Lobbying on the Taxpayer’s Dime

In New Mexico, it's not only legal, it's commonplace

[T]o compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.

— Thomas Jefferson

No poll need be taken to reveal that a far-from-trivial portion of the New Mexico citizenry does not want Deb Haaland in Joe Biden’s cabinet.

Putting someone “wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands” in charge of the U.S. Department of the Interior makes as much sense as hiring an arsonist to run a fire station. Plenty of folks in the southeast and northwest portions of the Land of Enchantment get that.

Haaland, 60, is a partisan hack and an abysmal failure, both personally and professionally. She was picked solely for her undeniably stratospheric “woke” quotient. But to the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (NMIAD), Haaland is “a true leader and champion for all Native Americans” whose “nomination is a historic occasion for all.”

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As the above tweet demonstrates, NMIAD has no qualms about using taxpayer resources to push a message that in no way accords with every New Mexican’s perspective. But sadly, in the state’s “public” sector, subsidized lobbying is more rule than exception.

Neither law nor regulation bars government entities from attempting to influence legislative outcomes. And while it’s not likely that a small bureaucracy in a Southwest state will influence the cabinet-confirmation votes of Joe Manchin or Susan Collins, “strategic communications” closer to home often fire for maximum effect.

Case in point: The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which is running a full-bore campaign for passage of SB 11. The bill, backed by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), imposes a “clean fuel standard” on “transportation fuels,” to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions.” A natural follow-on to 2019’s disastrous Energy Transition Act, the legislation would drive up energy costs for households and businesses, at a time when New Mexico suffers from one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation.

Hard times are of little concern to NMED’s job-secure bureaucrat-activists, of course. In January, they issued a press release that gushed over the possible creation of “a market-based approach to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels.” The document included comments from the governor, as well as the heads of the Economic Development Department, Department of Agriculture, and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. (A link to the Roundhouse’s “Find My Legislator” was helpfully included.) In addition, NMED has cobbled together a list of endorsements from SB 11’s rent-seekers. (And some lady in Corrales.)

If it’s not regulations, it’s appropriations. This session, the New Mexico Tourism Department is seeking “a substantial and targeted investment.”

Translation: Give us more money.

Whining that it “has not received any federal stimulus money,” the $45 million awarded by HB 267 “will allow the agency to stimulate tourism business development, support the hard-hit events sector, and develop hospitality job retention and creation programs.” Put that sum together with the governor’s $25 million proposal, and $70 million is sure to “restore demand and revitalize the tourism industry.” Predictably, endorsements are being lined up (“please reach out to lancing.adams@state.nm.us” if you’d like to “add the name of your business or organization”) and propaganda is being distributed.

Not impressed with Deb Haaland? Feeling some pain at the pump, and skeptical about a “clean fuel standard”? Think there are better ways to spend $70 million than on a “Tourism Recovery Package”?

Well, tough. You’re paying for the promotion of all three. And will continue to support many similar lobbying efforts, until legislators prohibit a sinful and tyrannical practice all too common in state government.

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