A new report released today reveals that massive political spending by Chevron - the state of California’s largest polluter - seeks to stunt environmental protection, gouge consumers and reduces funds available for schools and other essential public services.
Since 2009, Chevron has spent $61 million dollars on political candidates, committees and lobbying in California, far more than any other oil company.
“While Chevron’s political spending has kept its California profits high and its taxes low, many politicians that took Chevron’s cash are now losing. The tide is turning and Chevron’s contributions may be toxic,” said Andrés Soto, Richmond organiser with Communities for a Better Environment.
In this election, in State Assembly and State Senate races, candidates heavily backed by Chevron lost their races. In Monterey County, Chevron gave $1.5 million to oppose a local measure to ban fracking and expanded oil drilling. Despite being outspent 33 to 1, the measure passed.
The report, The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy, was launched by a broad coalition of environmental and community organisations. The groups said the report will educate the public about the corrupting influence of corporate money and alert politicians that they will be judged on whether they act in the public interest or in Chevron’s interest.
Chevron makes billions in profits from its huge retail and refining business in California, but has aggressively cut tax payments to federal, state and local governments. In 2015, the company paid no net income tax in the US, but instead banked nearly $1.7 billion in tax credits.
In 2015, Chevron had over $45 billion stashed in offshore accounts, including the company’s 211 active Bermuda subsidiaries, and the company’s global effective tax rate fell to below 3%.
City Council member Gayle McLaughlin said, “here in Richmond, Chevron drew national media attention when it spent over $3 million in local races in 2014 and lost. This time around, Chevron sat it out and we elected two more progressive candidates to the council and the last longstanding Chevron candidate was voted out.”
Melvin Willis, Council member-elect and community leader with ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), said, "the new progressive majority on City Council will make sure that Richmond will not be sold short when it comes to the city’s 2013 lawsuit against Chevron in response to the 2012 explosion and fire at the Richmond refinery. We’re going to hold Chevron accountable.”
Corporate political spending must be limited, but in California it appears that politicians now take Chevron’s cash at their own peril.
“Voters are sick and tired of Chevron and their oily politicians corrupting our democracy and undermining our progress towards having clean energy and living in healthy communities,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch. “Californians can take inspiration from community victories in Monterey County and Richmond that prove that when people organise together, they can overcome the financial power of major corporations.”