Libertarian gubernatorial candidate calls ethics complaint ludicrous

·3 min read

Aug. 10—A group called Private Persons of New Mexico is living up to its name.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Karen Bedonie, who was hit with an ethics complaint over a billboard the clandestine group purchased in support of her candidacy, said she doesn't know who's behind the entity, either.

The complaint, filed by Brett Kokinadis, first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Santa Fe County, alleges unlawful coordination between Bedonie's campaign and the unregistered entity.

Bedonie denies the accusation.

In response to the complaint, Bedonie's attorney, Elizabeth Honce, wrote Bedonie doesn't know anything about the group and charges "it could even very well be" Kokinadis who is operating as Private Persons of New Mexico to lodge a complaint against Bedonie.

Bedonie "asserts that that is how ludicrous the claim [filed by Kokinadis] is," Honce wrote in an eight-page response. "Private Persons of New Mexico could be anyone, and to make accusations against [Bedonie] is scurrilous and defamatory."

Neither Bedonie nor Honce returned a message seeking comment or to explain why Bedonie's gubernatorial Facebook page includes the same picture as the one on the billboard and, just as the billboard, states, "Paid for by Private Persons of New Mexico."

Bedonie claims Kokinadis, who is also the director of Stop MLG, a political action committee working to prevent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham from winning a second term, is using assumptions to form the basis of his allegations.

Kokinadis "makes the leap that just because [Bedonie] has a disclaimer" on her website requiring express permission to use her campaign photos that she has "unlawfully coordinated in some way with person or persons unknown," Honce wrote.

Bedonie "is not responsible for anyone who prints up a sign, sticks a picture of Karen Bedonie's head on it, and puts it in their front yard, nor does [Bedonie] have an ethical duty to chase them down and find out who they are," Honce wrote.

Days after Kokinadis filed the complaint, Bedonie, who initially sought the Republican nomination for governor, issued a statement calling the complaint a stunt "to stop the only conservative candidate" in the gubernatorial race.

"This highlights the underlying mission of the infiltrated Republican Party," she said.

Asked whether Republicans are concerned Bedonie will take away votes from Ronchetti, Kokinadis didn't directly answer but said he supports the right to run for public office.

"In such a critical race that will shape New Mexico's future for the next four to eight years, voters need to consider the candidates they support and the likeliness of their victory," he said in a statement.

Kokinadis said his complaint identifies "potentially unethical and unlawful behavior where thousands of dollars of unreported dark money" has likely been spent.

The billboard at the heart of the complaint, located along Interstate 40 in Torrance County, is operated by Sun Vista Outdoor Advertising LLC. Last month, David Raybould, managing member of the advertising company, declined to disclose who paid for the billboard.

Raybould could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and the company is now listed as "permanently closed" on Google.

The group Private Persons of New Mexico isn't registered with the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office.

"A search for 'Private Persons of New Mexico' does not bring up any results in our system," Alex Curtas, a spokesman for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, wrote in an email.

Bedonie has until Wednesday to respond to an inquiry letter from the Secretary of State's Office, he wrote.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.