Lobbyists and their employers spent some $818,000 on meals, receptions and gifts for lawmakers and other New Mexico officials in 2015.
Individual lobbyists – 148 of them – spent more $474,000, while 23 businesses spent more than $344,000, reports show.
The overall total includes a rarity in New Mexico campaign finance reporting — the money a big New Mexico corporation spent on lobbying services last year.
In a report filed Friday, Yates Petroleum Corp. reported paying former state Sen. Kent Cravens nearly $90,000 for lobbying services.
Cravens said the the company mistakenly filed what he was paid for his lobbying services and the report will be rescinded, however.
“Their report got filed, which shouldn’t have. They’re not a registered lobbyist so they’re not required to file,” Cravens said. “Someone in their tax department saw a deadline and they thought they had to meet it.”
Yates’ filing cracks a window onto what businesses spend on lobbyists, information organizations such as Common Cause New Mexico and others like Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, will push for during the 30-day legislative session, which starts tomorrow. Unlike other states, including Colorado, New Mexico doesn’t require private-sector companies to reveal how much they pay lobbyists working on their behalf.
In November, New Mexico In Depth reported that public agencies paid more than $7.2 million in 2014 and 2015 for state and federal lobbying services. But that figure doesn’t capture a complete picture because not much is known about how much private-sector employers pay their lobbyists.
Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said the mistaken Yates filing is a good example of the sort of transparency her organization would like to see.
“This lets us know what can be done,” she said. “This is what people want.”
It’s difficult to draw conclusions for what all private-sector employers spend on lobbying from one corporate filing. But if all 148 lobbyists reporting expenses in 2015 were paid $90,000 a year based on all sources of revenue, that would total more than $13 million. Many lobbyists have multiple clients paying them.
Most of the money spent by lobbyists and employers – more than $561,000 – was spent during the first four months of the year, as lobbyists and their clients focused on the 2015 60-day legislative session.
But in reports filed by Friday’s midnight deadline, employers reported spending an additional $127,000 from May through December in addition to the $217,000 they spent in the first four months of 2015. Individual lobbyists reported spending about $130,000 between May and December to add to the $344,000 they spent January through April 2015.
Surprisingly, only three individual lobbyists reported expenses for June 8, the date of a special session, totaling $310.88.
The National Education Association of New Mexico reported spending $293.48 for pizza for state senators that day.
The total spent by individual lobbyists was slightly less than during the 2013 session, according to NMID’s analysis.
Here’s a look at spending by individual lobbyists since 2011:
And while the Secretary of State’s office recently issued guidelines suggesting that lobbyists report their expenses in greater detail, not all lobbyists did.
Some 19 lobbyists listed aggregate expenses of more than $1,000 after April 2015, failing to specify lawmakers they hosted or dates they spent the money.
Harrison said such aggregate filings are disappointing.
“It just lets us know that we’ve got to make this law and not a suggestion,” she said. “That just makes us realize that we’ve got to double down and keep pushing to have these individual expenditures” reported.
Steinborn has pre-filed three bills pertaining to lobbyists. One would require more detailed expense reporting, another would require lobbyists and employers to report what issues or bills they’re working on and a third would require employers to report what they’re paying lobbyists.
Arthur Hull II, who represented more than 20 clients, was the top spender in 2015 at nearly $26,000. Hull reported only monthly aggregated totals, saying none of his expenses exceeded $75 per person. Currently, state law does not require specific disclosure unless the expense is more than $75 per person.
Here are the top 10 spenders in 2015:
Common Cause New Mexico topped the list of employer spending at $104,442, all spent last session on phone calls and ads encouraging lawmakers to pass good government measures.
Yates came in second. In addition to spending nearly $90,000 on lobbying services, it paid more than $3,220 in entertainment for lawmakers in the last eight months of the year, according to the reports. Cravens, who also represents a couple of other clients, reported spending $4,800 to entertain lawmakers in the first four months of the year.
Here’s a look at employer spending in 2015:
The money will continue to roll in as the Legislature meets in a 30-day session beginning Tuesday. The social calendar lists numerous events feting lawmakers and guests every day for the next month.