New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) reportedly did not follow her own coronavirus-related gathering edicts and spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on alcohol and luxurious Wagyu beef last year.
What are the details?
While New Mexico residents faced some of the most strict COVID-related restrictions in the nation, Lujan Grisham was reportedly meeting with her staff in-person — despite advising against such gatherings for New Mexicans.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Lujan Grisham was holding in-person meetings with her Cabinet and New Mexico legislators while telling New Mexico residents not to gather with people they do not live with. The meetings were held at the governor's mansion in Santa Fe, despite the widespread use of video conferencing software, like Zoom.
Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham spent nearly $13,500 of taxpayer dollars on groceries, alcohol, and services like dry cleaning during the second half of 2020.
"Receipts show more than $6,500 on groceries, from Wagyu beef and tuna steaks to several purchases of alcohol, including bottles of tequila, vodka, gin, wine and beer," the New Mexican reported.
News of Lujan Grisham's spending comes after she reportedly gave several staff members salary raises ranging between $7,500 to $12,000.
What was the reaction?
New Mexico House Minority Leader Jim Townsend (R) called Lujan Grisham's spending "disenchanting."
"It's not what tax dollars ought to be spent for," he said. "In the time when people are hurting all over the state, using their tax dollars to buy Wagyu beef has got to be a little bit disenchanting to many people. I think it's just more of indication of the problem that we have had and the governor has had connecting with people."
"Those are the kinds of things that cause people to totally distrust the government," Townsend added. "When they see these [messages] of, 'You need to stay home and you can't have your family for Christmas and you can't do this and you can't do that,' but I'm going to sit here and eat Wagyu beef and buy hundreds of dollars of alcohol with your tax dollars. What in the world would you expect them to think?"
House Minority Whip Rod Montoya (R) had harsher words for Lujan Grisham. He said the Democratic governor's actions indicate she believes that she is "more privileged than everybody else."
"It really appears in the Governor's Office as if she really believes herself to be more privileged than everybody else in New Mexico," Montoya said, the New Mexican reported. "I didn't realize the governor was so underpaid that she has to use discretionary money for things that she should be paying for herself."
What did Lujan Grisham say?
The governor's office excused her behavior and claimed there was a difference between Lujan Grisham telling New Mexicans not to gather with people they do not live with and Lujan Grisham gathering with people she does not live with.
"There's a difference between inviting someone into your house for the Super Bowl or someone's birthday and having three or four Cabinet secretaries there to talk about their budgets amid an unprecedented economic downturn and to work out what we're going to propose or recommend to the Legislature given the changing economic forecast," spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said.
Stelnicki told the New Mexican the food and alcohol purchases were for Lujan Grisham, her staff, security, and maintenance workers.
"The governor wanted to sort of try to make things and send them to people, like pozole at Christmas," he said.
On Friday, Lujan Grisham responded to scrutiny surrounding her spending, admitting that she had "dropped the ball."
"When people are struggling, should it be fair that residents [of the governor's mansion] literally have a locked-up grocery store closet … that has libations and catering stuff and food?" she said. "I don't want New Mexicans to feel like I don't take seriously their hardship."