As negotiations heated up at the end of the legislative session over a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California, oil companies poured millions into lobbying the Legislature, quarterly reports released last week show.
The three interest groups that spent the most money lobbying in California between July 1 and Sept. 30 were oil and gas companies: Chevron ($1,696,477), the Western States Petroleum Association ($1,269,478) and Aera Energy LLC ($1,015,534), according to filings with the secretary of state.
Nearly $13,000 of the Western States Petroleum Association's spending went toward hosting a dinner for 12 lawmakers and two staff members at one of Sacramento's poshest venues: The Kitchen, known for its interactive dining experience where guests sit in the kitchen as cooks share details of the five-course meal. Moderate Democrats seemed to be the target audience for the treat: Assembly members Adam Gray, Henry Perea and Cheryl Brown attended, as did Sens. Norma Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa.
The dinner was held on Sept. 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a vote on the Assembly floor.
The next day, environmental groups sounded the alarm that the oil industry was pushing to weaken permitting regulations in the bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. As amendments were taken in the following days, environmental groups withdrew their support. A week later, the bill passed through the Legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Sept. 20.
Third quarter reports show that KP Public Affairs, which represents the Western States Petroleum Association, was the top-billing lobbying firm in California for the period, bringing in $1,658,459.
For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was not the first time they'd been treated to The Kitchen by the oil industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a Western States Petroleum Association dinner there last year, valued at nearly $11,000.
PHOTO: Randall Selland, owner and executive chef of The Kitchen restaurant, holds fresh-caught lobster at his Sacramento restaurant in January 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Andy Alfaro