NM State Legislature: Bought & Sold by Gas & Oil

Today, a glimpse at Trumpian stupidity, and then an examination of an exhaustive Common Cause–Ethics Watch Report on how gas & oil controls the NM Legislature. Also, links to Retake Zoominars & Fix the Senate.

Recently, we’ve written about how we all must use the next 191 days to do all we can to ensure that Trump is one term and out. Each passing day, it becomes more obvious that we need to ensure Trump is a one-term president, as we briefly illustrate below. But as I am now deep into writing the 2020 NM Legislative Report Card, I am finding more and more evidence of the critical importance of the NM June Primary and the state election in November. And after reading “The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence,” it is even more clear. So today we feature that report and look again at the video, Fix the Senate, that extends that analysis, pointing to key Senate districts where Democrats in Name Only hold sway. To close the post, we offer a hilarious spoof on the Lion Sleeps Tonight: The Liar Tweets Tonight. Only 3 minutes and you’ll be humming it all day. Read on.

Click here to get an absentee ballot from NM SOS. It only takes 3 minutes and, as the rest of this post makes clear, this is very important.

Retake on the Radio: Saturday (TODAY), April 25, 8:30 — 9:00 am, on KSFR, 101.1 FM, a Conversation with Philip Shepherd. (See link below to audio-video recording.) This was recorded on Wednesday. Philip is an internationally recognized author and trainer. In the interview Philip shares some very compelling observations on COVID, climate change, capitalism and how the predominance of our historic efforts to manage and manipulate nature have led us to where we are today. It was so interesting we went on for 80 minutes. Philip is truly one of the more insightful guests we’ve had on the show. His views on history, philosophy, and people’s relationship with others, the earth, and themselves and how they think, manipulate, and manage their environment rather than feel and harmonize with it, is illuminating and very entertaining. While only 30 minutes will be on the air this morning, we recorded not only the audio, but also the video conversation with Philip, which you can watch by clicking here. You won’t regret it. Great show.

Apr 25, 2020 01:00 PM SANTA FE MUTUAL AID NETWORK MEETING 1-2:30PM. Topic: Santa Fe Mutual Aid Network Meeting. Join Zoom Meeting by clicking here. Meeting ID: 897 4992 3816. Password: earth

Three New Zoominars Coming, Plus Video Recordings of Previous Events

If you missed the PRC Candidate Forum or the Conversation with the Land Commissioner, go to this link, where you will also find information on the next four webinars with a lineup of experts where we will discuss:

  • the impact of plunging gas prices on NM,
  • the influence of gas & oil money and lobbyists on the NM State legislature;
  • the state of the NM state budget and options for fixing it without making devastating cuts; and
  • the potential a state public bank could have in helping NM stimulate local business and achieve greater resilience to booms and busts.

We’ve received extremely positive responses to the Zoominars so far:

  • “Thank you, Paul and Retake for an excellent forum. The PRC is rather arcane; your questions and those of other participants showed not only what the position does, but what the candidates know. “
  • “Superb!!!!!   Thanks!!!”
  • “Congratulations on an outstanding show! I learned a lot. I will also send a note to Stephanie Garcia Richards and Ari Biernoff for an equally outstanding performance.”
  • “Thank you for an insightful webinar it was really good to hear about the good work that is being done on oil and gas. “
  • “Excellent meeting, very informative. “

At Some Point This May Be Funny: But Not Now

At Friday’s press embarrassment, Trump exceeded even his capacity for stupidity. Reacting to comments from Bill Bryan, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology division, touting cleaning agents’ ability to kill coronavirus on surfaces, Trump took the valid use of cleaning agents to an unfathomable place: “I see disinfectant, where it knocks [coronavirus] out in a minute—one minute—and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning,” But Trump wasn’t done. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that. ” Really? Injecting poison into your veins would be interesting? Talk about the cure being worse than the disease!!

“I say maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor, but I’m like a person that has a good you-know-what,” Trump said, pointing at his head.”

Donald Trump, Friday, April 24. Press Briefing

This would funny if it weren’t that, very sadly, millions of Americans think Trump is both smart and honest, someone whose advice they could actually take. Can you imagine the amount of self control necessary for the cadre of medical experts who surround him to keep from laughing out loud or bursting out: “That does it, there is a limit, and you have crossed it too many times. I quit, but before I do, I have a few things to say……” 1 Billion YouTube hits would follow.

The NM State Legislature Is Broken

As part of its ongoing “Connect the Dots” series, Common Cause New Mexico and New Mexico Ethics Watch published an exhaustive report last month, “The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence.” It is an eye-opening report that examines the influence of campaign donations; lobbying dinners, events and happy hours; and the dominant, omnipresence of suit and tie gas and oil lobbyists. The report isn’t shy about naming names and pointing out which legislators appear to do the bidding of the gas and oil industry.

They did their homework, offering details that describe not just the amount of money and influence wielded by the industry, but how that influence is used and how that influence is hidden behind weak state ethics laws and the myriad ways that lobbyists can influence legislation and legislators. For example, approximately 500 different kinds of entities–corporations (98), individuals (262); associations (23); PACs (11), and active lobbyists (about 100) contributed over $11.5 M to lobbying activities and direct contributions to legislators between 2017-2020. With nearly 100 G&O lobbyists, there is nearly one G&O lobbyist for every NM state legislator (112). Leading the pack among G&O contributors, Chevron ($383K) and PNM ($239K). And while that money is distributed to most every legislator who will accept it, the focus of the contributions is on key legislative power brokers:

  • Top recipient among NM Democratic Senators is Sen. George Munoz at $60,000, who also received another $66,000 in support of his failed Land Commissioner campaign; Sen. Mary K. Papen follows Munoz with $31,450, then Senator John Arthur Smith ($19,240), and Sen Clemente Sanchez at $15,349. The Fix the Senate video below focuses on these four Senators plus Sen. Gabe Ramos and how, together, they essentially hold an iron grip on all legislation in NM.
  • In the House, Rep. Brian Egolf leads all recipients with $46,150 in Gas & Oil contributions, with the next highest Democrat recipient, Rep. Patty Lundstrom, receiving $25,750. Without question, these two Representatives wield the most power in the House. Egolf makes committee assignments and determines which bills will be heard on the House floor, and Lundstrom is the chair of the critical House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

It isn’t just through contributions that G&O is able to ensure that bills attempting to regulate gas and oil fail, the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, NMOGA, leads this coterie of gas and oil lobbyists every year throughout the legislative session. This is what NMOGA director Ryan Flynn told participants at the NMOGA 2018 annual meeting:

““NMOGA is going to be the most powerful organization in the state of New Mexico, period. We are going to compete with our opposition at every single level, and in every single arena, and we are going to win these fights as we move forward,” Ryan Flynn told the group. “And we need to act with a sense of urgency to ensure that we are driving the policy discussions. We’re driving public discourse; we’re driving election discussion and debates. We’re not just waiting for the dust to settle and being pushed in one direction or another.”

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence.” P. 17

And the presence of the G&O lobbyists isn’t found just during legislative sessions. From Common Cause/Ethics Watch:

“Lobbyists representing the oil and gas industries in Santa Fe during the legislative session, at interim committee meetings and national legislative conferences, are among the most well-resourced and generous in the state. Led by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, there are scores of lobbyists on the ground in Santa Fe during any one session. Ninety are registered with the Secretary of State, representing 62 companies, trade associations, utilities, retail distributors, generators, or transmitters of oil and gas-based electricity.”

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence.” P. 17.

Committee assignments are another crucial way in which G&O (and other big industries like pharma, firearms, insurance, etc.) get their way. For example:

“Significantly, four legislators who own or direct energy companies, or have ties to the oil and gas industry, sit on a key House committee, the House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Representatives Phelps Anderson, James Strickler, James Townsend, and Larry Scott are all members of this committee, where all oil and gas bills go.”

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence.” P. 17.

You don’t need to lobby too heavily in the key House Energy committee when industry representatives comprise four of the nine votes. Get one more and you get your way. And as Fix the Senate below makes clear, the process through which Senate committee assignments are made results in an iron grip on any and all G&O regulation. If you have not watched Fix the Senate it will blow your mind as to how the legislative process is manipulated by five key Democrats In Name Only (Senators Papen, Sanchez, Munoz, Ramos, and Smith).

With virtually no legislation limiting the industry, G&O runs roughshod on our communities, our land, and our air. From Inside Climate News, a report published just Wednesday found:

“The gas leaked and vented from the Permian makes nearly the same contribution to global warming as carbon dioxide emissions from all U.S. residences, according to the study. If that same volume of methane were to be used instead for residential purposes, it would meet the gas needs of seven million households in Texas, according to the study.”

Inside Climate News: “Super-Polluting Methane Emissions Twice Federal Estimates in Permian Basin, Study Finds”

The G&O industry has held this iron grip on the legislature a very long time. As a result, the 1935 Oil & Gas Act has never been adjusted, resulting in NM receiving significantly lower royalties and tax revenue than any of it oil producing neighbors. And any time a legislator has the temerity to suggest this warrants raising these rates, NMOGA et al descend and defeat the measure. Quickly.

“Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence” examines exactly how bills impacting the gas and oil industry fared in the 2019 legislative session. Four of these are particularly instructive:

  • HB 398 / SB 500 would have increased royalty rates but never passed a committee in either chamber, with SB 500 not even receiving a hearing and HB 398 dying in its first committee.
  • HB 546, the produced water bill strongly supported by gas and oil, was slipped through the legislature in the last days of the session with hearings occurring after midnight with no public present.
  • SB 186 would have increased the powers of the oil conservation division.
  • SB 459, introduced by Sen. Sedillo Lopez, would have created a four-year moratorium on new fracking leases. The bill never got a hearing in its first committee assignment, Senate Conservation, despite Sen. Sedillo Lopez being vice chair.

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and its Allies: Oceans of Oil, Oceans of Influence” is over 70 pages, but many pages are devoted to lists of the 20 top contributors, and the top legislative recipients. It is a sordid tale. To review the full report, click here. And to find out more about how the NM State Senate functions (or fails to function), see the video below. It is both entertaining and eye-opening, truly an exemplary piece of work by Eric Shimamoto.

Fix The NM State Senate

If you really want to understand how the NM State Senate works and why we will be focusing on key Senate races in the June primary, this video lays it all out. Fix the Senate was written and produced by Eric Shimamoto, and it lays out ever so clearly exactly how the NM State Senate works and who pulls the strings. And it names names.

The Liar Tweets Tonight

You have likely seen this, but if you haven’t, listen in. Just two and a half minutes, great lyrics, totally hilarious. Just cuz you need some hilarity.

In solidarity,
Paul and Roxanne

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7 replies

  1. State Senator #28 Gabe Ramos has received $19,200 from oil and gas just this past quarter. As we like to say in Silver City, where there are no oil wells, “Oil is well with my campaign for Senate.” It is front money from Freeport Mining to Chevron then from Chevron to Chevron Strong, which used to be Grant County Strong.There is a long list of Chevron Strong candidates in Grant County, both democrat and republican.

  2. The tune would be more humorous were it not so true, especially where “no nurses sleep tonight”

  3. This blog post raises a tricky matter. Exposing this kind of dirt might tend to discourage people from taking action. Why should I bother to make phone calls, write letters, and so on, if the fat cats are just going to buy the results they want no matter what we do?

    We need to counter that pessimism with ongoing reports of successes such as the overthrow of the “IDC” in New York state. There is, clearly, a tipping point which is not at all obvious – in fact, which may not be knowable. Let’s keep bringing these surprising and uplifting success stories to light even as we necessarily study what is badly awry.

    • Hey Greg,

      If you watch the video Fix the Senate, it features the IDC in NY and the success there. But for those who do not watch it, it is likely a good idea to reference that despite Covid, a few wins in the Senate could change the political calculus.


  4. Last Tuesday’s Zoominar was, indeed, excellent. Bravi to you and Roxanne, Paul, for an excellent and very informative session. Regarding fixing the NM legislature and getting Trump out of office, I recommend Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans. His film clearly shows that even the environmental and climate change movements have been taken over by very rich capitalists, who hope to once again profit hugely from new economic opportunities. The problem is that these so-called Green technologies are apparently just as dirty as the ones they are meant to replace, if not more so. We’re in a real pickle, and I hope that we can vote in some moderate change to begin with in the June primary and again in November.

    Moore’s film points to something you’ve also been emphasizing here, which is the transformation of human consciousness on the individual and collective levels. In that sense, his film ends on a positive note. But we are up against something so massive and so evil that it’s going to be an incredibly rough ride.

  5. I forgot, Representative and Chair of the House Egolf gave Senator Gabe Ramos $500 this past quarter. So oil is well with both their campaigns. We couldn’t figure out why this had happened until now. The oil money is over flowing.

  6. If these O&G recipients survive the election, and they likely will, we need to “create” living statutes in their honor. Picture volunteers to stand at committee meetings with signs around their necks, the Legislator’s name and the amount they are owned by O&G. And just silently wander around the capitol in the early days of the session, attend rallies, and ensure that every one in government knows this information is front and center to every decision. Most citizens have no idea. Lets do some street theater.

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