If the Supreme Court is right that corporations are people I need to take out a restraining order on Chevron. To date this oil company has pumped $3 million into the November 4 municipal election in Richmond, California, the low-income multiracial town of just over 100,000 where I live. It’s spending well over 10 times what all the candidates — including the four it’s backing — have spent. Its spending is, to shift metaphors, like an uncontrolled blowout a visually and ethically toxic spill of postal mailers, billboards, phone calls, push-polls, internet and TV attack ads (that even show up when I’m watching the Colbert Report). It’s Moving Forward political action committee describes itself as a coalition of labor unions, small businesses, public safety and firefighter associations, but Chevron has provided 99.7 percent of its funding.
I don’t really blame Chevron with its annual revenues of $220 billion (that would rank it 43rd in wealth among the world’s 195 nations); after all, if you’re part of the most powerful industrial combine in human history and it turns out your product — petroleum — could prove lethal to much of life on earth, you do what you have to in order to stay on top a few more decades. In Chevron’s case they’ve funded climate change denial, spent over a billion dollars fighting a pollution lawsuit and conviction in Ecuador and are now spending $75 a head to get into my head and that of every other voter in Richmond, where the company has one of its biggest and oldest refineries. You might recall the news coverage when the refinery caught fire two years ago, sending 15,000 residents to area hospitals. I took pictures of the black column of smoke rising over my town. The company then pled no contest to six criminal charges and paid a $2 million fine in lieu of anyone going to jail.