J.D. Bullington, a longtime New Mexico lobbyist on contract to represent more than 20 clients, made $81,050 in campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians on behalf of his clients last year — more than other lobbyists registered in the state.
But Bullington said last week he doesn’t think a good lobbyist needs to hand out the cash to do a good job. In fact, he said, he’s a staunch supporter of banning all contributions from lobbyists.
“I’m an expert in the issues I advocate,” Bullington said. “I was on my high school debate team. I can make my case armed just with valid arguments.”
Judging from past years, prohibiting contributions from lobbyists is not likely to happen in the near future.
For three years, Think New Mexico, a Santa Fe think tank, pushed legislation that would have prohibited contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. In 2010, the think tank’s bill passed the House but went nowhere in the Senate. The next year, a version of that bill fizzled and since then has been listed as a “work in progress.”
But Think New Mexico Executive Director Fred Nathan said Friday, “I’d love to team up with [Bullington] on that.”
Bullington, who has more than 15 years of experience as a lobbyist, began his own “government relations” company (that’s the lobbyist’s preferred term for lobbying) in 2010.
More than a quarter of Bullington’s listed contributions — $28,950 — went to Gov. Susana Martinez, with the remainder going to various legislators of both parties and to Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.
Some of Martinez’s potential Democratic opponents received much smaller contributions via Bullington from his clients. Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, each received $750 from Bullington.
He also gave Lopez four Lobos basketball tickets in December from his client Laguna Development Corp. In his most recent report, covering the last six months of 2013, Bullington reported $1,171 in entertainment expenses for legislators and other officials.
As far as campaign contributions, Bullington’s report, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in early January, did not specify which of his clients were contributing to which politicians. While most of the state’s biggest-spending lobbyists list the names of the clients in their reports, Bullington said he didn’t because the forms used by the secretary of state don’t provide specific boxes or fields to list the clients.
He said Friday that some of his clients who made campaign contributions included Laguna Development Corp., Fast Bucks (a payday loan company), Renewable Energy Group and The Williams Co., which produces natural gas.
Under a state law that took effect after the 2010 elections, individual campaign contributions to candidates for statewide offices, such as governor, are limited to $5,200 for the primary and $5,200 for the general election. Contributions to legislators are limited to $2,400 for the primary and $2,400 for the general election.
Other major campaign contributors among registered lobbyists are:
• Dan Najjar, who lobbies for 17 clients, gave $51,100 in 2013 to various legislators in both parties, as well as $5,000 to Gov. Martinez’s re-election campaign, which was from his client Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. On behalf of some of his clients, Najjar also gave lesser amounts to some Democratic gubernatorial candidates, including Morales ($500 from Najjar’s law firm Virtue Najjar & Brown, $200 from Cash America and $200 from QC Holdings); Lopez, ($400 via Najjar from Lovelace Health Systems, $200 from QC Holdings and $200 from Cash America); and Attorney General Gary King ($300 from Virtue Najjar & Brown). Each of these businesses, as well as Axcess Financial Services, also contributed to several legislators from both parties.
• Anthony “T.J.” Trujillo, who lobbies for 14 clients. Trujillo contributed $45,282 to mostly Republican lawmakers on behalf of his clients Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Horizon Ag-Products. Some of Trujillo’s contributions, with a total value of about $3,000, were unspecified “in-kind,” or noncash, contributions for six legislators.
• Dan Weaks and Marla Shoats, a married couple who have 17 clients between them. They contributed a combined $45,000 to lawmakers of both parties and Gov. Martinez (a total of $7,000). Democratic gubernatorial candidate Morales received a total of $500 from Weaks and Shoats, while Lopez got $250 from them. The couple didn’t specify which of their clients were contributing to which officials.
• Natasha Ning, who lobbies for 20 clients, contributed $33,600 to the campaigns of legislators and others seeking state office. Her clients contributing money included NextEra, a Florida energy company; TW Telecom, a Colorado-based company; and LKQ, an auto parts company. Ning’s contributions included $1,000 for the governor’s re-election on behalf of NextEra. Democrat Morales also received $1,000 from Ning, ($500 on behalf of NextEra, plus $500 not specified on her report). She also gave state Auditor Hector Balderas, a candidate for attorney general, $2,500 ($2,000 from LKQ, $500 not specified). She also contributed to several other candidates for state office, not specifying which client contributed. These were gubernatorial contender Lopez ,$250; state treasurer candidate John Wertheim, $1,000; secretary of state candidate Maggie Oliver, $500; and state auditor candidate Sen. Tim Keller, $250.
• Stephen Perry, a Texas-based lobbyist for Chevron USA, reported contributing $32,700 to state campaigns, including $5,200 to Gov. Martinez.
• Robert Donaldson, another Texas-based lobbyist who works for the Altria company, which includes the Phillip Morris tobacco company, contributed $25,850 to New Mexico campaigns, including $2,700 for Martinez’s re-election.
• Hal Stratton, a Republican former state attorney general now lobbying for six clients, contributed $24,800 to campaigns, of which $22,300 went to Martinez’s re-election. Of that, $10,400 was from Penn National Gaming, $10,400 from GCC Rio Grande, a concrete company, and $1,500 from himself.
• Leland Gould, a lobbyist for Western Refining, an oil refiner and marketer headquartered in El Paso, contributed a total of $20,231, mostly to several Republican legislators and GOP organizations — though he also gave to a handful of Democrats. Gov. Martinez’s campaign received $5,331 from Gould.
Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.