New Mexico Ethics Watch (NMEW), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting ethics in governance and public life, has released its report, Lobbyists and Their Outsized Influence in New Mexico: Tales of Film, Firearms and Fumes.
The report takes a fresh look at lobbying and the New Mexico Legislature, examining monies spent and tactics used to influence votes regarding legislation on cannabis, firearms, film and tobacco-related products.
Using data from the Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS), the report paints a picture of the lengths to which lobbyists go to influence votes – taking advantage of complex omnibus bills to conceal sweet deals and using opaque substitute bills (both frequently introduced at the 11th hour), and collaborating with the governor.
The report demonstrates the use of time-tested methods used by lobbyists, including expenditures on entertaining lawmakers and contributions to candidates, in addition to expert use of the system by insiders. The report also highlights new tactics used by deep-pocketed special interests, and the trending, continued use of PACs by leadership and individual legislators, through which lobbyists and special interest groups can direct funds to supply legislators eager for campaign success.
The report notes that even when lobbyists report as required by the Lobbyist Regulation Act, there is only so much information that can be gained, given the weak requirements in the law. Consequently, NMEW recommends strengthening New Mexico’s laws related to lobbying, in the hopes of creating greater transparency and accountability for the benefit of New Mexico citizens.
“Reforming our lobbying laws is a step in the right direction – toward a culture change in the Roundhouse, that encourages and supports professionalism, transparency and accountability,” NMEW Executive Director Kathleen Sabo said. “We believe this change will be recognized and heralded by the public, business leaders and those looking to invest in New Mexico and New Mexicans.”