California Democratic Party Cleaning House Or Covering Its Ass?

An investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) into whether the California Democratic Party laundered oil and energy company donations for Governor Brown looks like it’s having a side effect: The CDP issued a new decree that it won’t accept any more political donations from oil companies or their Sacramento reps.
 
If the Dems are serious about cleaning up their image, they’ll make the policy permanent. Not just that--they'll use it as a litmus test for those running to replace Jerry Brown as Governor.  Brown publicly sets himself apart as an an anti-climate change trailblazer who touts scores of agreements with other provinces and states to slash carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Sadly, Brown talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. His policies have been influenced by millions of dollars in donations from fossil fuel companies and industries that rely on oil and gas.
 
The results include Brown's refusal to ban fracking, to limit neighborhood oil drilling right here in Los Angeles, or to impose an oil severance tax that every other major oil-producing state instituted long ago. A climate leader who opens his wallet to Chevron, Tesoro, Occidental, and Exxon, leads in the wrong direction. We already have Donald Trump to do that. What we need is a California that truly leads by example.
 
Consumer Watchdog's report, Brown’s Dirty Hands, which sparked the FPPC investigation, tabulated donations totaling $9.8 million dollars to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party from 26 energy companies with business before the state. The companies included the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, as well as Occidental, Chevron, and NRG. Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked by Brown's Dirty Hands donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown's re-election. Earmarking contributions to political parties is banned under state law.
 
For example, Chevron donated $135,000 to the California Democratic Party the same day lawmakers exempted a common method of well stimulation from legislation meant to regulate fracking. After the bill passed with an amendment dropping a moratorium on fracking permits, Occidental gave $100,000 to one of Brown’s favorite causes, the Oakland Military Institute. Brown signed the weakened bill. On December 23, 2013, Chevron donated $350,000 to the Democratic Party. On December 30, the Democratic Party donated $300,000 to Brown for Governor 2014, while Chevron donated the maximum to Brown’s campaign, $54,400, on the same day. Less than two months later, Brown came out publicly against a proposed oil severance tax opposed by the oil industry.
 
The new ban on political donations from the oil industry isn’t the only CYA measure that the Party is taking. Another policy now on the table—to be voted on in May—would force party leaders to fully disclose any pay they collect to advocate for statewide ballot initiatives.
 
Eric Bauman, chair of the LA County Democratic Party, faced intense criticism after his own consulting firm collected more than $100,000 from the drug industry working to defeat Proposition 61, a ballot measure to sharply cut drug prices to state healthcare programs by letting California negotiate the same prices that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs does.
 
A long-standing plank of the Democratic Party platform is support for raising the limits on medical negligence lawsuit compensation. Yet the party stayed neutral on Prop 46 in 2014 after Bauman and a long list of well-connected, paid Democratic insiders lobbied against it. Bauman was paid by the California Hospital Association and the communications director for the No on 46 campaign, Deboo Communications, in 2015. As the LA Times reports, Bauman's firm also got paid to consult supporters of Prop 51 to raise billions in school bonds, and Prop 64 to legalize marijuana.
 
RL Miller, Chair of the Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus and a backer of the payment disclosure decree, flatly states that self-satisfied oil companies spend time “just swaggering around the Capitol.” Industry clearly thinks that it has bought the Democratic Party. Until the Dems cut the strings off their special interest puppeteers, and enforce a ban on oil money--and even go further by banning Democratic Party leaders from working for special interests, the public is justified in thinking the California Democratic Party works for anyone but them. 

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