The Committee for Economic Development, a pro-business think tank in Arlington, Virginia, recently issued a report claiming New Mexico’s economic stagnation is fueled by “crony capitalism,” which includes favors in exchange for campaign contributions.
This piece originally appeared on Follow the Money, a project of the National Institute on Money in State Politics. This piece is shared through a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics decided to examine campaign contributions from the ten companies that benefited most from state subsidies in New Mexico, using a list provided by Good Jobs First. The examination revealed that, by and large, these companies were not major contributors to New Mexico candidates and party committees. However, several were leading contributors within their respective industries.
Political Contributions Made by Subsidy Recipients
Broadly speaking, these subsidy recipients were not among New Mexico’s top campaign contributors. For example, ConocoPhillips gave slightly less than $300,000 during the 14 years analyzed, and was outpaced by 47 other contributors. Intel ranks 226th on the list of state-level contributors in New Mexico. Hewlett Packard, meanwhile, ranks 303rd with $57,280 in donations. In fact, 2012 was the sole year in which any of these donors were among the top 20 state-level donors; ConocoPhillips gave $77,000 that year, the 12th-largest contributor total.
Three of the ten companies gave little or no money, despite collectively receiving $252.9 million in state subsidies. Schott AG, a producer of industrial glass products, is prohibited from giving campaign contributions because it is headquartered in Germany. Sony also cannot make political donations as a Japanese corporation, but its American entertainment subsidiary does not shy away from state-level contributions, and none have landed in New Mexico since 2000. Another entertainment giant, Lions Gate Entertainment, made only one contribution: $1,000 to former Gov. Bill Richardson in his 2006 reelection bid.
Important Donors Nonetheless
Although not among the major donors, five of New Mexico’s foremost subsidy recipients were some of the most generous contributors within their respective industries. For example, Hewlett Packard led the pack of electronics manufacturing and services donors in New Mexico from 2000 through 2014. ConocoPhillips was fourth among oil and gas donors, and Intel held the same rank among computer equipment and services donors. Only four telecommunications donors outpaced Verizon Communications. And Forest City Enterprises may not be a prolific real estate donor in New Mexico, but one of its subsidiaries, Forest City Covington, gave the fourth-largest industry total ($209,849).
Of interest, the political giving of this group is seemingly on the rise, even with the recent enactment of contribution limits in New Mexico. From 2000 through 2010—a period in which contributors operated without limits—these ten companies’ collective total increased by an average of almost $18,000 each election cycle. Beginning in 2011-12, donors were prohibited from giving more than $5,000 to statewide candidates and political parties, and $2,300 to non-statewide candidates. In that cycle, these subsidy recipients contributed $148,250, their largest total since 2000 and $28,258 more than the previous cycle. The collective total dipped to $52,601 in the 2013-14 cycle, but this was an election without state senate contests and a rather uncompetitive gubernatorial race. Contribution limits likely did not play a role, as very few donors reached the new limits in 2012.
All told, these subsidy recipients were clearly not the state’s most prominent campaign donors. Political donations only carried so much weight, given that just one of these subsidy recipients cracked the list of top 50 contributors in New Mexico from 2000 through 2014. Still, it is hard to ignore the prominence of some subsidy recipients within their respective industries, as well as the 2012 spike in contributions.
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