Slick Politics

How the oil industry has spent millions to keep California dependent on oil
Released by: CALPIRG Education Fund

Executive Summary

In 1996 and again in 2000, CALPIRG Education Fund completed studies of the levels of money the oil industry spends on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions in California state politics. With consumer and environmental activists continuing to be frustrated in their attempts to enact meaningful petroleum diversity policies for California despite record high gas prices and stubborn pollution problems, we decided to examine once more the effects that money spent by the oil industry has on public policy.

In this report we examined the amount of money the oil industry has spent during the past legislative session, how much money it has reported spending up to October 24, 2006 in campaign contributions to political candidates and political parties since the last election, and how its level of spending compares to other industries in the state.

We found that the major oil companies and oil industry associations spent $12,160,954 on lobbying expenses during the last legislative session, a sizable increase over their expenses in the late 1990s. We also found that the oil companies and major oil executives have given at least $5,275,957 in campaign contributions to California candidates and political parties to date, excluding all of the money that has been poured into ballot initiatives. Comparing the oil industry’s level of spending on campaign contributions with the other largest industries in the state, the oil industry ranks third, with only real estate and developer interests and television and movie production spending more.

We also examined the effects of the oil industry’s influence on public policy, particularly with efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and develop alternative fuels and transportation. California is highly dependent on oil to meet our energy needs, and our dependence on oil continues to grow every year. Environmental impacts, high gasoline prices, and increasing dependence on foreign sources of oil are three immediate reasons why it is in California’s interest to adopt policies to reduce our dependence on oil. In coming years, as worldwide oil demand outstrips supply, our overdependence on oil will have profound detrimental impacts to California consumers and our economy. Unfortunately, the oil industry’s influence in California politics continues to prevent our state from adopting forward-thinking energy policies that prepare our state for a world with less oil. One company alone, Chevron, reports lobbying on 106 bills in the state legislature.

With the election just days away, and new elected officials to take office in January, this report should be read not only as a look back on the last two years, but also a look forward to future opportunities for California leaders to disregard oil industry money and influence in politics and adopt smart policies to reduce our dependence on oil in 2007.


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