New Report Examines Influence of Alcohol Industry in New Mexico
For Immediate Release
Dede Feldman, Common Cause, 505-220-5958; email@example.com
Steve Terrell, 505-470-9823; firstname.lastname@example.org
Albuquerque, NM, Nov. 29, 2023—Today Common Cause New Mexico released a new report examining the influence of the alcohol industry on New Mexico politics, government and legislation. “Still Under the Influence” is the second in a series of “Follow the Dots” reports on the alcohol industry by the non-partisan organization. The first was published in 2004.
The report’s release comes on the heels of the veto of last year’s small tax increase on alcohol and in advance of another attempt at an excise tax increase in the 2024 legislative session. The larger context includes New Mexico’s ranking as highest in the nation for alcohol-related deaths and the growth of the local craft brewers, wineries, cideries and distilleries.
Using data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Campaign Information System (CFIS), the Legislative Council Service, University of New Mexico studies and the NM Department of Health, the report documents the amount of money spent by the industry, its allies, PACs and lobbyists to elect friendly candidates, wine and dine legislators and influence votes.
Total contributions from the industry, its lobbyists, PACs, allied organizations and individuals was $2.16 million from 2013-Spring of 2023. An additional $456,388 was spent to wine and dine policy makers bringing the total spent on policy makers to $2.62 million.
Contributions from the alcohol industry itself including alcohol companies, retail outlets, distributors, breweries, wineries and affiliated individuals totaled $807,011 from 2013-2023. The largest contributions came from Anheuser-Busch ($305,580), Premier Distributing ($163,629) and Admiral Beverage Corporation ($93,251). In addition, Industry lobbyists gave $1,179,056 to legislators and statewide candidates and spent $456,388 to wine and dine policy makers from 2013-2023. PACs and Allied Organizations, including the NM Restaurant Association contributed $180,795.
“The $2.62 million that the industry has spent on lawmakers and other officials may not be as large as other industries we have studied, namely oil and gas, but it is notable. Over the years, the industry and its lobbyists have been strategic and successful in blocking tax increases and even obtaining favorable treatment for its new members, breweries and distilleries,” said Dede Feldman, communications consultant with Common Cause, who authored the report with Steve Terrell.
Like other “Connect the Dots” reports compiled by Common Cause, this report tracks the relationship between industry donations to policymakers and the outcome of specific legislation from 2017-2023, including measures to increase an excise tax rate that has not been raised since 1993, as well as measures to boost the alcohol industry. The report also includes a list of the top legislative recipients of alcohol contributions and a ranking of all statewide candidate recipients from both parties from 2013-Spring of 2023.
“As in past reports, we want to point out that the correlations found here between campaign contributions and voting behavior do not imply that legislators are trading votes for campaign contributions or fancy dinners,” said Shannon Kunkel, outreach and development director for Common Cause. As the report indicates, sometimes the contributions even went in the opposite direction, with those taking the industry position receiving less than opponents especially when different parts of the industry took different positions.
“Nonetheless,” Kunkel said, “the overall amount of alcohol money spent on leadership, committee members and candidates alone can erode trust in government at a time when the New Mexico public already believes that powerful interest groups and lobbyists have more influence on elected officials than the voters.”
The report concludes with specific recommendations to curb the influence of all special interests by requiring more lobbyist disclosure, a slowing of the revolving door between legislators and lobbyists, and recusal when legislators vote on measures their family members are lobbying on. The report also recommends paying legislators to reduce legislator dependence on lobbyist largess when it comes to meals and other expenses.
To increase transparency and increase the capability of the legislature to deal with complex (tax) issues, the report recommends better recording of committee meetings and votes on the legislative website, increased staff, and longer sessions for better analysis.
A copy of the complete report can be accessed at https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/resource/still-under-the-influence-a-look-at-the-alcohol-industry-and-its-influence-onnew-mexico-elected-officials/
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard as equals in the political process.