Chevron spends big to fool voters

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Bay Area-based oil giant Chevron is spending millions of dollars to influence this election and protect its financial interests, most notably by being the top contributor to the Prop. 26 campaign, which would make it almost impossible for Californians to impose fees that would help pay for environmental and public health programs.

Chevron, which reported a $5.4 billion record profit in the second quarter of this year, has given $3.75 million to the Yes on 26 campaign, according to campaign spending watchdog Maplight.org, beating the California Chamber of Commerce's $3.5 million. Other big contributors include the American Beverage Association ($2 million) and Phillip Morris tobacco company ($1.75 million). The Yes on 26 campaign has raised about $16 million compared to the opposition raising less than $5 million from groups representing teachers, environmentalists and social justice advocates.

Prop. 26 would require a two-thirds super majority for the enactment of fees by the California Legislature or by the voters in cities, counties, or special districts, which has proven almost impossible to attain in the face of aggressive corporate-funded opposition campaigns. Such a high electoral bar would cripple the state's ability to make big polluters and global warmers like Chevron – or the makers on alcohol or tobacco products – pay for their societal impacts.

But that payout isn't even Chevron's most audacious move of this election season. As the Bay Citizen reports, Chevron is almost spending $1 million on independent expenditures in support of their favored City Council candidates in Richmond, a city where Chevron has a big polluting oil refinery, in the hopes of buying a more friendly political environment.

Richmond officials have in recent years tried to get Chevron to mitigate its environmental impacts to the cash-strapped city and to pay a bit more in taxes, but Chevron responded with a lawsuit seeking a $26 million rebate on the property taxes that it paid to the city in past years, including 2007, when the company posted record profits of $18.7 billion.