Monday, April 1, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Final Report on Lobbyist Reports

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
March 31, 2013

One of the things I do during a legislative session is write about all the money lobbyists spend for food, drinks, parties and presents for our citizen legislators.

As I’ve said before, I believe it’s the people’s right to know who’s buying the drinks for their elected representatives.

By law, lobbyists are required to report expenditures larger than $500 within 48 hours of the spending. Because of that $500 minimum figure, some social events for lawmakers don’t have to be reported. For instance, if several lobbyists split the tab and each one’s share comes out to less than $500, no public report is required.

Here’s a look at the most recent lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The biggest single event in the final weeks of the session was the 100th Bill Party, which, officially, is hosted by the sponsors of the 100th bill introduced in the House and Senate, but in fact is paid for by various lobbyists. Legislators, staff and guests are invited.

Lobbyists who reported contributing to the shindig, held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on March 7, were Michael Miller — a lobbyist for several clients, including the city of Portales, Roosevelt County, Covenant Health System and Permian Basin Petroleum Association — who contributed $2,500; Anthony “T.J.” Trujillo, who gave $2,500 on behalf of his client, Biotechnology Industry Organization; and Josh Rosen, a lobbyist for Albuquerque Studios, who contributed $1,000 to the party.

On March 9, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise held a legislative breakfast at Hotel Santa Fe for lawmakers and staff, costing the group $2,702.54. The breakfast was held one day after Gov. Susana Martinez announced that her office had reached an agreement with the Navajo Nation to amend the tribe’s gaming compact to allow five instead of the current two casinos and would have allowed the Navajos to collect a bigger share of their casino revenue. But even a nice breakfast couldn’t get the new compact approved in the final days of the session.

Lobbyist Larry Horan, on behalf of the city of Las Cruces, paid $2,500 for a catered lunch at the Capitol for House and Senate members and their staff.

On March 4, Floyd Archuleta, lobbyist for Portage Inc., an environmental engineering firm, paid $2,314 for dinner at the Rio Chama Steakhouse for lawmakers and the governor’s staff.

Sandy Buffett of Conservation Voters New Mexico reported spending $434 for dinner at The Compound on March 2 for Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and environmental advocates.

Going through the lobbyist reports last week, I spotted a couple of earlier events that I’d apparently missed when looking at the reports.

For instance, Jerry Walker of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico spent $2,290 for dinner for the House Judiciary Committee at Osteria D’assisi on Feb. 18. (As reported earlier, Walker also paid for dinner for the Senate Judiciary Committee at Rancho Encantado in January.)

Also, Ray Baca, a lobbyist for the New Mexico Building & Construction Trades Council, spent $612 for breakfast at Hotel St. Francis for House leaders on Feb. 21.

Besides having to report on wining and dining legislators during the session, lobbyists also have to report money spent on public relations and advertising campaigns. The latest batch of reports includes one from the Center for Civic Policy, which on March 4 spent $14,839 for radio ads trying to win support for House Bill 286, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey.

The bill, which ultimately didn’t pass, would have updated penalties — which haven’t changed in 78 years — for polluting water by the oil and gas industry. The organization previously spent $5,712 on mailers promoting the bill.

Previous stories on lobbyist expense reports for the 2013 session can be found HERE, HERE, HERE  and HERE.