New Mexico In Depth

KUNM Media Partner

New Mexico In Depth aims to invigorate New Mexico journalism through their reporting, through working with other journalists as collaborators or mentors, and through media partnerships that leverage collective resources, with the goal of telling in-depth stories of people who represent our diversity and challenging power in a way that informs and empowers people and communities.

Ways To Connect

Waferboard via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Lobbyists and their employers reported spending nearly $300,000 during the 60-day session that ended Saturday – and that’s just the spending that totaled more than $500 at a time.

State law requires lobbyists to report any spending of $500 or more within 48-hours. All told, lobbyists and employers reported spending $295,300 during the session. This session, that included spending on meals, receptions, teddy bears and more.

More lobbyists will report individual expenditures under $500 at a time in reports to be filed May 1.

Arianna Sena

Lost in the drama of Saturday was the death of legislation that would have exposed so-called "dark money” groups to more public scrutiny.

The cause of death?

Late-session disagreements and wariness in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

JZim534 via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Javier Martínez was familiar with home-visiting services when his son Camilo was born in January.

Martínez’s 2-year-old daughter Marisela participated in a program, which teaches parenting skills and provides other support for pregnant mothers and new parents and guardians. Such programs improve kids’ performance in school and beyond. And, as New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News reported in December, home visiting is one way to help reduce fatal child abuse.

Robert Smith via Flickr

Guy Bowers imagines his phone ringing off the hook if New Mexico were to return to the days of contributors giving unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

Brak Perkins via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The cost of tuition at New Mexico public universities is rising and more students are taking advantage of the lottery scholarship, which pays almost full tuition for qualifying students—but fewer people are buying the scratch-off tickets that fuel the scholarship fund.

That’s one of the factors contributing to a slow-building crisis in scholarship funding.

nathangibbs via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Campaign cash may be as much at the heart of the the fight over union membership laws in New Mexico as the dispute over union dues, though no one will directly say so.

Labor unions spent nearly $2.8 million in the 2013-14 election cycle, virtually all of that going to Democratic political action committees and candidates, a New Mexico In Depth analysis shows.

The bulk of that money – more than $1.7 million – went to Patriot Majority New Mexico, a political action committee, or super PAC, supporting Democratic House candidates.

kaje_yomama via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Lobbyists and organizations have reported spending more than $231,000 trying to influence lawmakers in the first half of the 60-day session.

Much of that money went toward wining and dining legislators. And that only includes expenditures of $500 or more that are required to be reported to the Secretary of State within 48 hours.

Heath Haussamen / New Mexico In Depth

More than 1,000 additional New Mexico children could receive government-funded child-care assistance if their parents or guardians ask for it.

The state’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) is clearing a waiting list of 1,119 children, saying it now has the funds available to offer assistance for childcare.

Agency spokesman Henry Varela confirmed the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez is paying for the extra child-care assistance using $400,000 from millions of dollars in unspent federal funds.

taberandrew via Flickr

Five of the six senators who opposed legislation to cap what lenders can charge borrowers on certain types of loans took thousands of dollars in campaign money from the industry in 2013 and 2014, state records show.

MyTudut via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show 2/19 8a: 

When the New Mexico legislature convenes in Santa Fe, lobbyists flock to the Roundhouse to pitch their clients' issues and legislation. Often those pitches involve free food, drinks and other gifts.

We'll look at the industries that spend the most money to convince lawmakers to support their ideas. We'll also ask how lobbyists affect which bills are passed and which measures stall.

We'd like to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post your comments online or call in live during the show. 

Guests: 

frankieleon via Flickr

Storefront lending companies and affiliated associations gave nearly $140,000 to New Mexico public officials and political action committees in 2013 and 2014, according to an analysis of data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.

The bulk of that -- $115,805 -- went to dozens of elected officials, including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas and more than half of the members of the New Mexico Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Waferboard via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The New Mexico Legislature’s social calendar this year is packed with breakfasts, dinners, receptions and more.

The wining and dining of state lawmakers by individual lobbyists and organizations that have legislation before decision makers is an annual tradition in Santa Fe.

Gwyneth Doland

They don’t have big expense accounts or cozy relationships with powerful lawmakers. They don’t even know where the bathroom is. They’re citizen lobbyists, and they got some training at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe Wednesday.

Members of 20 conservation groups converged on the state capitol and a few dozen of them attended a training session held by the Sierra Club.

They were teachers, writers and retired engineers, passionate about ending coyote-killing contests, cleaning up uranium mines and preventing the diversion of the Gila River.

Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Skeptical lawmakers rejected a proposal Monday that would have given the public more information about lobbying at the state Legislature.

The bill (HB 155) would have required lobbyists to divulge their salaries, file reports of their estimated and actual lobbying expenses, and list the issues—but not the exact bills—they are working on.

Wikimedia Commons

Gwyneth Doland chatted with Chris Boros about happenings at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe this week. It's part of our People, Power and Democracy project, a reporting partnership between KUNM, New Mexico In Depth and New Mexico PBS. 

Sandra Fish / New Mexico In Depth

Ski passes. Dinner parties. Meals during committee hearings. Basketball and football tickets.

Individual lobbyists spent more than $1.6 million on gifts, meals and entertainment for New Mexico’s elected officials and staff in the four years from 2011 through 2014. Most of that went to the lawmakers in the New Mexico Legislature, but other elected officials and staffers benefitted too.

Over the same period businesses and organizations spent more than $379,000 directly to fete elected officials with parties, golf passes and more.

ChrisGoldNY via Flickr

Despite the vocal support of a group of religious leaders, a legislative panel decided on a party-line vote Wednesday to set aside two proposals (HB 24 and HB36) that would have limited interest rates on short-term loans.

Daquella manera via Flickr

The average person who takes out a short-term loan borrows about $650 and pays about 340 percent interest.  But rates on payday, title and installment loans would be capped at 36 percent if reformers get their way during the 2015 legislative session.

There were 657 small loan companies in New Mexico in 2013, many charging more than 175 percent, according to a report from the state Regulation and Licensing Department.  

Tax Credits via Flickr

Creating jobs is one of lawmakers’ top priorities this legislative session and dozens of proposals have already been introduced. Many of them will require the state to spend some money, either by giving up tax revenue or by investing directly.

House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Wednesday that he wants to create a Small Business Development Fund that would partner with community banks to lend money to in-state firms.

Weeks after taking office, new Attorney General Hector Balderas released on Thursday the remainder of the 2013 audit of 15 New Mexico behavioral health agencies, albeit with some redactions.

Chris Blakeley via Flickr / Creative Commons license

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh reached into his shoulder bag and pulled out a four-page brochure Monday at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

The pamphlet the former Republican state lawmaker held begins with this statement in bold lettering: “The behavioral health system in Chaves County is in crisis.”

The brochure is the product of an ad hoc committee formed by a state court district judge in Roswell, Kintigh says. The pamphlet goes on to warn of the consequences when a community has too few services for the mentally ill and other vulnerable populations.

Rrrodrigo via Flickr

In December the National Institute on Money in State Politics graded all 50 states on how much information they require independent groups to disclose about their donors. New Mexico got an F. In fact, we were one of only four states to score a zero.

New Mexico’s 60-day legislative session kicked off this week. KUNM’s Gwyneth Doland checked in with New Mexico In Depth’s Sandra Fish on what she’s seen so far.

Doland for KUNM: So Fish, what did you think of your first week at the capitol?

Fish: Well, Gwyneth, I was focused on the House where Republicans took over for the first time in 60 years. And to my knowledge no one around the Roundhouse had anything to compare that to.

James Willamor via Flickr

Steak dinners at fancy restaurants, breakfast burritos brought to committee meetings, lift tickets at ski resorts. Every year lobbyists spend big bucks on entertaining, many with the hope that they will get some time to talk with lawmakers about the issues they’re working on.

It’s been five years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which lifted restrictions on expenditures and gave rise to groups known as Super Political Action Committees that have pumped millions of dollars of special interest money into the political system.

/

Another super PAC took aim at Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall on the final weekend before Tuesday’s general election as New Mexico's political advertising neared $12.2 million in the final full week of the election season.

Meanwhile, an analysis of gubernatorial elections across the nation ranks New Mexico's contest for governor as among the most negative. Republican Incumbent Susana Martinez has dominated political TV ad buys, running seven times the number of Democratic challenger, Attorney General Gary King.

audit screen shot

A Massachusetts firm that audited 15 health organizations in New Mexico last year normally gives companies it’s scrutinizing a chance to respond before issuing official findings.

It is a common practice for auditors. Running the findings by staff gives organizations the opportunity to refute findings or address misunderstandings. It’s a way of ensuring the accuracy of an audit, among other things.

PAC Ads Target State House Races

Oct 28, 2014

Two political action committees are targeting state House races with television ads to air through Election Day.

Patriot Majority New Mexico, a union-funded state level PAC, is spending almost $96,000 to air 157 ads supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans in Albuquerque and El Paso.

An outside GOP group is airing ads against New Mexico's Democratic candidate for attorney general, while a Democratic group is attacking the Republican secretary of state.

And if you’re counting down to Election Day, include at least 5,000 political ads on TV in your tally. That’s about the number of ads currently scheduled to run between Friday and Nov. 4.

But that’s only about 18 percent of more than 27,000 TV ads that have been contracted to air for New Mexico campaigns during 2014.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King returned to the airwaves last week, while a political action committee made a documentary case against GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.

Political advertising in New Mexico topped $9 million in contracts through Oct. 10. Aired back-to-back, those ads would take up nearly 8.5 days of viewing, a New Mexico In Depth analysis shows. The analysis is based on contracts filed by TV stations with the Federal Elections Commission. It doesn’t include cable or satellite TV buys or radio advertising.

Rubén Diaz Alonso via Flickr

A state agency citing potential Medicaid fraud refused to consider documents that could have cleared a health care provider of allegations that it had overcharged the government by as much as $4.3 million, the organization’s officials said this week. 

Pages