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This chart compares the total contract amounts for new versus existing legal contracts with the state. In both cases, slightly less than one-third of the total contracts—most of which were signed in September or October—has already been spent.

Big Picture

Legal Tender: For some law firms, state contracting is a lucrative business

December 7, 2011, 12:00 am

On Dec. 5, just a block from the state capitol, the trial began to determine the shape of New Mexico’s new legislative districts. Redistricting actually begins with the Legislature, which approved several plans last spring; however, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed most of them. Thus begins what may prove to be an arduous court battle—one that, in 2001, cost taxpayers upwards of $3 million. Of that, $653,700 went to the legal team that defended the Legislature’s plans. That may sound like a lot, but in light of the whopping $9.6 million the state’s Risk Management Division—part of the General Services Department—spends to defend state employees and agencies, it’s peanuts. In September and October of this year, the state allocated approximately $6.2 million to renew existing legal contracts, plus another $3.4 million in new contracts. Since the fall, $2.8 million of the total has been spent—not too shabby for a few months’ work. For an interactive listing of all state legal contractors and campaign contribution data, scroll down.

This chart shows the firms with $300,000 or more in state contracts. Walz & Associates made headlines when the firm defended sexual harassment charges against former Public Regulation Commission Chairman David King; Alfred A Park is a state representative from Bernalillo County.
According to SFR’s research, the bulk of the firms and lawyers who contract with the state donate to Democrats, many of them judicial candidates. (Since the vast majority of state legal contracts are $100,000 and higher, SFR only checked contractors with $100,000 or more in state business for their contributions.) The largest single contribution by a single firm was the $11,879.53 donated to Brian Colón, the 2010 Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
This chart compares the total campaign contributions by state-contracted law firms to all Republican candidates ($950) with contributions to former Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles ($1,950). After winning retention, Robles was arrested in February for DWI. In June, he retired pursuant to an agreement with the Judicial Standards Commission.


 

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