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

By Jeremia Kimelman 
CalMatters Writer 

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. 

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. The fossil fuel lobby testified against two bills in hearings: Senate Bill 559, which died in January and would have directed state regulators to phase out offshore drilling in state waters, and Assembly Bill 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 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.  

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 a few weeks ago. Despite PG&E’s opposition to the bill, it passed the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy last month.  

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. The group lobbied on 12 bills this session. 

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. 

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. 

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. 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.  

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. 

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.  

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