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Progressive Dems are fighting for voters over corporate interests

In his June 2 Journal op-ed, “NM’s progressive Dems splinter party, ignore reality,” Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, blames progressives for “splintering” the Democratic Party. Maybe he should ask some of his Democratic constituents or his House colleagues how they feel about all of the progressive legislation passed by the House during this year’s legislative session that died or was otherwise neutered by Sanchez, along with a group of his allies in the State Senate who some call the Corporate Democrat Coalition or CDC.

From expanding early childhood funding, to a larger increase in the minimum wage, to asking corporations and the wealthiest New Mexicans to pay their fair share of taxes, Sanchez and the CDC undermined efforts by House Democrats and the governor to improve the lives of New Mexicans.

In his op-ed, Sanchez claims “efficacy” is more important than “ideology.” We agree, except we would ask – efficacy for whom? Sanchez has been incredibly effective at representing the interests of the largest corporations in New Mexico. However, when it comes to representing everyday working New Mexicans, not so much.

It’s not easy to get a 100% rating for several years running from the Association for Commerce and Industry, the state’s biggest corporate lobbying organization. But Sanchez pulled that off four years in a row. Maybe that’s why corporate PACs have showered Sanchez with more than $200,000 in campaign contributions since he was elected in 2012.

Don’t take our word for it. Go to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s campaign finance reports at http://www.sos.state.nm.us to see who is bankrolling Sanchez. His contributor list reads like a who’s who of big corporate donors: almost $25,000 from big financial institutions, including payday lenders, in a state with one of the highest poverty rates in the country; $38,000 from pharmaceutical and health care companies, in a state with a drug addiction and overdose crisis; and more than $45,000 from big utilities and oil and gas companies, in a state that should be leading the country in renewable energy. Most of the money came after he became chair of the powerful Senate Corporations (and Transportation) Committee, where most progressive economic legislation goes to die.

The most cynical part of Sanchez’s voting record is that, like his action on the minimum wage, he takes credit for these so-called compromises after leading efforts to water down legislation. These compromises represent lost opportunities for many New Mexicans, from larger increases in the Working Families Tax Credit, to asking corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, to additional funding for early childhood.

Sanchez can call doing the bidding of big business “compromise” or “efficacy.” We call it selling out working families and failing to act on their behalf. Corporations have their own representatives in the legislature – they are called lobbyists. We need legislators to represent the people who can’t afford to hire their own lobbyists. Their job is to represent voters, not big corporations.

Sanchez clearly failed to learn the lessons of the past electoral cycle and session. It’s not about compromises; it’s about delivering for residents and making life better for the many working families in New Mexico, not the few powerful corporations that bankroll campaigns of lawmakers like Sanchez. In the 2018 election, big corporate entities such as Chevron and PNM spent millions to elect candidates who would do their bidding. They lost. In 2020, New Mexicans will again reject candidates who are beholden to their corporate agendas.

New Mexicans have been forced to accept half measures toward progress for too long. Sanchez and his Corporate Democrat Coalition can blame progressives for holding them accountable to working families’ needs. But they will only be able to blame themselves for putting “efficacy” for big business over Democratic values when voters go to the polls.

Eric Griego is a former New Mexico state senator and Albuquerque city councilor. The New Mexico Working Families Party is an independent political organization that fights for progressive policy reform by recruiting, electing and holding accountable elected officials at all levels of government.

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