The husband of a campaign staffer for a Republican candidate for Senate in New Mexico is under investigation for allegedly committing a felony by registering the couple’s dog to vote as part of a stunt to show how easy it could be to commit voter registration fraud.
The anonymous man in the sweatshirt and hat playing with his Labrador Buddy in a local television piece? That’s Thomas Tolbert. He’s married to Heather Wade, a staffer for former Rep. Heather Wilson’s senate campaign, as first revealed by the liberal group ProgressNow NM.
The Smoking Gun got a hold of the voter registration card belonging to “Buddy” and said the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was focusing on Tolbert.
Bryce Dustman, Wilson’s campaign manager, said in a statement to TPM that they learned about the allegations from the media.
“This was very poor judgement by a family member of an employee,” Dustman said. “He has apologized and this matter is between him and the county clerk.”
TPM also received a statement from Tolbert directly which claimed his wife didn’t know what he was up to.
“I made a mistake and I want to apologize to Bernalillo County Clerk, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, my wife, who was not aware of my actions, and the public,” the statement from Tolbert said. “I will take full responsibility for my actions.”
Danielle Todesco, the KOB Eyewitness News 4 reporter who granted Tolbert anonymity for the story, stood by her decision and said she was surprised that he appeared given his wife’s job.
“A lot of people we interview ask for anonymity, and we appreciated that he was still willing to put his face on camera for the story,” Todesco told TPM in an email. “I was never contacted by law enforcement to ask for his identity, they have all found out on their own. Us granting him that privacy has not hindered any investigation whatsoever.
“We did not know about the political connections yesterday,” Todesco continued. “His wife’s job never came up, and at the time, had no relevance to the story. I do however find it odd that his wife would allow him to do a news story while being employed by a such a high-profile person. But that’s just my opinion. It’s completely up to them how they handle that.”
The connection to the Wilson campaign is noteworthy because of her alleged role in pushing the Bush administration to fire former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias because he allegedly wasn’t quick enough in prosecuting alleged cases of voter fraud during Wilson’s 2006 campaign.
Late update: Tolbert told TPM that he never requested anonymity for the story.
“I never asked for anonymity when the news story was done,” he said in an email. “My wife’s position never came to mind because what I do has and had nothing to do with Heather Wilson’s campaign.”
Tolbert said he “suspicions about the consequences, but never truly researched them” before he registered his dog to vote.
“I thought the County would be more concerned about fixing the problem rather than trying to prosecute me,” Tolbert said. “Once again no voter fraud actions were taken. I outed myself to show the problem.”