Capitol Alert: Oil industry treated California legislators to $13K dinner as fracking bill loomed

lrosenhall@sacbee.comNovember 4, 2013 

Randall Selland, owner and Executive Chef of The Kitchen restaurant, holds fresh caught lobster at his fixed-price restaurant in Sacramento Friday January 14, 2011. The Kitchen is a one-of-a-kind interactive experience in dining where guests sit in the kitchen of the cooks as they share the intricate details of the five-course meal.

ANDY ALFARO — aalfaro@sacbee.com

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 fillings 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 Senators 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

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service