Group Asks State Watchdogs to Investigate Over-sized Contribution Linked to Núñez
Santa Monica, CA –Three months ago, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez stood next to a Chevron gas station in downtown Los Angeles and vowed in strong language to “curb oil company machinations that drive up gasoline prices.” The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) says in a letter to Núñez that “the result has been a great disappointment: weak original proposals, harmful amendments and additional legislation that directly benefits oil companies at consumers’ and taxpayers’ expense.”
FTCR has also asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate a $50,000 donation by Chevron, and directed to “Assembly Democrats,” apparently made in connection with a Núñez fund-raiser April 13 and 14. The donation exceeds by nearly $20,000 the amount that may be used for electing candidates.
Read the FPPC letter here.
The letter to Núñez additionally criticizes a $100,000 donation by Chevron to pet cause of the Speaker, a ballot initiative altering term limits and allowing him to stay in his leadership post for an additional six years.
Read the full letter to Núñez here.
“Our disappointment about the gasoline-related bills is magnified by the ability of companies like Chevron to insert money into the political dialogue and neuter oil industry reforms year after year,” said the letter. “This money pipeline is even more disturbing when its connections to legislative action are cloaked from public scrutiny.”
In the letter, FTCR grades each of the oil industry-related bills writer or backed by Nuñez, and the average is a disappointing D-minus.
The letter’s “Report Card” list:
– AB 1552 – Refinery Information. – This helpful bill to increase the operational, cost, storage and fuel transportation information that refiners must provide to the state is mostly unscathed so far. … Unfortunately, none of the specific refinery information will be made public, under the fiction that it is all “trade secrets.” … Also disturbing is the likelihood, according to legislative sources, of weakening amendments in the Senate. Grade: B-minus.
– AB 868 – “Hot Fuel.” (Davis) – As a remedy for the “hot fuel” ripoff of motorists, this bill promises no more than studying a study, with no assurance of any legislative fix. … There is no question that California drivers lose at least $450 million a year when they buy gasoline that has expanded to temperatures above 60 degrees. … The U.S. Senate is already considering legislation (S.1997, McCaskill) that would require temperature compensation in the retail sale of fuel. Yet, though California is the most affected state, AB 868 would merely delay a real fix. Grade: D-minus.
– AB 1610 – Refinery Oversight – An originally good bill that would add some direct state oversight to the operation of refineries, its current weakened state shows the power of a tiny change of phrase. [A] brief amendment hands majority control of a new refinery-operations oversight board to gubernatorial appointees. It removes from the board … the independently elected Attorney General and state Controller. The amendments slash any fig leaf of independence and could create a state-sanctioned defender of the oil industry rather than a watchdog. Grade: D.
– AB 118 – Biofuel Development – Pretends to be a successor to last year’s narrowly defeated green-fuels ballot initiative, Proposition 87. But instead of imposing a modest extraction fee on oil companies, it cynically puts the full cost burden on consumers. The measure would undercut any later effort to reap part of oil and gasoline profits for renewable energy. No wonder the oil industry’s mouthpiece, the Western States Petroleum Association, officially supports the bill. Grade: F.
– SB 98 – State Tax Relief – Chevron … stands to be one of the big beneficiaries of a tax break estimated to cost California more than $850 million in revenue when fully implemented. You pushed this last-minute measure through the Assembly as it approved the state’s budget in a late-night session. SB 98 would allow a company that has huge sales outside California and substantial property and payroll in-state (as Chevron does), to use a different [tax] formula that would substantially cut its state taxes. … at a time when state programs, including transportation, are being slashed from the budget. Grade: F.
[After this letter was sent, SB 98 was omitted from the final budget deal]
All of the above bills, except for SB 98, have passed the Assembly and their initial Senate committees, said FTCR. SB 98 was, as it richly deserved, killed in the compromise over the state budget this week.
Regarding the Chevron donations, the letter said:
Chevron, for instance, gave $100,000 on July 23 to one of your chief causes, a February ballot initiative altering term limits that would allow you to extend your term as Assembly Speaker by six years. The donation arrived after the weakened oil industry bills passed the Legislature. Your chief staff consultant, Gale Kaufman, is the spokesperson for the committee.
We are equally troubled by a $50,000 donation this year by Chevron to the California Democratic Party that appears to be tied personally to you. The April 5 contribution is reported by Chevron, in an atypical manner, as designated for “Assembly Democrats.” Sources within the Democratic Party confirm that these are funds solicited in conjunction with your “Speakers Cup” fundraising event [in April] … and which you will dispense. There is no question that raising funds from the state’s largest oil company for the reelection of your Assembly members, then quietly compromising oil industry reform bills, creates a cloud over your office. The easiest course for you to clear the cloud is for you to return Chevron‘s contribution.
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