California Democratic Party chair John Burton, right, speaks with gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown during the party’s state convention in 2010 in Los Angeles. (Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file)
By Taryn Luna
September 23, 2016 – 2:37 PM
The state’s political ethics commission is launching an investigation into the California Democratic Party after an advocacy group alleged the party acted as a middleman to funnel donations from oil and energy companies to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014 re-election campaign.
The Fair Political Practices Commission informed Consumer Watchdog of its investigation of the group’s allegations Friday. The group issued a report in August alleging that energy companies donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election between 2011 and 2014.
Consumer Watchdog said many of the donations were timed around important decisions related to the industry.
“Hopefully this will shed some light on what looks like a backdoor laundry machine for energy company contributions and probably extends beyond the energy industry,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
The group has alleged that energy companies gave money to the party to give to Brown in an effort to skirt campaign contribution limits for candidates. It also argues that Brown, who has championed efforts to combat climate change, may not have wanted to be associated with funds from oil companies.
But Brown did accept contributions from oil and energy companies in that campaign, and the FPPC told Consumer Watchdog in a letter that it is not investigating the Democratic governor or any of the other parties listed in the advocacy group’s report.
In one instance, Consumer Watchdog’s report said Chevron donated $350,000 to the Democratic Party on Dec. 23, 2013, and the party gave Brown $300,000 a week later. Chevron donated the money three months after Brown signed a weaker version of Senate Bill 4, which regulates fracking, than previous versions of the bill, according to the group.
Then, in early January, Brown came out against an oil severance tax that Chevron had long opposed, the report said.
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