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.

(5) comments

Craig O'Hare

"New Mexico: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" - In a true, citizen-based democracy, such wining and dining and "contributions" (aka bribes) by corporations would be considered graft and corruption subject to prison time. In New Mexico, as in the rest of the country, it's just business-as-usual

Dr. Michael Johnson

Tom Sellers? Really?

Tom Ribe

Chevron is pushing the Trump administration to allow them to enter the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to start destroying the land and wildlife there. This is the most important wildlife area on earth and Don Trump is intent on allowing vast areas of it to be bulldozed, covered with pipelines and oil spills and total destruction of millions of birds and caribou. Chevron can't wait. They couldn't care less about the last wild places on earth. They are driven by greed. New Mexico politicians should return their money and tell them to leave our state.

Jim Clark

Now we know who these elected officials work for. This is only the the money we see, not dark money. We need to end legalized bribery through lobbyists and super PACS. We are better than this and we can do so much better. The Democratic Party is in charge right now and if we don’t do something to change this system, we no longer deserve to stay in power.

Paul Gibson

Couldn't agree more with Jim Clark and thank you for this report, Steve. For info on how to work to reform the party and to advocate effectively, check our Blog posts go out 5 days a week covering NM politics from a progressive perspective.

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