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Oil and gas donations shifting away from Republicans in New Mexico


The oil and gas industry has increased non-election year contributions to New Mexico’s politicians as the state Legislature debated new regulation in the 2024 session. The industry boosted its contributions to Democrats, the current dominant party in the state, while trimming back donations to Republicans, who still hold a slight lead overall, according to campaign contribution records from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office.

In New Mexico, Democrats hold all elected state-level offices and hold strong majorities in both legislative chambers. A tally of contributions from more than 140 companies, industry-related individuals and industry political action committees shows nearly $688,000 in direct contributions to politicians for the 2023 calendar year — an increase of $23,000 over the 2021 total. In that period, donations to Democrats rose by 7.8% to $313,550 while donations to Republicans dropped 7.5% to $342,401. Contributions to independent and unaffiliated candidates rose from $3,800 to $32,000. These numbers could rise further since the candidate reporting deadline for the last quarter of 2023 is April 8.

The comparison tallied contributions of $100 or greater from oil and gas production companies, supporting companies like pipeline, well service and produced water companies, people who listed a production or supporting company as their employer, and PACs dedicated to oil and gas companies and production. (See the list at the end of the story)

Election- and non-election year politics differ as state politicians focus on making laws rather than running for office. By comparison, in 2022, a year when a third of the senate, all representatives and all major state offices were up for grabs, donation records show the same donors giving nearly three million to New Mexican candidates. They went for broke in the governor’s race, giving $963,236 to Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti and just $177,650 to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Ronchetti lost.

Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson, senior manager for state policy at the conservation group Earthworks, says that interim donations “are intended to influence legislation rather than elections.” He says that since Democrats hold the reins of state power and grapple with “a heavily polluting, toxic industry,” the increasing donations show “oil and gas is working hard to make sure to preserve their influence.”

“Companies are giving more to Dems ahead of key votes because Dems hold the majority,” said Melissa Troutman, climate and energy advocate with WildEarth Guardians.

2023 was not an election year, but it saw New Mexico’s legislature debate the first iteration of a trio of bills to dramatically reform and update the state’s Oil and Gas Act, the law that underpins how the industry can operate in the state. According to the Oil Conservation Division, which oversees production in the state, the last major updates to the Act were in the 1980s and ‘90s. The bills would have tightened the rules of the game for producers, increasing fines and restrictions, all with an eye to better protect environmental and public health.

That update didn’t pass the two-month 2023 legislative session, which ran from January into March, and industry donated just $3,250 in those months. But the taps opened in April and gushed in May, primarily for Democrats, and all of it from Chevron. The company handed out nearly $236,000 over 49 days: $129,800 to Democrats and $105,950 to Republicans. The individual Democratic donations were larger, too, averaging $4,400 compared to $3,300 for Republicans.

Donations dropped over the summer then spiked again even higher in September. That month, Gov. Lujan Grisham invited fossil fuel companies to sit down with conservation groups to write a new Oil and Gas Act update which never made it to full consideration on the House floor in the 2024 legislative session. The bill had far fewer and far duller teeth than the one proposed in 2023, but it still offered major increases in fines, fees and regulations compared to the existing law. It also enshrined the state’s 98% methane gas capture rate rule into law. Even so, Troutman called the bill “a shitshow,” that was “whittled down to something the o&g industry supports.”

Companies large and small contributed to the September flood of donations, which this time tilted heavily in the Republicans’ favor: Democratic donations totaled $78,550 while Republicans received $157,550.

Debate crawled on the Legislature’s few oil and gas production-related bills this session — when it happened at all. Over the past four years, two of the four top legislative recipients of oil and gas money are Democrats, including the speaker of the House, Rep. Javier Martinez. He chooses which bills are heard and when on the House floor and last year he received $13,200 from the industry.

It also took about a week and a half for a House floor hearing on HB 48 that would increase royalty rates from new oil and gas wells on state land from 20% to 25%. It would affect less than one percent of leasable state land in the Permian Basin, the most productive and lucrative oilfield both in the state and the country — but it could add more than $1.5 billion to state permanent funds by 2050 and bring the rate in line with what’s charged over the border in Texas and by private landowners.

Despite the simplicity of the bill, Republicans dragged out debate to the full three hours permitted by chamber rules. “Probably no shock to you, but I can’t support this,” said Rep. James Townsend, a leading Republican and onetime director at Holly Energy. He said that’s not because of the size or scope of the tax increase, but because, “I believe that the message that we’re sending to the industry that so mightily supports NM is not a good one.”

According to campaign records, that industry also supported Townsend to the tune of $75,000 last year, nearly three times the amount given to any other legislator.

The bill passed the House on a 39-28 vote, with five Democrats joining Republicans to try and shoot it down. Looking at the vote by amounts donated gives a clue to the nature of oil and gas money in New Mexico politics. The 28 who voted against the bill received $233,791 in 2023, including the five Democrats — Harry Garcia, Patricia Lundstrom, Tara Jaramillo, Willie Madrid and Joseph Sanchez — who collectively received $55,050 that year. And 19 of the 39 Democrats who voted for the increase received $163,000 from industry, including house speaker Martinez.

The bill did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee before the end of the session on Feb. 15.


Companies, People and PACs Whose Donations Were TrackedApache Corporation, BC & D Operating Inc, B-29 GP, Bell Supply Company, Brewer Oil Co, Broken Arrow Royalties, Buffalo Oilfield Supply, Burns Resources, Centennial Resources/Colgate, Chase Oil Co, Chevron, Cibola Land Corporation, Coll Brothers Oil, Comancheria, ConocoPhillips, Coterra Energy, DCP Operating Company, Devon, Eland Energy Inc, Endurance Lift Solutions, Enbridge, Energy Transfer, ExxonMobil, Frontier Development Inc, Gama, Halliburton, Hanagan Petroleum Corporation, Hanson McBride Petroleum Company, Harvard Energy Partners, Harvard Petroleum, Hat Mesa Oil Company, HBW Resources, Henry production Inc, Hilcorp, Intrepid Potash, Jalapeno, Judah Oil, Logos Resources, M&R Trucking, Mack, Marathon, McBride Oil & Gas, McClellan Oil, Mesquite SWD, Me-tex Oil & Gas Inc, Merrion Oil & Gas, Mewbourne, Murphy Petroleum, New Tex Oil Company, NGL Water Solutions Permian, Occidental / OXY, Oscura Resources Incorporated, Pbex Energy Services, Petro Yates, Peyton Petroleum, Piper Energy, Plains Marketing LP, Platinum Energy Services, Polo Oil & Gas Company, Prestige Oilfield Services, PRI Operating, Process Equipment & Service Co Inc, Resource Production Co, Richards Energy Compression, Santo Petroleum, Saulsbury Industries, Select Energy, Sendero Midstream, Shackelford Oil Properties, Slayton Oil Corp, Stoans Oil Corporation, Strata Production, Tallgrass Energy, Targa, Tinian Oil & Gas, Trinity Oilfield Services & Rentals, Tularosa Oil, Westall Oil & Gas, XTO, Affordable Energy PAC, New Mexico Turn Around PAC, Charles Saulsbury, Cliff Brunson, Greg Fulfer, H Michael Krimbill, Julie Moore, Larry Gregory, Mark McClellan, Mark Murphy, Mark Veteto, Michael Hanagan, NMOGA, Patrick Killen, Ray & Karen Westall, Strickler Family, Yates Family, Heyco, Highjacked Crane & Pumpjack Services, Kelley Oilfield Services, Manzano Energy, ABO Empire, Armstrong Energy, Concho Resources, Concho PAC, Cibola Land, Pegasus Petroleum, Nave Oil and Gas, CDG Properties, Hudson Oil, Atrisco Oil, Double R Pipe & Supp, Matador Resources, Vladin, Mosaic Resources, Cross D Ranch Operating, Perry’s Oilfield Services, Permian Energy PAC, Travco Resources, Bill Fenn Oil, Buckhorn Production, S & B, Lucky Services, TRM, BBC International, GTC Inc, Sandel, Aztec Well, Basin Disposal, Triple S Trucking, Enduring Resources, Orion Energy, Steward Energy, Southwest Royalties, Read & Stevens, Benson-Montin-Greer, Dugan Production, Lynx Petroleum, Western Energy Alliance, Axis Energy, Mullins Energy, Capitan Energy, Double Eagle Energy, Klein Energy, Lucid Energy.

This story was originally published by Capital & Main. You can find that publication here.

KUNM made several updates to reflect results after the session ended on February 15.

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