Oil interests biggest donor to candidate

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The oil and gas industry provided half of the campaign contributions to Susana Martinez

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — The oil and natural gas industry provided half of the campaign contributions that Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez raised during the past six months.

An analysis of state campaign finance reports by The Associated Press found that Martinez collected about $215,000 from oil and gas donors from October through early April. That’s half of the $428,065 she raised during the most recent campaign finance reporting period.

Martinez, the Doña Ana County district attorney, is one of five Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for governor in the June 1 primary election.

Southeastern New Mexico oil producers accounted for most of the industry contributions to Martinez. The largest amounts came from Artesia-based Mack Energy, other companies connected to it and their officers. They collectively contributed $155,000.

“As the only Republican candidate from southern New Mexico, it’s no surprise that Susana Martinez is receiving support from a leading industry in the region,” said Adam Deguire, Martinez’s campaign manager.

He said the contributions won’t influence Martinez if she’s elected governor.

“As governor, just as she has always done in the past, Susana will base decisions on a fact-and-evidence-based criteria that’s in the best and common interest of New Mexicans,” Deguire said in a statement.

All of the Republican candidates are aligned with the oil industry in opposition to environmental regulations imposed by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration to restrict the use of pits for onsite waste disposal at drilling operations.

Producers contend the rules make drilling too costly and have contributed, along with lower energy prices, to an industry downturn in New Mexico.

No other Republican gubernatorial hopeful has received as much money from oil and gas interests as Martinez.

But the industry also is a large contributor to GOP candidate Doug Turner, providing him $118,000 from October through April. About $100,000 of that came from Ray and Karen Westall and Loco Hills-based companies tied to them.

The oil and gas money represents about three-fifths of contributions Turner received during the past six months, excluding personal loans he made to the campaign.

“Doug has been very clear during his campaign and through his professional career that he is supportive of New Mexico’s extractive industries — oil, gas, mining. Nothing Doug has said regarding policy toward those industries has changed or will change as a result of contributions,” Turner spokesman Stephen Dinkel said in a statement.

Several candidates, including Turner, are using large amounts of personal money to finance their campaigns, according to disclosure reports filed with the state earlier this month.

Since beginning his gubernatorial bid last year, former GOP state chairman Allen Weh has loaned his campaign $750,000 — roughly three-fifths of the money he has raised. Weh owns an aircraft charter company in Albuquerque.

Turner, who runs an Albuquerque public relations firm, has loaned his campaign $442,000, and his company has provided $191,000 worth of in-kind donations of goods and services — representing almost 70 percent of what the campaign has raised since Turner entered the race.

Pete Domenici Jr., an Albuquerque lawyer, has made loans and contributions of $120,000 to his campaign, accounting for a third of what he’s raised.

Martinez and Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque have made no personal loans to their campaigns.