Oil and Gas Lobbyists In Sacramento on a Record Spending Pace

Monday, April 07, 2014


While state lawmakers contemplate issues dear to oil and gas interests, like a fracking ban and an oil extraction tax, the industry is spending money on lobbying and campaign donations at a record pace.

Big Oil Floods the Capitol:How California’ s Oil Companies Funnel Funds Into the Legislature (pdf), a report released this month by Common Cause and the ACCE Institute, says that the oil and gas lobby has spent nearly $15 million to influence Sacramento lawmakers halfway through the 2014-15 legislative session. The record is $25.5 million, set in 2011-12.

Oil and gas lobbying expenditures have increased 400% since 1999-2000.

One lobbyist, Western States Petroleum Association, accounts for 32% of that spending ($4.7 million), followed by Chevron ($4 million), Aera Energy ($1.3 million), Phillips ($822,717) and BP America ($640,992). Industry lobbyists have spent $123.6 million over the past 15 years and increased their number from 22 in 1999-2000 to 32 in 2013-14.

The report, which crunched numbers available from the Secretary of State’ s Cal-Access Database and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), also outlined how the oil and gas companies spent $143 million over 15 years on campaign contributions.

The report took a narrow approach to identifying which lawmakers were the main beneficiaries of this largesse by sticking with an analysis of those who were still seated in the Senate and Assembly. Term limits and other considerations thinned the herd a bit, helping slide those with the longest tenure to the top.

It didn't hurt the thrust of the report—that industry money is contaminating an already tainted political process—having Democratic Senator Rod Wright at the top of the list of politicians receiving oil and gas money ($83,100). He is one of three senators recently suspended from the chamber while being processed by the legal system. Wright was convicted of eight felony fraud and perjury counts for lying about living in his district. He is appealing.

Lawmakers are poised to make their annual run at passing an oil extraction tax, a levy every one of the 36 oil-producing states has. Alaska puts a minimum 25% tax on every barrel that can rise to 50% in some cases. Alabama, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota, Mississippi, Oregon, and Florida tax oil and gas at 8%, 8%, 7.5%, 6.5%, 6%, 6%, and 5%, respectively. California failed to pass a proposed oil tax last year, in 2011, in 2010 and twice in 2008.

Senate Bill 1017, due for its first Senate committee vote later this month, would raise $1.6 billion in its first year, mostly for higher education, but also parks and social services. That amount would be expected to rise to $2 billion in subsequent years, but would fluctuate by tens of millions of dollars depending on the price of oil.

Last year's extraction tax bill, also introduced by Democratic Senator Noreen Evans, passed a couple of committees but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

‒Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Big Oil Floods the Capitol: How California’ s Oil Companies Funnel Funds Into the Legislature (by Maurice Weeks and Sarah Swanbeck, ACCE Institute and Common Cause) (pdf)

New Report & Website Highlight Big Oil’s Campaign Contributions as Lawmakers Debate Tax on Oil Extraction in California (Courage Campaign)

Bill Would Change State’s Status as the Only One Not Taxing Oil Extraction (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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