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Lobbyists spend $595K on legislators

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Lobbyists spent well over half a million dollars in the past five months feeding New Mexico lawmakers, entertaining them and donating to political campaigns.

Financial reports filed by lobbyists this week outline about $595,000 in spending – the overwhelming bulk of it on campaign donations – since May.

More than $175,000 alone came from Chevron, the energy industry giant involved in oil and gas operations.

Chevron USA Inc. spread its money around, donating to the campaigns of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and dozens of Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Most of the legislative donations came in chunks of $2,600 a piece, well below the donation limit of $5,000 for an election cycle.

“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,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said in a written statement. “Our contributions are made in accordance with the law.”

The donations attracted the attention of climate change activists this week. They assailed state elected officials for having accepted money from “Big Oil.”

Lujan Grisham addressed the annual conference of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association this week, thanking the industry for its contributions to the state. An oil boom in southeastern New Mexico has pushed state revenue to record highs.

The governor has also pushed for new regulations to control methane emissions and earlier this year signed a sweeping law requiring public utilities to move to carbon-free energy generation by 2045.

New Mexico is the third-largest oil producer in the United States.

Chevron’s contributions are outlined in a report filed by Patrick Killen, a lobbyist based in Santa Fe. The donations, he reported, were made on behalf of Chevron.

Other lobbyists disclosed a healthy amount of spending on behalf of telecommunication companies. Nearly $23,000 was spent on behalf of Sacred Wind Communications and $11,500 on behalf of AT&T.

The lobbyist reports cover a five-month period through Oct. 7. It’s a time of year when legislative committees generally start their between-session work by hearing reports, accepting public comment and preparing for the session that begins in January.

Altogether, the lobbyists said they spent about $539,000 on political contributions and about $52,000 on food and drinks.

All 112 members of the state Legislature will be on the ballot next year. The governor and statewide elected officials go before voters in 2022.

The meal spending included lobbyists’ picking up the lunch or dinner tab for committees in some cases and covering one-on-one meals with legislators.

Lobbyist Carol Leach, for example, reported spending about $316 on lunch at the Cattle Baron in Roswell for a legislative transportation subcommittee. The spending was on behalf of Concho Resources Inc., an oil and gas company that operates in the Permian Basin.

A sliver of the reported spending was for entertainment or other costs.

Lobbyist J.D. Bullington reported entertainment expenses of $120 – a complimentary concert ticket for Democratic Rep. Georgene Louis to see Rob Thomas, formerly of the rock band Matchbox Twenty, at the Route 66 Casino Theater. The spending was on behalf of Laguna Development Corp., according to Bullington’s report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the governor and other statewide offices go before voters in 2020. They are on the ballot in 2022.

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