While the press corps, including
, has been digging into pay-to-play in
, a new report by
illustrates a more insidious—but just as important—effect of money in politics. The report, "Connecting the Dots: The Oil and Gas Industry's Influence on New Mexico Politics," is available
, in PDF form. From the summary:
This report's findings suggest that oil and gas political contributions often correlate to state policy making that is beneficial to the industry. In every year of the last decade, O&G has been among the largest political contributors in New Mexico. Between 1998 and 2008, O&G contributed nearly $5,369,000. The industry's campaign contributions do not follow strict party lines....
In all but one floor vote directly relevant to O&G since 2005, legislators who voted industry-friendly received an average of approximately two to five times more money from O&G than legislators who voted industry-unfriendly. Contributions to legislators whose votes were friendly to industry on average totaled $4,577; contributions to legislators whose votes weren't friendly to industry on average totaled $1,793.
For both chambers and all bills analyzed, industry-friendly voting is associated with 2.6 times more O&G funding than industry-unfriendly voting.
The industry's legislative efforts also appear to coincide with regulatory appeals, calculated court battles that tax government resources, and continued pressure to prevent the expansion of regulatory oversight or even the updating of laws dating back to the 1930s.
The Common Cause report includes several specific examples where lawmakers seemed to be influenced by industry donations, including a 2005 bill that "would have saved environmentally intensive industries such as O&G money by reducing their liability for environmental damage resulting from their operations."
Among the senators voting for the industry bill, the average O&G contribution in 2004 was $4,036; for senators voting against the industry-friendly bill, the average O&G contribution in 2004 was $859. Voters who voted for the industry-friendly bill received an average of more than four times the O&G contributions than voters who voted against the bill.
What's the take-away here? As Common Cause puts it, the oil and gas industry's contributions may be "influencing state policy-making processes in a manner that, while beneficial to the industry,
might not be in the best interests of the state as a whole