California Democrats who got gifts from oil industry gave gifts to oil industry

Oil-friendly democrats received 2.5 times more in gifts from oil interests, based on gift disclosures from 2012–2016

California’s legislators received $253,771.98 in 2016 in free trips, dinners, and hotel stays from groups at least partly funded by or affiliated with companies from the oil and gas sector, according to legislators’ financial disclosure forms released last week and analyzed by the Energy and Policy Institute, a pro-clean energy watchdog organization. Stop Fooling California, a public education campaign that focuses on the oil industry in California, released the analysis.

The analysis shows a correlation between higher gift values from Big Oil and friendlier votes from so-called “moderate democrats,” i.e. Oily Dems. The Oily Dems who voted for Big Oil interests received an average of $3,685 per year in gifts while in office between 2012 and 2016. That value was 2.5 times more than the amount that Democrats who did not vote with Big Oil received in gifts during the same period, which averaged $1,486 per year in office.

From 2012 to 2016, the oil-affiliated groups gave legislators gifts with a value of $1.24 million. The total value of the gifts from oil-affiliated groups doubled from 2012 to 2015, before dropping back to 2013 levels in 2016.

The data for the analysis came from the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which mandates disclosure of gifts to public office holders.

Flights to Maui, dinner in Napa and Newport Beach, and a stay at the Ritz

Examples of gifts that oil-affiliated groups gave to California’s legislators in 2016 included:

  • The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), a trade association for oil companies, paid for the meals and hotel for 12 legislators at a “symposium” in Newport Beach from December 8th to 9th. The legislators were Thomas Berryhill (R), Kansen Chu (D), James Frazier (D), Cathleen Galgiani (D), Christopher Holden (D), Patrick O’Donnell (D), Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D), and Blanca Rubio (D), Steven Choi (R), Vince Fong (R), Rudy Salas (D), and Thomas Berryhill (R).
  • The California Issues Forum (CIF) feted eight legislators, all Democrats, with a hotel room, meals, and transportation to Napa, California. CIF’s funders include Chevron and other oil companies, and it focuses on influencing moderate Democrats on behalf of corporations. The legislators were Autumn Burke, Jim Cooper, Jim Frazier, Mike Gipson, Adam Gray, Rudy Salas, Freddie Rodriguez, and Timothy Grayson.
  • The Western States Petroleum Alliance (WSPA), regarded as the most powerful voice for California’s oil industry, paid $1,600 for Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) to attend its annual conference on October 4th at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Salas was the top recipient of gifts from oil-affiliated groups in 2016.
  • The Independent Voter Project, which receives funding from oil companies including Chevron, spent an average of about $3,000 per legislator flying, hosting and feeding nine lawmakers at its infamous annual Maui conference, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Top Recipients:

The legislators who received the highest value of gifts from oil-affiliated groups in 2016 were:

The legislators who received the highest value of gifts from oil-affiliated groups from 2012 to 2016 were:


To discern whether the gifts are correlated with more pro-oil voting patterns, the Energy and Policy Institute analyzed the value of the gifts received by so-called “Moderate Democrats” who have voted with the oil industry’s interests, as well as those Democrats who did not, over the 2012–2016 period.

Since there is no formal “Moderate Democrat” caucus, we considered any legislator who voted with the oil industry 33 percent of the time or more as part of that oil-friendly caucus. In order to have a large enough sample size to show a pattern of behavior, legislators had to vote with the oil industry at least twice to be included on the list. We used 15 oil-related bills, as well as a 2014 sign-on letter related to climate legislation, to develop the data-set. Voting records from the following bills were counted:

The Energy and Policy Institute included 16 oil-affiliated groups in its analysis. They were:

The dataset for the analysis is available here.


The Energy and Policy Institute is a watchdog organization that works to expose attacks on renewable energy and climate change policy and counter misinformation by fossil fuel interests.

Stop Fooling California is a public awareness campaign with a laser focuses on how the oil industry manipulates people and politics in the Golden State. We hold Big Oil accountable on behalf of the climate, public health, and the Californian economy.