In its August 2021 Update to its Tracking the Dirty Dollars Project, Sierra Club California reveals that the California Republican Party has accepted over $300,000 from the fossil fuel industry and its allies this year. This more than triples the party’s contributions since Sierra Club’s last report update in May.
“Once again, Republican legislators have sided with polluters and taken hundreds of thousands of dirty dollars from the oil and gas industries,” said Brandon Dawson, director of the Sierra Club California. “This newest round of dirty money shows the oil and gas industries are committed to undermining the Democratic stronghold in the legislature and imperiling the health and safety of millions of Californians.”
The report states: “Last edition, we condemned the California Republican Party for receiving an astounding total of $85,175 from the oil industry and its allies. In the past three months, the Republicans have more than tripled these donations, boasting a dirty dollar treasure trove of $310,175. This shows the immense money and effort the oil and gas industry is putting into undermining the Democratic stronghold in the legislature and strengthening the Republicans hand to advanced polluters’ interest.”
While some state legislators made it out of another quarter avoiding fossil fuel campaign contributions, several others, including quite a few Assembly Democrats, amassed stashes of fossil fuel donations according to the group.
Assemblymember Rudy Salas, Jr., leads all assembly members, Democratic and Republican, with $18,800, while Freddie Rodriguez was close behind with $17,200. Mike Gipson’s dirty donations totaled $13,400.
“Given these legislators’ scorecard grades and poor environmental track record in the Assembly, these donation totals are disappointing, but not surprising,” the group reported, “Moreover, Salas has long touted his close link to the oil industry, even featuring photos of himself with oil rigs in his campaign literature.”
As one of the few journalists who reports regularly on deep regulatory capture by Big Oil and Big Oil in California, I can attest to the report’s assessment of Salas.
Rudy Salas was the one of the “honorary co-chairs” of the “Women’s Empowerment Summit” in Bakersfield on Saturday, May 7, 2016 that gave Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California, the “2016 Distinguished Woman and Petroleum Advocate of the Year” Award. Unfortunately, I was the only journalist that reported on this conference: www.dailykos.com/…
Two other powerful Democrats also reported significant “dirty donation” totals from Big Oil and Big Gas, according to Sierra Club California.
Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Laura Friedman has received $10,900 in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests this year.
Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez accepted $14,700 in “dirty dollar” donations this quarter. Gonzalez sits in one of the most powerful seats in the legislature.
“These donations are deeply troubling for two powerful Assembly Members,” according to the Club.
Sierra Club California launched the Tracking the Dirty Dollars Project in November 2020 to “shed light on oil and gas contributions to legislators and other state-level elected officials.”
“The project sorts through existing public databases to identify who receives contributions from oil and gas companies and their allies through direct campaign contributions, independent expenditure campaigns, and gifts. The project then presents the information in a clear format that makes it much easier for the general public and environmental activists to see what their elected leaders have received,” the Club noted.
A cover report discussing the August installment and the data sheets comprising the three installments are available on Sierra Club California’s website. More information about the project is included in a November 2020 blog e-mailed to Sierra Club members and supporters around the state.
Campaign donations are just one of the seven methods that Big Oil uses in California to exercise inordinate influence over California regulators. WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 7 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups; (5) working in collaboration with media; (6) creating alliances with labor unions; and (7) contributing to nonprofit organizations.
The Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in California, spent a total of $4,267,181 lobbying state officials in 2020 and $8.8 million in 2019, according to financial data filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office. WSPA also pumped $1,341,073 into lobbying in the first quarter of 2021 and $1,113,884 into lobbying in the second quarter of 2021.