Oil and Gas Industry Funding of New Mexico Politics, Follow the Money…

What is reason big oil contributes so much to New Mexico and to the southern Congressional District? 

14 Congressional Districts produced roughly 80% of onshore U.S. oil and this district inclusive of Otero county is one of those mighty 14 districts.

New Mexico following a 19th Century Budget process of 21st Century needs…

New Mexico for the long term must look at revenue options to wean itself off oil and gas tax revenues but that is an uphill battle. Republican and Democratic leadership of the state has allowed oil and gas to fund such a large portion of government operations that they are fearful to tackle the industry too much as to disrupt the tax revenues the state has become overly reliant on. Over the years, the state’s budget has become increasingly reliant on oil and gas funds. In the 2020 fiscal year, that share was about $2.6 billion — just over a third of the state’s general fund. Since 2006, the state has used oil and gas revenue for at least 28 percent of its budget and sometimes as much as 37 percent.

New Mexico is following a 19th century tax and business model for 21st Century business and public needs. In the end this is a recipe for failure for failing to adapt the model of income generation for the state. New Mexico’s dependence on natural resources has been a feature of the tax structure since statehood in 1912. As decades passed, the resources being pulled from New Mexican earth changed what was once coal, then became uranium, then natural gas and shale oil but the economic model never changed with them times. Basically, the state is running with the same tax model as it did from 1912 but is facing 21st Century needs.

But how did the state become so reliant upon oil and gas money to fund its budgets? First the history as seen above then big money influence. All one must do is to just follow the money paid to political campaigns. Where political contributions go, so goes public policy, it would seem.

Oil and Gas industry money was the largest source of state campaign contributions in 2020, according to an analysis from New Mexico Ethics Watch.

Per New Mexico’s Ethics Watch Report Titled The Continuing Influence of the Oil and Gas Industry in New Mexico in 2020: New Mexico’s Long-Standing Resource Curse…

“In spite of Covid-19 and a state wide shutdown…money from oil and gas interests to New Mexico politicians and political organizations continued to flow, with almost $3.3 million from the industry going to political causes during this past election cycle.”

Between 2017 and 2020 the old and gas industry contributed $11.5 Million to politics in the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico Ethics Watch has documented and researched 98 corporations, 262 individuals, 23 associations, 11 PACs, and almost 100 lobbyists active in New Mexico political campaign fundraising from 2017-2020.

Oil and Gas Political Spending 2017 to 2020

$4.3 MILLION – DIRECT CONTRIBUTIONS
$3.75 MILLION – LOBBYIST CONTRIBUTIONS
$3.4 MILLION – PAC SPENDING
APPROXIMATELY $11.5 MILLION TOTAL

Oil and Gas CONTRIBUTORS to new Mexico Political Circles

98 CORPORATIONS
262 INDIVIDUALS
23 ASSOCIATIONS
11 PACs
~100 ACTIVE LOBBYISTS

A detailed report on campaign money from the oil industry can be found at https://www.nmethicswatch.org/uploads/1/3/6/2/136215453/oil-and-gas-report_05012020.pdf

As was the case in the previous election cycle, the California-based Chevron corporation overwhelming was the top source of political money for New Mexico politicians in 2020, spending almost $1.8 million last year. Chevron lobbyists alone gave $700,000 during the primary to a PAC called “New Mexico Strong,” which, despite its name, is based in Texas.

Have you ever wondered why our member of congress spends so much time in Texas? Follow the money. Over 70 percent of the oil and gas contributions to politicians last year came from out-of-state companies, individuals and committees.

Top 20 Oil & Gas Contributors, 2020 Amount

1 Chevron $1,786,198.90

2 Jalapeno Corporation $142,462.00

3 Exxon Mobil Corporation $117,550.00

4 Strata Production Company $106,500.00

5 Devon Energy $102,500.00

6 Marathon Oil Company $83,500.00

7 Occidental Petroleum Corporation $76,162.50

8 PNM $61,918.18

9 Concho Resources, Inc. $59,350.00

10 Bowlin Travel Centers $57,975.00

11 John Yates $53,500.00

12 John A. Yates Sr Trust $50,000.00

13 Peyton Yates $47,500.00

14 NGL Water Solutions Permian LLC $47,000.00

15 New Mexico Gas Company $45,750.00

16 Process Equipment and Service Co $45,181.50

17 Conoco Phillips $44,500.00

18 Marathon Petroleum Corp. $40,750.00

19 Charlotte Yates $40,000.00

20 Petro-Yates, Inc. $37,000.00

With a few notable exceptions, the top contributors list is composed of corporations. There’s a reason for that. New Mexico law, unlike federal law, allows for direct contributions to candidates by corporations, associations, PACs and individuals

Grouping the oil and gas industry political contribution numbers by election cycles, we see the following amounts:

• 2015/2016: $1,697,488

• 2017/2018: $3,101,581

• 2019/2020: $3,082,830

The California-based Chevron USA is one of the best-known oil companies in the world. It’s also one of the top oil producers in New Mexico, currently holding more than 1,600 active drill permits, some that have been in use since the 1930s, according to data from the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The company also led the oil and gas sector in terms of political spending in the 2020 election cycle, just as it did two years earlier. In 2020, Chevron reported contributing $1,761,198.90 to candidates and political committees in New Mexico. Last year’s Chevron contributions came during a time in which the corporation was losing money – more than $11 billion in new income loss during the 12-month period ending in September 2020.

The top recipient of Chevron’s contributions in New Mexico last year was the political action committee New Mexico Strong, which received a total of $700,000 during the primary from the oil giant. The PAC used the money to produce ads, mailers, and other services for six conservative incumbent Democratic senators facing challenges from more liberal primary opponents. Four of those incumbents lost their primaries.

Chevron also contributed to several leadership PACs in New Mexico in the 2020 election. The company gave Republican PACs $94,300, with PAC 22, (the Senate GOP PAC) getting $50,000 and the New Mexico House Republican Campaign Committee receiving $44,300. But Chevron did not completely leave out Democrats during last year’s election. Chevron contributed $44,300 to the Brian Egolf Speaker PAC, $25,000 to the New Mexico Senate Democrats, $5,000 to the Senate Majority Leader PAC and $10,000 to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s MLG PAC. (The governor was not up for re-election last year.) The company also contributed to dozens of individual candidates in 2020. Chevron contributed $245,300 to Republican candidates and $108,800 to Democrats.

What is all of this money buying?

The industry’s reach stretches beyond campaign donations. Its power led to the demise of a bill that would’ve outlawed spills of produced water, a toxic byproduct of oil and gas drilling. In committee where the measure died, Cervantes blocked public comment on the measure but did give fossil fuel lobbyists a chance to explain why they opposed it, according to the New Mexico Political Report.

Oil and gas industry leaders have also been intimately involved in shaping the policies meant to regulate it – and even boasts about the number of edits it secures to new rules.

In a February presentation, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association told its board it had secured significant changes to a proposed rule for limiting methane pollution. The state accepted more than 70 of the trade group’s redline edits, NMOGA said, according to records obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute.

The “process has been fruitful,” the group announced.

Among the fruits of NMOGA’s nearly $1 million influence campaign was greater leniency on “emergency” exceptions for venting and flaring – referring to the releasing or burning off of excess methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The Future?

With the oil and gas industry providing such a big portion of state government revenues – not to mention providing employment for so many in southeastern and northwestern New Mexico – nobody is predicting the end of fossil fuel production in this state any time in the near future nor should we.

However, what is advocated is that we as citizens need to be wary of where the big money is going. We need to hold our candidates accountable for our wishes not just the wishes of big money contributors. We need to hold candidates accountable to be in their districts in New Mexico and ensure they are representing small business and local interests not just those of big business which is donating millions of dollars to their campaigns. As citizens we need to stay active and vocal and ensure our voice does not get lost in the fray to big money and big corporate political interests.

Attend city commission and county commission meetings, attend congressional and senatorial open houses. The Governor does not make most policy it is made locally and via the legislature. Know what each level of government is up to and hold representatives accountable to represent us, “we the people.”

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