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Committee tied to PNM spends heavily in primary

Mailer supporting an incumbent on the PRC, paid for by New Mexicans for Progress

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A political committee backed by the parent company of PNM emerged as the biggest spender of its kind in the closing days of New Mexico’s primary election season, according to state campaign records.

The group, New Mexicans for Progress, spent about $163,000 in the last week of the primary campaign, easily outdistancing any other political committee.

It was involved in primary races for at least two seats on the Public Regulation Commission – the body that regulates utilities, including Public Service Company of New Mexico. PNM Resources is the parent corporation of the utility company.

There were plenty of other big spenders in the period before the June 5 primary election – including a national group that helps Democrats win legislative seats and a conservation group that supports pro-environment candidates.

But none came close to the spending by New Mexicans for Progress, which shelled out roughly $180,000 in a recent one-month period. The spending included payments of about $163,000 – the week before the election – to McCleskey Media Strategies, the company headed by Jay McCleskey, chief political adviser to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The reports filed this week don’t specify which candidates the group supported or opposed.

But its work included advertisements supporting Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones, a moderate Democrat and the incumbent, and opposing his rival, Steve Fischmann, a progressive Democrat.

Fischmann won the race and will face Republican Ben Hall, a former PRC member, in the Nov. 6 general election.

New Mexicans for Progress was involved in at least one other PRC campaign, in which a candidate it opposed, Janene Yazzie, lost the race.

The committee’s work was financed largely by PNM Resources Inc., which donated $440,000. An Ohio-based company, American Electric Power Service Corp., also chipped in, with $25,000.

Ben Shelton of Conservation Voters New Mexico said it was “deeply troubling to see a regulated utility like PNM put that sort of money into selecting its own regulators.”

A political committee affiliated with Conservation Voters was also a big spender ahead of last month’s primary election, with involvement in the primary campaigns for state land commissioner and two PRC seats.

The Conservation Voters New Mexico Verde Voters Fund spent about $58,000.

PNM Resources, for its part, said it was simply “exercising its right to participate in the political process, as other groups and organizations do.”

The company said its shareholders, not PNM customers, paid for the political donations.

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