A former campaign manager for New Mexico governor Susana Martinez was indicted in federal court Thursday on 12 counts of illegally intercepting emails intended for members of Martinez’s 2010 campaign, including some sent to Martinez herself. Now, some are questioning whether the current Democratic attorney general (and a potential opponent for Martinez in the Republican’s reelection bid next year) and a liberal activist connected to Bill Richardson, Martinez’s Democratic predecessor, were involved in the distribution of some of those illegally obtained emails.
Jamie Estrada, who first joined the Martinez’s campaign staff in July 2009, was fired in December of that same year for, among other reasons, accessing Martinez’s personal email, a New Mexico Republican tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Estrada later failed to win an appointment in the new Martinez administration in 2011. According to the indictment, Estrada was contacted in July 2011 by a member of the Martinez campaign requesting a username and password to the campaign’s Internet domain, susana2010.com, for the purposes of renewing the domain contract. Estrada reportedly refused to provide the information and, as a federal investigation later found, used the information to renew the domain himself under a false name, even while the Martinez campaign had exclusive rights to renew the contract.
After renewing the domain, Estrada altered the settings so that incoming emails sent to susana2010.com addresses (that is, to former Martinez campaign staffers) were redirected to a Gmail account Estrada had created. The intended recipients of those emails, which included Martinez, never received those emails. Many of these contained private, sometimes sensitive information: receipts from Martinez’s purchases of songs on iTunes, a staffer’s bank statement, and confirmation of an online purchase by Martinez of several pairs of underwear.
Soon after he had started redirecting these emails, Estrada began leaking the contents of some of the intercepted emails to the media and the public. Several of these emails found their way to Michael Corwin and his liberal Independent Source PAC. Corwin is a Democratic activist who once worked as a private investigator and opposition researcher for Democratic governor Bill Richardson. Between 2011 and 2012, Corwin published several emails on his PAC’s website. He has not admitted that Estrada is his source, only saying that the emails were “legally obtained” from “sources” that had purchased the domain legally.
So what was there to learn from these emails? Corwin claimed some of them proved public business was being conducted on private, political accounts, though the evidence of any wrongdoing isn’t apparent. The one intercepted email Corwin has focused on considerably was from lobbyist and attorney Pat Rogers (a New Mexico GOP veteran). Rogers sent an email to the campaign email address of Ryan Cangiolosi, among others, in 2011. At the time, Rogers was lobbying the New Mexico state government on behalf of a company that was bidding on a state license for a racetrack and casino. His email to Cangiolosi, who was now Martinez’s deputy chief of staff, was related to that bid. The problem was that Cangiolosi never received the email from Rogers, since the message had been redirected to Estrada and had (somehow) ended up in Corwin’s hands. The suggestion that the work of the public was being hidden through the use of secretive private emails ignores this fact.
By the summer of 2012, the FBI began investigating the possibility that Martinez campaign emails had been illegally hacked, and the leaks subsequently dried up. But in December 2012, the Santa Fe Reporter, a left-wing alternative newspaper, ran a lengthy front-page story discussing the details of what it called a “massive trove of private emails” sent to Martinez campaign addresses. The Reporter disclosed that its source for the emails was none other than Gary King, the Democratic attorney general and the leading contender to challenge Martinez in the gubernatorial race in 2014. King, the Reporter said, had received the collection of emails from Corwin. The emails are now available to read on the Reporter’s website (although the paper redacted some details, like the name and account balance on the campaign staffer’s bank statement), thanks to King.
The FBI immediately responded to King, according to a February report from KRQE, with a letter requesting that the attorney general turn over “all intercepted wire communications” he had received and citing the federal law that prohibits disclosing communications known to have been intercepted illegally. King has argued that what he provided to the Reporter weren’t “secret documents” because “they were already in the hands of somebody who was a member of the public”—meaning Corwin.
Sources from the New Mexico GOP suggest more indictments may follow, particularly if the federal investigation reveals more information about the people to whom Estrada provided the illegally acquired emails.