"Chevron pouring money into Richmond election"
2014-08-22 by Chip Johnson for "San Francisco Chronicle"[http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Chevron-pouring-money-into-Richmond-election-5704673.php]:
The biggest political campaign war chest in Richmond doesn't belong to a candidate, it belongs to a corporation that hopes to steer the city's November municipal election in its favor.
Chevron, the city's main employer and taxpayer, is also the biggest spender on political campaigns - it set aside $1.6 million in a political action committee called Moving Forward that supports the oil giant's favorite City Council and mayoral candidates.
Let me repeat: $1.6 million. For local elections in a city of a little over 106,000 residents.
The campaign contribution limit in Richmond for both individuals and companies is $2,500, but political action committees can spend unlimited amounts of money on "in-kind" support - money not given directly to a candidate but spent on that candidate's behalf.
Moving Forward calls itself a coalition of "labor unions, small businesses and public safety and firefighters associations." But the money for the PAC comes largely, if not solely, from Chevron.
So who are the beneficiaries of Chevron's generous contribution? Richmond City Councilman Nat Bates, who's running for mayor and Donna Powers, Charles Ramsey and Al Martinez, all candidates vying for seats on the City Council.
What this means is Richmond voters will be showered with glossy campaign mailers, billboards and other political advertising - perhaps TV, radio and newspaper ads - all supporting these candidates. Chevron's PAC can pay for canvassers and phone banks and just about any resource that can be bought.
But there is a catch to this pot o' gold: The candidates must acknowledge where the money came from - and that could present a problem for some Richmond voters.
"The curse is that they will also become, for the next two months, the 'Chevron candidates,' a moniker that impresses some and scares the hell out of others," wrote Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt in his newsletter. Butt, a longtime councilman, is running for mayor.
Bates has been on the receiving end of catcalls referring to him as "Chevron's boy" and much, much worse, for years, Butt said in a recent interview.
His campaign headquarters share a building on the 3100 block of Macdonald Avenue used by a nonprofit organization funded by Chevron.
Richmond voters have seen it before - Chevron spent $1.2 million in 2012 to support council candidates Bates, the late Gary Bell and Bea Roberson, who failed to get elected.
Despite all the money thrown around by this corporate giant, it's clear not all of Richmond's residents are so easily swayed by swag. But that's not stopping Chevron from trying to influence the outcome of a city election.
Change is coming to Richmond, slow but steady. Crime is way down, development is on the way up, and the city needs to shed its historical reputation as a "company" town.
Its largest political organization, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, requires applicants to pledge not to take corporate contributions as a condition of membership.
It must be striking a chord with residents because the city's two-term mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, is a founding member.
Richmond is emerging as a city with promise, and part of the process has involved more and more of its politicians distancing themselves from Chevron's enormous financial influence.
It's disappointing to see it brought in by the truckload into another Richmond municipal election.