Wednesday, September 17, 2008
'Advocacy' Work Raises Questions
By Colleen Heild
Journal Staff Writer
That Democrat Martin Heinrich has promoted the causes of various nonprofit environmental groups isn't in dispute. And in the race for the 1st Congressional District seat, his campaign concedes he was paid at times for his “advocacy” work.
Why didn't he register as a lobbyist with the state or federal government?
Heinrich on Tuesday said he wasn't legally required to register, in part because he didn't earn enough money lobbying.
Not everyone is satisfied with that response.
The campaign of his Republican opponent, Darren White, and the Republican Party of New Mexico have been hammering Heinrich for days, asking him to release all business records related to his paid lobbying career.
Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor, said he was paid principally by the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness to lobby for the creation of the Ojito Wilderness northwest of Albuquerque. The federal legislation passed in 2005.
Federal law requires registration if a lobbyist receives more than $5,000 in a six month period from an organization, and spends more than 20 percent of his or her time on lobbying activities of the organization.
“There was never a time when I was paid that much to lobby anyone,” said Heinrich. “Now, I did other things that I was compensated for, but I never made that much money lobbying any entity, either state or federal.”
State law requires registration of a lobbyist designated by an interest group or organization to represent it on a “substantial or regular basis” for the purpose of lobbying,” but it sets no threshold on earnings.
Asked whether he ever got legal advice on the registration question, Heinrich responded, “I've worked with 501(c)3 (nonprofit organizations) for many years. I know the limitations of the law.”
James Scarantino, who headed the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness from about 2000 to 2004, and who is supporting White in the congressional contest, said Heinrich lobbied on behalf of the coalition and his lobbying expenses were paid for by various groups including the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and the Campaign for America's Wilderness.
“The exact sums he was getting paid, I don't know, but I do believe he was making well over $5,000 every six months,” Scarantino said Tuesday.
“I'm upset to learn our lobbyist had not registered ... That could have jeopardized our campaign if it came out while it was going on,” said Scarantino.
Heinrich told the Journal he “wouldn't put a lot of stock personally in what he (Scarantino) has to say.”
Earlier, at a news conference, Heinrich sidestepped a question about whether he'd release his tax records related to lobbying. In response he said, “I'm very proud of the work that I've done with our delegation and with many members of our community to protect the Ojito Wilderness.”