A study released this spring suggests that corporate oil interests, many of them out-of-state, spent more than $2.2 million trying to kill 2015’s seminal Clean Fuels Legislation, known as SB324.
The report, “Dirty Energy, Dirty Money” was authored by Common Cause Oregon, who did not endorse the legislation and was not involved in efforts to pass or defeat it. It outlines those who financed the effort to defeat the bill, names which legislators accepted funding from these sources and says that money in politics creates a deeply unlevel playing field for broad but underfunded citizen interests dedicated to the public good over profits.
The study researched the funds spent to defeat the bill in order to quantify, “how money in politics impacts the fight against climate change, and what we can do to fix it,” says Daniel Lewkow, Political Director of Common Cause Oregon.
There are no contribution limits for gifts to Oregon legislators – 44 other states have them. Oregon does not require a “paid for” signature in political advertising – 46 states do require this. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision, restrictions on corporate spending are greatly reduced and corporations and unions can spend unlimited sums to influence elections.
The Clean Fuels legislation, signed into law on March 12, 2015, was created to make permanent and mandatory state fuel standards that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It made it a goal to reduce average greenhouse gas emissions by 10% below 2010 levels by the year 2025, encouraging a transition to lower-carbon fuels.
After California adopted a similar program in 2010, a UC Davis study says, “drivers saved more than 2 billion gallons of gasoline” in following years, equal to taking 500,000 cars off the road. Common Cause Oregon’s report shows that Western States Petroleum Association, composed of large international players like Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell Oil attempted to kill the Oregon Clean Fuels bill in several ways, including giving donations to legislators, creating attack ads in legislator’s districts and by paying lobbyists to try to kill the bill during the session.
The gifts of ten opposition groups went primarily to influential Republicans in the Oregon house and senate, although Democrats received significant monies too. House Minority Leader Rep. Mike McLane (R – Powell Butte) accepted $120,000; Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli (John Day) was given more than $77,000; Rep. John Davis (Wilsonville) more than $25,000. On the Democratic side, Senate President Peter Courtney (Salem) accepted nearly $20,000; Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (Portland) more than $20,000 and Val Hoyle (West Eugene) more than $25,000.
While 70% of Oregonians supported the bill, they were outspent ten to one by corporate interests. After Clean Fuel’s passage, Senate Republicans successfully killed a much-needed transportation package by refusing to consider it unless Clean Fuels was repealed.
Common Cause Oregon’s report was supported with analysis and organization by a number of environmental interests, including the Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Wild, 350 Salem and 350 Eugene and the Sierra Club. It is being presented in a series of public forums around Oregon this month, and will be formally released on June 29 at Common Cause Oregon’s website. Information on upcoming presentations can be found at http://goo.gl/forms/R8bbou7ZmLFleJrq2.