In the era of big-money Political Action Committees (PACs) it can be difficult to know what messaging is coming from which candidate or PAC, which is the whole point really. As New Mexicans have begun early voting (we strongly encourage absentee voting!), there have been tons of ads and stories about the big money trying to influence voters of every stripe. And while one of the bigger stories seems to be the war being waged between the campaigns of two Republican candidates for New Mexico’s Second Congressional district, one key factor we found seems to be missing from those stories.
It’s been reported that a PAC called Citizens for a United New Mexico is associated with some big names in the oil business here in the state, specifically Butch Mathews. The same AP story also lists a “GOP operative” Charles Gantt as being associated with the PAC as “Custodian of Record” and states he works with a company called Bulldog Compliance, part of a larger company Red Curve Solutions.
But none of the stories here in New Mexico have dug into who Gantt really is, and why his involvement in New Mexico politics is something we take VERY seriously. Gantt’s name appears on dozens of public documents affiliated with hard-right PACs at both the national and local levels. Most alarming is that at one time Gantt was Chief Financial Officer for Trump for America, a Super PAC that formed in New Jersey before moving to Massachusetts and literally worked to hire staff for Trump’s transition team and White House. There’s another direct link to Trump in Gantt’s past; his own company Bulldog Compliance is part of a larger company, Red Curve Solutions, a right-leaning political outfit. “Bradley Crate, Red Curve Solutions’ president, serves as Donald Trump’s campaign treasurer.”
Ok, so let’s clarify real quick. The treasurer of the out-of-state Super PAC that is funding pro-oil and gas, pro-Trump ads has direct ties to President Trump through a number of shadowy firms and PACs all based on the east coast. Got it? Wait, there’s more.
Gantt and Crate are also affiliated with the pro-fossil fuel lobby group Power The Future, which in recent years has become a too frequent voice in stories about oil and gas in New Mexico. Power the Future is a national 501c4 group that hired former Martinez-era staffer Larry Behrens to be a spokesperson for the oil and gas industry here in New Mexico. But at the national level, Gantt is listed three times on Power the Future’s tax documents, specifically as their Treasurer, and Crate is listed as a Director.
So Charles Gantt, a hardline conservative operative from the east coast is behind both Power the Future AND the Citizens for a United New Mexico PAC which is spending tens of thousands of dollars backing republican candidates in our state. Could it be any more clear these groups don’t care about us in New Mexico, but are instead solely focused on advancing a partisan out-of-state agenda? I think not.
Last year, ProgressNow New Mexico uncovered definitive proof that the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) was working directly with Power the Future both nationally and in New Mexico. Our reporting showed that members of the national PTF group were in New Mexico for a statewide communications planning session with members of NMOGA, as well as other communication firms and interested parties from oil companies and the larger “business” community in the state. Some of these national communications companies have ties to extreme far-right organizations both nationally and internationally, including White Supremacists and other hate groups.
It’s not enough to simply mention that Gantt’s name is on some forms associated with PACs and overt political agents like Larry Behrens at Power the Future, it is critical that New Mexicans continue to vote against these corporate interests and instead elect candidates that really represent New Mexico values.