Visiting with elected officials is not lobbying

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By Harold Morgan

In defense of lobbyists, almost all of them anyway, I respond to a story at NMpolitics.net about the Republican candidates in the new state Senate District 7, which includes Clovis on the south and all of Union County to the north.
One candidate, Angie Spears, is backed by Gov. Susana Martinez. The other, Pat Woods, has given money to—gasp—Democrats and has made some bumbling comments linking the money and “lobbying.” Woods has his own endorsements, including that of former long-time state Rep. Hoyt Pattison.
In the story, Heath Haussamen of NMpolitics.net says, “Pat Woods’ statements about campaign contributions and lobbying raise ethical questions about his prior activities in Santa Fe.”
While I regard Haussaman as one of the top three political writers in New Mexico, I disagree with him on this one.
There is being a registered lobbyist and there is lobbying.
My view — I haven’t talked to Woods — is that with sloppy language (the linking of “lobbying” and donations), Woods snared himself in the slash and burn of politics, the unrelenting and impossible media-driven quest for political financial purity and lack of appreciation of rural communities, where everyone knows everyone and everyone does business with everyone, party affiliation notwithstanding.
Woods was a registered lobbyist for a while in connection with being a board member of Farmer’s Electric Cooperative of New Mexico. My guess is that Woods was as much a real lobbyist as the many people listed today as registered lobbyists for the New Mexico Association of Educational Retirees and AARP.
What happens, I believe, is that for self-protection, better-safe-than-sorry reasons, some organizations register people as lobbyists who will visit with legislators in Santa Fe or in home communities. “Visiting,” a rural concept, is not lobbying.
The 155-page index of lobbyists is found at www.sos.state.nm.us/sos-lobbyist.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page to access the list. Scan the list and you will find that large numbers of “lobbyists” represent one organization. Most organizations have only one lobbyist.
Every sort of organization — business, nonprofit and government — has a lobbyist registered. The Baptist Convention of New Mexico has a lobbyist with John Loudat. Media groups, those political purists, have lobbyists.
Lobbyists — the real lobbyists — are necessary. They serve as trusted surrogate staff, yes, self-interested staff, for legislators. Our citizen legislators have some staff support, but not much. Legislators need all the help they can get. Trust is the basis of the help.
Building trust is how lobbyists stay in business. Most lobbyists are from Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Some are from outside the state.
Number of clients is one way to rank lobbyists. Having more than 10 clients means a lobbyist has built trust over the years.
Clients return and recommend the lobbyist to others. Break the trust, and word will get around. Goodbye business.
My quick scan through the lobbyist list found at least 18 with more than 10 clients. I may have missed one or two.
Scott Scanland of Santa Fe leads with 26 clients. Tom Horan is second with 19 clients, including the very establishment New Mexico Press Association, Forest City Covington New Mexico, and Virgin Galactic. Horan shares the work with his son, Lawrence, who has 11 clients.
Three lobbyists have 17 clients. They are Linda Siegle, with a client group tending to health care nonprofits, and Nancy King and Brent Moore, both of the Montgomery & Andrews law firm of Santa Fe.
Over the years, I have gained some acquaintance with a number of these senior lobbyists. They are upstanding, professional and very conscious of their role in the process.
See capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for more discussion of lobbyists and Woods’s political situation.
Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress