Special interests still flock to incumbents in heated House primary races

Incumbents in four state House races that will likely be decided in next week’s primary show significant special interest support in Thursday’s final campaign reports, which reflect their contributions for most of May. If money tells anything about a political race, the reports also show two of the incumbents are being given a solid run for their seats. And while a third has an outsized bank account, her challenger has scooped up a lot more cash from individuals. New Mexico In Depth previously looked at the financial advantage incumbents have due to special interest support in the four Democratic state house races:

District 41: State Rep. Debbie Rodella versus Susan Herrera
District 46: State Rep. Carl Trujillo versus Andrea Romero
District 13: State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero versus Robert Atencio
District 34: State Rep. Bealquin Gomez versus Raymundo Lara

The reports filed Thursday capture most contributions in May, in the wake of explosive sexual harassment allegations against Trujillo and an increasingly negative campaign waged by Rodella. Meanwhile, oil and gas interests on one side and progressive groups on the other stirred themselves in what had been a relatively quiet Albuquerque race in Roybal Caballero’s district.

Trujillo says “establishment” going after him; campaign records suggest that’s not the case

State Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, has raised more money than any other state legislative candidate except for the chamber’s two top lawmakers — a majority coming from big industries, political action committees and professional lobbyists, groups often thought of as “establishment,” a review by New Mexico In Depth shows. Trujillo, a three-term Democrat, is fighting for his political life after a woman working for an animal rights organization on Wednesday accused him of retaliating against her several years ago by stalling legislation after she rejected his sexual advances. Laura Bonar’s allegations came in an open letter released Wednesday, five weeks before the June primary, and a week before early primary voting starts in the race for legislative District 46,which stretches from Santa Fe to Española. Whoever wins June 5 — Trujillo or his primary opponent Andrea Romero — will most likely represent the district in the 2019 Legislature, although it’s possible a write-in or independent candidate could prevail. In two emails sent in response to Bonar’s letter, Trujillo said he barely knew Bonar, and described her as a tool of the establishment who is cynically using the #MeToo movement as a political weapon.

New tools for following the money in New Mexico

It can be tough to figure out how private money influences government as it flows through the political process. Not only are there gaps in required reporting about money and gifts showered on politicians and elected officials, the data that is publicly available is often unwieldy to work with, found in hundreds of individual reports or in spreadsheets that may have both duplicative and missing data. One of our jobs as journalists is to make sense of it all, so that it informs our reporting on the political and governance process. At New Mexico In Depth, we’ve acquired skills and tools that help us crack open large sets of data, and we are able to work with talented data analysts and coders. But we also believe it’s super important for the public to be able to search data, bringing their own knowledge to bear on the issue of how money affects political outcomes.

Biggest industry political givers have clear partisan choices

Attorneys definitely want Michelle Lujan Grisham to be New Mexico’s next governor. They really like Hector Balderas, too. Oil and Gas folks? They prefer Steve Pearce. The two industry groups are the biggest givers to political candidates in this year’s election cycle, accounting for one of every seven dollars given, from statewide offices to county level campaigns, from November 2016 through this week, according to an analysis by NMID.

Biggest donors get around contribution limits

When candidates file their campaign finance reports Monday, there will be all types of ways to analyze the data. One will be to look for the biggest donors. But identifying them can be tricky. Even though New Mexico passed campaign contribution limits in 2009 after several high-profile elected officials went to jail for corruption, people still have the potential to contribute more than the limits by giving through companies they own, or combining with family members to give. This year New Mexico’s campaign contribution limit for statewide office is $5,500 in both the primary and general election cycles.

Countless archaeological sites at risk in Trump oil and gas auction

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah – A steep rock ledge, known locally as Ruin Point, stands sentinel over public lands rich with Native American antiquities preserved from the sands of time. More than 700 years ago, ancestral Puebloans incised images of mountain sheep into sandstone faces now visible from dusty roads carved into canyons. Pieces of red and black-on-white pottery are scattered about snowy mesas, along with ancient corncobs and stone tools. Cliff houses wedged into crevices hide in plain sight, the blocks and mortar used to craft them blending seamlessly into steep stone walls. Now, the 13,000-year-old historical record of Native Americans who inhabited the outskirts of two national monuments near the Colorado-Utah border is facing an unprecedented threat.