A California environmental group is crying foul after Chevron helped fund a campaign mailer casting Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown as an “environmental champion for us all.”
The San Bernardino Democrat is a member of the moderate caucus in the Assembly, which drew the ire of environmental and labor groups for helping to water down major climate change legislation last year.
Some organizations, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, Western States Council and the local Sierra Club chapter, have backed a fellow Democrat against her, attorney Eloise Gomez, for the 47th Assembly district seat in inland Southern California.
The mailer, which hails Brown’s record on environmental legislation, was paid for by an independent expenditure committee heavily funded by Chevron Corp. The company recently gave $1 million to the group.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The mailer says Brown “worked to pass a law that the California Environmental Justice Alliance called ‘The biggest solar bill in the nation’s history’ for low income renters.”
Assemblymember Brown did not work with us on that bill at all.
Strela Cervas, co-director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance
Strela Cervas, co-director of the environmental justice alliance, said the description isn’t accurate. Cervas’ group worked closely on Assembly Bill 693 with the author, Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and Brown wasn’t involved, she said.
“Assemblymember Brown did not work with us on that bill at all,” Cervas said. “She did not work on the bill language. She did not advocate for it.”
Brown’s record shows that she voted for AB 693, which provides financial incentives for solar panel roofs on apartment dwellings, each time it came up on the Assembly floor.
Cervas said the mailer also misrepresents Brown’s support of Senate Bill 350, a climate change measure passed last year. Brown only supported the bill after amendments removed a key provision to reduce petroleum usage by 50 percent in California, Cervas said.
“It’s misleading to say she’s an environmentalist because her voting pattern does not reveal what happened on that bill,” Cervas said.
A spokesman for Brown said the assemblywoman couldn’t support the petroleum reduction due to an imbalance of jobs and housing in her district, which forces many low-income residents to commute for work.
The Inland Empire is one of the most heavily commuted areas of the nation. I’m sorry, but higher gas prices and anything that increases the cost of commuting and getting those people to their jobs, Mrs. Brown is not going to support.
Cody Boyles, spokesman for Brown
“The Inland Empire is one of the most heavily commuted areas of the nation,” said Cody Boyles, a Brown spokesman. “I’m sorry, but higher gas prices and anything that increases the cost of commuting and getting those people to their jobs, Mrs. Brown is not going to support.”
In addition, on two occasions Brown abstained from a vote on Senate Bill 32, to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and voted against a reconsideration of the bill later on.
Boyles argued that Brown has served as an environmental advocate for her district and pointed to her support of a handful of bills as evidence. Brown authored Assembly Bill 1, which banned communities from fining residents who refuse to water their lawns during a drought. She voted in favor of fracking regulations and a bill to require chemical companies to post the ingredients in cleaning products online, among other environmental issues, he said.
Boyles said Brown’s re-election campaign has no control over the actions of an independent expenditure committee, or Chevron’s financial backing.
“Anybody can start an IE,” Boyles said. “We cannot sit there and dictate who supports what IE and who doesn’t.”
The independent expenditure committee, which calls itself Keeping Californians Working, Dentists, Housing Providers, Energy and Insurance Agents, noted in a statement that Brown is the only candidate officially endorsed by the California Democratic Party. The committee said her advocacy for clean water and environmental protection “is 100% accurately depicted in mailers our diverse group of supporters has sent out in support of her reelection.”