Group Funded by Big Oil and Big Tobacco Backs Sandre Swanson for Senate

And independent expenditure committee is throwing its weight behind a longtime East Bay progressive.


Sandre Swanson.

An independent expenditure committee, whose largest donors include oil and tobacco companies, has spent more than $138,000 in the last week in support of Sandre Swanson’s bid for the 9th state Senate district, representing Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda. However, the group’s generosity may not exactly aid Swanson’s candidacy in one of the most progressive state Senate districts in California.  

The committee calling itself, “Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, A California Business Coalition,” is not affiliated with Swanson’s campaign, but it conducted polling and research in recent weeks, in addition to distributing two mailers in support of his campaign for the open East Bay seat, including a $28,000 expenditure on Tuesday.

Swanson is in a four-person race with fellow Democrats Nancy Skinner, Katherine Welch, and Republican Rich Kinney in the June 7 primary.

Pat Dennis, a political consultant for the Swanson campaign, said he’s unsure why the committee is backing Swanson, a longtime East Bay progressive. “We have no idea about the decision-making process. We haven’t asked for their endorsement, and we can’t talk or coordinate with IEs on any level,” he said.

Dennis, however, noted that the committee isn’t just funded by Big Oil and Big Tobacco. “They take money from all kinds of people,” he said, including the California Nurses Association, a labor union that has endorsed Swanson’s candidacy. “They are diametrically opposite interests from oil companies,” he added.

According to finance records, Alliance for California’s Tomorrow has spent more than $450,000 this year. The oil company Phillips 66 is the largest single donor to the committee in the 2015-16 election cycle, making a $100,000 contribution on April 8. Other recent contributors include PG&E ($60,000); California Nurses Association PAC ($50,000); and the California New Car Dealer PAC ($25,000). The committee’s also received $30,000 from a group called the California Independent Leadership Alliance. According to public records, that group’s single largest contributor is tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

Receiving the backing of Big Oil and Big Tobacco could hurt a candidate in the environmentally conscious East Bay.

Nancy Skinner.

And Skinner’s campaign was quick to highlight the committee’s support for Swanson in advance of next week’s primary. "It is extremely unfortunate that a corporate SuperPAC, heavily funded by oil and tobacco interests, is trying to buy State Senate District 9,” said Parke Skelton, a consultant for Skinner’s campaign. “Clearly, these interests do not want to see Nancy Skinner, one of California's leading advocates for alternative fuels and efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, elected to the state Senate."

This is not the first time an open seat contested by evenly matched progressive Democrats has received support from this same committee. It happened two years ago in the 15th Assembly District race, when Alliance for California’s Tomorrow spent heavily to support Tony Thurmond, despite his consistent opposition to Chevron, in his race against another progressive Democrat, Elizabeth Echols. Alliance for California’s Tomorrow spent more than $525,000 in wave after wave of mailers beginning less than three months before the November 2014 General Election. Thurmond went on to defeat Echols.


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