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California is on track for another record year spent on lobbyists

The floor of the Assembly during session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on April 29, 2024.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
The floor of the Assembly during session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on April 29, 2024.

More than $114 million was spent to lobby California state government in the first quarter of this year, about the same amount as last year when advocates set a record for spending on influence efforts.

Special interest groups spent more than $114 million to lobby California officials and legislators in the first quarter of this year, matching the pace last year when a record $480 million was spent to influence state policy decisions.

So far, nearly $600 million has been spent since the current two-year session of the Legislature started in January 2023. This year’s pace so far is about $1.25 million per day.

The top 10 spenders for the first quarter of 2024, revealed in the latest financial reports filed with the Secretary of State, include nine that have been on the top 10 list since 2005. The only one that wasn’t: Contra Costa County.

Here are the 10 organizations that invested the most in state level lobbying between January and March of this year and how much they spent.

Chevron: $3 million

The San Ramon-based oil giant continues to top the list of advocacy spenders, reporting more than $3 million spent between January and the end of March. The last time Chevron wasn’t in the top three spenders was in 2011. It has reported lobbying expenses totaling more than $77.6 million since 2005.

The company lobbied the Legislature on several items, including the budget, hydrogen programs, and carbon sequestration. But that isn’t the only institution that Chevron wanted to influence. It also reported advocating before the state Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, the Air Resources Board, the Natural Resources Agency and the Departments of Tax and Fee Administration and Fish and Wildlife.

he fossil fuel behemoth took a public position on just one bill so far this year: a proposal from Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Democrat from Burbank, that would make oil well operators liable for civil penalties for health impacts on people who live in the area. Chevron opposed the bill, which is still pending after approval from two committees in the Assembly.

Western States Petroleum Association: $2.5 million

The oil industry trade group is Chevron’s perennial partner on the leaderboard. The association is the single-largest spender on state advocacy since 2005, reporting nearly $120 million in total expenses. To put that in some context, the SEIU state council, a labor organization and the next highest-spending group, reported $80 million over the same time period.

The fossil fuel lobby testified against twobills in hearings: SB 559, which died in January and would have directed state regulators to phase out offshore drilling in state waters, and AB 1866, which would require companies to develop plans to eliminate all idle oil wells. The bill is still pending in the Assembly.

The group advocated on more than 25 other bills since January.

California Chamber of Commerce: $1.2 million

The Chamber of Commerce spent a little less than $1.2 million to advocate on more than 100 pieces of legislation in the first quarter of 2024, as well as lobbying Cal/OSHA, the Public Utilities Commission, the relatively new Privacy Protection Agency and the Water Resources Control Board. The business trade group testified against a pending bill that would prevent people under 18 from buying diet or weight loss supplements over the counter, against a failed bill that would have imposed a tax on residents with more than $1 million in assets, and in support of a still-pending bill that makes permanent a family leave mediation program for small employers.

The Chamber is the sixth largest lobbyist employer since 2005 with a total of more than $61 million spent over that time period.

Pacific Gas & Electric: $1.15 million

PG&E spent nearly $1.15 million to advocate on issues such as undergrounding power lines and the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. It also lobbied on 85 bills, including AB 2666, which would require utilities to annually report to the Public Utilities Commission the amount spent on infrastructure after each approved rate hike, such as the one approved two weeks ago. Despite PG&E’s opposition to the bill, it passed the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy last month.

The investor-owned utility, which is regulated by the state, has spent nearly $40 million since 2005 to push its point of view in California.

Howard Jarvis: $1.05 million

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association reported spending about $1 million in the first three months of the year. That represents an increase in advocacy by the anti-tax organization from last quarter, when it spent just less than $157,000 between October and December last year. But the spending is in line with the first quarter of 2023, when the association reported $1.15 million in advocacy receipts. The group lobbied on 12 bills this session, including against one from Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee of Milpitas to raise taxes on assets worth more than $1 million. The bill died in January.

Since 2005, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association has invested $34.5 million in pushing its point of view to government officials.

California Hospital Association: $1 million

The group representing hospitals and health care systems reported spending a little more than $1 million to advocate on 61 pieces of legislation including a bill by Democratic Assemblymember Ash Kalra from San Jose to create a single-payer health care system in California. The hospital association opposes the bill, which died last week.

Since 2005, the industry group has invested more than $58 million in lobbying the state government.

AT&T: $865,000

AT&T reported advocating before the Public Utilities Commission and on two similar bills in the Legislature, one in the Assembly and one in the Senate. Both would require state agencies to only procure internet from providers that offer affordable home internet service. Though the company reported lobbying on both bills, it didn’t take a public position on either.

The telecom company went on the record about a handful of education-related bills. It took public positions in support of five bills last year, four of which have to do with education-related topics, such as credentialing teachers in computer science and media literacy curriculums for students.

AT&T has reported spending more than $63 million to lobby the state government since 2005.

Contra Costa County: $773,000

The East Bay Area county spent 65% of the total it spent last year in just the first quarter of this year and reported advocating on seven bills. It supported a bill about hosting public meetings online and another about in-home supportive health service certifications through an association called Urban Counties.

The $570,000 quarter-over-quarter increase is due to a lobbying blitz in favor of a bill that extends the deadline by which hospitals must be seismically retrofitted or demolished. The bill is pending in the Senate.

Contra Costa County was the only lobbyist employer in top 10 spenders from last quarter to not be in the same list historically. Since 2005, it has reported spending just under $18 million to push its point of view in state government.

SEIU State Council: $754,000

The Service Employees International Union, a labor organization which represents more than 700,000 state workers including more than 180,000 state employees, spent nearly $754,000 on lobbying so far this year, advocating before the state’s public pension system, the state treasurer and the governor as well as on 77 different bills.

Among those bills, the union reported lobbying in support of a bill from Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks from Oakland that would expand paid family leave benefits for caretakers of seriously ill people.

Though the council is near the bottom of this list, it is the second largest aggregate spender on lobbying since 2005, reporting more than $80 million in total state level advocacy expenditures.

California Teachers Association: $667,000

The statewide teachers union reported advocating on more legislation than any other group in the top 10: 172 bills and resolutions in just the first three months of this year. The union also reported lobbying on the state budget and before the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, but it did not report a new public position on legislation between January and March. Perhaps that’s not surprising — it's already on the record for 203 pieces of legislation.

The labor group hosts the fourth largest bill lobbying effort since 2005, reporting more than $70 million in lobbying expenses.

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.