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Archive for the ‘Proposition 23’ Category

I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

With a week to go until Election Day, a gusher of Texas oil money has begun to flow once more into California to support Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law.

On Friday, Tesoro and Valero, the Texas oil companies that are largely funding Prop 23, contributed $1.5 million to the campaign in the first seven-figure donation since Sept. 2, when the billionaire Koch brothers dropped $1 million into campaign coffers, according to California Secretary of State records.

But in the intervening months, when contributions from the petrochemical industry dwindled mostly to a few five-figure donations, the No on 23 campaign revved up its fundraising efforts and now has taken in more than $30 million to the Yes forces’ $10.6 million.

Just in the last few days, San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric has given another $250,000 to the No campaign while teachers and public employees unions donated a combined $300,000. (Tellingly, even an East Coast power company with coal-fired power plants in its portfolio, AES Corp., donated $25,000 to the No campaign on Friday.)

Also in the last couple of days, $500,000 has been given to No campaign committees targeting low-income and minority voters, which some strategists consider crucial to defeating Prop 23.

California’s climate change law, known as AB 32, requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop 23 would suspend AB 32 until the state unemployment rate – currently at 12.4 percent – drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. That has happened only three times in the past 40 years.

A new player in the No campaign is the California League of Conservation Voters and its parent organization, the League of Conservation Voters. The groups’ campaign committee has raised $4.2 million, including a $200,000 donation from a managing director at Goldman Sachs in New York.  The main No on 23 campaign has transferred $1.9 million to the committee in recent days, according to finance records.

“CLCV and LCV are contacting several hundred thousand California voters who are likely to support environmental values, explaining Prop 23 and asking them to vote no (either through absentee ballot or on Nov. 2), and turning out the vote on election day,” Jenesse Miller, a spokesperson for the California League of Conservation Voters, said in an e-mail. “Our campaign is a combination of phone calls, slate cards and other mail pieces.”

In a sign that the No forces may be feeling increasingly confident – a poll last week found Prop 23 losing – the League of Conservation Voters committee has been funneling money to other ballot initiatives important to environmentalists and green technology investors and entrepreneurs.

For instance, the committee has given more than $600,000 to defeat Proposition 26, a ballot measure supported by the oil, tobacco and alcohol industries that would reclassify environmental impact fees as taxes and require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to impose them rather than a simple majority.

Green groups and AB 32 supporters fear Prop 26 could cripple efforts to levy fees to implement the global warming law

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

Have the Texas oil companies backing Proposition 23 surrendered in the fundraising battle over the ballot measure that would suspend California’s global warming law?

Since Thursday, the No on 23 forces have raised more than $7.3 million as the Silicon Valley-Hollywood-environmental-industrial complex revved up for the final push before Election Day on Nov. 2.

The Yes campaign’s take since Thursday? $10,000.

The No on 23 campaign now has raised $25.8 million to the Yes effort’s $9.1 million as money from the petrochemical industry backing Prop 23 has all but dried up in recent weeks, according to California Secretary of State records.

The tsunami of cash flooding into the No campaign indicates the breadth of support from California’s establishment for the state’s global warming law, known as AB 32, which requires greenhouse gas emissions be cut to 1990 levels by 2020.

Avatar director James Cameron attracted the most attention with his $1 million donation on Friday. But Gordon Moore, the legendary co-founder of chip giant Intel, also dropped $1 million into the No coffers that day, and so did Pacific Gas & Electric ($250,000), California’s largest utility and a leading proponent of climate change legislation. Google co-founder Sergey Brin also donated $200,000 on Thursday, and an organization of Silicon Valley tech companies contributed $125,000.

On Tuesday, a group of some 66 investors controlling more than $400 billion in assets are scheduled to hold a press conference to announce their opposition to Prop 23.

In the meantime, national environmental groups and non-profits continued to pour cash into the No campaign last week. The National Wildlife Federation contributed $3 million on Friday. ClimateWorks Foundation, a San Francisco non-profit, gave $900,000. New York’s Rockefeller Family Fund kicked in $300,000 on Thursday and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a top No on 23 donor, added $300,000 more Friday.

Environmentalists are also starting to focus on Proposition 26, a little-noticed California ballot measure that would reclassify environmental impact fees as taxes and require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to impose them rather than a simple majority. Green groups and AB 32 supporters fear Prop 26 could cripple efforts to levy fees to implement the global warming law.

The oil, alcohol, and tobacco companies backing Prop 26 have so far raised $13.6 million while opponents have managed to collect only $2.8 million, according to state campaign records.

Still, a spokesman for the No on 23 told the Los Angeles Times that the No campaign would not redirect its cash to the Prop 26 fight, saying the battle over the global warming law has yet to be won.

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photo: Todd Woody

I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

Defeat Proposition 23? There’s an app for that.

Laurene Powell Jobs, the wife of Apple founder Steve Jobs, on Tuesday donated $200,000 to the campaign against Prop 23, the California ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law.

With less than three weeks to go until Election Day, the enviro-green tech coalition’s fundraising machine continued to outpace the Texas oil companies backing Prop 25. As of Thursday, the No on 23 campaign had collectively raised $17.9 million to the Yes campaign’s $9 million, according to California Secretary of State records.

Also on Tuesday, Vinod Khosla, the prominent Silicon Valley green tech investor, dropped $1.04 million into the No campaign coffers while executives from Google, Bloom energy, and other Valley tech and renewable energy firms made high five-figure donations.

(Alan Salzman, a leading Silicon Valley green tech investor who is chief executive of VantagePoint Venture Partners, is hosting a No on Prop 23 fundraiser at his Atherton home on Oct. 22 that features a performance by Elvis Costello. Get out your wallets, though. Tickets are $500; for $100,000 you can score four backstage passes, 10 VIP seats, and 10 general admission tickets.)

The Sierra Club, which is headquartered in San Francisco, weighed in Wednesday with its first sizeable contributions, giving a total of $300,000 to various No campaigns. The No forces also received their first utility industry donation, a $25,000 contribution from Sempra Energy, owner of San Diego Gas & Electric. Nike gave $20,958.

The Yes campaign has received only two six-figure contributions over the past week, a $150,000 donation from oil refiner CVR Energy of Sugar Land, Texas, on Tuesday, and $500,000 from Marathon Petroleum of Findlay, Ohio, last Friday.

But No on 23 spokesperson Steven Maviglio, a longtime Democratic operative in California, takes cold comfort in those low numbers. He told me on Friday that he fully expects the oil industry to put millions of dollars into the campaign in the final weeks leading to Nov. 2.

Prop 23 would suspend California’s global warming law, known as AB 32, until the state unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, something that has happened only three times in the past four decades. AB 32 requires California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

At the giant Solar Power International conference in Los Angeles this week, attendees sported No on 23 buttons and the confab’s organizers tried to rally executives to oppose the ballot measure.

One company, Silicon Valley solar panel installer SunRun, staged a “protest” Wednesday evening against Prop 23 on the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center, draping booths with anti-23 signs and dispatching employees with picket signs.

On Thursday, meanwhile, environmental justice activists were planning to march on a refinery operated by Tesoro, one of the Texas oil companies bankrolling Prop 23, in a low-income Los Angeles community.

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In The New York Times on Monday, I write about how opponents of Proposition 23, the California ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, are outspending the oil industry interests backing the initiative:

At the start of the campaign for California’s Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, opponents darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to win the election.

But with three weeks until Election Day, it is the No on 23 coalition of environmentalists, investors and Silicon Valley technology companies that is raking in the cash, taking in nearly twice as much money as the Yes on 23 campaign.

As of Monday, the No on 23 forces had raised $16.3 million to the Yes campaign’s $8.9 million, according to California Secretary of State records. Over the past two weeks, nearly $7 million has flowed into No campaign coffers while contributions to the Yes effort had fallen off dramatically.

With the failure of federal climate change legislation, considerable national attention is focused on Proposition 23, which marks the first time a global warming law has been put before voters.

Representatives from the Yes campaign did not return a request for comment. But Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for the main No campaign, said he still expects the oil and petrochemical interests that account for 97 percent of the Yes contributions to “drop a nuclear bomb” in the coming weeks.

“You don’t launch this kind of campaign without knowing from the get-go what you’re going to spend,” said Mr. Maviglio, a longtime Democratic operative in California. “Did we catch them off guard on how much the business community in the state would spend to defend the law? Yes. But they’re still going to blitz us.”

A few hours after the interview with Mr. Maviglio on Friday, the Yes campaign reported its first sizable donation since Sept. 13, with Marathon Petroleum of Findlay, Ohio, contributing $500,000.

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Proposition 23 would suspend the law, known as A.B. 32, until the state unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, something that has happened only three times in the past 40 years

A recent Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll showed voters evenly split over Proposition 23, with 21 percent undecided. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll published Tuesday found the ballot initiative losing 49 percent to 37 percent.

Campaign finance records show that the No campaign has attracted big donations from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, New York hedge fund managers, national environmental groups and green technology executives.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

Talk about student activism: Lucy Southworth, a Stanford University doctoral student, has given $100,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 23, the California ballot initiative that would suspend the state’s global warming law.

If the name doesn’t ring a bill, try Googling. In Silicon Valley, Southworth is better known as the wife of Google co-founder Larry Page.

Her contribution follows the $500,000 earlier donated to the No campaign by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. (Disclosure: Wendy Schmidt serves on Grist’s board of directors.)

The No forces took in $200,580 in campaign contributions on Monday, following a $5 million haul in the previous week, according to California Secretary of State records. Applied Materials, the world’s biggest manufacturer of the machines that make computer chips, gave $25,000 on Monday; Chicago-based wind developer Invenergy donated $10,000; and William S. Fisher, San Francisco investor and an heir to the Gap clothing empire, donated $25,000, as did Sakurako D. Fisher.

All this check writing is to protect California’s climate change law, known as AB 32. The law requires the state to cut greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop 23 would suspend AB 32 until the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, a rare occurrence in recent decades.

The Yes campaign, which is largely funded by two Texas oil companies, continues to lag far behind in the fundraising department of late. It logged one $5,000 contribution on Monday, from a Mississippi barge company that hauls petroleum and petrochemicals.

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

When Silicon Valley’s elite gathered at Google’s headquarters in August to rally opposition to Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, one speaker darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to ensure its passage.

As it turns out, the No on 23 campaign is outspending the Texans. Big time. Case in point: Over the past few days, the No forces have collected $5 million from venture capitalists, New York financiers, renewable energy companies, and other deep-pocketed backers, according to California Secretary of State records.

The Yes campaign, meanwhile, has received only a single $10,000 donation over the past week, from a Houston company that provides services to the oil and petrochemical industries. The last big contribution to the Yes coffers was a $100,000 donation made on Sept. 13.

Of course, Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero and the billionaire Koch brothers, who earlier contributed $1 million to the Yes effort, could drop $10 million on the campaign tomorrow. But there appears to be a fundraising enthusiasm gap between the campaigns during the home stretch sprint to Election Day.

Take a look at the growing roster of No partisans willing to put their money where their mouths are — not to mention their self-interest.

Ann Doerr, the wife of leading Silicon Valley capitalist John Doerr, gave $1 million to the No campaign on Thursday while her husband contributed $500,000 (in addition to the half million dollars he previously donated). Thomas Steyer, founder of the Farallon Capital Management hedge fund and co-chair of the No on 23 effort, put another $2.5 million into the campaign. San Francisco venture capitalist Paul Klingenstein contributed $100,0000.

On the other coast, New York hedge fund manager Julian Robertson of Tiger Management kicked in half a million dollars on Thursday.

Renewable energy companies stepped to the plate as well. The U.S. division of Spanish wind giant Iberdrola Renewables gave $25,000; Santa Monica-based Solar Reserve, a developer of solar power plants, pitched in $50,000; and Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg contributed $10,000.

The Consumers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Working Assets also gave a collective $100,000 over the past week.

With absentee voting beginning in California today, expect to see that cash put to work influencing those who plan to vote early.

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In The New York Times on Thursday, I write about an unusual alliance between California financiers and environmental justice activists to reach minority voters who they believe will be key in defeating Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law:

The fight over Proposition 23, the California ballot initiative that would suspend the state’s landmark global warming law, has spawned some unusual political alliances. Mainstream environmentalists, venture capitalists, labor unions, tech chieftains and even some Republicans have all made common cause to oppose the measure, which is backed by two Texas oil companies.

Now activists who work on behalf of poor communities afflicted by pollution and some of California’s top financiers have come together in an effort to bring minority voters to the polls on Nov. 2.

At a recent fund raiser at the waterfront offices of Sungevity, an Oakland, Calif., solar company, hedge-fund managers and other well-heeled investors sipped cocktails and mingled with inner-city activists in the hope of raising $1.9 million for a turn-out-the-vote campaign that will target nine counties with large populations of African-American, Asian and Latino voters.

“There is something kind of strange but great that there are environmental justice activists mixing with entrepreneurs and financiers who are all committed equally to building this clean economy that can lift all boats,” Danny Kennedy, Sungevity’s co-founder and a former Greenpeace activist, told the crowd.

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as A.B. 32, mandates that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions be cut to 1990 levels by 2020. Proposition 23 would suspend the law until the state unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, a rare occurrence in recent decades.

“How voters of color vote on Prop 23 will be the margin of victory or defeat on this,” Roger Kim, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, an Oakland-based group, said at the event. “As little as three percent of the vote may make the difference.” (Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Miya Yoshitani, serves as associate director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.)

A Field Poll released on Sunday showed Proposition 23 opposed by 45 percent and favored by 34 percent of respondents, with 21 percent still undecided. Latino voters supported the ballot measure 41 percent to 38 percent while African-American and Asian voters opposed it 41 percent to 34 percent. A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll published on Friday found the initiative supported by a slight margin, 40 percent to 38 percent.

“Let’s talk about why people of color especially matter in this campaign,” Thomas F. Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management, a $20 billion San Francisco hedge fund, and co-chairman of the “No on 23” campaign, said in a speech at the fund raiser. “And it is true that the swing vote if you look at it may well be people of color. And that’s definitely important and we need to definitely to win this so I don’t want to downplay that.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

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