Oil Money Makes Strange Bedfellows

Oil Money Makes Strange Bedfellows

We’ve talked a lot over the years about the nefarious intentions of the oil and gas industry in New Mexico. Their continued efforts to exert control over the state politically and economically have been well documented. Admittedly, some of those efforts have been obscured through wonky policy debates, attempts at thwarting reforms that otherwise seem harmless enough, and hard to see direct attempts from within the industry as it affects us in our everyday lives.

But y’all, this thing happening between super-oilman Harvey Yates and legacy wannabe politico Jeff Apodaca is about as clear as it gets and we should all be VERY concerned about the ramifications and consequences.

Legacy Democrat using Republican Oil Money

Put simply, Apodaca has been playing hard in recent primary races, backing corporate Democrats against Progressive champions throughout the state and he’s been doing it with Yates’ cash. The intention is an attempt to falsely advance the idea that things like paid family medical leave, clean energy, and reproductive freedom are somehow bad, even though they are wildly popular policies supported by a majority of working and middle class New Mexicans.

It’s not at all surprising to see oil and gas money used to line the pockets of political candidates. The through-line between these two men specifically has some pretty heavy implications behind it. Yates isn’t “just” an oilman, he’s also one of the largest single outlets for news in the state via his media company El Rito Media. El Rito now owns the news outlets in Espanola, Artesia, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, and Alamogordo. Besides being THE oilman of New Mexico, Yates has served as NM’s Republican Party Chair, something he shares with the cofounder of El Rito Ryan Cangiolosi. Cangiolosi also worked directly for Yates in his oil company Jalapeño Corporation, as well as President of Cibola Energy Corporation.

This feels like a good time to point out that Jalapeño Corp donated $200,000 to Republicans and conservative Democrats in New Mexico two years ago in the midterms, “…second only to Chevron.”

Now back to Apodaca.

Violating State Election Rules

Apodaca was in the news this week for his flagrant disregard of election rules and the money he’s been spending to try and oust Progressive candidates during the current primary. He’s now facing ethics violations levied by the state’s ethics committee. It appears the son of a governor has taken not being elected himself six years ago very hard and very personally. He lost in the 2018 primary by a WIDE margin, just breaking 20% while current Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was widely favored by over two thirds of the state’s Democrats.

**UPDATE ** May 31, 2024.

Just one day after publishing this piece, Source New Mexico broke this story of a rumor proved true. In late March of 2024, a driver now confirmed to be Jeff Apodaca drove his truck through a crowd of anti-genocide protestors in Albuquerque. While thankfully no one was seriously injured, the aggression and escalation to violence is certainly noteworthy. It also seriously undermines Apodaca’s political claims of “moderation” espoused by himself and the language his PAC has been using during this primary cycle.

What’s it all mean?

So to bring it all back together, we have two of the largest “legacy” names in the state working together despite their different political affiliations. Yates is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who’s not only served as State Chair but also a national Committeeman. His grandfather was the first to discover oil in what is now New Mexico. Apodaca is the son of the state’s first modern Hispanic Governor and stalwart Democrat Jerry Apodaca. What strange bedfellows, right?

Well, maybe on the surface but when you think about the implications of all this it becomes clear. Apodaca represents a small and unpopular set of conservative Democrats who hold no power. Yates’ Republicans also have no power. They’re hoping that together they can take some power back and, presumably, reverse course on any number of issues we’ve worked hard on passing to make New Mexico the amazing state it is now thanks to the hard work we’ve done in the last few years.

We’re not going back

New Mexico IS a Progressive state, as noted by the broad support for state leaders like State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, State Representatives Patricia Roybal Caballero and Susan Herrera. Since 2016 when Progressive democrats won back the House New Mexico has been on a forward looking path. 2018 saw an expansion of Progressive candidates take seats in the House, as well as the CLEAR admonition of Apodaca’s conservative, corporate view by electing Lujan Grisham and other Progressive state-level candidates. 2020 saw the further rejection of corporate Dems with a near sweep of old-school Dems in the Senate being unseated by Progressives up and down the state.

Apodaca and Yates are seeking to sow division in New Mexico. The reality is however, New Mexicans want vision, not division.

Never has the Oil and Gas Industry’s Crude Intentions been so obvious

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