Who “Owns” New Mexico Government?

Immediately prior to our debate on Wednesday night in Santa Fe, a man accosted me and told me that the Rio Grande Foundation was “bought and paid for” by the Koch brothers. I wish.

But it got me to thinking…”who is the biggest, most-powerful lobbying group in New Mexico?” Surprise, surprise, it is not the Koch’s or even the supposedly all-powerful oil and gas industries. Instead, it is the big-government lobbyists at AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees).

According to the Albuquerque Journal, AFSCME handed out $592,300 in contributions from last April through the end of 2010 while the “mighty” oil and gas industry handed out a mere $183,000 (30% of what AFSCME spent). While New Mexico has a disproportionately large government sector, AFSCME is a powerful force in almost all states (including Wisconsin where a major battle is now under way). It is worth noting that AFSCME members benefit from more government spending, the hiring of additional government workers (both of which create more dues and greater influence for the union), and they don’t necessarily care if government cannot pay its bills as long as they “get theirs.”

Before jumping to the conclusion that oil and gas exercise undue influence in New Mexico politics, it is important to realize who is writing the biggest checks and how they benefit from bigger government.