Chevron has funneled $3 million into a trio of campaign committees to influence the Nov. 4 Richmond city election, including a nearly $1.3 million contribution on Aug. 8, according to newly filed campaign finance documents.
The committees, each a variation of Chevron’s "Moving Forward” campaign, spent about $1.3 million on the Richmond mayoral and City Council races as of the end of September, much of it on attack ads targeting local officials who are critical of Chevron’s massive local refinery.
Chevron’s independent campaign contributions, which are unlimited under federal law, have come in two installments. In March, a Moving Forward committee received $1.6 million from Chevron, with $1,296,700 coming Aug. 8.
Chevron created the original Moving Forward committee in 2012 as part of a new strategy to advance its political interests in Richmond. Its full name is: “Moving Forward, a coalition of labor unions, small businesses, public safety and firefighters associations. Major funding by Chevron.”
Moving Forward representatives listed on the campaign finance documents did not respond to calls seeking comment.
In 2014 Chevron created two new committees.
The first is organized under the name Moving Forward and supports Nat Bates for mayor and Donna Powers, Charles Ramsey and Al Martinez for City Council. The committee has received $1.4 million -- nearly all from Chevron.
The second Moving Forward committee -- organized to oppose incumbent Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and council candidates Eduardo Martinez and Jovanka Beckles -- has received $500,000. Again, almost all of that sum is from Chevron.
The two newer committees spent about $1.3 million between Aug. 15 and Sept. 29. The $1.3 million figure is sure to grow quickly now that Moving Forward is running TV ads, expenditures for which have not yet been reported to the Richmond City Clerk.
Some observers think Chevron’s involvement in the Richmond election overwhelms the voices of regular Richmond citizens by bombarding them with shiny mailers, billboards and television attack ads.
“You have a pretty big red flag when you have a multimillion-dollar corporation getting involved in a local election,” said Sarah Swanbeck a campaign finance transparency advocate with California Common Cause. “The average Richmond citizen is not equipped or able to fight back with their own resources.”