With elections (mostly) decided and the legislative session just around the corner, new and experienced lawmakers alike are preparing to head to the Roundhouse. They'll begin the hard work of addressing the many pressing issues facing the state. But legislators will also be courted by big business and big corporations, who see lawmakers as a means to introduce legislation that benefits their bottom line.
This year, the House Republican caucus is welcoming corporations to take the lead in setting the agenda. At this week's caucus meeting, House Republicans elected members of the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to leadership positions, opening the door for more special-interest corporate influence in New Mexico than ever before.
After ALEC sponsored "Stand Your Ground" laws were used to justify the shooting of Treyvon Martin in Florida and corporately-sponsored voter suppression laws were introduced in Minnesota and Missouri, corporations and legislators across the country began fleeing the organization.
Here in New Mexico we joined with Color of Change, Common Cause and others in a campaign to educate New Mexicans about ALEC's dangerous influence. Senator George Munoz quickly joined more than 40 other legislators across the country who dumped ALEC, along with more than 70 big corporations.
But some legislators held firm. We caught New Mexico ALEC co-chair Rep. Paul Bandy on tape describing how ALEC companies "just send him money," freeing him of having to engage in fundraising from constituents he represents.
This week, House Republicans doubled-down on their connections with ALEC, electing outed ALEC members Rep. Nate Gentry and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado to two of three leadership positions. Likewise, Rep. Don Bratton was elected to be the caucus leader and though not a publicly identified ALEC member, the listing of donors to his campaigns reads like a membership roster of ALEC corporations.
New legislators, be warned. ALEC is anything but a helpful resource. Their corporate agenda is hidden behind lavish luxury trips and easy corporate campaign donations. But after the public started watching, companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft, Pepsi and Intuit all thought better of membership. So did dozens of legislators across the country who join Sen. Munoz in saying "ALEC is wrong for New Mexico." It is becoming increasingly clear that New Mexicans do not want their lawmakers at the beckon call of a corporate-backed, out-of-state lobbying organization and we'll be on ALEC watch in the Roundhouse once again.