Big Oil Has Spent $63 million on Lobbying in Sacramento Since 2009! 

big_oil_1The oil industry is spending over $1 million per month

By Dan Bacher 

 / DailyKos

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state’s environmental policies than Big Oil.

An ongoing analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, collectively spent $63,947,616 lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014.

The Western States Petroleum Association, led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, topped the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.

“The oil industry is spending over $1 million per month lobbying Sacramento, with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) as the second overall leading spender so far in 2014 with almost $3 million spent in the past six months,” according to Stop Fooling California (, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. “Chevron, with $1.3 million spent so far in 2014, is also among the top five. If money speaks, Big Oil has the loudest voice in politics.”

WSPA was California’s second overall leading lobbyist spender, with $1.5 million spent in the second quarter of 2014. This is the second largest quarter going back to January 2009.

WSPA is on pace to exceed the previous annual (2012) total in 2014. So far this session, WSPA has paid over $2 million to KP Public Affairs, the state’s highest paid lobbying firm, during the current (2013-14) legislative session, according to the group. WSPA spent $4,670,010 on lobbying in 2013 and $5,698,917 in 2012.

Chevron is the fifth overall spender in California through the second quarter of 2014, having spent $784,757 over the past quarter, an increase of nearly $300,000 over the prior quarter.

Since 2009, WSPA ($27 million) and Chevron ($14.7 million) accounted for $42 million, two-thirds of the industry total.

The other “Dirty Dozen” spenders in the oil industry since 2009 were:

  • BP – $3,407,467
  • AERA Energy – $2,678,910
  • Occidental – $2,678,910
  • ConocoPhillips – $2,352,767
  • Exxon – $2,297,452
  • Shell – $2,258,610
  • CIPA – $1,916,231
  • Phillips66 – $1,715,416
  • Fueling CA – $669,049
  • CIOMA – $523,069

The money that the Western States Petroleum Association and other members of the oil lobby spend is well spent, since it has allowed Big Oil to sabotage state and federal laws protecting the air, water and environment. In 2013, the oil industry added poison pill amendments to gut an already weak fracking bill, Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, in order to clear the path to the expansion of fracking operations in California.

WSPA and other oil industry interests also were able to defeat a bill, sponsored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, to impose a moratorium on fracking in the state. In fact, the Legislators who voted against the bill received 14 times the amount of money from Big Oil that those who voted yes received from the industry.

But oil industry influence extends behind the money it spends on lobbying and political campaigns. Oil industry officials have also sat on key panels crafting environmental regulations in California and the U.S.

For example, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, in one of the biggest conflicts of interest in California history, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California.

She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a federal NOAA marine protected areas committee.

The “marine protected areas” that she and other task force members helped to create fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to “protect” the ocean, the same oil industry that the “marine guardian” represents was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.”

Stop Fooling California recently pointed out that the former Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force opposes a ban on offshore drilling in the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve.

“Big Oil, we know you’re no stranger to conflicts of interest. But you have outdone yourself this time!” the group stated.

The campaign was referring to WSPA’s opposition to Senate Bill 1096, a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge.

You can’t make this stuff up. Only in the oil-soaked politics of “Green California” would an oil lobbyist charged with the task of creating “marine protected areas” go on record against protecting a “state marine reserve” from oil drilling!

However, the money Big Oil spends on lobbying and campaign contributions is just chump change for them, since the oil companies continue to post mind-boggling profits every year. The top five oil companies made over $93 billion in profits in 2013 and have made over $58 billion in profits this year to date.


  1. avatar says

    Also the health insurance industry has been spending some big bucks lately to get all the old people to get off of Medi-Cal and onto private insurance. This is similar to their campaign to get everyone off of traditional Medicare and onto Medicare Advantage which is private insurance.

    My girlfriend is on Medi-Cal and she recently received in the mail a “Cal MediConnect Plan Choice Book which supposedly gives her a choice of 4 MediConnect plans, which combine Medicare and MediCal, and heavily encourages you to sign up for one of them. In fact on calling the info numbers, they told us she has already been signed up for one. But wait a minute. She wants to stay with what she has (no box check for that) which is traditional Medicare (government sponsored) and MediCal with a Humana drug plan.

    There is no information given as to how to make a decision on which of the 5 MediCal plans to sign up for. Why do you even need 5 MediCal plans? Also she got a letter from Humana disenrolling her from her drug plan because “she had already enrolled in a MediConnect plan” which she hadn’t. Then we were told that by choosing one of the 5 MedCal plans, that would automatically disenroll her from the MediConnect plan that they had already signed her up for thus negating all the supposed “choices.” But then we would have to call Humana to reenroll her in the Humana drug plan. Sound confusing? You bet. And there was no information about any of this in the material they sent. We only found out by calling around, getting put on hold, getting told we had the wrong number etc etc.

    Finally, we were told that the only way of distinguishing among the 5 MediCal plans over which we had a “choice” was to ask her doctors and specialists which one(s) they would accept. So if by mistake we signed up for one that her doctors did not accept, she’d be out of luck.

    This has the fingerprints of insurance industry lobbyists all over it. Under the guise of “choice,” they are forcing seniors into private insurance plans just as they did with Medicare Advantage, but this time they’re not even subtle about it – nor rational.

  2. avatarApril Barcenas says

    Why don’t we just call it what it is and change the word “lobby” to “bribe”? Tell the truth and shock the devil.

  3. avatarPeter Thottam says

    Appalling. Translates to approximately $105,000 in annual oil lobbying money going towards EACH of the 120 representatives (Assembly, Senate).