RICHMOND -- Chevron Corp. has put $1.2 million into a campaign committee backing three candidates for City Council.
A California Form 460 submitted to the City Clerk on Friday shows the energy giant's contribution to a committee called "Moving Forward." The committee is described in the form as a "coalition of labor unions, small business, public safety and firefighters associations," but all of the $1.2 million donated to the committee this year has come from Chevron, which operates a major refinery in the city.
The committee reports that it has just over $1 million in cash on hand, suggesting that much of the spending is still to come between now and the Nov. 6 election.
"Chevron supports city leaders who share our commitment to policies that foster a healthy economic environment where businesses can thrive and create growth," Chevron spokesman Derek Jansen said.
The massive political campaign spending represents a continuation of escalating involvement in local elections for Chevron, which spent about $900,000 in 2010, much of it in an unsuccessful attempt to oust Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a member of the Green Party and a frequent critic of the corporation.
The donations also come within a challenging political and public relations environment for the company, as local backlash has grown since an Aug. 6 fire in a refinery crude unit sent more than 15,000 people to local hospitals. Several federal, state and regional investigatory
Chevron recently filed a court challenge to a Contra Costa County property tax appeals board decision that found the Richmond refinery was under-assessed by as much as $27 million.
"Chevron has made it clear they are declaring war on our community," said Mike Parker, a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, an advocacy group supporting Marilyn Langlois and Eduardo Martinez, two candidates the company opposes. "If the community can't stand up against this attack, Chevron will just ride roughshod on us again."
The spending figures are part of an unprecedented campaign by large corporate interests in the blue-collar city of just over 100,000 residents. Also on Friday, campaign finance filings required by state law revealed that the American Beverage Association, a Washington D.C.-based organization representing major soft-drink producers, has poured $2.2 million into Richmond to oppose Measure N, a ballot measure that would tax businesses a penny-per-ounce on sugar-sweetened beverage sales.
According to the Moving Forward campaign filings, Chevron's dollars have been used to support the campaigns of incumbent Nat Bates and challengers Bea Roberson and Gary Bell.
At the same time, the campaign has spent about $37,000 opposing Langlois and Martinez, including creating websites devoted to divulging unflattering information about both candidates.
Langlois, who has about $29,000 in contributions, mostly from small individual donors, said she is not discouraged.
"I'm confident that Richmond voters are intelligent enough to follow the money," Langlois said. "Eduardo and I stand for the best interests of our community, not corporate interests."
In addition to advertisements, mailers, billboards and websites supporting or opposing candidates, Chevron's money has been used to contract with public relations firms, consultants and polling groups, campaign records show.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 and follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.