Labor unions, oil and gas interests fuel contributions to state's political parties

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By Barry Massey

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Labor unions and the oil and natural gas industry were leading sources of money for New Mexico's Democratic and Republican parties during the past six months as they prepared for a critical campaign season, according to the latest financial disclosures.

The Democratic Party's state campaign committee raised $214,577 from October through April 5. Labor unions provided about $66,000 of that, with $40,000 coming from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The Republican Party collected $192,455, with oil and gas companies and their principals contributing about $107,000. Roughly 80 percent of the industry's contributions came from members of the Yates family and their companies. Artesia-based Yates Petroleum contributed $27,500.

It's a busy election year in New Mexico. Voters will elect a new governor. All 70 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election along with other statewide offices, such as attorney general and land commissioner.

The outcome of this year's gubernatorial and legislative elections have potentially long-term political consequences because New Mexico will redraw boundaries of its congressional and other elective office districts next year using population figures from the 2010 census.

According to financial reports filed earlier this week with the secretary of state, the Democratic Party had cash-on-hand of $39,733 in its state campaign account. The GOP had a balance of $29,507. Both parties have separate campaign accounts for raising money used in federal elections, such as congressional races.

Democrats spent $154,215 since last fall, including about $38,000 for polling and $21,000 for candidate research.

The GOP spent $187,498, including $10,000 to help gather nominating petition signatures for its statewide candidates in uncontested primary races and $11,500 to urge Albuquerque voters last year to oppose a quarter cent gross receipts tax. Both parties had expenditures for their preprimary nominating conventions last month.

Other contributors to the Democratic Party were the Democratic Governors' Association, $25,000; Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's gubernatorial campaign committee, $20,425; the Intercontinental Potash Corp., $12,500; and $10,000 from Heard, Robins, Cloud and Lubel, a Texas law firm with offices in Santa Fe.

The law firm was one of several that represented the state in litigation against a pharmaceutical company and its contract expires in June, according to a spokesman for Attorney General Gary King.

The GOP received $15,000 from Republican Governors' Association, $15,000, and $10,000 from Peabody Investments Inc. of St. Louis, which is part of the coal mining company, Peabody Energy Corp.