January 16, 2019

Lobbyists spend to get to know legislators

Concho Resources really wants to get to know you.

At least, if you’re on the Legislative Finance Committee.

The oil and gas company’s lobbyist reported spending $4,173 at the upscale Santa Fe restaurant La Casa Sena last month on “relationship building” with the influential committee.

Lobbyists had a deadline Tuesday night to report spending from the beginning of October to the end of December. This restaurant tab was the single biggest expense disclosed by any of the Capitol’s legion of professional wheelers and dealers.

The company’s lobbyist, Carol Leach, also reported spending $271 at the restaurant Santacafé last month. Leach’s guests were then-Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Ken McQueen and his wife, as well as then-Oil Conservation Division Director Heather Riley and one unidentified person.

The occasion? “Appreciation for service to NM,” Leach wrote.

And Concho reported spending $200 at Rio Chama Steakhouse on the Economic and Rural Development Committee for a farewell to state Rep. Debbie Rodella. The Democrat from Española lost her seat in the primary election last year.

In all, Leach reported $4,978 in expenses in the last three months.

But that only makes Concho’s lobbyist the second-biggest spender during that period.

Arthur V. Hull reported $5,598 in expenses.

Hull’s clients include everyone from PNM to UNM, Devon Energy, Century Bank and the Pew Charitable Trust. But he did not report any expenses over $100 and, in turn, did not disclose the names of any of the officials he lobbied.

Legislators created a loophole in the law just a few years ago. With the change, lobbyists do not have to report expenses under $100.

Hull’s listing of aggregate spending goes beyond what the law requires. There may be plenty more spending by other lobbyists that simply goes undisclosed.

Lawmakers approved a bill last year that would have required lobbyists to report the total of their expenses under $100.

Gov. Susana Martinez never signed the bill, however.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, has introduced the measure again this year and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham specifically said in her State of the State Address on Monday that she quickly wants legislation that changes lobbyist reporting requirements to improve transparency.