Big Oil


LETTER FROM SACRAMENTO: Big Oil Tries to Control Election Results

Sierra Club California

vote2012.jpgDear Sierra Club California Members and Friends,

One of my favorite lines from a presidential debate of yore is “There you go again.” It was delivered with a head tilt and the perfect mix of amiability and exasperation in 1980 by an actor-turned-politician. I did not vote for the deliverer, but still remember the line.

It popped into mind last week as I was reviewing some background about Proposition 32.  The measure is backed by out-of-state interests who see California as a key battleground in their drive to keep the oil and gas industry as one of the most dominant political forces in America.

Among those funding efforts to pass Proposition 32 are the Koch brothers, the famous billionaire duo whose Koch Industries is heavily invested in oil, gas and coal. In 2010, the Kochs were among the backers of a failed initiative that would have squashed California’s effort to reduce global warming pollution.

In short, there they go again.

Sierra Club California opposes Proposition 32. It would make it difficult, if not impossible, for labor unions to contribute large amounts of money to political candidates. That would be a bad thing for good environmentalists running for office.

Make no mistake: Proposition 32 is quite deceptive in how it is being portrayed. The fact is that it would not have any real impact on corporate spending but would severely erode union spending on candidates and campaigns (that are mostly pro-environment).

Unions collect most of their funds through the payroll deduction, while corporate campaign giving is usually done through direct contributions from executives or company funds. And now, much of that corporate money flows through independent expenditure groups.

Why should people who care about the environment care about this? Well, imagine where California and the planet would be today if a school teacher from Agoura Hills, serving in her first term in the California legislature in 2001, hadn’t been willing to introduce a bill that would cut greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

That legislator came to office with backing from labor. She went on to co-author the landmark bill that set greenhouse gas reduction goals for California when much of the rest of the U.S. was still debating whether climate change is real.

That legislator, Fran Pavley, helped put California in the lead on environmental issues even as her bills helped accelerate green tech investment and jobs. Now big oil is among those contributing to Pavley’s conservative opponent as Pavley runs for another term in the state Senate.

So, once more, there they go again.

Which reminds me of another of my favorite quotes. This one is from the 1976 movie Network: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore.”

Beginning in early October, when mail-in ballots are accepted, and through election day, November 6, when the final vote is tallied, we can all send a message to big oil, the Koch brothers and their polluting allies. We can tell them that they don’t own our state and we’re going to keep fighting their efforts to roll back environmental protections.

In short, we can tell them that we’re not going to take this anymore.

We can do this by voting NO on Proposition 32, and by voting for legislators who care about the environment. You can see our full list of endorsements for state legislators, members of Congress from California, and our positions on key propositions by going to our website elections page or clicking here.

And if you haven’t registered to vote, you can now do it online at the Secretary of State’s website.

Don’t wait. Make sure you’re ready to vote, and then, as the saying goes, just do it.



Kathryn Phillips               

Kathryn Phillips, Director                             
Sierra Club California                                  

Sierra Club California is the Sacramento-based legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the 13 California chapters of the Sierra Club.



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