Tim Eyman's initiative 1053, the ballot measure that would require a 2/3 majority in the state legislature for any tax increases, is likely to pass. The campaign is being heavily funded by oil companies who did not like the recent attempt to raise taxes on hazardous materials-producing companies like themselves and fear similar proposals will manifest again in the future. We've known this for months.
But just in case it doesn't, big oil companies—BP, Tesoro, and ConocoPhillips—are dumping money on obscure state legislative candidates to grease the wheels against future tax increases. Just looking at Public Disclosure Commission reports on state legislative races in the Puget Sound area, Tesoro has given $13,250, BP $9,500, and ConocoPhillips clocks in at $7,200 in contributions to individual candidates. Brendon Cechovic, the political director of Washington Conservation Voters (WCV), asks, "Why would an oil company have any care in the world about state legislative races. What’s that buying? Those are the questions voters should be asking themselves."
I charted out the contributions and looked for candidates getting the large amounts of cash from two or more of the companies. Two incumbent state senators, Steve Hobbs D-Lake Stevens and Tim Sheldon D-Potlatch, got contributions from all three companies, including top-tier ($800) donations from Tesoro. The other two candidates who got top-tier dollars from Tesoro and contributions from one other company were two state senate challengers, Joe Fain R-Covington and Steve Litzow R-Mercer Island.
It's easy enough to figure out why oil companies love Tim Sheldon. He was named one of WCV's two "Green Duds" this year, thanks to his astoundingly low score of 27 on their legislative scorecard. His lifetime score is scarcely better at 33. Hobbs did better with a 64 for the year and a 78 lifetime, but don't let the 64 fool you—it puts him in a tie for the fourth-lowest score of any Democrat in the state senate.
Litzow and Fain haven't been scored yet. Their opponents have, though. Fain is running against state senator Claudia Kauffman D-Kent, a WCV endorsee. Only 14 state senate candidates got WCV endorsements, so Kauffman's record has to be respected by the environmental community. Litzow is facing state senator Randy Gordon D-Mercer Island, who was only appointed this year to replace Fred Jarrett. Gordon's record is slim, but his WCV score for this year is 80, placing him only slightly below Kauffman.
Call me crazy, but it sure looks like big oil is focusing on the upper house, rewarding old allies and kneecapping opponents to make sure they're not held accountable for petroleum cleanup—which is the number one polluter of Washington waterways. As Cechovic puts it, "Those are hot races and the money’s really pouring in there."