McCleskey, Full Arsenal top list of campaign beneficiaries

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McCleskey Media Strategies topped the list of consultants and vendors paid by candidates and political action committees between October and early April, taking in nearly $373,000.

Operated by Jay McCleskey, Republican Gov. Susana’s Martinez’s top political adviser, the firm received most of the money from PACs related to the governor, according to an analysis of reports filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office last week.

Full Arsenal Strategies came in second, receiving nearly $171,000 from a half dozen Democratic candidates, including secretary of state candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver. That company is operated by Alan Packman, who is managing Toulouse Oliver’s campaign.

The half million dollars logged by McCleskey Media and Full Arsenal represented 18 percent of the nearly $2.9 million New Mexico political action committees and candidates spent between Oct. 6, 2015, and April 4. Expenses varied from pricey consultants to postage.

And you can expect the large-dollar numbers to continue as Democrats and Republicans battle over control of the Legislature, said Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. Republicans took control of the New Mexico House of Representatives for the first time in 60 years after the 2014 election.

“Campaigns are just so much bigger than they were even a couple of cycles ago,” she said. “I’m hearing from candidates that they’re being told by both of the parties that they need a campaign manager, they need someone doing fundraising, and a volunteer program. It’s no longer ‘my husband runs my campaign and my grandmother is my treasurer.’ ”

New Mexico In Depth analyzed the reports filed April 11 to determine what businesses are making money on the election cycle, how candidates are supporting each other and to understand how money flows through the state’s web of political action committees.

Those top 20 recipients of campaign cash represent about $1.2 million of the nearly $2.9 million spent, or more than 40 percent of the campaign spending from October through early April. This analysis doesn’t include contributions to other campaigns or PACs.

Here’s a chart of the top 20:

Both Democratic and Republican candidates spent money on postage from the U.S. Postal Service and on phone service from Verizon.

Republicans favored printing from Print Mart and All Type, while Democrats patronized Greetings Inc. and Don Mickey Designs.

Here are some details about some of the firms earning the money:

  • McCleskey’s firm received more than $241,000 in consulting fees, with the rest going to media buys, production and printing. The company received money from Susana PAC, Advance New Mexico Now, Advance Las Cruces and Albuquerque school board member Peggy Muller-Aragon.
  • Jessica Perez, who served as finance director for Martinez’s last campaign, is now doing work for Susana PAC, Advance New Mexico Now and House Speaker Don Tripp and the Don Tripp Speaker  PAC.
  • Blue Advantage Partners is working for the House Democratic Campaign Committee and the New Mexico Defense Fund, a PAC founded by House Minority Leader Brian Egolf.
  • Blue Advantage shares an address with ALLS Inc., a new firm in the top 20 that is also working for the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
  • Leanne Leith, formerly of Conservation Voters of New Mexico, is among the top 20 being paid by the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
  • CB Strategies, owned by consultant Carolyn Buerkle, is working for the New Mexico Senate Majority Leadership Fund, the Committee to Elect Senate Democrats and the New Mexico Senate Victory Fund, as well as Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.
  • Egolf rounds out the top 20, having received nearly $16,800 in travel and other reimbursements from his campaign and New Mexico Defense Fund.

Among the expenses reported paid to the top 20 vendors:

  • Advance New Mexico Now, whose treasurer is Melissa Sousa, whom the governor selected to run her re-election campaign in 2014,  spent more than $91,000  on TV ads for eliminating drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The ads ran early in the legislative session before a compromise on the issue was reached. The group also paid McCleskey Media for media services and production.
  • NM PAC WEST paid Print Mart more than $10,000 to distribute voter surveys in Senate Districts 36, held by Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, and 39, held by Sen. Ted Barela, R-Estancia. That PAC is funded thus far by Devon Energy Corp. and New Mexico Auto Dealers.
  • New Mexico Forward spent $20,800 in late October for Golden, Colo.,-based Public Opinion Research to conduct a survey.
  • Muller-Aragon spent $13,910 earlier this month on McCleskey Media for mailers and paid walkers. The Albuquerque Public School Board member reported receiving $15,000 from Martinez’s gubernatorial campaign fund.

Check out details for all candidate and PAC spending on items other campaign contributions to other candidates and PACs. And let us know what interesting observations your investigation brings.

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