We begin with two uplifting videos, one from Nina Turner and a second from HSA’s Mary Feldblum. Then we dive into a NM In Depth report on what it called “a cut and dry case of dark money,” a shocking industry-directed campaign to gut the PRC.
Big Win! HJR-1 Permanent Fund for Early Childhood, passed on the House floor and now moves to the Senate. In the past that was a dead end for HJR-1 as Senate Finance Chair Sen. John Arthur Smith was in the wings to personally kill the bill either by ensuring it was voted down in Sen. Finance, or if he feared not having the votes to do so, simply by refusing to schedule the bill for a hearing. But he is gone and the new Finance Chair, Sen. George Muñoz has indicated that “I’m good with it” if it includes funds for K-12, as well. Sen. Mimi Stewart, a strong advocate for K-12, has indicated that she sees the amount sought from the Permanent Fund growing to 1.25% or even 1.5% with some of that funding going to K-12. It looks like this year, not only will we pass an abortion ban repeal, but funding for early childhood. Primaries matter. In June, five conservative Democratic Senators were defeated and passing these two bills are among the benefits of the primary campaign effort.
A Busy Saturday at the Roundhouse. Today no less four Transformational bills and two very important Priority Bills will be heard today. We are encouraging people to log on to hearings for our bills, even if you do not plan to offer comment. In House committees Chairs poll the attendees and, for example, it was compelling that during the hearing on HB 40 Private Prison Moratorium 85% of attendees supported the bill and according to Rep. Chasey, the House Judiciary Chair, there were hundreds in attendance. Today’s hearings:
- 9 a.m. Senate Conservation: SB 155 Energy Transmission Authority Changes, amends the Energy Transition Act (ETA), and SB 149 Prohibit New Fracking Licenses
- 10 a.m. House Health & Human Services: HB 12 Cannabis Regulation Act
- 1 p.m. House Agriculture & Water Resources: HB 207 Food, Hunger & Farm Act
- 2 p.m. House Judiciary: HB 47 Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act and HB 50 Private Right of Action for Certain Statutes
News In Brief: After Impeachment Testimony Ends, a Bombshell Explodes
From Letters from an American: “February 12; Heather Cox Richardson.” HCR describes how, despite offering virtually no defense, and despite an overwhelming case presented by Democrats, enough Republican Senators were going to turn their collective backs on justice and democracy and vote to acquit Trump. At least an acquittal seemed certain until the bombshell release of information, from multiple Republican sources, of a heated phone call between House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy
“Just after the Senate adjourned for the day, CNN broke the story that gave details about a phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump as the rioters were breaching the Capitol. As McCarthy begged the then-president to call off his supporters, who were at that point breaking into his office, Trump allegedly said, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” The two men began to shout at each other, with McCarthy demanding: ‘Who the f*ck do you think you are talking to?’Letters from an American: “February 12; Heather Cox Richardson.“
Trump did not call off the rioters for several more hours. The story is explosive, showing that Trump did indeed know of the lawmakers’ danger and that he refused to help them.”
According to HCR and CNN, a number of Republicans were so concerned that the Senate will vote to acquit the former president they have gone to the press. And then someone from Pence’s team told reporters that van der Veen (Trump’s new defense attorney) was lying when he said the president did not know about Pence’s danger.
The combination of late breaking news caused Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to comment last night: “Tomorrow just got a lot more interesting.”
Beginning at 10 am ET / 8 am MT, each side will be afforded two hours to summarize their case, with a vote then coming at 2pm or after a recess. BUT, there are rumors swirling that the Dems may ask to call Rep. McCarthy to testify about his conversation with Trump and also to summon Alabama Senator Tuberville who reported to have spoken to Trump as the insurrection unfolded and the VP was being rushed to safety. It was after that that Trump tweeted about how Pence was a traitor. With that testimony, the final vote could well be up for grabs.
I think I’ll have the CNN on in the background while watching the hearings today, as it is expected that the Senate will vote today.
Black History Month
We subscribe to Alternative Radio and in honoring African American History Month, they are publicizing a series of podcasts with extraordinary African Americans. Thought you might want to tune in to one or more of these.
Selected African American History Programs
- Kali Akuno – Lessons from Mississippi
- Michelle Alexander – Race & Caste in the U.S.
- Amiri Baraka – Real Politics, Real Poetry
- Rev William Barber – It’s Time to Transform America
- Angela Davis – Beginnings: Movements of Possibility
- Manning Marable – By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X
- Tavis Smiley – The Hidden Dr. King
- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – Black Lives Matter
- Cornel West – On the Road to Freedom
Nina Turner Opens Her Campaign for Congress with An Incredible Video. About halfway into the 2-minute video, I was on my feet cheering Nina Turner on and I immediately signed up to be “an angry-ass black woman.” We need a few Nina Turners here in NM. Please take 2 minutes to watch this.
Retake Conversation with Mary Feldblum, Director of Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign. We discuss what HB 203 is, what it will do if passed by the legislature, and how to counter arguments from those opposing the bill.
Last week, I interviewed Maya van Rossum, founder of The Green Amendment for the Generations and this week, in addition to the conversation with Mary Feldblum below, I interviewed Mariel Nanasi, New Energy Economy Director about both SB 155, a bill to amend the 2019 Energy Transition Act and about SB 83 Local Choice Energy. I also interviewed, Angela Merkert Alliance For Local Economic Prosperity about the Public Bank bill HB 236 / SB 313. We are encouraging all of you to review these videos and share them with your legislators. All three appear on the Retake Conversations page.
A Shocking Report on the Deceptive Practices of Some Key “Environmental” Organizations
I want to preface my commentary with acknowledging that the Sierra Club and CVNM make invaluable contributions to advocacy in relation to so many important issues impacting our land, water, air, and wildlife. They ought to hold a pre-eminent space in all environmental advocacy. But they are failing us in relation to energy regulation and their efforts to defend themselves are indefensible. They made a mistake on the Energy Transition Act. Yes, it included some excellent elements, but it essentially let PNM regulate itself. Not my opinion, the opinion of the Attorney General and a host of attorneys with deep regulatory law experience. They also were at the forefront of the effort to “reform” the PRC, an effort I would characterize as “deforming” the PRC and doing so with one of the most disingenuous campaigns I have ever seen. The remainder of this post outlines what transpired, who funded it, and why.
In a post published on Thursday, Retake laid out why the Energy Transition Act needed to be amended. After laying out the position held by Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council, CVNM and 350NM, and the opposing view held by New Energy Economy, Retake, Indivisible Nob Hill, an array of grassroots organizations, and a handful of national environmental law and regulatory experts, we asked whose view you should trust. Based on the many comments and emails, the answer was clear that folks were tiring of environmental groups betraying their principles.
Well, in Bryan Metzger’s “Dark money group pushing PRC reform tied to major oil company,” New Mexico In Depth has laid out more reasons to question the integrity of the environmental groups who backed the ETA — they are the same groups that backed the Constitutional Amendment to take away the voters right to choose their PRC representatives. And NM In Depth reveals so much that is wrong with the PRC Amendment Campaign and the amendment itself.
As the article notes, two representatives of two key “environmental” advocacy groups, NRDC and Western Resources, were part of an ad hoc committee that crafted the language in SJR-1 introduced in 2019. But it makes clear that the ad hoc group was littered with industry lobbyists to a shocking degree. From Metzger’s article, a commentary on who was in the room crafting the language to SJR-1:
“Lobbying reports from 2019 shed light on who they represented. Robert Romero was registered to represent the Emissary Group, BNSF Railroad, NGL Water Solutions Permian, and Kit Carson Energy. Kim Legant was registered as a lobbyist for a renewable energy company, NextEra Energy, as well as Hull Consulting, which represents multiple energy companies and PNM. Mark Fleisher was a registered lobbyist for Affordable Solar and Sacred Wind Communications. The Emissary Group, a public affairs lobbying company, made significant campaign contributions on behalf of Occidental Petroleum and Marathon Oil Company. Energy companies may have a variety of interests concerning the PRC, in addition to pipeline safety for those who own pipelines within the state.”
Based on the chart to the right from the article, I dug a bit more into the composition of this ad hoc group and it includes:
- A leader of the Chamber of Commerce;
- Three lobbyists for the gas and oil industry, via the Emissary Group;
- Doug Howe a former PRC commissioner appointed by Susana Martinez who before joining the PRC had been a lobbyist for a global utilities group and was the expert for Western Resource Advocates in support of the ETA;
- Matthew Jaramillo, lobbyist for PNM;
- Hull Consulting, a lobbyist for PNM and other utility monopolies;
- Mark Fleisher was the campaign manager for Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy,two PRC members who repeatedly sided with industry. Furthermore, while he represented Affordable Solar, who won an expensive solar contract from PNM! Affordable Solar was the single largest contributor to the Jones and Lovejoy campaigns. PNM’s PAC spent $440,000 to support their preferred regulators, Jones and Lovejoy. Both lost their jobs to Stephen Fischmann and Teresa Becenti-Aguilar
- Amy Miller, who spent 14 years working for PNM;
- A Republican staffer.
When asked about the composition of the ad hoc group, Senator Wirth stated: “It was a pretty diverse representation of utility and environmental groups. It was open to anyone that wanted to participate.” But of course, you would have had to have known the working group even existed to get a seat at the table. As to its being diverse, well, ten the 14 members from industry or representing the industry-friendly GOP and that is not including the Kit Carson representative. This was clearly an industry-dominated ad hoc group with the priorities of the utility industry dominating the framing of SJR 1.
While some would say that there was environmental priorities incorporated with Steve Michel from Wester Resources and Noah Long from Natural Resources Defense Council supposedly representing environmental interests. But you will recall that Noah Long was the treasurer of the dark money PAC that funded the misleading campaign to pass the constitutional amendment to take away our right to elect PRC Commissioners. Despite the NM Ethics Commission demanding to know the source of funding for the PAC, Long has refused to divulge this information, instead revealing that most all of the funds were spent on mailers. Like we couldn’t have figured that out on our own after our mailboxes were peppered with his misleading mailers that stated that the PRC Amendment was crafted to bring needed expertise to the PRC. What it didn’t say in the mailers was that the Amendment:
- Removed PRC authority to regulate all pipelines in the state, i.e., those gas and oil pipelines that leak toxic produced water and fracked oil throughout the state. I bet that made the gas and oil industry happy.
- Eliminated PRC authority to regulate trucking transport of toxic produced water, gas, and oil, another nice tip of the hat to the gas and oil industry.;
- Removed our right to elect our PRC Commissioners (nowhere in the mailers was there one word indicating that Commissioners would henceforth be appointed by the Governor.
The flyers didn’t mention that the reason the PRC lacked “expertise” is that the Governor issued a hiring freeze for the PRC and then, as if that weren’t enough, evicted the PRC from its offices during a pandemic. There is a reason one respected NM State Senator stated that the PRC Amendment campaign was the single most corrupt campaign he had seen in his career.
And who were the donors that funded this misleading campaign? The Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers managed $250,000 of the funds driving the campaign. Despite the refusal of the Committee to reveal their funding sources, NM Ethics Watch was able to identify one donor: EXXON Mobil with a tidy $10,000 contribution. Given that and the Committee’s refusal to reveal other donors, we can only imagine who else ponied up, but the NM In Depth report called it “a cut and dry example of ‘dark money.'”
But the Committee represents only a quarter of the funding used to mislead the voters. Another $770,000 was contributed to a PAC also organized and managed by Noah Long, and while he won’t report who those donors are, a link in the NM In Depth piece takes you to a summary of the donations on the Secretary of State’s website. A bit less than $10,000 in donations came from two donors in Santa Fe and over $760,000 came from New York and Washington D.C. One wonders who those donors might be. When pressed about the source of the donations, Long replied: “The broad coalition that supported the reform was evident in the 2019 legislative session.” As if that was a response to the question.
So, not only did Sierra Club, CVNM, and NRDC, through the ETA, remove the PRC’s authority to regulate PNM — in relation to PNM’s demand that $700M in imprudent investments be awarded to them and paid by ratepayers — Long et al then made sure that the PRC was removed from regulating key aspects of the gas and oil industry (pipelines and trucking) and that the voters would never elect another commissioner.
And these are the environmental “advocates” who charge New Energy Economy with misleading the public about the need to amend the ETA. In a recent email sent by the Sierra Club asking their supporters to oppose SB 155, these are the three points they ask constituents to stress:
- “These amendments jeopardize funds for frontline communities and workers.” A claim “substantiated” by the assertion that the PRC might strip this funding from the securitization package. Nonsense.
- “The publicity blitz around these amendments has given a platform to the right-wing to lie about renewable energy.” First, what publicity blitz? Noah Long and his PACs are the ones who are masters at promoting a misleading “publicity blitz.” And second, since when did right-wing organizations need a platform to spout lies — they simply get a seat at the ad hoc group making the rules.
- “These amendments do zero for the climate.” SB 155 was never intended to address climate. It is a bill to address economic injustice, racial injustice, and corporate piracy aided and abetted by supposed environmental advocacy groups.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation