*This story has been updated to clarify that one lobbyist returned KRQE News 13’s calls.

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – There were more than 600 registered lobbyists behind the scenes during this year’s lawmaking session. KRQE News 13 previously complied a full list of those likely to influence which bills became law. Now, an analysis of their spending reveals just how much cash went to shaping New Mexico’s session.

First off, not all lobbyists shell out money to influence lawmakers. But some of the ones that do spend significant amounts of cash to convince politicians, data from the New Mexico Secretary of State shows.

Spending during and just before the session totaled more than a quarter-million dollars. Of expenses reported to the Secretary of State, the average value was over $4,000 per expense.

Among the largest reported expenses: $50,000 for “grassroots phone calls in opposition of SB 14 and SB 51” and $28,500 for ski passes. Others spent thousands on dinners, post cards, and a lobbyist even spent over $1,000 on a flamenco show. KRQE News 13 called some of the bigger spenders to ask more about how they lobby. One lobbyist answered. To learn what he said, check out this KRQE News 13 story.

The point of all the lobbying, of course, is to push and guide lawmakers to support, or oppose, certain bills. “The lobbyist’s goal is to build a relationship with the legislature so that the legislature will have confidence in that person to give them information and to be swayed by the arguments and information being provided to them,” former Democratic and Independent Senator Jacob Candelaria previously told KRQE News 13. “So how do those relationships start? Dinners, buying drinks, taking people on vacations, taking people to Lobo games,” Candelaria said.

In this year’s data, there’s no money clearly laid out for Lobo tickets. But that doesn’t mean none of the lobbyists spent cash on Lobo tickets. That’s because the reporting requirements for lobbyists are notoriously minimal.

This means details on their spending isn’t available. And even how much lobbyists are getting paid by each client isn’t clearly reported.

“Lobbyists are required to report their expenses,” Former Senator Dede Feldman (D) told KRQE News 13. “But they are not required to reveal how much they’re being paid by each client they have.” As a result, Feldman says there are what she calls “super lobbyists.”

These are lobbyists who have not just one, or five, or even ten different clients. But they may have twenty, thirty, or more. Some of these “super lobbyists” have enough work to do that they have their own lobbyists registered to represent the main lobbyist.

And while lobbying is often cast in a negative light, in New Mexico, lobbyists do play a necessary role, both Feldman and Candelaria say. Because the state’s legislators aren’t paid a salary and don’t have full-time staff, there’s simply no way for the lawmakers to be experts on all the bills that are debated each session. That’s where lobbyists can help.

In the 2023 legislative session alone, there were over 1,000 bills slated for introduction. And with only 60 days to comprehend, debate, and vote on the bills with topics ranging from radioactive waste storage to health insurance, lawmakers rely on summaries, insight, and expertise of lobbyists.

“So, lobbyists do have a very valid role to play,” Feldman says. “But in New Mexico, you see, they’re much more powerful than they would be if legislators had research staff to fall back on.” And of course, Feldman adds, much of that potentially helpful info from legislators is often tinted with bias.

**Data note: Expense reports can still be filed after the legislative session is over. So, this data is as of March 23, 2023. It may also include errors as the Secretary of State’s data provider does not guarantee the accuracy of reported data.