chispita_666/ FlickrOut-of-state companies donating to the Prop. 23 campaign were all at the Valero-sponsored golf tournament.
What do a New York barge company, Kansas-based Koch Industries, and Valero, a Texas oil corporation, have in common?
Aside from contributing to a campaign that would derail California’s landmark climate legislation, they all play golf together.
California Watch has found that of the 10 out-of-state companies contributing to the “Yes on 23” campaign since mid-May, nine attended and contributed to Valero’s 2009 charity annual golf tournament in San Antonio, Texas.
Valero would not release the 2010 roster to California Watch. However, since Valero began hosting the event in 2003, most of the same sponsors have returned every year, said Bill Day, Valero's spokesman.
This year, the tournament ran from May 10 through May 16. Contributions from out-of-state companies started coming in on May 14.
Before that, not a single out-of–state company, other than Texas-based Valero or Tesoro, had contributed to the campaign.
“I’m not seeing a connection between the campaign and a golf tournament in Texas,” said Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the “Yes on 23” campaign. “It seems irrelevant.”
Since the end of the tournament, nearly $6 million has been donated to "Yes on 23" from out-of-state companies. The campaign has received more than $8.3 million since February.
Proposition 23 is a ballot measure that would freeze California’s climate legislation until unemployment in the state drops below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. The unemployment rate is currently more than 12%.
Mangels said she wouldn’t be surprised if the “venture capitalists and hedge fund managers who have donated to the ‘No on 23’ campaign socialize from time to time.”
Since the beginning of 2010, the campaign against Prop. 23 has raised $12.6 million.
Significant backing has come from environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, and wealthy Bay Area investors, such as Thomas Steyer of the investment firm Farallon Capital Management LLC and John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Steyer has contributed $5 million to the campaign, and Doerr and his wife Ann have given $2 million.
California Watch has found that Valero, Missouri’s Golding Barge Line Inc., Texas-based RepCon Inc. and Bouchard Transportation Company Inc., a New York-based barging company, were all present or contributed to the 2010 tournament.
A spokeswoman for Koch Industries would not verify the company's attendance this year, and a spokesman for Texas-based Holly Corporation said his company did not sponsor or donate to the event in 2009 or 2010. However, the president of the company, David Lamp, is listed as participating in the 2009 event.
The three other companes, Colorado's Frontier Oil, and Texas-based Tesoro and Total Safety U.S. Inc. did not return repeated calls from a California Watch reporter.
The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters attended and contributed to the 2009 Valero event. The California branch of the union, the California State Pipe Trades Council, contributed $25,000 on July 12 to the “Yes on 23” campaign.
The California trade council could not be reached for comment.
"This (the Valero Texas Open) is a perfect example of a company that has money to waste on golf tournaments with some good old boys from Texas, but won't spend the money to clean up their pollution in California," said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a group that opposes Proposition 23.
“It does seem like a tight-knit group that is more interested than they should be in polluting California’s air,” said Ann Notthoff, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that has spent millions on a campaign that would protect California’s climate legislation.
The Valero Texas Open is a golf tournament on the PGA tour. It is also a weeklong charity event. This year, more than $8 million was raised for children’s charities, according to Day.
Sponsors tend to be Valero business partners, said Day, who added he wasn’t surprised that companies at the golf event would also contribute to the California campaign.
“It would make sense,” he said, “if we get sponsorships through our business partners, they are in the energy industry, they will also want to have an influence.”
Day said calculating the cost of California’s climate legislation on Valero's bottom line, should Proposition 23 fail, is difficult. However, using a conservative and preliminary estimate, the current legislation would likely cost the company more than $177 million per year, rising to $573 million per year by 2020.
Whether the company could continue to sponsor the golf tournament without Proposition 23 is another matter.
“Valero has always been, and always will be, active in the communities where it does business and a good corporate citizen,” wrote Day in an email. “But obviously our level of generosity is directly related to our profitability and overall financial health.”
Valero’s contract with the PGA expires in 2012.
Meanwhile, with four weeks left before the voters go to the polls, the two sides of the campaign are airing ads.
Here's the "Yes on 23" campaign ad: