State lawmakers have repeatedly killed efforts to require greater disclosure by lobbyists that also would clarify the rules, reducing the ambiguity. Bills to tighten lobbyist reporting laws, including requiring details on all expenses, died in committee during this year’s 60-day session.
Lobbyists reported spending more than $690,000 during the first four months of the year to influence legislators and other public officials. Much of the money went to food, drinks and gifts for lawmakers and other public officials. But nearly $244,450 went to advertising and phone calls aimed at motivating constituents to contact their lawmakers on a variety of issues. That advocacy spending, by 11 different groups, is considerably higher than the $106,000 reported by two interest groups in 2015, the last 60-day session. Much of the 2017 advocacy focused on failed efforts to increase background checks on gun purchases, but lobbyists reported trying to rally constituents to contact lawmakers on other issues as well.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required lobbyists to return to disclosing more information publicly about money they spend on public officials. The Legislature passed a law that weakened those rules last year but sought to correct what some lawmakers called an inadvertent mistake during this year’s 60-day session, which ended last month. Martinez’s veto means lobbyists won’t need to report expenses on lawmakers and other public officials under $100, as they did prior to the current law taking effect. Martinez explained her reasoning in a one-page veto message. “Various interpretations and ambiguity of the bill became clear” after discussion with the bill sponsor, Martinez wrote in her veto message, although she didn’t detail that ambiguity.