The New Mexico Legislature hasn’t been in session since March, but Roundhouse lobbyists have spent nearly $600,000 on campaign contributions, wining and dining lawmakers and paying for other expenses in the past few months, according to reports made public this week.
By far, the main way lobbyists treated lawmakers was through campaign contributions — worth more than $540,000, according to data provided by the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.
The biggest contributor was energy giant Chevron USA, which, through its lobbyist Pat Killen, gave more than $175,000 in political contributions. It spent another $179 on meals and beverages at various restaurants in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Corrales for unnamed state officials “to inform and discuss public policy issues.”
Republicans, who tend to be more sympathetic to large oil companies, got the majority of Chevron’s contributions. However, several Democrats also received checks from the corporation. Among them were Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ($5,500); House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe ($2,600 for his own campaign committee plus $5,700 for his leadership political action committee); Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe ($2,600); and state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored the Energy Transition Act, which mandates significantly higher renewable energy standards for the state. He received $2,600 from Chevron.
Sean Comey, a Chevron executive in San Ramon, Calif., said Friday, “We make political contributions to both major parties to support the election of candidates who believe, like we do, in the value of responsible oil and natural gas development. Our contributions are made in accordance with the law.”
Other lobbyists for energy interests spent more than $31,000 during the recent reporting period.
They spent relatively little on meals, drinks and entertainment — slightly less than $55,000. The biggest spenders in this area were Art Hull, who spent $10,142; Vanessa Alarid, who spent $7,774; Scott Scanland, who spent $3,882; and Thomas Sellers, a lobbyist for for ConocoPhillips, who spent $2,814.
Hull, Alarid and Scanland are contract lobbyists who each have a variety of clients in various sectors.
Other industry contributions through their lobbyists:
• More than $42,000 from the telecommunications industry, all for campaign contributions. The largest donations came from Sacred Wind Communications, which gave two contributions totaling $10,00o to Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, plus $5,000 each to Lujan Grisham and Egolf’s leadership PAC.
• More than $40,000 from health care and pharmaceutical companies. All but $63 of this was for political contributions. The largest was $5,000 to Lujan Grisham from United Healthcare Services. The governor got another $1,000 from Merck Sharp & Dohme, a pharmaceutical company.
• Nearly $20,000 from Natural Rx, an Albuquerque-based medical cannabis company, through its lobbyist Drew Setter. All of its expenses reported were for campaign contributions.
Although political contributions from the medical cannabis industry have been increasing in recent years, Natural Rx was the only one that appeared in the latest round of reports. The biggest recipient from the company was Lujan Grisham’s political action committee, which received $5,500. Rep. Javier Martinez, who sponsored a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, got $2,500, while Egolf’s campaign received $2,000 from Natural Rx.