Let’s face it— it’s been a crazy primary season. Some people armed themselves with hand sanitizer and face masks as they headed to the polls while others made use of their absentee ballots by mailing them or dropping them off at their respective polling places. Together, we adapted to a global pandemic and exercised our right to vote. This year, ballots are taking a little longer than usual to count, but we can already see that real change is here. Election Night Loser: The oil and gas industry.
**Trigger warning: reference to violence against black communities. Today we take a break from the usual weekly update to reflect on the atrocities of state-sanctioned violence happening in our country right now. During the past few months, as our attention has been focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, black families across the nation have continued to be murdered due to intrinsic, systemic racism, by the people who are supposed to be protecting them (police forces).
For those living in 1967, or those who were actually taught the history of our nation in school, it may seem that the events of this week are a repeat of the Detroit Race Riots in 1967, and do you know what? They are. The race riots in 1967 were triggered by police suppression and brutality of black residents of Virgina Park, much like the protests around the county this week were triggered by the tragic murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. History, in this case, is repeating itself because very little has changed in our society since 1967. How can we teach our children in schools about the “success” of the civil rights movement and abolishment of Jim Crow laws when our country is still lynching black people, albiet without literal ropes, but instead, knees to the neck?
In the last few weeks a total of eight Black Americans have been murdered by racism.
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.
A disturbing video has been making its way around the internet since the beginning of the week, after some high-profile politicos in the state finally made statements, media stories have begun to appear about it, but most fail to call out some of the deeper and more sinister meaning behind it. Otero County Commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” leader Couy Griffen said in a recent video that (and we are quoting this historically racist phrase, be warned) “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” That phrase, originally coined by Civil War general Philip Sheridan about Native Americans and made “popular” by Theodore Roosevelt, is clearly hate-speech and a dog whistle for white supremacists. Even IF you were unaware of the historical context, the call for political violence is clearly unacceptable but in line with Griffen’s brand of far-right, alt-right thuggery. Griffen’s Cowboy group have made something of a name for themselves riding their horses and dressing in costumes around the country in support of Trump but specifically showing up to support the most extreme far-right policies of his platform like vigilante groups along the southern border and bringing guns to the state capitol.
With the 2020 primary voting season in full swing, progressives have found ourselves in a unique position of condemning the actions of not only the usual, right-wing, Republican suspects, but individuals running as Democrats as well. You may have seen the Santa Fe New Mexican article about the No Corporate Democrats PAC or our blog about a racist Bernalillo County Commission race mailer. This time, we’re bringing you information on a candidate for House District 50, Rebecca “Becky” King Spindle, who is running as a “Democrat” against incumbent Matthew McQueen.
Rebecca “Becky” King Spindle is the granddaughter of the late Bruce King, who served as a Democratic Governor for New Mexico for 12 years. With this family history, one would assume it safe to believe King Spindle upholds democratic beliefs as she runs for House District 50 as a Democrat. After doing some research, we are not so sure.
*This morning (5/14) we were contacted by candidate Adrian Carver to change a portion of this story. Carver pointed out that his offense was civil, not criminal. While we have changed the error, we are once again disappointed in Carver for his double-down attempt to re-criminalize his opponent instead of acknowledging and reflecting on his own hypocritical and racist actions. As a progressive organization, we’ve always taken a lead on calling out racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Usually, it’s directed at conservative political players.
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.
En medio de estos tiempos sin precedentes, queremos proporcionar un lugar para tener acceso a qué recursos están disponibles para continuar participando en nuestra democracia de la mejor manera posible. Una decisión reciente de la Corte Suprema de Nuevo México declaró que la votación en persona todavía debe ser una opción en las siguientes elecciones, por lo que la votación anticipada comenzará en persona el 5 de Mayo. Sin embargo, debido a que la mayoría de nuestras comunidades seguirán bajo órdenes de quedarse en casa debido a COVID-19, se puede votar en ausencia, una opción segura y fácil para continuar su distanciamiento social. En primer lugar, solicitar una boleta de votación en ausencia es una opción. ¡AHORA MISMO!
An article from the past weekend from the Santa Fe New Mexican titled “Environmental groups worry EPA memo will lead to uptick in pollution” is worth taking a second look at for anyone paying attention to the oil and gas industry.
For some context, the Trump Administration has offered the industry a get out of jail free card from Environmental Protection Act enforcement during the COVID-19 crisis, essentially making decades of important health and safety rules moot. t’s not hard to assume that as soon as the overseeing agency says they’re not going to be checking up that the oil and gas industry will stop complying with our health-based clean air and water laws.
According to the article from this weekend, that’s pretty much what’s happening.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Chevron, Veronica Flores-Paniagua, forwarded a blog post from the American Petroleum Institute, which had originally asked the EPA for the monitoring flexibility, that claimed the “temporary relief for non-essential compliance requirements” does not constitute a rollback of environmental enforcement. Julie King, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, also said the energy company complies “with all laws, rules and regulations applicable to our business.” Neither said, however, whether the two companies would voluntarily continue to submit emissions reports or other previous environmental requirements that can be temporarily waived by the EPA. Right… So the spokespeople say they’re going to keep complying with EPA standards, but also won’t say if they’re going to submit the actual reports to prove that they are. What’s that old saying about trust but verify?
And meanwhile the state’s three deep pocketed oil and gas front groups, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM) and Power the Future are all lobbying for relaxed and delayed environmental protections as well.
So what about the state’s ability to monitor these companies?