Big Oil Floods the Capitol



The oil and gas industry has significant influence over California politics. With profits at stake and public focus on the oil and gas industry’s environmental and tax practices, Big Oil puts millions into Sacramento every year to keep their interests in check. At the same time, as California continues to recover from economic and environmental crisis, many Californians struggle to have their needs met. Without the same resources to ensure that their concerns are heard in Sacramento, Californians should be concerned about the disproportionate influence of Big Oil in Sacramento.

The oil and gas industry does not have to pay taxes on resources they extract in California, a departure from the policy of most every other oil-producing state. Resource extraction can have an adverse environmental impact. Failing to tax this resource extraction and generate any revenue for California means less revenue for the State’s general fund, further contributing to the inadequate funding of programs and services throughout the state. 

Key members of Big Oil are some of the largest corporations in all of California, including Chevron, Exxon, Aera Energy and Occidental Petroleum. And these big corporations spend big time. Over the past 15 years, Big Oil spent a whopping $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns. That’s nearly $10 million per year.

This report profiles the top recipients of big oil money, as well as those legislators who are facing a vote on the Oil and Gas Extraction Tax (Senate Bill 1017) this month, April 2014.

In addition to its political contributions, Big Oil exerts considerable influence lobbying in Sacramento. Big Oil employs high profile, high powered lobbyists to ensure their interests are represented. In the past 15 years, the price tag for these lobbyists has totaled $123.6 million. In 2013-2014 alone, the top lobbyist employer, Western States Petroleum Association, spent $4.7 million. This report also profiles Oil company lobbying in the past 15 years.

The oil lobby presence in Sacramento is growing.  Only halfway through the session, and with expenditure rates typically increasing late in the legislative season when more bills are up for a final vote, California is on track to surpass the roughly $25.5 million spent on lobbying in the 2011-2012 legislative session.

While much attention has been paid to the economic recovery in California in the last several years, the state is still in crisis.  The safety-net for California’s neediest is broken, higher education is less affordable and accessible than ever, and other vital social services are continually underfunded. This report shows the broad scope of the Oil lobby’s spending in order to influence public policy in California – and its spending is growing.  Until laws are passed to truly curb the role of money in politics, the voices of regular citizens will invariably be drowned out by cash.   



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