ABQ Mayoral Race: Methodology for creating a real estate and land development group of campaign contributors

New Mexico In Depth wanted to know what interest groups in Albuquerque were donating the most to the 2017 mayoral campaign.

Two candidates have significant cash, but aren’t raising private contributions: State Auditor Tim Keller who is publicly financed (but allowed to raise an additional 10 percent from individuals as in-kind support), for $417,348 to date, and Ricardo Chaves, a local businessman who is funding his own campaign to the tune of $522,197.

Three other mayoral hopefuls have raised nominal amounts, so we did not include them. They are Augustus Pedrotty, Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, and Michelle Garcia Holmes (link to their campaign finance pages on cabq.gov website). There are also numerous measure finance committees (Albuquerque’s version of political action committees) through which private money is being raised and spent this election cycle (Link to page on cabq.gov). One of those is specifically formed to advocate for Keller, with 40 percent coming from labor unions.

But NM In Depth was interested in just the private support flowing directly to candidates so narrowed it’s analysis to the three privately funded candidates who’ve brought in the most contributions: Attorney Brian Cólon, City Councilor Dan Lewis and County Commissioner Wayne Johnson.

The city of Albuquerque requires candidates to report the employer and occupation of each contributor, both of which are included on a publicly available contributions spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is one of several included in a “summary audit report” that is updated and automatically posted each morning on the city website.

The contributions spreadsheet includes all monetary and in-kind contributions to candidates, plus any loans made to campaigns, for mayoral and city council candidates as well as measure finance committees.

New Mexico In Depth downloaded the contributions spreadsheet and filtered it to create a new spreadsheet for just mayoral candidates. We updated our conclusions once the most recent reports were filed last Friday.

The spreadsheet downloaded from the city website includes all contributions as well as any subtractions made by the candidates in the past few months to correct information. NMID excluded the subtracted amounts, both the original entry and the corresponding subtracted amount, to create a clean spreadsheet. That spreadsheet was then totaled to derive a figure of the total amount of contributions made to date in the race for mayor: $2,646,494.

We then excluded loans made by candidates to their own campaigns, as well as public dollars given to the one candidate using the public financing system, Tim Keller. Ricardo Chaves is self-financing his campaign primarily through several large loans, and Susan Wheeler-Deichsel also made a significant loan to herself. We left contributions made by candidates to themselves in the spreadsheet. Candidates and their spouses may make unlimited contributions to their own campaigns. Excluding loans and public money, the total monetary or in-kind contributions made to all mayoral campaigns is $1,788,574.

Determining real estate and land development sector contributions:

We sorted the spreadsheet into categories based on the occupation listed for each contributor. Two of those occupations are Real Estate Professional and Construction/Engineer. We combined those two occupations to create a basis for what we call the real estate and land development community. These are the professionals and companies who buy, sell, lease or develop land or buildings for profit.

Because other occupational categories would most likely include individuals and companies who should be included with the real estate and development sector, we researched contributions of $1,000 or more in all other categories, for the three privately financed candidates who have raised more than $100,000–Brian Cólon, Wayne Johnson, and Dan Lewis. We excluded contributions made by the candidate or their spouse.

We chose the $1,000 marker to create a uniform approach to efficiently researching significant amounts within a somewhat short timeframe. We noticed many contributions below $1,000 as we perused the lists that appeared on the surface to fit within the real estate and development category. But we did not include them in order to maintain a uniform approach to categorization.

We did internet research related to each contribution, with search terms being names, addresses and company names. In some cases, the contributor was obviously a real estate developer or investor, or connected to a construction company. Or the company or group should obviously be included in that sector. In some cases, we determined that we would include people if they were married to or were another close relative of a significant real estate or development professional, or worked at such a company. We included companies that fit under the construction umbrella, as ancillary businesses that depend on development for significant parts of their ongoing success.

We combined the contributors who we determined fit with the combined real estate professional and construction/engineer grouping, to create a real estate and land development sector.

Determining the percentage for each of the three candidates:

We created three separate spreadsheets containing contributions to Brian Cólon, Wayne Johnson, and Dan Lewis–the candidates who have raised at least $100,000.  Each of those spreadsheets was sorted into categories, with the new real estate and land development sector at the top, and other occupational categories below it. The columns in each spreadsheet are the same columns downloaded from the city website. To the far right is the occupation column. We have left the original occupations in that column. For each of the candidates, we totaled each category and derived its percentage of their total contributions.

See the three spreadsheets here.