Big Oil Receives Political Favours For Gifts Given To California Democrats

The ECOreport reposts an Op Ed, Big Oil Receives Political Favours For Gifts Given To California Democrats

Originally Published on the Daily KOS

by Dan Bacher

State officials and the mainstream media have for many years portrayed California as the nation’s “green leader,” but a new analysis exposing a correlation between oil industry gifts and California lawmakers’ voting records shows a much different California, one heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry.
This report reveals that California legislators received $253,771.98 in 2016 in free trips, dinners, and hotel stays from groups at least partly funded by or affiliated with companies from the oil and gas sector, according to legislators’ financial disclosure forms released last week and analyzed by the Energy and Policy Institute, a pro-clean energy watchdog organization.

Big Oil Receives Political Favours For Gifts Given To California Democrats

Stop Fooling California, a public education campaign that focuses on the oil industry in California, released the analysis.

As you know, I’ve been exposing how Big Oil and the Western States Petroleum have effectively captured the regulatory apparatus in California under the administrations of Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The connection between so-called “moderate” Democrats and Big Oil gifts is the latest example of how powerful an influence Big Oil exerts over politicians and regulators in a state that some have called the “greenest” one in the nation.

“We’ve seen the rise of an informal caucus in California known as the ‘mod’ Dems – a bloc of democrats that tends to side with the business community and oil interests,” said Sarah Golden of Stop Fooling California. “Last week, industry submitted its annual disclosure of gifts given to California lawmakers. The folks over at Energy and Policy Institute examined the forms and found a clear correlation between those that received gifts from the oil and gas industry and those who voted with oil interests.”

The analysis shows a correlation between higher gift values from Big Oil and friendlier votes from so-called “moderate democrats,” i.e. Oily Dems.

An Average Of $3,685 Per Year In Gifts

“The Oily Dems who voted for Big Oil interests received an average of $3,685 per year in gifts while in office between 2012 and 2016,” according to the report. “That value was 2.5 times more than the amount that Democrats who did not vote with Big Oil received in gifts during the same period, which averaged $1,486 per year in office.”

It is revealing that Assembly Member Rudy Salas, the honorary co-chair of the “Women’s Empowerment Summit” on May 7 of last year, received the most oil industry gifts, $24,549.33, of any legislator in 2016.

In a salute to California’s status as the third largest oil state in the country and Big Oil’s role as the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, the “Women’s Empowerment Summit” co-chaired by Salas honored Catherine Reheis- Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, with the 2016 “Distinguished Woman and Petroleum Advocate of the Year” award.

The event in Bakersfield, sponsored by the California Latino Leadership Institute, was billed as the “First Annual CLLI Tri County Central Valley Women’s Empowerment Summit.” The corporate sponsors for the event included the “headline sponsor,” the California Resources Corporation (formerly Occidental Petroleum), along with Aera Energy, the Chevron Corporation and SEIU 521.

After giving the award to Reheis-Boyd, it is no surprise that the Western States Petroleum Assocation paid $1,600 for Assemblyman Salas to attend its annual conference on October 4, 2016 at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay.

Summary Of The Report

Here is the summary of the report from from Stop Fooling California:

Oil-friendly Democrats received 2.5 more in gifts from oil interests, based on gift disclosures from 2012-2016

California’s legislators received $253,771.98 in 2016 in free trips, dinners, and hotel stays from groups at least partly funded by or affiliated with companies from the oil and gas sector, according to legislators’ financial disclosure forms released last week and analyzed by the Energy and Policy Institute, a pro-clean energy watchdog organization. Stop Fooling California, a public education campaign that focuses on the oil industry in California, released the analysis

From 2012 to 2016, the oil-affiliated groups gave legislators gifts with a value of $1.24 million. The total value of the gifts from oil-affiliated groups doubled from 2012 to 2015, before dropping back to 2013 levels in 2016.

The data for the analysis came from the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which mandates disclosure of gifts to public office holders.

Flights to Maui, dinner in Napa and Newport Beach, and a stay at the Ritz

Examples of gifts that oil-affiliated groups gave to California’s legislators in 2016 included:

  • The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), a trade association for oil companies, paid for the meals and hotel for 12 legislators at a “symposium” in Newport Beach from December 8th to 9th. The legislators were Thomas Berryhill (R), Kansen Chu (D), James Frazier (D), Cathleen Galgiani (D), Christopher Holden (D), Patrick O’Donnell (D), Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D), and Blanca Rubio (D), Steven Choi (R), Vince Fong (R), Rudy Salas (D), and Thomas Berryhill (R).
  • The California Issues Forum (CIF) feted eight legislators, all Democrats, with a hotel room, meals, and transportation to Napa, California. CIF’s funders include Chevron and other oil companies, and it focuses on influencing moderate Democrats on behalf of corporations. The legislators were Autumn Burke, Jim Cooper, Jim Frazier, Mike Gipson, Adam Gray, Rudy Salas, Freddie Rodriguez, and Timothy Grayson.
  • The Western States Petroleum Alliance (WSPA), regarded as the most powerful voice for California’s oil industry, paid $1,600 for Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) to attend its annual conference on October 4th at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Salas was the top recipient of gifts from oil-affiliated groups in 2016.
  • The Independent Voter Project, which receives funding from oil companies including Chevron, spent an average of about $3,000 per legislator flying, hosting and feeding nine lawmakers at its infamous annual Maui conference, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The legislators were James Cooper (D), Mike Gipson (D), Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D), Freddie Rodriguez (D), Tom Daly (D), Joes Medina (D), Miguel Santiago (D), Thomas Berryhill (R), Cathleen Galgiani (D) and Franklin Bigelow (R).

Top Recipients:

The legislators who received the highest value of gifts from oil-affiliated groups in 2016 were:
(Legislator –   Value of Gifts Received, 2016)

  • Rudy Salas (D-32nd Assembly District)  – $24,549.33
  • Robert Wieckowski (D-10th Senate District) – $23,156.51
  • Rocky Chavez (R-76th Assembly District) – $13,747.99
  • Christopher Holden (D-41st Assembly District) – $13,690.49
  • Anthony Cannella (R-12th Senate District) – $13,274.63
  • Ricardo Lara (D-33rd Senate District) – $12,633.71
  • Cristina Garcia (D-58th Assembly District) – $12,369.13
  • Evan Low (D-28th Assembly District) – $11,908.95
  • Chad Mayes (R-42nd Assembly District) – $11,664.99
  • James Wood (D-2nd Assembly District) – $11,182.31

The legislators who received the highest value of gifts from oil-affiliated groups from 2012 to 2016 were:
(Legislator –   Value of Gifts Received, 2012 – 2016)

  • Anthony Cannella (R-12th Senate District) – $84,355.17
  • Cristina Garcia (D-58th Assembly District) – $63,066.56 – Steven Bradford (D-62nd Assembly District) $48,963.69
  • Kristin Olsen (R-12th Assembly District) – $47,966.15
  • Robert Wieckowski [D-25th Assembly District (2012-2014), 10th Senate District (2015-2016)] – $47,568.00
  • Ricardo Lara (D-33rd Senate District) – $43,981.19
  • Shirley Weber (D-79th Assembly District)- $42,884.39
  • Marc Levine (D-10th Assembly District) – $39,613.52
  • Henry Perea (D-31st Assembly District) – $37,902.15
  • Rudy Salas (D-32nd Assembly District) – $32,480.28

*All office position reflect title during analysis

Methodology

To discern whether the gifts are correlated with more pro-oil voting patterns, the Energy and Policy Institute analyzed the value of the gifts received by so-called “Moderate Democrats” who have voted with the oil industry’s interests, as well as those Democrats who did not, over the 2012 – 2016 period.

“Moderate” Democrats who vote with Big Oil, average gift per year, 2012 – 2016 – $3,685

Other Democrats who vote Against Big Oil, average gift per year, 2012 – 2016  – $1,486

Since there is no formal “Moderate Democrat” caucus, we considered any legislator who voted with the oil industry 33 percent of the time or more as part of that oil-friendly caucus. In order to have a large enough sample size to show a pattern of behavior, legislators had to vote with the oil industry at least twice to be included on the list. We used 15 oil-related bills, as well as a 2014 sign-on letter related to climate legislation, to develop the data-set. Voting records from the following bills were counted:

Assembly:

  • AB 669: Protecting water supplies from fracking (2013)
  • SB 1096: Oil & gas coastal sanctuaries (2014)
  • An Anti-AB32 sign-on letter from 2014
  • SB 32: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (2015)
  • AB 356: Oil & gas groundwater monitoring (2015)
  • AB 197: Climate Equity and Transparency Act (2016)
  • AB 1550: Investing cap-and-trade funds in disadvantaged communities (2016)
  • AB 1937: Environmental justice in power plant siting (2016)
  • SB 32: California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2016 (2016)

Senate:

  • SB 1054: Tell your neighbor if you’re fracking (2012)
  • AB 8: Investing in cleaner cars (2013)
  • SB 1132: Fracking moratorium (2014)
  • SB 32: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (2015)
  • SB 248: Oil and gas extraction chemicals—underground injection (2015)
  • SB 454: Protecting drinking water from oil & gas (2015)
  • SB 32: California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2016 (2016)

The Energy and Policy Institute included 16 oil-affiliated groups in its analysis. They were:

(Group/Company – Total Gift Value to Legislators, 2012 – 2016)

  • California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy -$764,747.85
  • Independent Voter Project – $221,774.75
  • California Issues Forum – $77,609.68
  • California Independent Petroleum Association – $50,873.72
  • CA Chamber of Commerce – $45,224.50
  • Pacific Northwest Economic Region- Legislative Energy Horizon Institute – $21,029.52
  • American Legislative Exchange Council -$18,176.64
  • Western States Petroleum Alliance – $12,943.09
  • CA Foundation For Commerce & Education – $12,874.17
  • California Manufacturers & Technology Association – $4,754.34
  • Holmes Western Oil Corporation – $4,455.88
  • Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce – $3,480.38
  • Phillips 66 – $3,170.36
  • California Business Roundtable – $2,374.71
  • Orange County Business Council – $732.43
  • Chevron – $200.00

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