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Last week, the California Democratic Party announced it would stop accepting political donations from the oil industry (for now). And that’s kind of a BFD, because the oil industry has been polluting California’s politics as much as it’s been polluting our air. Chevron, Valero, Tesoro and California Resources Corp. have given nearly $6.9 million since mid-2015 to three independent expenditure committees that support business-friendly candidates.

Details on how cutting ties will work are TBD, but we think it’s a fab idea. Here’s a look at how Big Oil has been polluting our democracy.

Remember SB350?

SB 350 was set to be the most progressive climate bill of our time. Among other anti-pollution measures, the bill originally called for cutting California gas consumption by 50 percent by 2030.

And the oil industry no likey.

Ultimately, a group of 20 “moderate” (read: oily) Democrats helped kill the fuel reduction provision. So did those Dems just have ideological differences from the rest of their party? Maybe. Or maybe it was the stacks of money the oil industry gave them. The top opponent of the gas cut received $100K in campaign contributions from Big Oil, and a few other of those 20 moderate Dems received $80K and $65K.

Did the Mod Dems get away with it?

The people of California are pretty smart. They invented fish tacos. And they get when their politicians are being bought by the oil industry.

One of mod Dems who helped weaken SB 350 was Chevron’s sweetheart Cheryl Brown. This election, despite the fact that oil-funded groups poured more than $870,000 into Brown’s campaign, the assemblywoman was defeated by challenger Eloise Reyes in the 47th Assembly District.

And that’s not all…

Big Oil also spent $339,000 trying to defeat clean-energy supporter Jim Beall in San Jose. But then he won anyway.

Chevron: oil or politics company?


 Chevron holds a lot of titles in California. It’s the largest company by revenue in the state (and the third largest in the nation). It’s one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases in the state. And it’s one of the largest corporate spenders  on politics and lobbying in California.

Chevron alone has spent $61 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in California since 2009. In 2016 alone Chevron and its affiliates made 124 political contributions, totaling more than $4 million. The company also made contributions to 59 assembly members and senate elections in this election cycle. 


The Western States Petroleum Association: the biggest lobbyist you’ve never heard of

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) probably has a boring name in the hopes people won’t pay attention. ‘Cause behind the scenes, they’re representing all of the state’s oil supermajors and pushing for policies and programs to promote polluters’ interests. In fact, SFC analysis shows how WSPA steps up the lobbying funds whenever there’s some kind of clean air measure  to fight. Maybe if there are fewer
oil-backed Dems in the legislature in the first place, WSPA will have fewer ears to whisper in.


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