U.S. Markets closed

Gun control group waged New Mexico ad campaign

Barry Massey, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A national group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pumped nearly $32,000 into an advertising campaign in New Mexico for legislation to expand criminal background checks of gun buyers.

The campaign by Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund was the most costly lobbying effort in this year's legislative session, according to a computer-assisted analysis of lobbying disclosure reports by The Associated Press.

The gun measure passed the House but died on the last day of the session when opponents offered a series of amendments to run out the clock and prevent a final vote in the Senate before the Legislature adjourned.

Overall, lobbyists and their clients spent about $512,000 from January through late April. Most of that went for meals, drinks, gifts, entertainment and receptions for lawmakers and other state officials, but it also included advertising and phone bank operations.

Lobbying expenditures are down from nearly $755,000 for the same period in 2011 when the Legislature last met for a 60-day session. However, that's because an educational union spent $361,000 two years ago on an advertising campaign to promote an early childhood education proposal — an amount that nearly matched the combined spending by lobbyists to wine and dine lawmakers.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a coalition of more than 900 mayors from 48 states, and was founded by Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, who's part of the coalition, testified during the legislative session in favor of the bill that would have required background checks for private sales of firearms at a gun show. Federal law mandates checks for sales by licensed dealers in their stores or at gun shows, but it doesn't cover private gun sales.

The mayors' group spent $17,655 on radio spot, $10,900 on Internet advertising and $3,257 on newspaper ads, according to a report filed with the secretary of state's office.

The National Rifle Association opposed the legislation, and its lobbyist reported spending about $653 on meals and beverages and to help pay for a party that a large number of lobbyists finance each year for legislators.

Several groups used grassroots lobbying tactics in advocating for a measure that would have increased penalties on oil and gas producers for water pollution. The legislation, which would have updated a 1935 law, narrowly failed in the House.

The Center for Civic Policy, an Albuquerque-based community action and education group, spent more than $29,000 in support of the oil and gas bill as well proposals to increase the state's minimum wage and allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they would turn 18 by the general election.

Nearly $21,000 of that went for mailings and radio ads that urged voters in targeted legislative districts to call the governor and their legislators to support the tougher penalties for environmental violations by oil and gas operators.

Javier Benavidez, a spokesman for the center, said the group takes a non-traditional approach to lobbying in the Legislature.

"It's not buying the fancy dinners," said Benavidez. "We really focus on getting people engaged."

Lobbyists with oil and gas industry clients spent about $50,400, including a dinner for legislators and other state officials by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association that cost $17,638. Several of the lobbyists have multiple clients, including companies outside of the oil and gas industry. However, they don't itemize most of their spending by client, so it's unclear how much involved oil and gas issues.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP