House Republicans benefit most from lobbyist campaign cash

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img_9861Registered lobbyists and their employer campaign donations made up about 25 percent of what legislative candidates spent during the 2016 election.

And most of that money went to House Republicans.

Despite that lobbyist largesse, the GOP lost control of the House to Democrats, while Senate Democrats increased their margin.

Lobbyists and their employers reported donating more than $2.8 million to candidates and political action committees in 2016.

That brings their total for the 2015-16 elections cycle to nearly $4 million, with more than 90 percent of that money going to legislative candidates or partisan PACs.

New Mexico In Depth downloaded campaign contributions reported by individual lobbyists and by employers, standardizing names of lawmakers and adding information about political affiliation, contests and outcomes.

Here’s an overall look at contributions reported by lobbyists and employers to both chambers of the Legislature in 2015 and 2016:

Lobbyist and employer donation to legislative candidates totaled nearly $2.6 million in 2015 and 2016. That’s more than a quarter of what legislative candidates spent for the 2016 election.

And House Democrats, who now hold a 38-32 majority in the House, received the least amount of campaign money from lobbyists and employers.

House Speaker Brian Egolf said corporate contributions to Democratic candidates and PACs declined significantly after the 2014 election.

That year, Republicans took control of the House for the first time in 60 years. NMID determined that in 2013 and 2014, individual lobbyists funneled more than $1 million to House Republicans compared with about $750,000 to House Democrats.

That margin grew in the 2016 cycle. House Republicans received more than $1 million from lobbyists and their employers in 2015 and 2016, compared with nearly $409,000 for House Democrats.

“I don’t know what motivates somebody to contribute or not,” Eoglf said.

For 2016, Egolf said, Democratic candidates focused on raising money from individual donors, including many small donations.

“We said all along our campaign was going to be powered by people,” he said.

Still those seeking to influence lawmakers mostly bet on winners.

Here’s a look at House spending by lobbyists and employers by winning and losing candidates:

More than 73 percent of the $235,000 going to losing House candidates went to six incumbents who lost their seats, five of them Republicans. Only about $40,000 in lobbying donations went to the newly elected representatives, all of them Democrats.

Incumbent House members received nearly $20,000 on average from lobbyists and their employers during 2015 and 2016.

And for Senate candidates:

Some 79 percent of the $211,000 going to losing Senate candidates went to three candidates who lost their seats, including former Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. He was the target of super PAC opposition, losing to Republican Sen. Greg Baca in the Belen contest.

But Baca and three successful Democratic Senate challengers received only $40,550 in campaign cash from lobbying interests.

Incumbent Senators received nearly $23,000 on average from lobbyists and their employers during 2015 and 2016.

Top recipients

The top recipients of lobbyist campaign cash were legislative leaders and two super PACs.

Here’s a look at the top 20 recipients:

GOP super PAC Advance New Mexico Now led the way, with $224,300. Altria Client Services, a subsidiary of the tobacco company; Intralot, a gaming company; and HollyFrontier, a petroleum company, each reported donating $50,000 to Advance.

Democratic super PAC Patriot Majority received $140,000, all coming from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun control advocacy group.

Top candidate recipients were former House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, now the minority leader; former House Speaker Don Tripp, who resigned after losing the majority; Sanchez; and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle.

Top donors

Devon Energy and Everytown for Gun Safety led the list of top donors during 2015 and 2016.

Devon reported distributions of $271,900 in 33 donations to mostly GOP candidates and candidate PACs. The company didn’t include its December 2015 $100,000 contribution to super PAC Advance New Mexico Now on its lobbying reports.

“Devon supports organizations and candidates that advocate in favor of sound business principles and fact-based public policies that promote jobs, economic growth and responsible energy development,” company spokesman John Porretto, wrote in an email. “We actively advocate on matters of public interest and are committed to doing so in compliance with all applicable rules, laws and regulations.”

In addition to giving to Patriot Majority, Everytown also made 22 donations to candidates and candidate PACs. All of the recipients were Democrats, except Gentry, who received $5,000.

And AFSCME, the labor union representing public employees, came in third. The union didn’t include $700,000 in donations to super PAC Patriot Majority in its reports. All of the donations reported by AFSCME went to Democratic candidates and candidate PACs.

Determining the top lobbying donors is difficult because reporting rules changed in 2016 with a recommendation that lobbyists report which client a donation was made on behalf of. So examining both 2015 and 2016 reports may not include all campaign donations made by companies that employ lobbyists.

Here’s a look at the top 10 lobbyist contributors based on reports filed by employers (such as Devon) or lobbyists on behalf of their employers.

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