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January 24, 2003

Lobbyists Pay for Golf, Beer, Political Contributions

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE   —   Lobbyists and their employers handed out about $922,300 in political contributions to candidates for the Legislature and other offices, including governor, from May through December.
    The contributions were in addition to $105,215 for meals, beverages, entertainment, gifts and special events for lawmakers, state officials and candidates, including Democrat Bill Richardson when he was campaigning for governor.
    The lobbying expenditures included beer, golf and plenty of meals at restaurants in New Mexico as well as out-of-state locations from New York City to Lake Tahoe.
    Overall, the largest campaign contributors were a tobacco company, horse-racing tracks and a beer distributor.
    Richardson, who took office on Jan. 1, was the top recipient of campaign contributions from lobbyists and their clients   —   collecting $227,836 from May through December. Earlier in the year, Richardson received about $72,000 from lobbyists and their employers.
    The expenditures were disclosed in the latest reports filed by lobbyists with the secretary of state's office. The filing deadline was last week.
    Philip Morris Management Co. was the top contributor by a lobbyist employer, giving $65,700 to candidates, including about 80 House and Senate members. Richardson was the biggest recipient, getting $10,000 from the tobacco giant.
    Ruidoso Downs reported contributions of $35,900 to legislative and other campaign committees, and Sunland Park track and casino gave $26,250 in contributions.
    Premier Distributing, an Albuquerque beer distributor, contributed $27,100, including donations to about 30 legislative candidates. Anheuser-Busch Cos., the world's largest brewer, contributed $25,500.
    As part of its lobbying expenditures, Premier provided $3,135 worth of beer for fund-raisers and campaign rallies, including for incumbent legislators and Richardson.
    For example, $90 in beer was reported for a Richardson rally in Belen, $225 for a rally in Pecos and $150 for Richardson's general election "victory party" in Albuquerque.
    Other expenditures:
      —   El Paso Energy gave a $1,000 gift certificate from a bicycle shop to former Gov. Gary Johnson. The company has been a sponsor of Johnson's annual Trek for Trash, in which he and others bicycled across the state to pick up litter, said Nancy King, a lobbyist for the company.
      —   A $2,408 dinner in Lake Tahoe for New Mexico legislators attending a mid-July meeting of the Council of State Government-West conference. A lobbyist reported five of his clients, including Excel Energy and the New Mexico Broadcasters Association, picked up the tab.
      —   Golf packages valued at $812 for Reps. James Taylor, D-Albuquerque, and Ken Martinez, D-Grants. Giant Industries, an oil refiner and marketing company, sponsored the lawmakers in golf tournaments   —   in Angel Fire for Taylor and in Taos for Martinez   —   to raise money for a Hispanic college scholarship fund, said Gary Kilpatric, a lobbyist for the company.
      —   A $170 dinner at an Italian restaurant in New York City for Richardson and Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque. A lobbyist for Marathon Oil Co. picked up the tab for the mid-October dinner, reporting the cost at $85 for each man. The same lobbyist reported spending almost $109 for a dinner for Richardson at a Santa Fe restaurant less than two weeks earlier.
      —   Phelps Dodge Mining Co. spent nearly $2,625 for two dinners and lunch for members and staff of the Legislative Finance Committee when the panel met in Silver City in June. The company has copper mines in the area.
    Including disclosures made earlier this year, lobbyists and their clients spent a total of $478,040 in 2002. Nearly three-fifths of that went for "special events" such as receptions and dinners for groups of lawmakers and state officials.
    Lobbyists and their employers contributed $1.1 million in campaign contributions from January through December. Expenditures and political contributions from January through April were reported earlier in the year.