Out-of-state donations pour into governor’s campaign

By: - May 27, 2022 4:25 am

Screenshot from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s virtual 2022 State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has accepted nearly $700,000 in high-value contributions from donors listing their residence as outside of New Mexico during the primary election cycle.

Between Oct. 5 and May 2, the governor received 67 donations of $10,000 or more from donors listing their address as out-of-state, for a total of $692,400. This is nearly equal to the amount of high-value in-state contributions she received during the same period — $740,400 from 72 donations listing New Mexico addresses. 

Our analysis included only donations directly to Lujan Grisham’s campaign and did not look at donations or spending from PACs in support of the governor.

Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, Susana Martinez, was often criticized by Democrats (including state auditor and candidate for attorney general Brian Colón) for taking money from out of state, with opponents branding her “Tejana Susana” for the large donations she received from Texas.

It’s not always possible to tell the actual residential address of contributors from the filings, and some of the out-of-state contributions to Lujan Grisham came from donors that appear to live in New Mexico but were using out-of-state business addresses. For example, the writer George R.R. Martin listed a California address on his two $10,400 donations, despite living in Santa Fe. And Turquoise PAC, which donated over $15,000 in total, lists a D.C. address but is run by New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján.

But many of the contributions came from donors that clearly are based out of state. These included donations from energy companies, national politicians, developers, health care corporations and investors.

The donations included $10,000 from the Halliburton Company PAC, a political action committee funded by the Houston, Texas-based Halliburton Company. Halliburton was extremely controversial during the presidency of George W. Bush, as it earned $39.5 billion in Iraq war-related contracts in the decade following the invasion of that country. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, had served as Halliburton’s CEO prior to becoming vice president, and Democrats accused Halliburton and Cheney of profiting off the invasion.

Halliburton PAC separately donated $5,000 to Lujan Grisham’s primary campaign, for a total of $15,000, but the smaller donation was not included in the analysis of high-value contributions.

Lujan Grisham also received $10,000 from ConocoPhillips, one of the world’s largest oil producers. Earlier this month, ConocoPhillips shareholders shot down a proposal for the company to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Reuters news noted that “Conoco’s board recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal, saying it did not believe Scope 3 [climate] targets were appropriate for a company focused entirely on the exploration and production of fossil fuels.”

Lujan Grisham spoke at the COP26 climate summit last year and has committed to a range of measures to reduce global warming. In an interview with the Carlsbad Current-Argus at COP26, she credited the oil and gas industry with helping to lead New Mexico’s efforts on climate change.

In an emailed statement, Lujan Grisham spokesperson Kendall Witmer said the donations don’t impact Lujan Grisham’s decisions as governor. “Campaign donations have no effect on policy and to imply otherwise is a disservice to the groundbreaking work made by the governor, legislators, tribal leaders, advocates, labor, business, and New Mexicans.” In the statement, Witmer did not address Source NM’s questions about specific donations.

A number of the high-value donations to Lujan Grisham’s campaign came from nationally prominent Democrats, some of whom Lujan Grisham served alongside in Congress during her time as a representative for New Mexico. Nancy Pelosi’s campaign committee donated $10,400 to the Lujan Grisham campaign in April, and the campaign of California congresswoman (and candidate for Los Angeles mayor) Karen Bass donated $10,000 the same month. 

In October, Lujan Grisham received $20,800 from Mary Katherine Pritzker, wife of the Democratic governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker.

Labor unions also gave big to Lujan Grisham’s campaign. A D.C.-based PAC representing sheet metal, air, rail and transportation unions donated $20,800 in March, following an earlier $10,400 donation from Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 49, based in Albuquerque. Other large union donations included a $10,400 donation from a Maryland-based PAC representing union plumbers and pipefitters and $10,400 from the International Association of Fire Fighters, based in D.C.

Between Oct. 5 and May 2, Lujan Grisham raised a total of $2,936,923.01, according to campaign filings, and as of May 2, her campaign had $3,736,248.93 cash on hand. 

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Andrew Beale
Andrew Beale

Andrew Beale has 15 years of reporting experience, starting with the UNM Daily Lobo. He's reported for national and international publications including the New York Times, Vice and al-Jazeera from locations as far-flung as Portland and Palestine. He has a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and he resides in Southern California.