The word is "Pay-to-Play-politics" where the "pay" is a five course meal at one of Sacramento, California's toniest restaurants. The "play" is to take pre-written amendments that water down a landmark fracking bill until the environmentalists pull their support. The payer for a $13,000 dinner for twelve California lawmakers was the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), which represents the big oil and gas giants.
The California League of Conservation Voters accused the oil and gas industry of writing amendments and the lawmakers of accepting them. That this happened a week after that expensive dinner at a restaurant called The Kitchen, is no coincidence. That was the "pay."
There are three major lobbyists at work on gutting fracking and tar sands oil regulation in California: Chevron, which shelled out $1,696,477, Aera Energy LLC, which paid $1,015,534 to influence state lawmaking, and the WSPA with a $1,269,478 tab in the pay-to-play sweepstakes.
State Senator Ron Calderon, along with Henry Perea, Cheryl Brown Adam Gray and Senators Norma Torres and Lou Correa dined so fine at the Kitchen. Here is the problem: Ron Calderon and his brothers, Charles and Tom are part of a family dynasty centered in Montebello, California. The Calderon family is so wrapped up in federal and state corruption investigations that they will never see daylight. Just one of the allegations against Ron Calderon is that he took $60,000 in bribes to influence a film industry tax credit law. It is not a leap to see how he can take part in a fancy meal and then gut a fracking law.
Oil and gas lobbyists are pernicious and aggressive in California. They lobbied the federal government to start California fracking offshore, in secret and without notifying the state. It gets worse Gov. Jerry Brown handed WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd the chair of the state's task force for designating protected areas. The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) established a blue Ribbon Task Force. That is right. The top oil and gas industry lobbyist did not just sit on the board to represent the industry, she chaired the board that has designated protected areas since the secretive offshore fracking scheme started in 2012.
The oil and gas industry is voracious. California's low carbon law just about rules out refining tar sands oil in the state. The WSPA lobbyists are running up tabs to gut the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) The state legislature has already pushed several bills to gut the LCFS until the state is drowning in tar sand oil.
This is not the first time California's lawmakers have been described as running the state with a "pay-to-play" political structure. That term is decades old. Conflict of interest is a given when oil and gas industry leaders run state wildlife preservation panels. The Calderon political empire, centered around Montebello, CA, is in serious trouble. Even middle-of-the-road Democrats are not bothered by taking $15,000 dinners from lobbyists and then watering down regulations shortly afterward. If this pace continues, it is already fracking now and it will be tar sands oil refining later.
The question is, how much of the same "pay-to-play" politics has co-opted the federal government? The federal government has been playing dirty tricks on California, pushing for expansions to offshore and inland fracking for a long time.