ABQ Democracy Dollars proposal would increase mayoral campaign cash

A decade ago, it seemed Albuquerque’s new public financing program had proven itself. All three mayoral candidates in 2009 used public money to run their campaigns, keeping expenditures under $400,000 each, well below the almost $1.2 million the incumbent mayor had spent in 2005 to get re-elected. Public financing freed candidates to talk to voters rather than spend all their time fundraising, supporters said, while making it possible for them to compete against candidates raising money from big donors. They also hoped reducing the amount of money spent might inspire more confidence in the political process. Then a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case invalidated a provision in Albuquerque’s law that provided additional funds when expenditures by private competitors exceeded the initial city disbursements to publicly funded candidates.

Immigrants share harrowing tales from detention

Carlos Medrano of Mexico had to wait six days before guards let him call his family from the Otero County correctional facility where he spent two and a half months, incarcerated by a private prison company that holds undocumented immigrants for the federal government. “They didn’t respect us,” Medrano told New Mexico state lawmakers through a translator in Santa Fe on Monday. Roberto Gonzalez of Anthony, New Mexico, talked about the sadness he felt at not seeing his family for three months. Gonzalez was arrested outside a courthouse where he had gone to conduct business that “he had a right to conduct” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, he said through a translator. Like Medrano, Gonzalez found himself locked up in one of two facilities in New Mexico that house undocumented immigrants for ICE.

Albuquerque aviation company mum on federal contracts related to immigration

A New Mexico aviation company owned by a prominent Republican businessman has active contracts with the federal agency charged with housing migrant children once they cross the border. Albuquerque-based CSI Aviation Inc., owned by Allen Weh, a former GOP candidate for New Mexico governor and U.S. Senate, has won multiple contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for transportation and relocation services that occurred in 2017 and 2018, a review of federal government databases shows. In a June 23 news release HHS said when families are apprehended at the border they’re processed first by the U.S. Border Patrol, which then separates the children, placing them in the custody of the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. The parents are sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for processing. There were 2,053 “separated minors” in HHS facilities on June 20, which is 17 percent of minors under the care of HHS, the agency said.

As immigration debate rages, private prison operators spread cash to NM pols

Two of the nation’s largest private prison companies have given nearly $33,000 to New Mexico’s congressional representatives and state lawmakers over the past year and a half, a review of campaign finance records by New Mexico In Depth shows. The two operators — the GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic, which have maintained a major presence in New Mexico for decades — have come in for criticism over the years from immigration attorneys and advocates for warehousing immigrants under multiple presidential administrations. The focus has sharpened as the nation debates the Trump administration’s stepped-up immigration enforcement policies at the border. Across the country the two private prison operators have spent considerable money to influence government policy and have made sizable profits from detaining immigrants in their facilities, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide.

Flyover Country: Aerial tour of Carlsbad highlights oil and gas moving in on national park

The plane had wheeled back north toward the airport when the Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center came into view, perched on the tan heaps of a sloping escarpment that offers no clue to the dramatically sculpted caverns beneath. From the air, however, signs of another underground natural resource were plainly visible: well pads pock the horizon. The park overlooks a stretch of desert atop the Permian Basin, and I’m in a tiny, six-seat plane—including the pilot’s—to get a look at how the push for one resource could affect the other. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed to auction mineral leases on 197 parcels in the area in September. Some of those 89,000 acres sit within a mile of the national park boundary, or encroach on Guadalupe Mountains National Park across the Texas state line.

High Stakes Race: Oil and gas industry and environmentalists square off over next governor

Take a look at most oil and gas infrastructure — wellheads, pipes and cylindrical storage tanks — dotting New Mexico oil and gas fields, and little seems to be happening. But use the right equipment and you can see gases, including methane, wafting into the air. Heading skyward with methane, the main component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, are royalties some say the oil and gas industry could be paying New Mexico. An April report from Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national budget and taxpayer advocate, analyzed federal leases through the Office of Natural Resource Revenue and estimated that the gas lost nationwide on federal lands in 2016 was worth $75.5 million. Half of the gas lost between 2012 and 2016 came from New Mexico.

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.