Sen. Ivey-Soto accused of sexual misconduct by voting rights lobbyist
Calls for his resignation emerge for the second year in a row
The Roundhouse in Santa Fe. (Getty Images)
A lobbyist says a state senator punished her for rejecting his sexual advances by hindering the Voting Rights Act, which ultimately failed during the 2022 legislative session that concluded last week.
Groping, inappropriate sexual advances and retaliation are among the allegations of misconduct facing prominent New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, whose name came up often in the session as lawmakers debated elections reforms and voting rights measures. He chairs one committee and sits on another that the bills had to clear.
In a public letter, lobbyist Marianna Anaya says the Albuquerque-based senator “disgustingly groped and pinched my buttocks,” during a reception at a Santa Fe hotel in 2015, and that this harassment and assault was also perpetrated against several other women through the years.
The letter calls for Ivey-Soto’s resignation.
Fast forward to January 2022: the groping incident was brought up during a private meeting between the two in Ivey-Soto’s Roundhouse office where he said he apologized to Anaya, “for her experience,” but he didn’t think anything else inappropriate happened.
“I was horrified by what she said. And I expressed that to her,” Ivey-Soto said in an interview. “Even though I don’t remember that even. But that’s not me. And I apologize to her profusely that was her experience of what happened.”
Ivey-Soto said he could not recall how much alcohol he had to drink during the event in 2015. “That was many years ago. I don’t remember that event.” He does recollect sharing a bottle of red wine during their recent meeting last month in his office.
Anaya, who said her work on voting rights legislation prompted her to keep interacting with Ivey-Soto, alleges further misconduct from that meeting.
“You were drinking throughout our conversation. When you emptied a bottle of wine into my glass and I said it was too much, you told me it was not too much, and then forcefully told me to drink it. When I left, you asked if you could give me a “non-creepy hug.” I quickly left your office,” she wrote.
Anaya’s letter outlines yet another attempt to talk voting rights in a public place that still resulted in unwanted advances, a gross comment, yelling when she tried to bring up the legislation and heavy drinking on his part. After she rejected this aggressive behavior, Anaya says Ivey-Soto retaliated against her by stalling an expansion of voting rights in the Senate Rules Committee he chairs.
Anaya was a lobbyist for Senate Bill 8, which sat in Ivey-Soto’s committee for a week.
Ivey-Soto delayed the bill’s hearing for days and then strictly limited public comment that voting rights advocates had traveled considerable distances to deliver.
He denies that he used the measure to retaliate against Anaya and says the legislation moved slowly due to discussions he had with sponsors about redrafting the bill. A new version of SB was introduced and passed by the Rules Committee, after four hours of public comment that Ivey-Soto said he allowed due to complaints about the process.
“They want public comment, they got public comment,” he said.
The legislation was eventually folded into another elections bill that died on the Senate floor during the last hours of the session, blocked by Republican Sen. William Sharer’s filibuster.
How these complaints are handled
Shortly after releasing her letter yesterday, Anaya also filed a formal harassment complaint with the Legislative Council Service. What happens next process-wise is outlined in the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy that was amended in 2020.
The complaint will be reported to Senate leadership, including President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart. In some instances, the issue can be handled internally, and privacy is offered to every party involved. However, this complaint is under review with assistance from outside lawyers because there is a call for the Senate to expel Ivey-Soto.
From here, there can be three steps in this process.
If any member of the Senate leadership determines further investigation is necessary, they will have to forward the complaint to an investigative ethics subcommittee within five business days. The deadline for this matter to be submitted for investigation is Monday Feb. 28.
Then, special counsel is brought in to provide recommendations to the subcommittee that will determine if there is enough probable cause in the case to move it forward.
If that’s the case, a charging document is presented to an ethics committee that will recommend actions to the full Senate, which can determine if censure, reprimand or expulsion are necessary.
If he is removed from office or resigns, another person would be appointed to fill his seat by either the Bernalillo County Commission or the Governor’s Office.
At this point, Ivey-Soto is not facing any criminal charges. Anaya is represented by a civil attorney named Levi Monagle, and he would not comment on any intent for his client to pursue legal action.
Though he said he hadn’t read the letter at the time of his interview with Source NM, Ivey-Soto denies the allegations and is determining his next steps based on if the complaint moves forward.
“I don’t recall that incident at all. It is not my style to do that,’ he said. “I apologize to her profusely for her having that experience.”
This is the second year in a row he is seeing demands that he step down after allegations of misconduct.
In 2021, the organization Emerge NM called for his resignation, saying he is verbally abusive to women colleagues. Anaya was part of the group that spoke out and relayed details in the letter about how it materialized by sharing her experience in 2015 with other women who had similar stories about treatment from Ivey-Soto.
“When the members of the board meet to talk about calling for your resignation, I disclose to them that you sexually harassed me back in 2015. Another member of the organization discloses that you also groped her,” Anaya wrote.
Threaded between all these situations is alcohol. In particular, Ivey-Soto’s consumption during meetings and get-togethers. He doesn’t deny drinking. In fact, he keeps an open bar in his Senate office stocked with beer, cider, whiskey and his favorite wines.
“I will tell you to a certainty that I was not drunk a single time during this legislative session. I’m not saying I didn’t have alcohol. I was not drunk a single time during this legislative session,” he repeated.
He says wine can ignite conversation between colleagues and that he is a social drinker.
“It breaks the ice in terms of having conversations about issues. People come in and out of my office throughout an afternoon, yeah, sure,” he said. “There may be a couple bottles of wine that get consumed, but that’s not me consuming a couple bottles of wine, right? That’s what, like, over time, six or seven people. So like the amount of wine that I’ve drunk is, you know, a couple glasses.”
There are no specific rules prohibiting legislators from drinking in the Roundhouse. However, Monagle, Anaya’s attorney, says drinking can lead to dangerous situations and inappropriate conduct.
“I think alcohol culture at the Roundhouse is part and parcel of larger problems at the Roundhouse,” he said. “Alcohol can lower inhibitions, create a situation where somebody who was already kind of on a power kick, ends up on more of a power kick and cross lines that they might not otherwise cross. That’s the problem. There was a problem here.”
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