GOP Senate candidate is expert witness, tiny-home enthusiast

New Mexico
Election 2020 Senate New Mexico_1555435764986

FILE – In this April 26, 2018 photo, Gavin Clarkson, a Republican candidate for Congress at the time, speaks with the Associated Press during an interview in Albuquerque, N.M. Clarkson, a former Trump Administration official and former candidate for Congress, has announced he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. Clarkson […]

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gavin Clarkson works as an expert legal witness on Native American economic issues and lives in an experimental tiny home that is 15 feet (4.5 meters) long and wide, according to new financial disclosure filings disclosed Friday.

Clarkson is one of two GOP candidates seeking the Senate nomination; both were handily defeated last year running for other statewide offices in New Mexico.

Clarkson, who asserts Choctaw heritage, has recently used his expertise in tribal finance and economic development to work as a college professor, private consultant and, briefly, an official with the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. He reported income of at least $10,000 as an expert witness from law firms in New York and Kansas since the start of 2017 without specifying exact earnings.

Clarkson resigned from the Trump administration in November 2017 amid criticism by investigators at the Interior Department of a federal loan guarantee that he helped arrange nearly a decade ago. The investigation found no violations.

Stephen Sebastian, a campaign spokesman for Clarkson, on Friday shared images of the tiny home in Las Cruces — one of three owned by Clarkson — describing the residence as an energy-efficient prototype of an affordable housing unit geared toward Native American communities.

At 225 square feet (20 square meters), the home sits on a concreate slab and has a kitchen and bathroom. Clarkson’s wife works in Virginia and frequently visits, Sebastian said.

During an unsuccessful run last year for secretary of state, Clarkson filed a federal lawsuit against New Mexico State University for wrongful termination and discrimination. The university denies the accusations and litigation is ongoing.

His disclosures include $34,000 in salary since the start of 2018 from the Las Cruces-based university, describing his status there as “professional leave without pay.” During the same period, he received $6,000 from Rice University as an adjunct professor of business administration.

Clarkson lists at least $380,000 in retirement and other investment and savings accounts.

Business interests include a consulting firm for Clarkson’s tribal economic development activities called Native American Capital, and a separate consulting company for non-tribal interests known as Clarkson & Sons. Sebastian said that Native American Capital does not currently have New Mexico-based tribal clients, though it has in the past.

Albuquerque-based construction contractor Mick Rich also is competing in the Republican Senate primary. He lost a Senate bid last year against Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich in a three-way race that included Libertarian former presidential candidate and Gov. Gary Johnson.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who defeated Clarkson by 20 percentage points last year, and six-term U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján are seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2020. The seat is being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Udall.

Toulouse Oliver has gone one step farther than competitors in terms of financial disclosure by providing 2018 tax returns to news media outlets. Clarkson declined to share tax returns.

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