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Chevron Spends Big on Richmond Candidates

Oil giant's money dwarfs candidates' own fundraising

Chevron Corp. has spent $1 million this election season to support Richmond city councilmembers Maria Viramontes, Ludmyrna Lopez and Nat Bates.

The oil giant gave the money to Jobs Now, a political action committee formed to support Lopez and Viramontes. According to campaign reports filed with the city clerk, the PAC has doled out $744,785 of the original million to promote the three candidates.

Chevron's contribution dwarfs what each candidate has personally raised this year: Bates has received about $120,000 in direct contributions; Viramontes, approximately $66,000; and as of September 30, Lopez had raised roughly $57,000.

Jobs Now PAC spent the majority of the money on slate mailers, campaign literature and phone banking. It also paid out $18,000 in consulting fees to VR Research — the firm the police and fire unions hired to investigate Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and City Council candidate Jovanka Beckles.

The PAC used “independent expenditures” to buy advertising promoting the three council members. The practice is commonplace in politics and legal, as long as it is done without the candidate’s involvement. The maneuver allows a group to spend big but keep the information off of an individual candidate’s campaign filings.

Lopez said she appreciates the support and praised the company for trying to bring jobs to Richmond. Bates, who bills himself as pro-business and is a staunch supporter of Chevron, said he doesn’t pay attention to how much the groups supporting him spend.

When told that Chevron had spent $250,000 to his support his mayoral bid, Bates said, “That’s news to me.”

Both noted that Jobs Now PAC operates independently and isn’t related to any of the campaigns.

Viramontes and a spokesman for Chevron could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

According to Jobs Now’s most recent campaign filing, which was turned in Thursday, the PAC has split its money fairly evenly among the three candidates. As of October 16, it had spent $230,283 on supporting Viramontes and $229,082 to bolster Lopez.

The money for Bates, however, took a more circuitous route. Jobs Now PAC served as an intermediary for Chevron, contributing $250,000 to Get Richmond Working, a political action committee formed to support Bates. As of October 16, Get Richmond Working had spent $182,683 promoting Bates.

Chevron contributed the money to Jobs Now in September, in $450,000 and $550,000 chunks. With the election just over a week away, the PAC has approximately $255,000 of the original $1 million left to spend.

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