Oil and gas lobbyists spend big on campaigns, PACs
By Steve Terrell
The New Mexican
Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians.
An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October.
By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions. That’s more than a third of the total of $521,164 in political donations listed in all the new reports.
“Wow. That’s an incredible amount of money for the year before the election,” said Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause when told of the contributions by Chevron’s lobbyist. Referring to all the lobbyist money she said, “It keeps exploding every year.”
A huge chunk of Chevron’s money — $77,000 — went to conservative and oil-friendly political action committees. Perry gave $11,000 each to 579 PAC, Affordable Energy PAC, New Mexico Family First, New Mexico Forward, Progress New Mexico, the Republican Leadership PAC and the Republican Campaign Committee of New Mexico.
Besides the campaign contributions, lobbyists reported spending $38,542 on meals, drinks and entertainment for legislators and other politicians since October.
Other oil and gas lobbyists who were major political contributors included Leland Gould of Andeavor, parent company of Western Refining, who gave $27,000 in contributions, and Samantha Omey of Exxon Mobil, who gave $22,700.
Robert Donaldson, lobbyist for Altria, the corporate parent of Philip Morris and other tobacco companies as well as wineries, was the second largest contributor. He gave $33,500.
Several longtime New Mexico contract lobbyists, who represent multiple clients, also were among the top spenders. These included:
• Luke Otero, who represents DCP Midstream, Fed Ex, New Mexico Optometric Association and Prime Therapeutics, made $25,000 in campaign contributions.
• J.D. Bullington, lobbyist for Union Pacific Railroad, Laguna Development Corp. and an online education company called K12 Inc., made $24,800 in contributions and chipped in $294 for a lunch at Hotel Santa Fe for the House Democratic Caucus in October.
• Marco Gonzales, who represents Verizon and Santa Fe lawyer Dan Perry of Troutstalker Ranch near Chama, made $19,500 in contributions.
• Art Hull, whose clients include Public Service Company of New Mexico, The University of New Mexico, Devon Energy and Century Bank, made $16,100 in campaign contributions — all on behalf of his own company. Hull also spent $5,625 on meals and beverages between Oct. 31 and Dec. 31 to “inform and discuss concerns with elected officials.”
The leadership of the Legislature normally gets a big share of the campaign contributions from lobbyists. In this round of reports, House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, received more than any other leader in the Legislature.
Gentry received $27,350, significantly more than House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who took in $19,250.
Lobbyists gave Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, $10,200. Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, received $8,950, while Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, collected $6,950.
State legislators aren’t the only recipients of campaign cash from lobbyists. The reports also disclose money given to candidates for statewide office.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., is the clear favorite of lobbyists who gave to gubernatorial candidates. She received $15,600 from lobbyists since October, the reports show. In addition to the campaign contributions she received, lobbyist Mark Duran threw a luncheon for her at Sandia Pueblo’s resort north of Albuquerque. Duran reported spending $4,008 on the event. That was the largest single amount any lobbyist reported spending on meals and entertainment.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for governor, took in $6,100 from lobbyists. Of that total, $5,500 came from Chevron’s lobbyist.
Lobbyists gave smaller amounts to two other Democratic gubernatorial candidates, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, ($1,500) and businessman Jeff Apodaca ($450).
Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at www.santafenewmexican.com/roundhouse_roundup.