I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Defendant in Vigil-Giron case also worked for AG King
Elizabeth Kupfer, one of four people indicted in the case involving former New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, worked for about two months as a consultant for Attorney General Gary King shortly after King took office in early 2007.
NMI has previously reported that Kupfer worked as administrative services director in the AG’s office during the tenure of King’s predecessor, Patricia Madrid. The fact that Kupfer had a contract with the AG’s office after King took over was revealed today in documents released by the AG’s office in response to a records request.
Kupfer’s employment with the AG’s office ended with Madrid’s tenure on Dec. 31, 2006, according to the documents. Kupfer signed the contract to do additional work on Jan. 4, 2007, just after King took office. The contract states that Kupfer was to “provide consultation and advice to the Attorney General’s Office” related to “budget and financial issues during the legislative session.”
Though the contract was for $30,000 over the course of six months, Kupfer only billed the AG’s office once — on March 5, 2007 — for $9,618.75.
The disclosure that a defendant in the secretary of state case once worked for King comes as defense attorneys are preparing to argue that King’s office has no business prosecuting the case because of conflicts. Last week, NMI reported on several points made by defense attorneys, including the fact that one of two assistant attorneys general prosecuting the case, Chris Lackmann, was fired by Kupfer during Madrid’s administration.
King has not addressed specific allegations but says he believes his office has no conflict prosecuting the case.
Contract was through consulting business
King’s office contracted with Kupfer in 2007 through the limited liability corporation Kupfer Consulting. State records list Kupfer’s husband, lobbyist Joseph Kupfer, as an organizer of the company but do not list Elizabeth Kupfer as being involved. Joseph Kupfer has also been indicted in the Vigil-Giron case.
Kupfer Consulting is the firm though which Joseph Kupfer worked as a subcontractor on the media contract with the secretary of state’s office that’s at the center of the AG’s criminal case.
The Kupfers, Vigil-Giron and media consultant Armando Gutierrez each face 50 counts including money laundering, fraud, soliciting or receiving kickbacks and tax evasion. They’re accused of bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars between 2004 and 2006 by falsifying invoices to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The case centers around a contract Vigil-Giron entered into with Gutierrez to produce television commercials with federal money appropriated to states for voter education. A federal audit found that of the $6.3 million Vigil-Giron paid Gutierrez & Associates, the firm could not account for more than $2 million.
How much Gutierrez paid Joseph Kupfer has not been disclosed publicly, but Gutierrez’s attorney has confirmed that Gutierrez paid Joseph Kupfer as a subcontractor through Kupfer Consulting. That attorney, Miles Hanisee, said in an interview that Gutierrez “selected Joe Kupfer because of specific expertise he had in the appropriate and required content of non-partisan public service advertisements.”
Gutierrez also contracted with former AG Madrid
The documents King’s office released today show that Gutierrez also worked as a contractor for several years for Madrid while she was AG. That’s something Hanisee acknowledged Friday, but he didn’t reveal details.
According to copies of contracts provided by the AG’s office, Gutierrez was hired by Madrid to produce TV and radio ads and a training video for law enforcement personnel on dealing with “elder and resident abuse.”
The contracts, which authorized payments to Gutierrez totaling more than $1.1 million between 2001 and 2005, don’t stipulate how much Gutierrez was to be paid for his work. The $1.1 million was to cover his fees and pay for the costs of producing the media.
Incidentally, a 2001 purchase order that authorized a $63,418.92 payment to Gutierrez & Associates for work for the AG was signed by Elizabeth Kupfer, who handled such administrative duties for the AG’s office.
Beyond King’s comments disputing allegations of a conflict of interest, his office is not talking about the case or anything related to it. Madrid has not returned a Friday call seeking comment on the situation.