Viante Spotlights Potential Conflicts of Interest in New Mexico AG Office
Calls on AG to Review Invoking ‘Audit Rule’ on Balderas Internal Investigation

Albuquerque, New Mexico – November 20, 2023 –  Following the State Ethics Commission’s newly issued advisory opinion which affirms that legal contracts entered into on a contingency fee basis — such as the ones entered into by former Attorney General Hector Balderas — are generally subject to the procurement code, the Viante Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability in government, renewed calls for the Office of the State Auditor to release details of its investigation into potential conflicts of interest and violations of state law.

In July, the Viante Foundation set its sights on understanding the rationale of former Attorney General Hector Balderas’ decision to opt out of a national opioid settlement and instead retain two law firms with close financial ties to Balderas: Robles, Rael & Anaya and Baron & Budd. These entities had poured over $57,000 into Balderas’ campaign coffers since his first campaign for public office. More startling is the revelation that the compensation these law firms received was disproportionately higher than in other states where law firms did similar work. An astonishing $148 million in attorneys fees was disbursed. Making up more than one-third of the total settlement, the rate New Mexico paid is three times the rate of the average state, which paid close to ten percent.

“The Viante Foundation is deeply concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in the New Mexico Attorney General’s office,” Jon Decker, president of the Viante Foundation, said. “As the State Ethics Commission recently affirmed, contingency fee contracts such as the ones Hector Balderas engaged in are subject to the procurement code, and we believe that the public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. Considering the Ethics board’s findings, it is imperative the Office of the State Auditor review the appropriateness of invoking the ‘audit rule’ to block the release of the investigation between Hector Balderas and private law firms.”

Several groups had previously filed formal complaints and called for an investigation into the relationship between Balderas’s office and Robles, Rael & Anaya alleging potential violations of the Government Conduct Act and Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

Viante filed a public records request to review the state auditor’s investigation of the Attorney General’s Office, which was met with resistance, invoking the “Audit Rule.” This rule effectively barricades the public from knowing the outcomes of such investigations, leaving New Mexicans in the dark about the relationship between Attorney General Balderas and the private law firms he hired to conduct state business.

Another public records request revealed numerous contracts between the Balderas’ office and the Robles, Rael & Anaya. A review by the Viante Foundation appears to show questionably broad scopes of work in some of the contracts. Well-defined scopes of work in a contract with an outside counsel firm are vital for maintaining clarity, controlling costs, and ensuring any work is done in the interest of the State and consumers, not law firms and the politicians who hired them.

About the Viante Foundation

The Viante Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability in government.


Jon Decker
Viante Foundation
[email protected]

Photo Credit: Jim Bowen