Roundhouse hall talk: “The barber is in the House”

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*This article has been updated twice

A stylist applies make-up to a state lawmaker at a pop-up salon at the New Mexico state capital on March 4. Stacked on the table are make-up compacts, and in the background another stylist is blowdrying hair.

Need a haircut? If you know a lobbyist, and you’re a lawmaker, you might get a free cut. And conveniently, you could get the cut, or a blow-out, or even help with your make-up, right here in the Roundhouse.

Lobbyists have been talking to New Mexico In Depth reporters all session, as it turns out, telling us that they get hit up for meals and drinks by lawmakers regularly. Or, what they intend to be a modest lunch turns into a big ticket because the lawmaker orders the most expensive items on the menu.

We’re not naming them, but it’s become sort of a theme this session–different NM In Depth reporters, talking to different lobbyists (more than a handful), who say the same thing. It’s an interesting hack on the narrative that lobbyists are the ones who initiate the big spending that goes on in the lawmaking or regulatory process. One lobbyist urged us to look into it. We responded that it’s kind of hard to do because lobbyists aren’t required to report who they are spending money on, so most don’t.

Then a bill passed on the House floor last night that would ban lobbyists from spending money on lawmakers during the session. It appears there are some lawmakers who don’t like all the spending either. This morning, NM In Depth staff have heard from more than one lobbyist that they fully support the measure.

They’ve approached us out of the blue, asking us if we’ve heard about the bill, and letting us know they get hit up for all sorts of things. Including, as it turns out, haircuts.

And, yes, the stylists are in the Roundhouse. Today, as it happens. So we went looking, and we found the pop-up hair salon. Numerous stylists were doing hair and makeup for numerous lawmakers, tucked away in an office on the ground floor of the Roundhouse this morning.

It’s very possible the lawmakers we saw this morning paid for the services themselves. But sometimes, we hear, a lobbyist will offer their business card to a lawmaker to give the stylist, who in turn will bill the lobbyist. Other times, the lawmaker will ask the lobbyist to pay for the styling.

So add personal grooming to the list of items lobbyists spend money on. But just know, you won’t see it described on lobbyist spending reports to the Secretary of State, because New Mexico law let’s them just categorize it as “aggregate expenditures under $100.”


Clarification one:

We were contacted by a state lawmaker letting us know that the pop-up hair salon we saw yesterday was actually a fundraiser organized by women lawmakers, and not paid for by lobbyists. Another lawmaker, Rep. Melanie Stansbury, thanked from the House floor last night all who donated to the Serenity Mesa new women’s wing as part of the salon day fundraiser. Those who donated, she said, helped a lot of women in the chamber and staff feel glamorous and beautiful. It’s unclear, as this update is written, who all donated to the fundraiser.

This does not change what we heard from lobbyists, that they on occasion pay for haircuts of lawmakers in the Roundhouse, and may have wondered if they’d be hit up for cuts yesterday.

Clarification two:

We learned from lawmakers that lobbyists participated in the Salon Day fundraiser, but there is not an available list of donor names or amounts donated. It’s unclear how lobbyists became aware of the fundraiser. NM In Depth asked the nonprofit organization for a list and was told that they just received a lump sum from the stylists, who collected the donations.