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Sparks Fly in Big-Dollar Shootout For New Mexico House Seat

The candidates—both with long careers in the oil and gas industry—are locked in a fierce, tight contest

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 27, 2010

Editor's Note: SolveClimate News political reporter Elizabeth McGovern is in New Mexico to cover the 2010 races there. This is the first installment in a three-part series.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Outside corporate money is fueling a high-dollar New Mexico television advertising campaign that bashes Democratic incumbent for his cap-and-trade energy bill vote.

But that doesn’t mean environmental organizations are standing idly by.

Statistics compiled through mid-day Tuesday, Oct. 26 by the —a nonprofit organization that favors government transparency—show that the has poured more than $799,000 into an advertising effort to defeat GOP challenger who is trying to regain the seat he lost to Teague two years ago.

The candidates—both with long careers in the oil and gas industry—are locked in a fierce, tight, back-and-forth contest to represent the sprawling and largely rural southern half of New Mexico, the 2nd Congressional District.

Numbers from the Sunlight Foundation indicate that the League of Conservation Voters and a group called the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund has spent a combined $46,000-plus to support Teague with mailings and phone calls. The Victory Fund is a partnership with the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, according to Sunlight Foundation records.

Pearce called attention to one of the Defenders of Wildlife television ads in a Sunday debate with Teague broadcast on KOAT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque. The Republican claimed that several outside investigations had proved the ad to be untrue.

Back in August, KOAT-TV pulled the ad after Pearce challenged its content. The ad focused on the former representative’s ties to special interests and accused him of questionable business dealings. It referred to Pearce being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress by the independent, Washington-based watchdog group . Defenders of Wildlife has endorsed Teague in this election.

“Defenders Action Fund regrets that KOAT-TV has buckled under pressure from the Pearce campaign and has made a political decision to cease broadcasting our TV ad, ‘Remember,’” organization president Rodger Schlickeisen wrote in an Aug. 10 news release. “Needless to say, we stand by the facts in our TV ad one hundred percent and its factual integrity is made evident by the fact five out of six TV stations continue to broadcast it.”

The advocacy organization’s most recent ad—released in late August and still running—questions Pearce's ethics and accuses him of having close ties with oil and gas companies. It also alleges that he protected producers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) from being held liable for polluting New Mexico’s drinking water.

Chamber Tags Teague’s Vote a Job Killer

During this election cycle, low-budget green groups have questioned and criticized the Citizens United 2010 Supreme Court decision that protects corporate campaign spending as free speech.

They claim it allows wealthy donors to remain anonymous by hiding behind conservative cover outfits such as the , which has a long record of opposing legislation to curb heat-trapping gases, and newer groups with innocuous names such as Americans for Job Security.

Indeed, the Chamber of Commerce has spent close to $437,000 plastering New Mexico’s airwaves with an anti-Teague ad that paints House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as evil incarnate for leading the charge on the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

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