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.
BLANCO, N.M. – Most evenings, the quiet is almost intoxicating. The whoosh of the wind through the junipers, the whinny of horses in their stalls, the raspy squawking of ravens – those are the sounds Don and Jane Schreiber have grown to love on their remote Devil’s Spring Ranch. The views are mesmerizing, too. Long, lonesome ridges of khaki-colored rocks, dome-like outcrops and distant mesas rise from a sea of sage and rabbitbrush. The ranch and surrounding countryside are a surprising setting for an enduring climate change problem: a huge cloud of methane – a potent, heat-trapping gas – that is 10 times larger than the city of Chicago.
Each announcement by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about his picks for cabinet positions flares public interest. Whether it’s ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department or former Texas Governor Rick Perry as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, the appointments provide insight into what the businessman’s presidency might mean for America and the rest of the world. Those appointments will have significant impacts here in New Mexico, which has 23 sovereign Native American tribes, millions of acres of federal lands and an abundance of natural resources like oil, gas, coal, copper and uranium. Not only that, but in the past five years, the state’s environmental regulations and agencies—which might have been able to hold the line against some of the incoming president’s policies—have been weakened during the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez. When it comes to issues like science and environmental regulations, high-level staff picks have long-term impacts on everything from pollution trends and energy policy to the rate at which the Earth’s atmosphere is warming.
There’s plenty of imperfection and discrepancy when it comes to trying to figure out campaign finance data in New Mexico. A year ago, New Mexico In Depth reported how lobbyist contributions helped Republicans win the state House for the first time in 60 years. But NMID also pointed out that candidates don’t always report those contributions consistently. KOB-TV did a series outlining such discrepancies in campaign contribution reports by legislative leaders last November. The Secretary of State’s office clarified reporting requirements for lobbyists, and the Legislature passed a law aimed at improving reporting.
Republicans raised more than twice what Democrats took in when it comes to 2015 campaign contributions from lobbyists and their employers. Nearly half the total of $1.1 million in campaign contributions from lobbyists and their employers to New Mexico politicians and political action committees in 2015 came after Oct. 5, 2015. That’s the last date candidates and PACs had to report contributions in 2015. So the lobbyist and employer reporting paints a picture of donations leading up to the 30-day 2016 legislative session that started Tuesday.