Lobby Groups Spend Record $339 Million
By Patrick McGreevy, LOS ANGELES TIMES - SACRAMENTO WATCH BLOG
February 5, 2018
Fueled by activity from the oil industry attempting to influence the cap-and-trade debate, interest groups spent a record of more than $339 million lobbying California government officials last year.
The spending activity to influence elected officials and bureaucrats far exceeds the previous record of $314.7 million in 2015, new lobbying reports show.
Those reports also shed more light on how interest groups have expanded their "scope and sophistication" beyond sending a lobbyist to a public official's office, said Jodi Remke, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
One example: Special interest groups produced multi-million-dollar media campaigns "to rile the public on oil and gas issues, who in turn were relied on to influence their public officials," she said.
The two top spenders on lobbying last year were Chevron ($8.2 million) and the Western States Petroleum Assn. ($6.2 million). Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. was fourth at $3.2 million.
The spending by the petroleum association reflects "the enormous number of issues confronting the energy industry in California, and the potential impact those issues have on energy producers, refiners, consumers and businesses," said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the group's president.
The Legislature voted in July to extend the cap-and-trade program, which requires polluters to buy carbon emission credits and which opponents argued will hurt businesses and add to the cost of goods and services for consumers.
The final version limited air quality regulators from adopting carbon-cutting rules for refineries, a big win for the oil industry.
"Unfortunately, money talks in Sacramento, and oil company money shouts," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
Other top 2017 spenders were the California State Council of Service Employees ($3.9 million), the California Chamber of Commerce ($2.8 million), the California Hospital Assn. ($2.7 million), the California Teachers Assn. ($2.4 million), the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. ($2.1 million), the California Nurses Assn. ($2.07 million) and AT&T ($1.9 million).
The taxpayer group unsuccessfully fought legislation that raised the gas taxes and vehicle fees in California to provide more than $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and mass transit.
The medical industry was engaged in efforts to guard the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.