NM lobbyist spending & loophole fix

Our partner New Mexico in Depth continues to follow spending by lobbyists during the Legislative session.

Lobbyist spending on lawmakers during session nears $107,000

Plenty of wining and dining of lawmakers occurred in the past week, as lobbyist spending during the session neared $107,000.

The University of New Mexico threw a reception at the La Fonda at a cost of $11,146. Comcast spent $10,341 feting legislators to dinner at Restaurant Martin.

But not all 112 lawmakers were invited to every event as the Legislature neared the end of the third week of the session.

The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee lunched at the Inn at Loretto courtesy of New Mexico Gas Co. The House Judiciary Committee dined with Julianna Koob, a lobbyist representing a variety of clients.

And a half dozen lawmakers and their guests dined at the La Fonda with Louisiana Energy Services footing the bill.

Lobbyists and their employers must report any spending of $500 or more within 48 hours during a legislative session. So the total doesn’t include smaller or less-expensive events, including some listed on the Legislature’s busy social calendar.

Click here for a look at all the spending reported through February 6 from our partner New Mexico in Depth.

Lobbying fix faces new opposition

The sponsor of legislation that would require lobbyists to disclose more about what they spend each year on state lawmakers and other public officials said he was considering changing the bill after a fifth state lawmaker publicly stated his opposition Friday morning.

“Clearly there is heartburn with some of the progressive ideas that I’ve proposed” in SB 168, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said.

Steinborn’s reconsideration came after Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, became the fifth lawmaker on the Senate Rules Committee to openly block the legislation.

On Wednesday Candelaria had voted against a motion to not pass SB 168 out of the Senate Rules Committee, joining three other Democrats against four Republican Senators who wanted to table the legislation.

The bill’s main goal is to fix a transparency loophole the Legislature created last year that allows lobbyists to disclose much less about how they spend money on public officials. Prior to the 2016 legislation that created the loophole, lobbyists had to disclose all of their expenditures on lawmakers.

On Friday morning Candelaria informed his fellow state lawmakers on the Rules committee that he was changing his vote and wanted to table the legislation. That means four Republicans and one Democrat now support keeping the lobbying reporting bill in the committee.

Candelaria said he had encouraged his Democratic colleague to work with other lawmakers to reach a compromise.

“I have no opposition to his intent or some of the issues he’s trying to point out,” Candelaria said of Steinborn. “I just think as written the bill’s reporting requirement would be nearly impossible to fully comply with. I’ve encouraged him to work with folks to try to come up with a committee substitute.”

Steinborn disagreed with Candelaria’s assessment saying lobbyists would comply even though the Legislature was asking them to “handle their business in a new way.”

But he didn’t want opposition to some provisions to undercut the section that would close last year’s loophole, Steinborn said.

As it is now, the legislation would fix the loophole that was created last year when state lawmakers removed a requirement for lobbyists to report expenses spent on individual lawmakers below $100. Previously, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per lawmaker and reporting the cumulative amount of expenses below $75 per lawmaker.

As of July 1, 2016, lobbyists didn’t have to report any spending below $100 per lawmaker.

Click here for the story from New Mexico in Depth.

People, Power and Democracy is a collaborative media project between KUNM, New Mexico in Depth, New Mexico PBS and the New Mexico News Port that explores the influence of money in New Mexico politics. Partial support for the project comes from the Thornburg Foundation.