Capitol Alert

Steyer, oil firms spent big to lobby as state’s lawmakers weighed bills

In this Oct. 7, 2015, file photo, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer discusses climate change at a symposium in Sacramento, Calif.
In this Oct. 7, 2015, file photo, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer discusses climate change at a symposium in Sacramento, Calif. AP

Led by environmentalists and oil companies, California lobbyist employers spent $84.4 million to advocate to officials and influence legislation from July 1 through September.

The latest spending reports cover a busy time for lobbyists representing more than 3,000 businesses, unions, trade groups and other lobbyist employers. Lawmakers acted on hundreds of bills, including major climate-change measures, leading up to the Aug. 31 regular-session deadline, and Gov. Jerry Brown had until Sept. 30 to sign or veto legislation.

NextGen Climate Action, a campaign committee led by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, topped the list of lobbyist employers, spending $7.3 million during the seventh quarter of the 2015-16 legislative session, according to state filings.

Environmentalists scored a win late in the session with the passage of Senate Bill 32, which reduces greenhouse gas levels to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, but lawmakers couldn’t strike a deal to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program.

The latest round of lobbying disclosures is the first covered by new guidelines requiring groups to itemize “other payments to influence.” Groups were previously allowed to report the category as a lump sum without details about the spending.

Under a rule change approved by the state Fair Political Practices Commission in January, filers must list the purpose of the payment, recipient and amount.

The new reporting requirements revealed that Steyer spent nearly all of his money on advertisements, many of which targeted the oil industry.

Often critical of oil industry spending to influence state politics, Steyer shelled out nearly three times as much money as the Western States Petroleum Association, the second-biggest spender of the quarter. The oil-industry trade association reported $2.6 million on lobbying efforts during the quarter.

The California State Council of Service Employees and the California Hospital Association followed with $1.2 million and $815,537, respectively.

Total lobbyist spending surpassed the amount for the same period in the 2013-2014 session by $5.1 million, according to state filings.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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