New Mexico’s Republican Secretary of State, Dianna K. Duran, is accused of using campaign funds for gambling and other personal expenses, as she faces trial (and possibly impeachment) for 65 counts of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and more. The attorney general’s office claims that Duran, who oversees campaign finance reporting, withdrew $430,000 from her personal accounts between 2013 and 2014, while also transferring money from her campaign fund to her personal accounts. During this time, Duran frequented casinos.
In addition to misusing campaign funds, Duran is accused of falsifying her campaign reports. In one case, she reported a $5,200 donation from Mack Energy Corporation as only $2,900, in order to keep her total contributions from Mack Energy below the $10,400 limit. Besides the 64 counts of finance-related crimes, a 65th charge of identity fraud was leveled against Duran on Friday, after it was discovered that she forged the name of a former state senator, Don Kidd, whom she pretended was her campaign treasurer. When asked why Duran would list him as her treasurer, Kidd responded, “Well, I have no idea. I just don’t know, that’s amazing.”
Duran rose to political power by aligning herself with the Republicans’ attack on voting rights, and their push for stronger voter ID laws, which are designed to discourage political participation. After taking office in 2011, in a blatant attempt to suppress voters, Duran sent 64,000 voter registration records to state police, claiming irregularities. This drew severe criticism from Democratic opponents, who claimed that Duran had withheld proof.
Now, despite facing a litany of charges that would make Al Capone nervous, Duran refuses to give up her post – as long as she continues to receive her $85,000-a-year salary. She pleads not guilty on all charges of corruption. However, motions have begun towards her impeachment, with the state authorizing $250,000 for an impeachment investigation. An impeachment, however, would be a lengthy process, and in the meantime, a woman who stole campaign contributions that she gained by suppressing Constitutional rights will continue to serve in one of the highest positions in the state.
Prosecutors will push for enhanced sentencing in this case, which is available since the allegations pertain to Duran’s work as a public official. If approved, this could add an additional $500,000 to her sentence, if she is convicted.
Duran has attempted to have the attorney general’s office disqualified from trying the case, since she believes the attorney general has a vendetta against her. However, the office responded that state law does not permit “prosecutor shopping.” Although Duran is a criminal who deserves to be tried to the full extent of the law, it is reassuring to know that she primarily stole from donors who were supporting a campaign to suppress voting rights in New Mexico.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.