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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

PNM: Generating Energy And Political Power Too, Plus: Heather & Patsy: They're Armed And Dangerous; Cash Piles Up; Grab That Mouse & Let's Blog! 

Sometimes its the coincidences that make blogging fun. Take this one. Tuesday, the same day that Big Bill's Renewable Energy Transmission Authority bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-3 vote, electric and natural gas giant, PNM Resources, announced it scored a 10 percent earnings gain for 2005. That's historically high, but not during this energy bull market.

The energy authority would involve the state in building transmission lines to export wind and other power to California. It comes on the heels of 2004 legislation that mandates the state's utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from "renewable resources." (But only if the expense is "reasonable.")

ABQ GOP State Senator Bill Payne questioned why cash-flush utilities like PNM shouldn't build those transmission lines and leave the taxpayers alone. On the other hand, argues the Guv, a former U.S. Energy Secretary, developing wind and solar energy and such is a major endeavor that requires government and business collaboration.

STERBA'S STORY
Jeff Sterba
Since taking over in 2000, PNM chief exec Jeff Sterba has taken the company a long way from the bad ol' days when the utility was scorned for high rates, bad investments and arrogant manners. The company has also played the political money game with effect too. Take a look here and here. PNM resources gave over $80,000 to NM politicians in the 04' cycle. Sixty percent of it went to the Dems, (including a couple of grand for Big Bill) reflecting the majority party's power.

But recent utility critic Senator Payne picked up $750 from PNM and even ABQ GOP Senator Carraro, who has since called for an investigation of big PNM exec bonuses, managed to snag a $750 04' contribution.

Sterba isn't the only one burning both ends of the candle. Our "centrist" Governor is also happy to do so--satisfy the enviros with renewable energy plans and then have the state help out the utilities by building transmission lines. Do you think Jeff and Bill talked about that on their recent trip to North Korea?

BY THE WAY

PNM Resources continues to be the subject of the Wall Street rumor mill where some analysts see it as a prime takeover target. But the company's stock is trading near its 52 week low, perhaps reflecting dimmer prospects for an imminent takeover as well as lowered earnings expectations for this year.

FIRST THE MONEY, THEN THE VOTES

Dem congressional hopeful Patsy Madrid easily crossed the first hurdle to keep her race against ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson on the frontburner and at the top of the must watch list for 2006. She raked in over half a million bucks in the final three months of 04' giving her a healthy cash balance of about $432,000. And Heather is showing no signs of slouching in the cash department, although Patsy did outraise her by a couple of hundred grand in the fourth quarter, according to federal reports released late Tuesday. Heather is comfortable with about a million bucks in her cash account and did some big January fundraising, including a $1000 a pop party hosted by PNM exec Sterba, not reflected in this report.

In 04' Wilson raised $3.4 million and challenger D Richard Romero made it past $2 million. Madrid can expect to do better than Romero, but as the incumbent Rep. Wilson is still expected to be first, at least when it comes to money spent. Who comes out first in the vote-count is a matter of considerably more suspense.

We all talk about how much money the candidates raise, but not much about how and where they spend it. So here's an example for you from Heather's latest expense sheet.

Of course, it's the TV stations that will again be the big winners. Millions will pour into their coffers as major candidates of all stripes flood the 06' airwaves. That's the real driver behind our big money politics, but efforts to change it have met with stiff resistance, especially from the National Association of Broadcasters. How shocking.

WELCOME BACK CVNM

We welcome back the Conservation Voters of New Mexico to the blog. (Click on their ad to visit) And if you are interested in placing an ad here, please contact me and we'll get you started.

And don't forget to e-mail me your news so we can keep the politics coming and, as always, thanks for making us part of your day.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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