Lobbyists and their employers spent more than $400,000 feting New Mexico’s elected and appointed officials – mostly lawmakers – from January through April 25.
A new law that takes effect in July would not have captured at least $80,000 of that total, however, an analysis by NMID found.
The law no longer requires lobbyists to report the total lump sum they spend in a given month and will raise the threshold at which they must report individual expenses from $75 to $100.
Lawmakers had celebrated the new law, passed during the 2016 legislative session, as a step toward giving the public more information about how lobbyists spend their money until an analysis by NMID discovered that the legislation increased secrecy.
The $400,000 spent this year is less than the $561,000 spent in 2015, when lawmakers spent double the time in Santa Fe. The Legislature holds a 30-day session in election years and a 60-day session in odd-numbered years.
Reports are filed by both individual lobbyists and organizations that employ lobbyists. Individual lobbyists – 108 of them – reported more than $268,000, while 21 businesses, unions and other groups spent some $132,000. Nearly $237,000 of that spending was reported during the legislative session, when individual expenditures of more than $500 must be reported within 48 hours.
Among the gifts provided to lawmakers, staff members, spouses and others were golf and ski passes, teddy bears and office refreshments, swank receptions and private dinners.
Various lobbyists and employers spent nearly $27,000 on the 100th Bill Party, an annual event held Feb. 12 at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
Some lobbyists do report details on spending under $75, although they aren’t required to do so. Joie Glenn, who represents home and hospice service providers, filed a report with a single $8 lunch with a lawmaker.
Individual expenses ranged from $3.43 for coffee reported by Michael D’Antonio, a lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, to $29,500 for ski passes for lawmakers from George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, who topped the list of lobbyists for spending.
Here’s a look at the top 10 individual spenders:
Second in spending to Brooks was the New Mexico Golf Tourism Alliance, which spent $28,000 on golf passes for lawmakers. The IATSE Local 480, the union representing the film industry, spent $19,500 as the primary sponsor of the 100th Bill Party.
Here’s a look at the spending reported by businesses, unions and other organizations on the May 2 deadline:
With new reporting rules taking effect July 1, lobbyists and employers won’t be required to report details when they spend less than $100 per lawmaker. Other legislation that would have required greater disclosure by lobbyists died in a Senate committee.
Lobbyists and employers also will have to file an additional report on Oct. 5 covering the period between April 25 and Oct. 3. The old rules will apply to the period up to July 1 but not after.
For all of 2015, lobbyists and their employers spent more than $818,000 in their efforts to influence lawmakers.