Monday, August 01, 2022

Gas Price Boomerang: GOP Inflation Argument Takes Hit As Area Prices Ease, Plus: Oil And Gas Dominated '22 Primary Money Chase  

Basing a campaign on the price of gas can be as risky as using the stock market as a guide. Both can have wild price swings that change the mood of voters on a dime.  

For New Mexico Republicans that lesson is hitting home as the calendar turns to August today, marking less than 100 days before the November 8 election. 

Only weeks ago gas was flirting with $5 buck a gallon and causing angst across the political spectrum. But this weekend it was going for $3.29 at the Santo Domingo Pueblo (which doesn't pay state gas taxes) and was well below the $4 mark at stations elsewhere across the state. 

That's still higher than when Biden took office when gas was cheap at $2.39 a gallon but memories are short and the memory of that $5 flirtation is much fresher in voters' minds. If the price continues to fall back toward that $3 level, the impact of inflation as an argument to oust incumbents could weaken dramatically.

GOP Guv hopeful Mark Ronchetti is airing a spot that tries to blame MLG for the inflation spike. The two Dem congressional incumbents--Stansbury and Leger Fernandez--who are probably more vulnerable to an attack on a national issue like inflation--have underfunded foes and have been spared. 

In his ad Ronchetti claims that home energy costs have risen since the enactment of the MLG-backed Energy Transition Act (ETA) of 2019 that calls for NM to adopt renewable energy to become a carbon free energy state by 2045.

Electric utility PNM was a key player in the ETA and the ad hits the company for their heavy donations to her campaign. 

Ronchetti (as mentioned in the report below) is a favorite of the oil and gas industry which opposed the ETA and is receiving substantial campaign cash from them. 

But right now its the daily gas price--not the monthly electric bill--that tops the list of consumer irritants and that is trending toward the incumbent. 

(If MLG is bothered by the Ronchetti inflation hit, she isn't showing it. Her latest ad is a soft, 60 second bio spot featuring one of her daughters who praises MLG's mothering skills.) 


Oil and gas dominated the money chase in the '22 primary campaign. NM Ethics Watch comes with a recap: 

The oil and gas industry contributed more than $2.5 million from October 2021 until early July. Republican Mark Ronchetti was the top recipient, pulling in more than a half million dollars. The House Republican Campaign Committee took in more than $216,000. Lujan Grisham received more than $137,000. House candidates received nearly 29 percent while PAC's received about 26 percent. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chair of House Appropriations, reported the most contributions at $44,000. The top oil and gas contributor was Chevron, handing out more than $250,000. Environmentalists reported about $160,000 in contributions during the primary cycle--less than 7 percent of the oil and gas total. 

Chevron didn't have to take out any loans to make those contributions. Amid high oil prices the company recorded $11.6 billion in earnings in the second quarter--a new quarterly record. 

If anyone in Santa Fe has the notion to start talking about a state windfall profits tax on big oil, the time would appear ripe--at least among those who have not been on the receiving end of Big Oil's munificence. 

By the way, PNM and its PAC gave nearly $584,000 in state elections from 2014 to 2020. Only Chevron and Devon Energy gave more.

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