Richmond residents to Chevron: Get your dirty money out of politics

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by Virginia Reinhart

Richmond, Calif. – Richmond residents, social justice advocates, elected officials and Chevron shareholders today announced a resolution being put forward at Chevron’s upcoming shareholders meeting that would prevent the company from dumping money into the political cycle. The resolution comes after Chevron spent more than $3 million to influence elections in Richmond – a small portion of the millions spent to influence elections at all levels across California and the country.

As the Chevron refinery fire of Aug. 6, 2012, raged, this mushroom cloud hanging over Richmond spread toxic air pollution that sent 15,000 people to the hospital. – Photo: Harrison Chastang
As the Chevron refinery fire of Aug. 6, 2012, raged, this mushroom cloud hanging over Richmond spread toxic air pollution that sent 15,000 people to the hospital. – Photo: Harrison Chastang

Despite being outspent 20-1, community leaders in Richmond defeated Chevron-backed candidates. Now the community is backing the resolution as part of ongoing efforts to reclaim their neighborhoods and put an end to Chevron’s pollution of their air, water and democracy.

The events in Richmond and the Chevron shareholder resolution are part of a growing movement to beat back polluter-backed candidates and interests as communities work to clean up their environments and our democracy.

“Chevron flooded our democracy with millions of dollars in 2014, but Richmond voters saw through their attempt to buy our elections and the progressives candidates triumphed. Chevron should refrain from its oversized influence on our local democracy if it has any desire to repair its profoundly damaged reputation among our community,” said city councilmember and former Richmond Mayor Gayle Mclaughlin.

“In Richmond, a lot of us are living in poverty and therefore we tend to gravitate towards money. But with this last election we proved that, like our health, our elections are not for sale! Chevron’s money is no longer good in Richmond. We choose to live – and vote for leaders who care for our health and shared wealth,” said Sandy Saeteurn of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

Richmond residents, social justice advocates, elected officials and Chevron shareholders today announced a resolution being put forward at Chevron’s upcoming shareholders meeting that would prevent the company from dumping money into the political cycle.

The Chevron refinery in Richmond has a history of health, safety and environmental problems, including an explosion in 2012 that sent 15,000 community members to the hospital. Yet instead of abiding by safeguards, the company has abused the political system to change the laws.

Team Richmond, the progressive candidates in the November election, packed the Richmond Memorial Auditorium for a campaign rally headlined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Oct. 16, 2014. From left are Eduardo Rodriguez, Gayle McLaughlin, Sanders, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt, the new mayor. Rodriguez was elected and McLaughlin and Beckles re-elected to the City Council. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Team Richmond, the progressive candidates in the November election, packed the Richmond Memorial Auditorium for a campaign rally headlined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Oct. 16, 2014. From left are Eduardo Martinez, Gayle McLaughlin, Sanders, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt, the new mayor. Martinez was elected and McLaughlin and Beckles re-elected to the City Council. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

“For a refinery that is under probation until the end of 2015 after pleading ‘no contest’ to six counts of criminal negligence for the fire of 2012, Chevron has proceeded as if money could help the community forget while it tried to buy a city council. Moving to clean energy is vital and Chevron should be finding ways to transition instead of processing dirtier crude.

“The bottom line should be human health and safety, not profits. If their disregard for the community did not outweigh their good works, we would be finding solutions to global warming together,” said Eduardo Martinez, recently elected city councilmember.

“Chevron has resisted the will of the people for too long and has demonstrated a perverse willingness to spend escalating obscene amounts of money to try and impose their will. Fortunately the people of Richmond are strong and we have shown that we will not back down in the face of their corporate bullying. History has shown us in Richmond that when the people organize they can demand accountability. Shareholders should be ashamed and demand an end to this kind of behavior,” said Andrés Soto, Richmond resident and social justice advocate.

“Chevron continues to try to throw its weight around like a bully on the playground as it drowns local elections with a flood of shareholder dollars in an attempt to influence local decision making and democracy,” stated Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management. “Shareholders don’t want to keep footing the bill for Chevron’s failed gambles in politics and are calling on the company to put an end to political contributions.”

“Chevron has spent millions of dollars to try and roll back state and federal regulations to the detriment of our climate, our environment, our communities and even the safety of their own workers,” said Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter Director Michelle Myers. “We support the community of Richmond and Chevron shareholders in calling for Chevron to stop corrupting our democracy.”

Virginia Reinhart can be reached at virginia.reinhart@sierraclub.org.

9 COMMENTS

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