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NEW REPORT DETAILS HOW BIG OIL CORPORATIONS HIDE BEHIND $61 MILLION CAMPAIGN OF DECEPTION TO DISMANTLE BASIC PROTECTIONS AGAINST TOXIC NEIGHBORHOOD OIL DRILLING

Fake Coalitions, “Citizens Groups,” and AstroTurf Public Relations Firms Attempt to Shield Big Oil’s Big Spending

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 30, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — According to a new report being released by the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California (CSHC), Big Oil has now spent more than $61 million on their misinformation campaign to deceive voters about the public health benefits of keeping a law (SB 1137 – Senator Lena Gonzalez) that protects communities from toxic oil and gas drilling near schools and neighborhoods.

“Big Oil and their investors have created a web of deceit in their attempts to hide the fact that they’ve spent more than $60 million trying to dismantle a public safety law that protects our communities from their dangerous and toxic practices,” said Mabel Tsang, CSHC Steering Committee Member and Political Director of California Environmental Justice Alliance and CEJA Action. “Whether it’s creating fake coalitions, hiring AstroTurf public relations firms or loaning millions to their own campaign, potentially to delay disclosure of certain funders or to avoid paying taxes; their efforts to lie to voters are as dirty as their drilling.”

Here’s a table from the report briefly summarizing the $61 million in expenditures; each subcategory is detailed in the report.

Type of expenditure

Amount

Lobbying expenditures in quarters when the setback law was explicitly referenced in filing entity’s disclosures

$21,847,821.62

Lobbying expenditures in quarters when the issues pertinent to setbacks were implied, but the legislation itself was not directly mentioned

$15,916,217.13

sub-total, LOBBYING EXPENDITURES

$37,764,038.75

Payments to influence reported by oil industry front groups:

$13,405,787.30

Media spending and reservations made by oil industry front groups, unreported*

$1,504,861.00

[adjustment to avoid double-counting: LESS transfers of cash to dark money groups previously accounted for in the lobbying expenditures sub-totaled above

($12,004,345.41)

sub-total, (NET OF) DARK MONEY PAYMENTS TO INFLUENCE

$2,906,302.89

Loans from oil industry to “Stop the Energy Shutdown,” ballot measure campaign committee

$14,358,264.00

Monetary contributions to “Stop the Energy Shutdown,” ballot measure campaign committee

$5,772,074.00

sub-total, CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE RECEIPTS1

$20,130,338.00

TOTAL

$60,800,679.64

*This represents ad spending and reservations that either occurred after the March 31, 2024 filing deadline, or were made by an entity (Chevron Advocacy Network) that does not file campaign disclosures.

BIG OIL’S DODGY LOANS:

Despite record breaking profits, fourteen oil companies avoided making direct contributions to their campaign to overturn Senator Gonzalez’s law to keep California schools and neighborhoods safe from toxic drilling (SB 1137). Instead, these fourteen oil companies gave “loans” to their deceptive referendum campaign – a curious move that may be allowing oil companies to avoid paying taxes and delaying disclosure of certain campaign funders until after the election when the real donors pay back these loans. Even more than a year after the “loans” were made, not a single payment has been made on these “loans,” nor have any interest charges been reported.

As a result, Senator Gonzalez sent a letter to colleagues in the legislature asking them to investigate these dodgy practices.

“Not only is Big Oil trying to overturn California’s common-sense law to prevent them from poisoning California schools and neighborhoods with their toxic oil drills, it looks like they may have found a tax and campaign finance loophole that may be allowing them to deceive voters about the true nature of their contributions while avoiding taxes,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez, the author of SB 1137. “I am calling on my colleagues in the Legislature to investigate this practice and close any loopholes we find.”

Chevron is also a known tax avoider: in 2015, a U.S. Senate investigation found the giant multinational had been hiding $31 billion in profit in 13 different offshore tax havens. Three years later in 2018, Dutch and international unions filed a complaint alleging that Chevron funneled billions through Dutch subsidiaries to tax haven countries.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an endorser of the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California, has been drawing attention to Chevron’s tax avoidance for years.

“It is absolutely outrageous that Chevron, one of the biggest oil companies in the world, not only paid nothing in federal income taxes last year, but actually got a $181 million tax refund check from the IRS after making a $4.5 billion profit,” said Senator Sanders.
(Bernie Sanders, Facebook)

BIG OIL’S HISTORY OF DECEPTION:

Big Oil has a history of obfuscating how and where they are spending money on political campaigns. In 2022, while spending tens of millions of dollars on a signature gathering campaign, Big Oil was caught blatantly lying to voters and tricking them into signing a petition to stall and delay implementation of SB 1137.

Following that, lobbying reports showed that oil companies like Chevron, Valero, ExxonMobil, BP, Phillips66, Tesoro and Marathon Petroleum funded ad campaigns fronted by groups that masqueraded as coalitions.

BIG OIL’S ASTROTURF “NETWORK” AND PHONY FRONT GROUPS CREATED BY PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM:

According to the report, in addition to the money spent by dark money 501(c)(4)s, California TV stations have reported receiving ad buys from the “Chevron Advocacy Network,” an entity that claims to be “a community of 40,000 Chevron employees, retirees, marketers, retailers, family and friends.”

Entity

August 2023 – June 2024

Chevron Advocacy Network

$13,536.00

(Source: internal competitive spending report, April 30, 2024)

It’s important to note that Chevron Advocacy Network (CAN) has not registered with state campaign finance regulators — not as a campaign committee, a lobbying firm or lobbyist employer, or a source of $5,000+ payments to influence. What is clear, is that it’s being operated – partially or mostly – by a DC PR firm with a reputation for creating “AstroTurf citizen groups,” DDC Advocacy, also known as DDC Public Affairs.

In addition, Chevron disclosed having paid DDC for phony front-group efforts. That same firm was recently called to account by federal legislators for misleading campaigns it ran for the oil and gas industry, which included the creation of fake front groups:

U.S. lawmakers are stepping up scrutiny of the oil and gas industry in three separate hearings related to investigations into “misleading” climate change advertising campaigns.

In a report released by the House Democratic Natural Resources Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel, investigators said public relations firms “go far beyond the usual marketing techniques to get results for the fossil fuel industry”

Tactics identified in the report include creating so-called “astroturf citizen groups” to hide the involvement of big oil and gas companies, creating fake news websites, and funneling payments to PR firms through nonprofits to hide the source of the payments.

Lawmakers on the committee asked five PR firms – FTI Consulting, Story Partners, DDC Advocacy, Blue Advertising and Singer Associates – for documents and information about their work with fossil fuel clients.
(CE Noticias Financieras English, September 22, 2022)

BIG OIL AND THEIR HIGHLY PAID CONSULTANTS DON’T SHOW UP TO REAL GRASSROOTS EVENTS:

In mid-May, the California Democratic Party (CADEM) hosted their Executive Board Meeting, where representatives from ballot measure campaigns are invited to make their case to party activists. No one representing Big Oil bothered to show up to the meetings to defend their efforts to overturn the law protecting communities from their toxic drilling.

As a result, CADEM joined a growing list of supporters for the campaign, reinforcing the unified effort to KEEP an historic law (SB 1137) preventing toxic oil drilling in neighborhoods.

“We’re so happy to work with CADEM against Big Oil in order to protect our communities against toxic drilling,” said Maggie Tsai, State Political Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) Action. “We made our voices heard loud and clear about Big Oil’s impact on our communities, and CADEM delegates embraced our fight. Yet despite spending $60 millions on ads and efforts to mislead voters, Big Oil couldn’t be bothered to show up to defend the indefensible this weekend.”

Nearly 30,000 oil and gas wells in California sit within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, hospitals and other public areas, exposing nearly 3 million people, disproportionately communities of color, to emissions that can cause birth defects, respiratory illnesses and cancer. An independent scientific advisory panel in 2021 advised California officials that a 3,200-foot setback between oil wells and sensitive receptors is the minimum distance to protect public health. 

“KEEP THE LAW” Campaign endorsers include public health groups, community and faith organizations, and environmental justice leaders from across California, working to hold oil companies accountable for creating a public health crisis, especially for communities of color.

For more information about our campaign, please visit our website at: www.CAvsBigOil.com

Paid for by Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California, sponsored by nonprofit environmental and health organizations. Committee Top Funders: Advocacy Action Fund, Inc., Wendy Schmidt, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

SOURCE Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-report-details-how-big-oil-corporations-hide-behind-61-million-campaign-of-deception-to-dismantle-basic-protections-against-toxic-neighborhood-oil-drilling-302159821.html
Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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