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          Front Page




N.M. GOP Faces 'Routine' Audit

By Jeff Jones
Journal Politics Writer
    The New Mexico Labor Department has ordered what it calls a routine audit of the state Republican Party, putting the GOP on notice that the agency may be poring over a long list of confidential party documents.
    State Republican Party executive director Marta Kramer said Saturday she suspects politics from Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's administration is the reason for the audit.
    But state Labor Secretary Conroy Chino said the Republicans simply won a lottery of sorts.
    A state computer each quarter randomly selects 200 to 250 New Mexico businesses for audits to determine if they're complying with unemployment insurance laws, Chino said. The audits are required by the federal government, he added. The state GOP was one of those plucked from the hat this time around.
    "They're reading way too much into something that's routine," Chino said Saturday.
    Kramer said the mailed audit notice arrived at the state Republican Party's Albuquerque headquarters on Friday afternoon.
    "Your firm has been selected for routine audit for the calendar year(s) of 2005," said the state notice, later adding, "The audit is being scheduled during the week beginning 4-10-06."
    The notice outlines an extensive list of documents the Labor Department may be examining, including salary and payroll records, tax-return paperwork, checking-account registers and "All contracts between your company and independent contractors that did work for you during the period mentioned above."
    Kramer said current and past Republican Party officials have no record of any prior audits being done on their organization by the state Labor Department. She said she didn't even know the Labor Department conducted such audits.
    Kramer said the Labor Department letter came one week after her party released spoof baseball cards that took a swing at Richardson.
    The cards, featuring a photo of Richardson's face superimposed on the body of a uniformed player in mid-pitch, allude to Richardson's admission last year that he was scouted, but not drafted, by a pro baseball squad— a claim his biographies had made for years. "Bats: Liberal; Throws: Curves," the card's stats say.
    "This cannot be a coincidence," Kramer said of the state audit notice. "It's hardball. The governor is playing hardball."
    Kramer said the documents the Labor Department might be examining would provide insight into "who is working in opposition to the Democratic Party and Governor Richardson's political ambitions."
    But Chino said the confidential records will be seen only by the auditors. He added the routine audits can take as little as one afternoon's time.
    Kramer said the state GOP has nothing to hide but would rather see an independent auditor looking over their books.


E-MAIL writer Jeff Jones