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Activists and shareholders take Chevron to task

Photo by our friends at Amazon Watch

A diverse and spirited crowd gathered outside of Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday to protest the fossil fuel company’s record on political spending, climate change and human rights.

Public Citizen activist Shoshana Wechsler joined the demonstration and voiced concerns that Chevron’s donation was possibly illegal under the federal pay-to-play standard.

“In its lowdown pursuit of the bottom line, oil giant Chevron has wreaked environmental destruction from the Amazon rainforest to Richmond,” said Wechsler. “And when it made a multimillion dollar contribution to a conservative super PAC during the last election, it may have violated a federal law prohibiting political donations by federal contractors.”

While the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may have opened the door to unlimited corporate contributions to super PACs, companies that hold government contracts are subject to a different set of rules under the federal pay-to-play standard.

Public Citizen has argued that Chevron’s $2.5 million dollar super PAC contribution falls under those rules, and in March we filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking the agency to investigate the donation.

To bolster our complaint, Public Citizen activist Shoshana Wechsler arrived toting our petition with more than 26,000 signatures calling on Chevron to stop spending in our elections. Green Century Capital Management filed a shareholder resolution asking the company to do just that.

“It is concerning that Chevron’s board of directors insists on spending unprecedented and increasing amounts in the election process,” said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century. “Chevron is rolling the dice with its spending and the losers are our democracy and shareholders.”

And that wasn’t the only bone we had to pick with Chevron.

The company also dropped $1.2 million into the Richmond, California, City Council race. The spending came on the heels of a fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke about Chevron’s abuses at a press event the day before the shareholder meeting saying, “The August 6, 2012, refinery fire was a clear cut example of Chevron’s willful neglect,” she said. “We will not let up on making demands of them, including significant compensation from the fire for damages imposed on our community. We join with communities everywhere demanding full accountability from this massive polluter that operates in our city.”

Outside of the meeting activists chanted (“WHAT DO WE WANT? Justice! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? Now!”) and delivered impassioned speeches about Chevron’s abuses at home and abroad.

Roughly 60 cyclists were on hand to “Bike the Math” to Chevron about climate change, as well as representatives from Ecuador calling on Chevron CEO John Watson to be fired for endangering the lives of indigenous people by dumping toxic crude oil into their water supply. Amazon Watch also delivered hundreds of pink slips to the CEO at the meeting.

Chevron provokes the ire of activists from a range of issues precisely because the company is the poster child for corporate unaccountability, whether that’s polluting our elections or our planet. We sent a strong message to the company and its shareholders yesterday, and we’re going to continue to challenge corporate power by holding individual companies accountable and advocating for broader changes to stop the corporate domination of our democracy.