Category Archives: Campaign finance

Benicia Rep. Grayson: How will he thank corporate oil for large campaign donations?

By Roger Straw, August 14, 2019

Tim Grayson, 14th California Assembly District

Tim Grayson is Benicia’s Representative in the California State Assembly.  First elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2018, he has begun campaigning for a final term in 2020.  The primary election is set for March 3, and Tim is well on his way to a huge advantage, having raised over $285,000 in the first half of 2019.

An August 14 report in the Vallejo Times-Herald detailed Grayson’s 2019 campaign contributors , including that he “received donations from several petroleum and energy resources businesses, including Valero Services, Inc. ($2,000)….”

Valero wasn’t alone.  The following Big Oil & Energy companies were generous to Tim this year:

OIL OR GAS COMPANY AMOUNT
Chevron Corporation and its Subsidiaries/Affiliates $4,700
Valero Services, Inc. $2,000
Tesoro Companies, Inc. $1,000
Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. $1,000
Seneca Resources Company, LLC $1,000
Phillips 66 Company, LLC $1,000
PBF Holding Company, LLC $1,500
Macpherson Oil Company $1,500
E & B Natural Resources Management Corporation $2,000
California Independent Petroleum Association PAC
(Note: Vallejo Times-Herald reported only $2,500, but there were 2 additional non-monetary donations, totaling $4,650)
($4,650)
TOTAL FROM OIL & ENERGY $20,350

I created a downloadable excel spreadsheet listing of all of Grayson’s 2019 contributions (source: California Secretary of State).

Bill Dodd, 3rd California Senate District

It is interesting to compare Grayson’s war chest with that of Benicia’s State Senator, Bill Dodd.  According to the California Secretary of State, Dodd has taken ZERO DOLLARS from the oil & energy industry in 2019.  Here’s Dodd’s downloadable excel spreadsheet.

Both of Benicia’s representatives have already taken in huge amounts for their re-election in 2020: Grayson over $285,000 and Dodd over $330,000.  Both have received contributions from a wide variety of corporate and organizational interest groups, including many political action committees (PACs).

It is a fair question to ask, how will our representatives in Sacramento thank their big donors?

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    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plays “lightning round game” at Oversight hearing

    Repost from the Washington Post
    [Editor: This is great, a MUST 5-minutes of your time!  As Common Cause put it, “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exposes just how much “bad guys” can get away with under the shameful state of our campaign finance laws.  Congress must pass the For the People Act and make our democracy work for EVERY American, not just the wealthy few.”  – R.S.]

    Published on Feb 8, 2019 – Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez played “a lightning round game” during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Feb. 6, to emphasize the “broken” system of ethical accountability.

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      KQED: Big Oil, Small Town: Valero’s Election Influence in Benicia’s Politics

      Repost from KQED NEWS Public Radio
      [Editor: This  is a GREAT audio report.  Only 12 minutes – well worth the time!  – R.S.]

      Big Oil, Small Town: Valero’s Election Influence in Benicia’s Politics

      12 min – Ted Goldberg & Devin Katayama, Jan 14, 2019
      The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

      Valero spent $200,000 in last year’s Benicia city council election to help elect two candidates who were less critical of the company than others. That’s created tension between the oil refiner and the city, leading people to question how much influence Valero should have in local politics. On Tuesday Benicia will discuss the possibility of new campaign finance laws that could limit corporate influence in its small town.

      For the audio interview, go to kqed.org/news/11717774/big-oil-small-town-valeros-election-influence-in-benicias-politics

      Guest: Ted Goldberg, KQED News Editor

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        Mayor’s thoughts for Council consideration on public campaign financing, etc.

        From an E-Alert by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

        Council meeting:  …dark money

        By Elizabeth Patterson, January 12, 2019

        The city council meeting agenda and packet with staff reports and recommendations are available on-line here.   Items of interest include:

        [excerpt…]  The second item of interest for consideration is Council Member Campbell’s two-step process request to consider updates to the city’s campaign ordinances.

        Staff is recommending the council provide direction on whether the Santa Clara model and any other proposed updates should be considered and whether updates should be discussed and reviewed by an ad hoc group or by the Open Government Commission prior to consideration by the Council.

        Other ideas that can be considered are:

        1. “Public Campaign Financing Won Big on Tuesday”:That was one of the headlines after last year’s elections that nationally had the highest turnout for 50 years.  Voters overwhelmingly passed Fair Elections matching funds systems in Denver, Colorado with 69% of the vote, in Baltimore, Maryland with 76% of the vote, and in New York City with 72%.  Great news in the fight to get politicians out of the Big Money fundraising game!

          To what extent can cities utilize this strategy?  For instance, some cities have adopted ordinances for candidates who pledge voluntary campaign expenditures limits but the candidate is targeted by an outside committee known as PACs spending nearly ten times what a candidate can spend.  So the city provides public funds to supplement the targeted candidate not equal to what is being spent by the PAC but helpful.

          Common Cause discusses public financing in this booklet.

        2. When we set up the Open Government Commission, the first batch of applicants had many great ideas – many of which have been adopted – but not including having a city website similar to the City of Livermore for guidance on how to be a “smart voter”.  While the League of Women Voters does this and other organization, it may make sense to have the resources available on a city webpage.
        3. Another concept is “participatory-budgeting” government which engages the public in decision making.  Why this idea is included in a discussion about campaigning is that a more engaged public is a more informed public.  At the end of the day, that is the goal so that voter decisions are based on information and not fear or “bad for Benicia” speak.  Some ideas to blend the public financing and “participatory” government could be explored further upon council direction.
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