a person familiar with the investigation.”
 
Note, this reporting has not been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, and the FBI, as a rule, does not comment on questions about possible criminal probes.
 
If the reports are accurate, however, it seems like the sort of development that might have a serious effect on Martinez’s appeal as a candidate for national office.
 
For her part, the Republican governor talked to KOAT in Albuquerque this week, and made no real effort to deny the existence of the investigation.  ”When someone makes a complaint, a process takes place,” she said.
 
The same report added, “Martinez said the FBI has spoken to her about the advisor, Jay McCleskey, though she’s confident neither he or anyone else has done anything wrong.”
 
To get a better sense of the backstory, Andy Kroll wrote a lengthy piece for Mother Jones last year on Martinez and McCleskey. To put it mildly, it’s an unflattering portrait.
 
 

Marco Rubio and New Mexico

GOP governor faces controversy in New Mexico