Federal Court Rejects Conservative Rio Grande Foundation Attempts To Hide Donors; Group Says They Won’t Comply
New Mexico’s attorney general is investigating embattled Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys For Trump founder Couy Griffin for using C4T funds for personal use and taking official acts as commissioner for his personal gain.
According to search warrant documents first reported by the Alamogordo News, Griffin launched a GoFundMe account for Cowboys For Trump but used the funds for personal expenses, including court-ordered child support, used public funds to advance C4T and “has taken official acts for personal gain.”
Investigators with Attorney General Hector Balderas’ special investigations unit say the investigation was launched after Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver referred her investigation into Griffin’s refusal to register C4T as a political committee and disclose donors and expenses. The attorney general also received “numerous” citizen complaints about Griffin.
Griffin had previously sued Toulouse Oliver claiming he was not required to register or file as a political committee. Griffin lost that case but still appears to have failed to follow the court order.
Read more about Griffin’s battle to protect C4T funding disclosures
Cowboys 4 Trump Gives The Finger To Disclosure | The Paper.
No charges have been filed at this time but the search warrant affidavit was signed by an investigator detailing probable cause for a criminal investigation. An Otero County district judge found probable cause in issuing the warrant.
GoFundMe raises more than $30,000 for Griffin’s personal use
In the search warrant documents filed with the court this week, investigators detail that a Griffin supporter, Casey Conlee, created a Cowboys For Trump GoFundMe account to raise funds under the group’s name. However, the page included a disclaimer that “[a]ll monies will be a direct donation to founder Couy Griffin” and will be used “as Couy sees fit to move this organization forward.” A screenshot of the page shows that it had raised mover $30,000 so far.
In at least one case detailed in the affidavit, Griffin paid his ex-wife $350.00 from “Cowboys for Trump LLC” to cover his child support obligations. A copy of that cancelled check later appeared in a Facebook group whose members were organizing to recall Griffin. Griffin confronted his ex-wife about the check but the documents do not detail the outcome of that conversation.
Read more about efforts to recall Griffin
Cowboys For Trump also sold merchandise and accepted website donations through PayPal. Investigators are seeking financial records to indicate where those funds go.
County Funds Pay for Political Travel
Investigators also appear to be reviewing violations of various criminal statutes relating to Griffin’s role as an elected Otero County commissioner. It has been well-reported that Griffin submitted a travel voucher to Otero County taxpayers for expenses related to a September 2019 trip to Washington, DC at the White House. Another commissioner flew to DC and returned after the meeting. She submitted receipts for $1,094. Griffin, however, chose to drive his truck and horse trailer. He added a stop in New York City — 200 miles away from DC — where he rode his horse through NYC streets carrying Cowboys For Trump flags and paraphernalia. Details of his trip were posted on the group’s social media accounts. When Griffin returned, he submitted a request for $3,237 for travel reimbursement.
State Auditor Brian Colon initiated an investigation but Griffin repaid the county the full amount. According to investigators, Griffin posted on Facebook that he had received $3,500 from G.B. Oliver to cover the costs of the trip. Investigators indicate that Oliver is the head of the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce.
The search warrant alleges that although the funds were repaid, Griffin’s decision to use public funds for a trip to benefit his political and personal goals may violate the law.
As a County Commissioner and public officer, Griffin took the official act of authorizing his own travel to Washington, D.C. The purpose of this trip was to represent, gather contacts with federal agencies and benefit the people of Otero County.
Instead, Griffin used that opportunity and exploited it to further his own personal political agenda, promote Cowboys for Trump, fraudulently collect more money than he should have been reasonably due, and to meet the person, who by all accounts, appears to be his personal hero.
Griffin’s actions violated the public trust and confidence placed in him by the people. He enhanced his won personal financial interests by submitting a false public voucher, and having the people of Otero County reimburse him for an excursion he otherwise had to pay for himself.
As stated above, the C4T website solicits donations specifically to pay for travel expenses, and the evidence suggests that for Griffin, this trip was (largely) a pre-planned C4T event. The extent to which Griffin used C4T money to fund this trip is direclty correlated to the extent to which he viewed his trip to Washington as a C4T function. This principle equally applies to what Griffin did with the over $3,500 he collected in per diem as well as the alleged $3,500 donation from G.B. Oliver.Search warrant affidavit, NMAG, 2/4/21
Based on the investigator’s signed affidavit, District Court Judge Douglas Driggers authorized the search warrant into GoFundMe records on February 4th. The return was filed with the court on the 11th.
During that same time, Griffin was being held in federal custody on charges related to his participation in the January 6th assault on the US Capitol. The Paper was the first news outlet to report on Griffin’s own videos showing his participation and subsequently calling for a new action with “blood running from the building.” The Paper‘s reporting on Griffin and Cowboys For Trump was highlighted by House impeachment managers in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.