Chevron’s influence fails to sway voters in Richmond, Calif.

Chevron spent more than $3 million to back three candidates for city council in Richmond, Calif. But voters rejected all three, in favor of candidates who have been critical of the oil giant, which is the largest taxpayer and employer in the Northern California city.

Richmond, north of Berkely, is about 45 minutes’ drive from San Ramon, to the south, which is the headquarters for Chevron. As Al Jazeera America reports:

For years, Richmond was known in the San Francisco Bay Area simply as a hub of high crime, pollution, and poverty. Politicians here had unabashedly close ties to Chevron — until 2008, most local elected officials were sympathetic to the company, which maintained a desk in the city manager’s office through the 1990s. But city politics began to change in 2004, when McLaughlin won a city council seat and then, two years later, became mayor.

The city has since risen into the national spotlight several times, partly because of [former mayor and Green Party member Gayle] McLaughlin’s willingness to take on Chevron, which is Richmond’s largest taxpayer and employer. Last year, the city sued the refinery after a 2012 fire sent thousands to area hospitals complaining of respiratory problems. “We don’t see Chevron as the source of keeping our economy going,” McLaughlin said defiantly at the time.

In response, Chevron has gone to great lengths to try to regain public sympathy, and to oust its opponents from local office. Earlier this year, the company launched its own online news outlet, the Richmond Standard, which offers both daily stories on local events and a section called “Chevron Speaks,” where the company posts its views. In the weeks before the election, the company plastered local billboards and stuffed residents’ mailboxes with ads attacking McLaughlin and her allies and supporting candidates backed by Moving Forward, one of its Richmond-based political action committees.

The campaign tactics seemed to have backfired, because all three candidates supported by Chevron lost. Now six of the seven spots on the Richmond council belong to Chevron critics.


LAT: Chevron spending big to sway election in Richmond, Calif.

Los Angeles Times consumer-affairs columnist Michael Hiltzik writes about the lengths to which Chevron is going to influence city elections in the city of Richmond, Calif. And it seems that only a student-run newspaper is reporting on Chevron’s spending. ” … leaving coverage of the election to Chevron’s PR organ, the Richmond Standard, could be disastrous for Richmond’s residents. For example, you won’t find a peep about Chevron’s political spending in the Richmond Standard. That’s par for the course: The website’s entire staff, an employee of Chevron’s PR firm named Mike Aldax, told me last month that ‘if you’re looking for a story that’s critical of Chevron, you’re not going to find it in the Richmond Standard.’ “

Three ways that oil matters for the crisis in Iraq

For months now, Sunni militants from the Islamic State (better known as ISIS) have been seizing control of large swathes of Iraq. ISIS is now threatening a major oil-producing region of Iraq. But it wasn’t until they encroached into semi-autonomous Kurdish territory and near the Kurdish capital of Erbil — an oil boomtown full of Western companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil — that the Obama administration decided to authorize airstrikes against ISIS