Record-Setting Nearly Half-Billion Dollars Spent Lobbying in California in 2023

The amount was an increase of about $40 million from the previous record set in 2022.
Record-Setting Nearly Half-Billion Dollars Spent Lobbying in California in 2023
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Travis Gillmore
2/21/2024
Updated:
2/21/2024

More money was spent lobbying government officials in California in 2023 than ever before, with approximately $480 million used to impact the decision-making process, according to data compiled by the Secretary of State.

The amount was an increase of about $40 million from the previous record set in 2022.

Advocates for a variety of industries worked the halls of the state Capitol last year, with 58 entities spending at least $1 million each to influence state government.

Oil giant Chevron topped the list, spending more than $11 million to get a word in with the public utilities and energy commissions, among other state agencies. Lobbyists sought to mitigate the implementation of a bill signed last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom that regulates profit margins for oil refiners operating in the state.

A Chevron gas station in Los Angeles on May 22, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A Chevron gas station in Los Angeles on May 22, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Together, the oil and gas industry spent a record of about $27 million lobbying last year, including the Western States Petroleum Association which spent almost $7 million targeting a bill that would have established an additional tax on profits.

Additionally, multiple electric utilities increased their lobbying efforts, with Pacificorp—serving customers in California, Oregon, and Washington—spending the most at slightly more than $5 million in 2023.

Pacific Gas and Electric—better known as PG&E—has spent more than $36 million on lobbying since 2005. Last year, it and Southern California Edison each spent more than $3 million.

Some critics said the expenditures are impacting consumers, with PG&E requesting and receiving a number of rate increases in recent years, including a nearly 20 percent bump that took effect in January and another $2 billion spike under consideration by the state’s utilities commission.

“Spending ratepayers [money] on lobbying?” one rooftop solar proponent wrote Feb. 18 on X. “There ought to be a law [against it].”

Fast-food icon McDonald’s significantly increased its spending on lobbying efforts in 2023, with more than $5.6 million used to counter a 2022 law known as the FAST Recovery Act established a fast-food council to oversee the industry.

A stock photo of a McDonald's logo. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
A stock photo of a McDonald's logo. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Such represents a 5,600 percent increase in all lobbying money spent by the company since 2005, and the efforts resulted in the makeup and authority of the council being amended.

Private companies are not the only players using money to achieve objectives, as local governments also resort to lobbying to bring attention to issues.

Collectively, cities and counties—and respective agencies including water and sanitation districts, among others—spent $55 million to affect policy decisions last year, a $2 million increase from the previous year.

Nearly 200 cities across the state—slightly less than half of all California municipalities—spent more than $20 million combined, while 43 of the state’s 58 counties used more than $21 million to advocate for local projects.

Some critics said the efforts are an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars—noting that 14 states regulate lobbying by local governments and state agencies, including Texas, where the practice is prohibited.

“Local governments are the real giant where it comes to lobbying Sacramento,” the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association posted Feb. 14 on X. “Do you think lobbying is an appropriate use of your tax dollars?”