Oil Money Seeps into Fresno Politics

March 31, 2019

By Kevin Hall

Today would be a good day for Paul Caprioglio, Luis Chavez, Nelson Esparza, and Esmeralda Soria to get out their checkbooks and return some dirty campaign contributions. Nearly $100,000 in Big Oil money made its way into Fresno politics in 2018, and the Fresno city council members have received direct and indirect contributions from Chevron and the California Independent Petroleum Association.

Soria Oil $
Council member Esmeralda Soria received $5,000 in direct contributions from the California Independent Petroleum Association in 2018. Chevron donated $90,000 to the Chamber of Commerce PAC which gave $5,400 each to Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza.

Soria’s contributions came directly from the Irvine-based petroleum association in the form of a pair of $2,500 contributions on Feb. 24 and June 4, according to City of Fresno Electronic Filing System reports. She has a direct connection to the organization through Willie Rivera, a former coworker. Himself an elected city council member in Bakersfield, Rivera is the regulatory affairs director for the oil organization.

Rivera is apparently serious about his job as the local oil industry’s junkyard dog fighting off government regulation. In 2018 his association PAC launched campaigns in Arvin, Kern County, against young, progressive Latinx officeholders there who supported Mayor Jose Gurrola’s ordinance limiting oil operations within the beleaguered city limits. Soria and Rivera worked together in the offices of state senator Michael Rubio, the disgraced official from Bakersfield who left office a year early to join Chevron in their war on the planet as director of government relations.

In light of some Democrats’ new found sensibilities regarding climate change, air pollution, environmental racism, and human survival, you know, the basics, Soria, who entered this year with $107,485.81 in her campaign account, should now make a clean break with her tainted former colleagues and return the $5,000 (now down to $4,400 because she has already returned the $600 that exceeded the legal limit). Any organization or individual seeking to reverse progress in Arvin is attacking a front-line community that has taken a stand against the most destructive industry in human history.

Similarly, Caprioglio, Chavez, and Esparza need to break out the checkbooks, too. Chavez and Esparza each received $5,400 and Caprioglio, who ran unopposed, took in $500. While they are no doubt unaware that oil money seeped into their campaign accounts last year via the Fresno Chamber of Commerce PAC (which begs the question why are they taking money from the conservative business outfit at all?), they are the beneficiaries of a $90,000 contribution from Chevron to the chamber PAC in 2018 which covered all of the PAC’s campaign contribution costs for the year.

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