Over the next three blogs, Retake will examine closely the primary race in Dist. 46. We will first examine Rep. Trujillo’s voting record and his donor base, on Tuesday we will examine the candidacy of Andrea Romero, and then on Thursday we will take a look at the water and easement issues impacting Dist. 46.
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I can’t recall any blog post ever taking this long to develop. There is a reason. Sometimes races seem black and white, as is the case with the 2018 PRC primary races, of which I’ve written much. More often, primaries are more nuanced with candidates who agree on many issues, disagree on others, and where it is much more difficult to determine who is best. And primaries can be debilitating and divisive, leaving lingering wounds, often with supporters of the loser feeling disenfranchised and dispirited. That was certainly the case in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary.
But in heavily Democratic legislative districts like in Northern NM, Primaries are the only elections—no Republicans run because they cannot win. So saying you’ll wait for the General Election to get involved and to examine the issues is not getting involved. I also believe that we should expect more from our Democrats in these “safe” districts; they should be champions on core Democratic issues. In that spirit, today’s blog post will examine the voting record and campaign donations for Rep. Trujillo. The three-post series will give Dist. 46 voters a solid basis for making their voting decision as well as providing context for future lobbying in the Roundhouse.
Given that Dist. 46 is a safe district, Retake Our Democracy welcomed the challenge from Andrea Romero. But as soon as Retake “welcomed” Romero’s challenge we got significant push back with emails and comments in praise of Rep. Trujillo and taking some pretty vicious swings at Romero. As a result, I have taken my time developing this post.
When I began to discuss this race with voters from District 46 I found significant differences of opinion, with some pretty progressive folks being ardent supporters of Rep. Trujillo and others just as strongly critical. To fairly describe the pros and cons of each candidate, I also realized that I needed to do more research on voting patterns and to meet with Rep. Trujillo, Andrea Romero, and others as well. As a result, Retake took the following steps:
- Held leadership team meetings with Rep. Trujillo and with Andrea Romero
- Held a meeting with a former elected leader from one of the four Pueblos in HD 46;
- Met with a handful of current legislators at the Roundhouse;
- Read a number of articles critical of Andrea Romero and the Regional Coalition and articles supportive of Rep. Trujillo’s handling of the water and easement issues;
- Reviewed notes of interviews with over two dozen progressive lobbying groups;
- Attended a town hall on easement and water issues in Española Valley facilitated by US Rep. Lujan where Rep. Trujillo took part; and
- Had drafts of the post read by no less than a dozen Democrats to ensure that the resulting blog was even-handed.
I am eager to hear from those of you who support Trujillo, in hopes that you can provide your perspective. I genuinely want to understand better why he enjoys such passionate support and why there is such passionate opposition to even considering Andrea Romero, who as a smart, articulate, young Hispanic with deep roots in her community, would seem to be the kind of candidate that Democrats should be cultivating as leaders. We will examine the Romero campaign, but today we are focusing on Rep. Trujillo.
Over the past two years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time at the Roundhouse and have heard advocates, progressive lobbyists, and even other elected representatives bemoan how often Rep. Trujillo either votes with Republicans or is absent when a key vote is about to happen. In each conversation, the person would cite an individual example that while compelling in relation to that one issue, didn’t necessarily speak to a pattern or trend. So, we undertook a pretty exhaustive review of Rep. Trujillo’s voting record beginning with the good. And there is much good to report. Rep. Trujillo has voted in favor of some very good bills that would:
- Restore the rooftop solar tax credit- HB87 (which Rep. TrujilloI sponsored) HB61, SB79— every Dem supported these bills
- Make it possible to put renewable energy on state buildings with no money down, saving everyone money. Supported by the Sierra Club.SB 227 — every Dem supported this bill;
- Create tax credits for residents implementing water preservation strategies and to incentivize water and energy conservation, HB 124 (which Rep. Trujillo sponsored);
- Provide tax credit incentives for outdoor water conservation efforts- HB238 (which Rep. Trujillo sponsored);
- Create the Sustainable Green Building Tax (here he was a co-sponsor with Senator Wirth)—SB 14 & SB 279;
- Create taxes on online business sales, HB 202 (which Rep. Trujillo also sponsored and passed twice only to be vetoed);
- Require court protection in cases of domestic abuse to determine if the restrained party presents a credible threat and to require he restrained party to relinquish possession of any firearm and refrain from purchasing a firearm SB 259; This is a watered down version of the bill and needs considerable strengthening;
- Transfer oversight of geothermal resources to the Energy Conservation and Management Division and close a loophole in the Water Quality Act that allows some permit-holders to avoid environmental rules for wastewater disposal. Supported by the Sierra Club – HB 289;
- HB128 passed the House 59-7 with all 7 no votes coming from Republicans.
- HB57 passed the House 66-0
- HB60 passed the House 60-0
Every Democrat present voted for every single one of the last three bills. Rep. Trujillo asked that I add those three bills as each is related to expanding broadband.
All good bills and on each one a good vote from Rep. Trujillo. What’s more, Rep. Trujillo is a fierce advocate for animal rights and has also been very responsive to voter concerns about water and road easements, holding scores of Town Halls and following up on scores of constituent concerns. It isn’t as if Rep. Trujillo is unresponsive to his constituency. He is highly responsive and deserves credit for it. At the easement Town Hall facilitated by US Rep. Lujan earlier this week, Rep. Trujillo drew loud applause when he entered the auditorium and strong praise from those in attendance. Water issues and the easement issue are having a very debilitating impact in District 46, with 14 people at the Town Hall indicating that they had been refused title insurance to their property for lack of a viable easement, essentially denying those individuals the capacity to borrow against or sell their property. I have read of tragic consequences resulting from this problem, and so it is very easy to understand why those impacted would strongly support Rep. Trujillo’s efforts to work on their behalf. But I have also heard from many, many individuals that Rep. Trujillo’s approach to supporting his constituents has been highly divisive, pitting Indigenous and Hispanic neighbors against each other and using misinformation to exacerbate their differences. This issue is both extremely complex and highly volatile and so will be handled in a separate post that is still in development and under review.
As I examined the bills above, I noticed a common thread: virtually none of them address industry malfeasance in relation to renewable energy or water conservation. The bills incentivized consumers to do more while not examining what industry could do differently, a nuance that may not be insignificant given what follows. As I was reviewing Trujillo’s voting record, I had a conversation with the head of the California Democratic Progressive Caucus and I was told: ‘It isn’t enough to look at votes, you need to also follow the money.” So, I did. First, let’s look at Trujillo’s donors. The information on donor and donor amounts comes from the State Financial Information System maintained by the Secretary of State.
Information Technology. Trujillo has received at least $17,450 in campaign contributions from IT and telecommunications companies while going on to sponsor three bills and vote for several others that would directly benefit these companies. In 2018, Trujillo sponsored HB 128, which provides a gross receipts tax and compensating tax deduction for broadband telecommunications network facilities, and HB 57 with the Legislative Finance Committee noting on HB 57 that “The benefits of this bill will probably not be experienced by customers, but by the internet service providers.” In 2017, he sponsored a bill to amend the Local Economic Development Act to allow broadband companies like CenturyLink to access state funds to hire locally. Multi-million dollar companies like CenturyLink don’t need subsidies from LEDA to do the right thing.
The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) regulates IT companies like CenturyLink. In 2016, Trujillo sponsored a bill (HJR 8) to change the PRC from an elected body to an appointed body. Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) opposed this legislation. The purpose of this bill was to end the constitutional practice of PRC Commissioners being directly elected, and in turn create a political appointment process allowing CenturyLink and other companies to influence the process by donating to those making the selections.
Gas Oil & Energy. Devon Energy, based in Oklahoma City, is Trujillo’s largest single contributor, at $7,900. Its contributions date to 2012, 2014 and 2017, with the largest ($5,000) in 2017. The New York Times has described Devon as “one of the more aggressive opponents in the oil and gas sector of new federal environmental regulations, working since early in the Obama administration to challenge such rules.” Trujillo has received at least $16,250 in contributions from the oil and gas industry, more than from any other sector besides IT/Telecommunications. The majority of this total – $13,600 – has come from out-of-state companies.
What’s more, a recent Santa Fe New Mexican article reported on how Rep. Trujillo is now receiving donations from Rep. Ruilobo in what appears to be a donation scheme as the source of the donations to Ruilobo are from the same corporate donors who have already contributed the maximum allowable to Rep. Trujillo’s campaign. In fact, according to the most recent campaign disclosure report, Trujillo and Ruilobo received donations from Encana Oil and Gas on the same day, only to then have Ruilobo make a subsequent donation to Trujillo. Apparently, this is legal in New Mexico, but it is inconsistent with any effort to have a transparent election process. An ethics complaint has been filed against Rep. Trujillo with the Secretary of State because he didn’t report this contribution from Encana Oil & Gas.
When we met with Rep. Trujillo and asked him about his receiving so much corporate support, he indicated that most of his donations come from small donors, an assertion made by one of his supporters in an email to me. In a NM In Depth report, Trujillo was quoted as saying: “I am probably the No. 1 representative or senator in the state that receives the vast majority, 90 percent of my contributions, from grassroots organizations, individuals and small businesses.” But this is simply not true. In the most recent quarterly campaign finance report, over half of Trujillo’s donations came from corporations, PACs and other elected officials. And while in our meeting with Trujillo he had suggested that he really doesn’t raise that much money, according to a Secretary of State report he has received over $450,000 in the past 7 years. Click here to review the report. What’s more, according to the New Mexican, this war chest has enabled him to outspend his opponent Andrea Romero 13-1 to date. It should be noted that while Rep. Trujillo has not been challenged since 2012 and is utterly safe from GOP challenges, he did have two expensive primary races. In 2010 he ran an unsuccessful, but very close race against House Speaker Lujan and then another close primary race in 2012 against Santa Fe Mayor David Coss.
Finally, in our meeting, Trujillo also claimed that he routinely distributes funds to Democrats running in other districts. I asked a Roundhouse legislator about this and he just laughed, commenting: “Carl doesn’t pass along much at all.” So, I did some digging and according to the Secretary of State reports Rep. Trujillo has distributed $20,000 to other campaigns and non-profits, or less than 5% of what he has raised.
Retake Our Democracy has long bemoaned the influence of money in politics. Indeed I am appearing at a conference on getting money out of politics today (Saturday), and our last blog on Tuesday provided extensive analysis of how money influences elections and legislation. Click here to review that report. It also has info on the conference. We have reported on a number of great bills that Rep. Trujillo supported and on his fierce advocacy relating to constituent concerns about water rights and road access issues, but now it is time to look at some votes that we find troubling.
While a couple of comments to this post suggested that the use of different time frames for reporting on campaign donations may have been confusing to the reader. In looking it over, I find it pretty clear. And to comb over SOS reports for every year would be beyond the time I can give to this. I have tried to be fair….onward to votes.
Bills Sponsored or Co-sponsored by Trujillo
HB 199 (2017) – The Sierra Club describes this as “a PNM bill that, under the guise of consumer protection, puts a host of onerous requirements on companies that install residential solar panels.” When we met with Rep. Trujillo, he claimed that the bill had been supported by all but one solar installer in NM and that it had been initiated due to complaints about misleading promises from an LA-based installer. In reality, the initial version of HB199 was an ALEC bill designed to deter solar development. The version passed in the Roundhouse was tweaked a bit, but was still opposed by CVNM.
HB 296 (2014) – This bill would have allowed PNM and El Paso Electric to offer discounted electricity rates to businesses as an economic development incentive, ostensibly to create new jobs. According to CVNM, which opposed the bill, it would have “shifted costs for economic development and utility expansion (such as sprawl development and polluting industries) to other ratepayers – with virtually no safeguards or transparency. Utility companies would negotiate discounted utility rates for big businesses. Then, the utilities would be allowed to increase utility rates for families and small businesses to make up for the discount.”
Bills Trujillo Voted For
- He voted for expanding the three strikes law. HB 5(2016). Sponsored by 11 Republicans.
- He voted to make NM the Nation’s Nuclear Dump. HM 40(2016) authorized the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance to construct a consolidated interim storage facility for the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods from commercial (for-profit) nuclear power generation plants. Opposed by Conservation Voters New Mexico. This is a particularly bad vote given how so many of his constituents are concerned about the poorly managed clean up of nuclear waste at LANL. Why would someone advocating for cleaning up LANL open the door to allow NM to become the US’s nuclear dumping ground?
- He voted to prevent women’s right to choose. HB 390(2015). I incorrectly noted that a pharmacist or clerk could deny a prescription for birth control, this was a mistake, but in reviewing the amendment I found this language: A person who is a member of, or associated with, the staff of a hospital or any medical facility; any person under the direction of a physician; or any employee of a hospital or any medical facility in which who objects to the abortion on moral or religious grounds shall not be required to participate in medical procedures, including the dispensing of medication, that will result in the termination of pregnancy. The refusal of the person to participate shall not form the basis of any disciplinary or other recriminatory action against the person.”
- He voted for efforts to prevent gun violence prevention. HB 106(2015) would have weakened concealed carry gun control requirements. Sponsored by three Republicans and the NRA.
- He voted for gas and oil profits at the expense of our environment. HM 105(2015) was a memorial urging New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation to support efforts to remove the ban on exporting crude oil. Governor Martinez, along with nine other Republican governors, asked President Obama to lift the ban in 2015. This is another particularly troubling vote given that the only ‘constituents’ who benefits from this are the gas and oil donors to his campaign.
Trujillo Voted Against:
- He voted against slowing the privatization of public education. HB 46(2017) would have imposed a moratorium on the approval of charter schools until 2020 over concerns about scarce public funding and academic accountability at schools without publicly elected boards. Trujillo was one of only three Democrats to vote against the bill, which failed on a 34-34 vote. Public education advocates supported this bill to slow the rapid expansion of corporate-run charter schools that have no community base. This is just one of many areas where those believing in corporate solutions to public policy challenges advocate for the continued privatization of so many public sector responsibilities (e.g. education, prisons, public land management, to name but a few). Gov. Martinez is a strong supporter of charter schools and privatization.
- He voted against regulations that would have prevented big pharma from exploiting health plans by foisting more expensive drugs on patients, when less expensive alternatives were available. HB 244(2017) – Would have regulated the use of step therapy – the requirement by health insurers that their enrollees be treated with a less expensive drug or device before moving to a more expensive one if the lower-cost therapy proves ineffective. Bill was supported by numerous health care organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes.
- He voted against protecting employees. HB 277(2013) – Would have enacted a statute prohibiting the practice of requiring employee attendance at meetings called by an employer for the purpose of conveying the employer’s opinions on religious or political matters.
A sampling of votes Trujillo missed:
- He failed to vote for expanding local jurisdictions’ opportunities to develop solar gardens. HB 338(2017) – Would provide for the independent development and operation of community solar gardens within the service territory of investor owned electric utilities. Failed by a 31-34 vote on the House floor.
- He failed to vote to voice opposition to the desecration of Chaco Canyon. HM 70(2017) – Requests that the BLM not lease any land in the greater Chaco Canyon region without prior consultation with tribes until it finishes amending its management plan for the region. Supported by the Sierra Club.
- He failed to vote to protect our lands from groundwater contamination. HB 429(2013) – Afforded landowners or other affected parties a private right of action to pursue enforcement of environmental laws against violators or agencies who are failing to enforce existing law, such as a rural landowner whose groundwater is at risk of contamination by a polluting company. If the state refuses to require the company to stop polluting groundwater, the landowner would have recourse in court. Supported by CVNM.
Taken together, there are too many bad votes to overlook, with votes that are bad for women, bad for education, bad for the environment, bad for labor, and good for gas, oil, and other industries. And his voting record seems to carefully, almost artfully, oppose or remain silent on bills that hurt industries at the expense of consumers. Recall my comments on Trujillo’s good votes and how so many are incentives for individuals and businesses to do the right thing (conserve water, use solar, etc.), but there is little to no evidence of taking on corporations, of making them do the right thing for consumers. And there is the large number of times that Rep. Trujillo has aligned with Republicans in a district with very few Republicans as constituents. And we should all consider closely his votes on women’s access to abortion, his support for an NRA-sponsored open carry legislation, and in a community/district so concerned about LANL and environmental degradation from uranium and chromium, his support for the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, which would make NM the US dumping ground for unspent nuclear waste. And his failure to be on hand to vote for the memorial asking BLM to deny leases for fracking until the BLM completes its management plan all should be very troubling, not just for progressives but for moderate and even conservative Democrats.
We will analyze the Romero campaign in a separate post, but we feel that this summary provides ample reason for welcoming a challenge and for welcoming debate and discussion. I sincerely hope that the discussion that follows will be dignified. I welcome comments from those who share my concerns and from those who remain firmly supportive of Rep. Trujillo.
Given that the vote is a scant six weeks away, we want to provide links to information on both candidates and how you can become involved in either campaign. Again, we welcome this challenge and the ensuring, respectful debate.
For more information on Andrea Romero’s candidacy, her background and how you can become involved, click here.
For more information on Rep. Carl Trujillo’s candidacy, her background and how you can become involved, click here.
Paul & Roxanne