Chevron has spent almost $3 million USD on ads supporting pro-Chevron candidates, attack ads, and fake news platforms in an attempt to influence local elections for the Mayorship and City Council in Richmond, CA. This election, as Democracy Now! notes, occurs two years after major refinery fire at a Chevron facility sent 15,000 Richmond residents to the hospital – the third such refinery fire in Richmond since 1989.
According to The Los Angeles Times and Richmond Confidential, Chevron has spent more than $2.9 million this year (as of October 13th) on local elections in Richmond, with $1.4 million of that going to a committee supporting pro-Chevron city council candidates and another $500,000 going to a PAC running attack advertisements on candidates critical of Chevron. In all, this amounts to Chevron spending approximately $33 per voter in Richmond this year.
Earlier this fall, The Los Angeles Times reported that Chevron had overseen the operation of the Richmond Standard, a community news site that leaned heavily on a pro-Chevron slant while posturing as objective journalism. Sarah Swanbeck, a campaign finance transparency advocate from California Common Cause, told Richmond Confidential, “You have a pretty big red flag when you have a multi-million-dollar corporation getting involved in a local election. The average Richmond citizen is not equipped or able to fight back with their own resources.”
Richmond rests to the north of Berkley on the East Bay, with a population of approximately 107,000. The city has been largely dominated by Chevron’s heavy refinery presence as the largest industry in the city, but since the election of Mayor Gayle McGlaughlin in 2006 – the first Green party candidate to win a mayoral position in a city larger than 100,000 – there has been greater pushback against Chevron’s interests, with the City of Richmond filing suit against Chevron in response to the 2012 refinery fire.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Mayor McGlaughlin said, “We deserve a City Council that will stand strong and not drop this lawsuit. If Chevron-friendly candidates get into the City Council, we fear that’s exactly what will happen, the lawsuit will be dropped, or a very weak settlement will come about.”