Return to the Latest For Immediate Release: Jan 08, 2024

Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California Releases New Report Exposing $11 Million Dark Money Ad Campaign by Big Oil

Report Reveals that Oil Companies Hide Behind “Front Groups” Masquerading as “Coalitions”

SACRAMENTO – Today the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California (CSHC) released a report showing that more than $11 million in ads were funded by Big Oil in 2023, in an attempt to undermine a new law (SB 1137) that helps protect California communities from toxic oil drilling. Chevron gave nearly $6 million to a third-party, Californians for Energy Independence, which then fronted the ad campaign.  

The report also reveals how the California Independent Petroleum Administration (CIPA) and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) fund extensive ad campaigns fronted by groups that masquerade as “coalitions.” 

Some of the oil companies identified in the report that have spent millions on dark money ad campaigns or deceptive lobbying efforts include: Chevron, Valero, ExxonMobil, BP, Phillips66, Tesoro and Marathon Petroleum. 

This table, included in the report, shows more than $11M in dark money expenditures related to the most recent ad campaign:

Dark Money Group


Amount Paid 1Q – 3Q 2023

Californians for Energy Independence

Winner & Mandabach1


Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy

Applied Paradigms2


Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy

Unearth Campaigns, LLC3


Californians Against Higher Taxes

Unearth Campaigns, LLC4


Californians Against Higher Taxes

Media & Associates5


TOTAL spending attributed to ad blitz




This cynical campaign hides the true source of funding from Big Oil as it attempts to deceive California voters about the clear public health benefits of making existing oil and gas wells safer by meeting tighter health and environmental requirements within 3200 feet of neighborhoods, schools, daycare centers and healthcare facilities, and keeping new wells from being built in these areas.

The CSHC coalition is calling for transparency to ensure voters know exactly who is paying for the deceptive ads.

“Though we expect this kind of big money bullying and deception from Big Oil, we will not tolerate it,” said Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles. “We know first-hand the devastating impacts of oil drilling near homes on the health and well-being of communities and the families that reside in them – it’s a danger to public health, plain and simple.”

“That’s why we are sounding the alarm to tell voters the truth about Big Oil’s campaign of deception – they are hiding in the shadows behind phony front groups,” Dina Argüello added.

Just last year, while spending tens of millions of dollars on a signature gathering campaign, Big Oil was caught blatantly lying to voters and tricking them into signing a petition to stall and delay a new law that finally gave California neighborhoods similar public health and safety protections from toxic oil drilling that other oil producing states enjoy.

“We are asking voters to see through Big Oil’s fraud and vote to KEEP THE LAW (SB 1137) that requires existing wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, day care centers, parks, healthcare facilities and businesses to meet important health, safety and environmental requirements.  Keeping this law will also prohibit new wells from being built in the same buffer zone,” said Dina Argüello

“This isn’t the first dirty trick by Big Oil and it won’t be the last,” said Chris Lehman, Campaign Manager for CSHC. “But this report will help expose them and their toxic campaign so that voters understand what’s at stake in 2024 – and for many California communities, especially communities of color, this can be a matter of life or death. Our campaign does not need to hide in the dark with dubious campaign tactics like Big Oil. We will work with California political law enforcement and compliance experts, as well as media outlets, to do our part to make sure voters know the truth and Big Oil cannot dodge campaign disclosure laws.”

“KEEP THE LAW” Campaign endorsers include public health groups, community and faith organizations, and environmental justice leaders from across California, working to hold oil companies accountable for creating a public health crisis, especially for communities of color.

Press Contact:

Robin Swanson, or Nicolette Velazquez,