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NM Campaign Finance Watchdogs: Party Poopers?

June 2, 2008

Albuquerque, NM - It looks like a free lunch, but some people see strings attached. New Mexico campaign finance watchdogs are questioning the motives of a "get out the vote" picnic in Albuquerque Sunday held in honor of state Sens. Linda Lopez and James Taylor, and Rep. Dan Silva, all Democrats. Atrisco Oil and Gas and Suncal Development footed the bill, says James Aranda, an Atrisco heir.

The event was similar to others held throughout the country leading up to a primary. While these voter incentive projects usually get a "thumbs up," holding one that focuses only on certain lawmakers looks suspicious to Aranda. He says those practices were supposed to change.

"It seems like it's Atrisco kind of scratching the back of the legislators after their back has been scratched. It's kind of like they're returning the favor. That's how I see it."

Suncal Development would have benefitted from special tax financing legislation sponsored by one of the lawmakers. The bill failed to pass, even though its sponsor said it would boost economic development because it brought jobs and money to the area.

According to Aranda, the problem is that Suncal and Atrisco's close ties with the lawmakers cut the people out of the political process.

"To me that's a real lack of respect for the people that they serve as well as a lack of honesty. I think a lot of folks thought this type of attitude and actions were going to change, and it's clear that they haven't."

New Mexico's primary election will be held on Tuesday.

Eric Mack/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NM