Despite price crash, Big Oil is still spending big in New Mexico elections

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As the price of crude oil continues to struggle given the global pandemic and reduced demand and overproduction, America’s oil companies are seeking access to government programs to grant them “liquidity” during these “tough times.” They keep saying they’re not asking for a bailout, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, right? 

But wait, if times are so tough, how are these companies spending so much money to try and influence elections in places like New Mexico? Apparently, they can’t even “afford” to abide by decade-old EPA regulations, according to their own spokespeople.

National companies like Chevron and big companies in the state like Mack and Yates, along with their lobbyist lackeys, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Power the Future, have amassed over $700,000 in the latest campaign finance reports, and we’re still a week out from early voting starting. To be clear, that’s new money since the last reports, those PACs all have other funds available as well, from previous campaigns. 

According to the most recent financial reporting documents filed with the Secretary of State, three big PACs have amassed a huge war chest aimed at pushing their industry-first policies across state government. Oh, and that doesn’t include spending from national Super PACs like Citizens for a United New Mexico which has over $70,000 on hand to spend on just ONE race.

NMOGA PAC, PAC 22, and New Mexico Strong collectively have around $720,000 on hand as of last week’s filings. A SIGNIFICANT portion of those dollars came directly from Chevron alone. If you follow the links above you can see where the oil giant has contributed to all three PACs, as well as some of the other major contributors like the Yates family of Yates Petroleum and Mack Energy, part of the Chase family portfolio. 

So what do you suppose these PACs are aiming to accomplish with all their money? If history is an indication, it’s likely that they’ll spend it trying to fund pro-oil Democrats in primary races, as well as the MOST oil-friendly Republicans they can find. Indeed, the NMOGA PAC has ONLY donated to Democrats, four of them to be exact, all of whom have recently been targeted by a progressive campaign called No Corporate Democrats 2020

Meanwhile, New Mexico Strong appears to be paying for the national consulting, national media buys, and branding. One vendor is the far-right compliance firm Rightside Compliance which has been used by Lindsay Graham and scores of national PACs all to the extreme right of the political spectrum. There’s also payments to a shady national media company (with no website?) called Revolution Media Group in Arlington VA, as well as a legal firm called The Gober Group that represents huge (like, literally the Houston Texans NFL team and international slushie stop 7/11) clients. Their founder, Chris Gober, hosts a right-leaning podcast and has a pinned tweet attacking New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just to give you an idea. 

Why is an oil and gas funded PAC in little old New Mexico paying for services from these titans of industry? You only have to go back to 2018 to find the answer. In early 2018, before and during that year’s 30-day Legislature, Chevron spent $183,000, more than one-third of total political contributions for that reporting period. Later that year, Chevron would spend an additional $350,000 to try and defeat Stephanie Garcia Richards, the more progressive candidate for State Land Commissioner, by backing a more conservative Democratic candidate in the primary.

It’s not time to bail out the oil and gas industry. If they need “liquidity” so bad, may we suggest they stop pouring money into New Mexico politics trying to bully their way into our Roundhouse? We should all keep this in mind in the coming months as we get closer draft language around the long-awaited methane rule. We know that such a rule will create more revenue for oil and gas companies and therefore more revenue for the state, but the initial investment costs will bring out kicking and screaming from oil and gas companies.

New Mexico has suffered long enough under the delusion that we need oil and gas money but it’s more clear than ever that what we need are new, bold ideas for generating revenue in the state.