Contributions were made from late April through December
SANTA FE — Lobbyists and their clients primed the political pump with $1.5 million in contributions to legislators, state and local candidates, as well as political committees last year, with a third of that from a union representing governmental employees.
A review of lobbyist disclosure reports by The Associated Press found the biggest contributor was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which handed out about $592,300 in contributions.
“These are critical times, and the politicians directly affect our members,” said Carter Bundy, the union’s legislative director for New Mexico.
Of those, $310,000 went to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish, who lost to Republican Susana Martinez, and another $140,000 to a political committee that worked to elect Democratic candidates in the state.
About $83,000 went to legislative candidates and their political committees. Other statewide, judicial and local government candidates also received contributions from the union.
In this year’s Legislature, public employees and educators are the target of a budget proposal that would reduce their take-home pay by requiring them to pay more into their pensions as the state and other governments reduce their contributions.
Oil and gas companies and their lobbyists contributed nearly $183,000. That included about $72,000 from Enterprise Products Operating, a pipeline company that operates a natural gas gathering system in northwestern New Mexico, and about $35,000 each from ConocoPhillips and Chevron.
The contributions were delivered from late April through December, when legislators and other candidates faced primary and general elections, and then prepared for the 60-day legislative session that started this month.
Lawmakers are expected to consider a wide range of campaign finance and ethics reforms during this year’s legislative session, including a proposal to political contributions from lobbyists, state contractors and those seeking government subsidies.
“Every lobbyist has an inherent conflict of interest because they are seeking to either pass or defeat legislation, often to benefit a narrow special interest rather than the public at large,” Fred Nathan, executive director of Think New Mexico, a think tank that advocates the lobbyist contribution ban, said Friday.
Besides making campaign contributions, lobbyists spent about $90,500 on meals, drinks, gifts, entertainment and receptions for lawmakers and other state officials, according to expenditure reports filed by lobbyists with the secretary of state earlier this month. State law imposes a $250 limit on the value of individual gifts that can be accepted by a state official, employee or candidate for state office and a yearly cap of $1,000 on the combined value of gifts that can be given to any one state government official or employee by a lobbyist, their employer or government contractor.
Among the spending disclosed in the reports were:
- Nearly $1,900 worth of beer supplied for the governor’s inaugural and an election night victory party. A distributor, Premier Distributing, provided cases of beer for the events.
- $916 in tickets to four legislators to attend concerts and other entertainment at Laguna Pueblo’s casino west of Albuquerque. The tickets went to Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola; and Reps. Ray Begaye; D-Shiprock; Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola; and Andrew Barreras, D-Tome, who lost his re-election bid. Martinez attended concerts by ZZ Top and Boyz II Men. Begaye and Rodella went to an appearance by psychic Sylvia Browne. A lobbyist for Laguna Development Corp. provided the tickets.
- A $239 guided fly-fishing trip on the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico for Begaye by the lobbyist representing Laguna Development and a dozen other clients.
Friday, 28 January 2011 15:20
Lobbyists and their clients handed out $1.5 million in campaign contributions to legislators, candidates and political committees last year.
A review of lobbyist disclosure reports by The Associated Press found the biggest contributor was a labor union representing public employees.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $592,000 in contributions. Of those, $310,000 went to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish, who lost to Republican Susana Martinez.
Oil and gas companies and their lobbyists contributed nearly $183,000.
The contributions were delivered from late April through December, when legislators and other candidates were facing primary and general elections and then preparing for the 60-day legislative session that started this month.
Lobbyists also spent about $90,000 on meals, drinks, entertainment and receptions for lawmakers and other state officials.