The Long and Winding Trail of Campaign Funding in NM: We Follow the Money

Elections have always been important, but in the current political climate they are critical. Decisions and actions taken by elected officials impact our lives, our planet, our future – for better or for worse. In 2023 there will be transformational legislation proposed – Health Security, Public Bank, and Public Power to name just three. We will need every progressive vote we can garner to get those bills through, and there are nefarious, dark-money forces seeking to undermine many good incumbents.

It’s often difficult to get at the truth about candidates’ records and who is funding their campaigns, especially in contentious races when the claims and accusations are flying. As they say, if you really want to get at the truth, follow the money. And with the New Mexico state primary less than 2 weeks away, the money trail reveals some questionable but not so surprising sources of campaign funding.

Most of us have heard about Working Together New Mexico, the PAC formed in March of this year that is funding conservative Democratic campaigns against progressive incumbents Reps. Roger Montoya, Kristina Ortez, and Andrea Romero. The PAC is also backing Brian Colón for AG, Joe Maestas for Auditor, and a handful of others running for vacant positions. You can find their 2-page website at this link.

Working Together NM is headed by conservative Democrats Louie Sanchez, an Albuquerque City Councilor, and Karen Montoya, a former PRC Commissioner. Coincidentally, the executive director of Working Together NM is James Hallinan, the former campaign spokesman for Governor Lujan Grisham who filed a sexual harassment claim against the governor after she allegedly poured a bottle of water on his lap and “grabbed his crotch” in a meeting. The Governor paid $150,000 to settle that claim in September 2021.

The new PAC filed its first report to the Secretary of State’s Office earlier this month, reporting a handful of contributions, the largest being $50,000 on April 25, 2022 from another PAC, New Mexico Strong, based in Austin, TX; $5K from PAC leader Karen Montoya; $5K from lobbyist Vanessa Alarid. No surprise from Montoya or Alarid. But who’s behind New Mexico Strong?

Roxanne did a little sleuthing online and learned some interesting things about New Mexico Strong. The Albuquerque Journal reported on May 9, 2022 that the PAC is funded by oil giant Chevron. The treasurer is listed as Cabell Hobbs, who has been registered as an “officer” of several other PACs, including Republican PACs such as Project Red Texas and Fight for Louisiana.

Mr. Hobbs was also the FEC-designated treasurer for the John Bolton SuperPAC when they were accused of illegally coordinating with Cambridge Analytica in 2018, according to this March 2018 article  from Law & Crime. Hobbs worked in the George W. Bush White House and served on both Bush/Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004. He currently manages Compliance Consulting Co. of Virginia, which he cofounded in 2006.

Cabell Hobbs was also listed as treasurer of Stand With Corey, a super PAC in Manchester, NH, that recruited Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in 2019. (Lewandowski decided not to run.)

The busy Mr. Hobbs was also treasurer of the Joni for Iowa PAC (Republican Senator Joni Ernst) when an FEC complaint was filed against the Senator, Joni for Iowa, Iowa Values, & Jobs Opportunity & New Ideas PACs for making expenditures and coordinating with her campaign against FEC regulations, according to this Dec. 12, 2019 complaint filed with the FEC by the Campaign for Accountability.

Cabell Hobbs was also treasurer of the Wendy Long for NY PAC when a 2014 lawsuit was heard in U.S. District Court claiming illegal reimbursement of political donations to Wendy Long’s Senate campaign. (Long, a Republican, lost in landslides to Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012 and Chuck Schumer in 2016.)

And Hobbs is the president of RightSide Compliance, listed at the same address in Austin as New Mexico Strong, and named on NM Strong’s expenditures report to the SOS as being paid several thousands of dollars for “consulting” services over the last year. So, Hobbs heads the PAC and pays his own company for consulting services to the PAC.

There is more on Mr. Hobbs, but I think the point is made that New Mexico Strong, which donated $50K to Working Together New Mexico, is headed by a Texas-based, political operative who has a multi-year history of supporting conservative Republicans and conducting shady campaign funding practices as noted above.

New Mexico Strong also reports an expenditure of over $10K to Purple Strategies in Phoenix for “consulting services” and “campaign paraphernalia/misc” on May 2, 2022. It may not surprise you that Purple Strategies is owned by James Hallinan (see note above re Hallinan) who is registered as the executive director of Working Together New Mexico. Are you keeping track of all this?

Then, we discovered that New Mexico Strong donated $150K to the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association (NMOGA) on Feb. 3, 2022, as a “Nonprofit Org. Contribution Expenditure.” Really? Does NMOGA need the money? Don’t they get enough from the gas & oil industry? Or maybe (as the ABQ Journal reported on May 9, 2022, see note above) Chevron is the major funder of New Mexico Strong. No doubt NMOGA will use the donation to underwrite some last-minute, inflammatory ad campaign or mailer to undermine some candidate they would like out of the way. These connections can make your head spin!

Another piece of the puzzle: New Mexico Strong also donated $50K to A Stronger New Mexico PAC, on May 2, 2022, whose address is listed at 223 N. Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe, a P.O. Box at The UPS Store. A Stronger New Mexico PAC registered with the SOS on April 29 of this year and lists Andrew Whalen as Principal Officer and Jillian Edelman as Treasurer. These two people are also registered as officers of A Stronger Nevada PAC and Put Pennsylvania First PAC. The $50K contribution is the only one reported by A Stronger NM, and it has not been spent yet, so it’s difficult to know who they will support.

A Stronger Nevada PAC’s website says they support conservatives, and they “will lead the charge against the radical, socialists seeking to change Nevada into a place we no longer recognize.” But this May 17, 2022 article in the Nevada Independent accuses the PAC of “meddling in the GOP Governor primary” for trying to defeat Trump-backed candidate Joe Lombardo. It reports that A Stronger Nevada was registered in Nevada on April 5, 2022, and lists “two operatives linked to the Democratic party – Andrew Whalen and Jillian Edelman – as the PAC’s officers.” The same two officers of A Stronger New Mexico. They registered the PAC in Nevada just a few days after the end of Nevada’s first quarter fundraising deadline so that their financial report won’t be due until mid-July and donations and expenditures won’t be public until well after the primary.

How can we know if these two are Republicans disguised as Democrats or Democrats disguised as Republicans? Jillian Edelman is listed as a staff member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but based on the paper trail (regardless of the attempt to defeat Trump-backed Lombardo in Nevada), and the $50K donation from New Mexico Strong, she is likely a very conservative Dem.

And, as most of us know, powerful state Rep. Patty Lundstrom has also contributed to the same conservative Democrats as Working Together New Mexico. As the Albuquerque Journal reported in this article on April 18, 2022, Lundstrom admits she donated $1K each to the campaigns of opponents running against progressive state Reps. Susan Herrera, Andrea Romero, Kristina Ortez, and Roger Montoya.

In a financial report to the SOS submitted earlier this month, Lundstrom lists a $2K donation in April and $2.2K in May to Joseph Sanchez who is opposing progressive incumbent Rep. Roger Montoya. I did not find donations to the other opponents. But, maybe in response to blowback resulting from the Albuquerque Journal article, Lundstrom donated $500 each to Reps. Kristina Ortez and Susan Herrera on May 2. I guess she drew the line at donating to Reps. Andrea Romero and Roger Montoya’s campaigns.

And Lundstrom has her own PAC: People for Growing Our Economy, listed with the SOS at the same address as Lundstrom’s own campaign, and with the same Treasurer, Janice Welch. Her PAC has reported very little activity in 2022, but the largest donation received by the PAC in the last year was $10K donated by Lundstrom’s campaign in April 2021.

As for contributions to Lundstrom’s own campaign, her report to the SOS shows that in April of this year, Lundstrom received $5,200 each from Chevron, Hilcorp Energy in Houston, Mack Energy in Artesia NM, New Mexico Oil & Gas PAC, Altria Client Services LLC in Austin TX, and several other donations from various companies and individuals. Yes, oil and gas are her biggest donors. And in the Journal article linked above, she justified her support of opponents running against incumbent Democrats who voted against her Hydrogen Hub bill, saying “It’s really clear to me there were some voices, particularly in the north central region (of the state), that tried to undermine the bill.”

While it is easy to get lost in the confusing array of misleadingly named PACs and their various paper trails, one thing is abundantly clear: there are a number of well-funded, out of state, industry-backed efforts to unseat progressive Dems who have the courage to stand up to industry. And while Retake and friends can’t possibly out-fund them, we can call, canvass, and contribute to try to level the playing field.

We reached out to some of the candidates being targeted by the forces described above and found the following needs and opportunities for you to take action, these are very good Dems whose campaigns are being undermined by dark money from out of state and from gas and oil. They need our support and all are offering phone banking options, so no matter where you live, you can help:

To learn more about the other candidates we endorse, go to our 2022 Endorsements page at this link. In most all, cases, our endorsements include contact info on candidates, so if you live in other parts of the state, you have candidates to support and info to help you reach them. We are in the home stretch, with less than two weeks left before the primary. Even if you have never phoned or canvassed, campaigns are ready to train and coordinate you. And canvassing is actually very rewarding and impactful. So, let’s do it.

In hope and solidarity,

Roxanne and Paul

P.S. Roxanne spent days on this. I played almost no part. The research and writing are hers, except for the P.S.



Categories: State Elections

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9 replies

  1. Thank you for your diligence, Roxanne. Very informative.

  2. Roxanne and Paul,

    You have done your usual thorough job of research. But, in reality, the situation here in New Mexico House District 46 is not as you portray it.

    1. Yes, I have gotten one negative mailer, but it attacks Henry Roybal, not your favorite, Andrea Romero. It claims Henry is not a Democrat, without pointing to a single vote he made in two terms as a Democrat on the Santa Fe County Commission – three times elected chair by his fellow Commissioners. Democratic voters think Henry is a Democrat. One requires incredible hubris to tell us that he is not.

    2. Andrea’s opponents are not out-fund-raising her. In fact, she has raised a little more than twice as much as all three other candidates in the district combined – that’s two Democrats and one Republican – all together less than half of what she has raised.

    3. With respect to dark money, Andrea’s largest reported contributor is her own campaign committee. Does that bother you? It bothers me. That’s $27,000 and I have no idea who gave it to her campaign committee. That money is as dark as it gets to me. Perhaps you, with your excellent research skills, can shed some light on that money. I would appreciate it.

    4. Yes, Henry received $1,000 from a candidate for Speaker of the House. Andrea Romero tops that with more than five times as much money from . . . a candidate for Speaker of the House.

    I am very pleased to see that Paul is recovered from his stroke. I wish you both continuing good health.

    Best wishes.

    Devin

  3. Wow – incredible research and amazing connecting of dots out of intentional spider’s web of obfuscation. Thank you!

  4. Very pertinent and timely information.
    Send more like this, please.

  5. This is a partial comment on the previous post.

    ” On the road from Athens, democracy fell off the oxcart. What we have left is just a pile of bullshit.

    In Athenian democracy, if you were a rich dude from the right family, you could walk over to ‘Parliament’ and just sit there and rule. When it came time to fill important jobs, you usually put your own name in the box, a process called sortition. Citizenship was certainly a violently restricted category, but once you were in the club, you had real power.

    Today citizenship is still violently restricted but almost completely powerless. Citizens get teargassed if we try to enter Parliament. We get ‘indirect’ democracy, which is a fancy way of saying not at all. Instead of actually ruling ourselves, we anoint ruling elites in regular bribery festivals called ‘elections’. ”

    from: https://indi.ca/how-liberal-democracy-is-bullshit/

  6. Given what you have learned here, do you still endorse Joe Maestas over Zach Quintero for State Auditor? You wrote in Retake’s endorsements that “we have two well-qualified candidates to choose from. There is no bad choice here”. Does Working Together New Mexico’s support for Maestas tip the scales?

  7. I thought Joe Maestas said he didn’t accept $ or seek or want endorsement from Working Together New Mexico.

    • He told me he has never been offered nor would he accept a donation from them and that he never sought their endorsement.

  8. Thanks, Roxanne. This is an extremely helpful report, not just for the upcoming primary, but going forward. Money in politics is incredibly corrupting, so it’s necessary for us to follow the money.

    That said, I don’t think we should oppose a candidate just because they are supported by a bad PAC like Working Together. Joe Maestas has a lot of experience and, as far as I know, a good, progressive record. His vote on Avengrid was crucial. Zack Quintero has an entire lifetime to gather experience and develop a record, preferably in lesser offices before he is elected to a statewide office. Also, where does his money come from? Individuals in $27 increments? I don’t know how we can be sure that he will remain as progressive as he sounds.

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