Hiding how money has been spent by big industries to influence the California legislature has been rampant for years and has become a speciality of well-funded special interests such as Big Oil's Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).
WSPA totaled nearly $11 million on lobbying efforts in 2015, according to financial disclosures recently released by the California Secretary of State. Trying to find out exactly how they spent it is impossible. While the association payed out $10.9 million for the year, $1.7 million in the last quarter, more than 80 percent of that was detailed under the vague category of "other payments to influence." In 2015, Big Oil fought a major climate change bill, SB 350, successfully killing a piece that would have cut petroleum use in half by 2030.
The Fair Political Practices Commission recently implemented rules to force lobbyists to detail more of their spending but failed to tighten the mandate regarding "other payments" and close a loophole that could make the rules moot by allowing companies to funnel those funds through a middle-man. In 2014, the top ten lobbyists in Sacramento shoved $24.5 million in “other payments," 69 percent of their total.
Big industry paid a bulk of the $312.7 million spent on lobbying in 2015, with $74 million spent in the last quarter.