- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Lobbyists and their clients handed out about $403,000 in campaign contributions to legislators, Gov. Susana Martinez and others in the months leading up to this year’s legislative session, according to the latest state disclosure reports.

The oil and gas industry accounted for not quite half of the lobbyist campaign contributions from late April through the end of last year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of disclosures filed by lobbyists with the secretary of state’s office.

But state law makes it impossible to track the source of campaign contributions listed in spending reports by some lobbyists.

Most lobbyists voluntarily disclose the names of clients on whose behalf they provided political contributions. In other instances, the company employing the lobbyist files a separate report disclosing their spending, including campaign contributions.

But at least $130,000 was contributed by lobbyists - some with a dozen or more clients - with no information to indicate whether the money was given personally or the donation came from certain clients.

Eventually, the information will be disclosed by candidates receiving the donations. However, legislators don’t have to file campaign finance reports until later in the year - well after the legislative session ends.

Ken Ortiz, chief of state for Secretary of State Dianna Duran, said state law doesn’t require a lobbyist to identity the clients on whose behalf they are making contributions. Instead, lobbyists must list in their expenditure reports only the amount, date and recipient of contributions they are making personally or providing from a client.

The leader of a government watchdog group said the disclosure loophole should be fixed.

“It completely obscures where this money is coming from,” Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said Monday. “We think anybody who contributes to these candidates, whether they are a lobbyist, their clients or somebody completely different, should be listed.”

The contributions from lobbyists are in addition to about $660,000 spent by lobbyists last year for food, drinks, gifts and entertainment for lawmakers and other state officials.

The top source of campaign money from the oil and gas industry was Devon Energy, an independent oil and natural gas producer with operations in New Mexico. The company contributed $65,700, including $10,400 to the governor in October and the rest to more than 30 legislators a month before this year’s legislative session convened.

The industry opposed a proposal last year in the Legislature that would have raised the fines for water pollution from oil and gas production. The measure died in the House.

Gambling interests - horse-racing tracks and American Indian tribes with casinos - contributed at least $55,000 to lawmakers, the governor and other candidates, including State Auditor Hector Balderas, who is running for attorney general this year.

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino contributed $23,000, including $7,000 to the governor.

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which develops and operates the tribe’s casinos, contributed $8,000 - $3,000 to the governor and $2,500 to each of the top Democratic legislative leaders, House Speaker Ken Martinez of Grants and Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces.

The Navajos are seeking legislative approval this session of a new gambling compact that would allow the tribe to open three additional casinos. The compact was negotiated with the Martinez administration.

Campaign contributions typically flow before and after a legislative session because state law prohibits legislators and the governor from soliciting political donations from Jan. 1 through the end of the session. The prohibited period for the governor continues after the Legislature’s adjournment for 20 days when bills can be signed.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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