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All in the Vigil family

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By Optic Editorial Board

Robert Vigil, the former state treasurer and convicted felon, played the media card recently. When the Albuquerque Journal’s Thomas Cole wrote an article about how he’s transferred his old campaign funds to his brother’s and his wife’s campaigns, Vigil brushed it aside, saying what he did is perfectly legal and that the Journal was just trying to sell papers.

Of course, he didn’t say anything about ethics, but no one would expect that. After all, it was the law, not ethics, that was his undoing.

Let’s remember that Vigil had to resign his post as state treasurer several years ago because of an indictment on corruption charges.

Then he was convicted and had to go to jail. He’s out now and his wife, Viola Vigil, is running for San Miguel County treasurer, while his brother, Richard Vigil, is seeking another term in the state House.

Robert Vigil can never run for public office again — that’s stipulated in his conviction — but he still has a campaign chest full of money.

About $74,000, according to Cole, which he can donate to other campaigns if he so chooses. That’s exactly what he’s been doing — while keeping it all in the family.

Over the years, he’s contributed more than $27,000 to brother Richard’s re-election bids, and last October, with his wife Viola planning a run for San Miguel County treasurer, he contributed $45,000 to her campaign.

That’s a whole lot of money for a county race. But, as husband Robert will quickly point out, it’s all legal.

Or at least it appears that way. Legally, he cannot use his campaign funds for personal reasons and, technically, he’s not. But when it comes to the particulars, we have to wonder — if the Viola Vigil campaign picks up a dinner tab for its campaign workers, which would undoubtedly include family members, couldn’t that be called a “personal” expenditure?

In our view, whether or not it’s legal, it certainly unethical. Viola Vigil must have the largest campaign war chest of any San Miguel County candidate (perhaps more than all of them put together), and she got it because her husband was caught abusing his position as state treasurer, still had his hands on some leftover campaign money and gave it to her. What’s wrong with this picture?

Just because something’s legal doesn’t make it right. In fact, we wish this had been illegal when Robert Vigil figured out he could do it.

The Optic reprinted the Journal’s article because we believe local voters should be aware of such shenanigans, and we’re certain the Journal had a similar motivation. Now, if we in the media are the only ones who are outraged by this behavior, we’re sorry ... that public expectations have dipped so low that this kind of campaign financing is acceptable. However, we don’t believe for a minute that we’re the only ones to see the corrupting influence here.

It’s an outrage that the Vigils can manipulate their campaign finances as they are doing, in an effort to win their elections. While the law may say it’s OK, ethical behavior says it isn’t.