For 2020 primary candidates, a May report from New Mexico In Depth reported $1.1 million was spent with $180,000 coming since March 11 – when the first COVID-19 case was reported in New Mexico.
During the 2018 election cycle, the oil and gas industry surpassed other top donors such as lawyers, teachers and health professionals, New Mexico Ethics Watch reported.
Up to 500 groups associated with oil and gas were involved in lobbying from 2017 to 2020, the study read, along with almost 100 registered lobbyists.
During the 2019 Legislative Session, this influence took form as House Bill 398 – which would have raised royalty rates oil and gas companies pay to the state for operating facilities – was tabled by lawmakers.
NMEW reported lawmakers who voted against HB 398 received a total of $160,210 in direct campaign contributions from the industry, averaging about $22,887 per vote which ended in a 7-3 decision to table the bill.
But the influence of oil and gas is logical, said House Minority Leader Jim Townsend (R-54) of Artesia as it is a major economic driver and employer in the state, putting thousands of New Mexicans to work.
Townsend, who the study reported received $24,700 from the industry in 2018 said all major industries spend money to make sure their needs and concerns are heard by lawmakers.
He pointed to the education and agriculture industries as other major lobbyists in Santa Fe.
“If roll all the (oil and gas) companies together, several of those companies employ lots of New Mexicans,” Townsend said. “They should have a significant role in that they have a vested interest in the state. Oil and gas is no different from any other industry. They should be active in the state they do business.”
Townsend said the influence of oil and gas on New Mexico politics, like other industries, be it through lobbyists or campaign contributions, would seek to affect decision making that directly impacts the industry by electing politicians or pushing for regulatory changes.
“Oil and gas is going to look to influence legislation that is important to it,” he said. “Every industry tries to protect itself. Every industry tries to affect the legislation that will impact them. I don’t think any industry should be singled out.”
But Heather Ferguson, executive director at Common Cause New Mexico, which helped author the report, warned that oil and gas’ political power could grant it an “unfair” advantage in New Mexico politics.
“The recent oil boom in New Mexico has unleashed more than an ocean of oil and gas money, it has unleashed a gusher of campaign contributions, a flurry of lobbyists offering expensive dinners, and a mammoth public relations offensive financed by one of the largest and most powerful professional associations in the state,” she said.
“With this report, we aim to shed light on the question: is this industry operating at an unfair advantage, buying its way out of regulation and getting…