Lujan Grisham's campaign refuses to explain $72,600 expenditure for legal services

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign is refusing to divulge details of a $72,556 payment to an Albuquerque-based law firm believed to have represented the governor in a sexual harassment case.

Per Santa Fe New Mexican:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign is refusing to divulge details of a $72,556 payment to an Albuquerque-based law firm believed to have represented the governor in a sexual harassment case.

The Oct. 6 payment to Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward PA for unspecified “legal expenses” appeared in the governor’s most recent campaign finance report.

“The campaign retained the firm to represent and advise it on legal issues,” campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer wrote in an email Wednesday after ignoring repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

The law firm’s David A. Freedman did not return a message seeking comment.

Witmer did not respond when asked whether the payment was tied to a settlement involving James Hallinan, a former campaign staffer who accused Lujan Grisham of grabbing his genitals during her first campaign for governor.

Hallinan, who first alluded to the alleged assault in a 2019 Christmas Day tweet, told The New Mexican in an interview that year Lujan Grisham had dumped water on his crotch and then touched his genitals. He described the incident as a “slap and grab” that haunted him daily.

“It’s eaten away at me every single day, all the time. And I’m not the only one, like I tweeted,” he said at the time. “They can try to defame me and say I’m horrible, that I’m this or that. No one is perfect, and they can criticize me all they want, but that doesn’t change what happened.”

The payment for legal expenses comes after the campaign reported two installments — one in monthly payments totaling $62,500 and the second in monthly payments totaling $87,500, for an overall total of $150,000 — to a law firm that represented Hallinan. The payouts were reported over two campaign reporting periods and sparked unflattering headlines for the governor each time.

Republicans hoping to regain control of the Governor’s Office in November have used the alleged assault to assail Lujan Grisham as she seeks a second four-year term.

Witmer said in a statement in October that Lujan Grisham and then-campaign adviser Dominic Gabello unequivocally denied the “false, dubious, and meritless claims” made by Hallinan.

“The campaign reached this settlement in 2020 due to the expense of litigating business disputes and to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Witmer said at the time.

Hallinan declined to comment Wednesday. One of his attorneys declined to disclose whether the law firm that received the payment represented the governor in her client’s harassment case.

“That is a question best directed to the Governor,” the attorney, Rachel Berlin Benjamin, wrote in an email. “Governor Lujan Grisham and Mr. Hallinan have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction. I cannot provide any further information.”