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June 15, 2024
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Oil interests spend nearly $6M on Ventura County measures – VC Star

Petroleum interests trying to defeat two oil and gas measures on the June ballot have outspent the environmentalist group trying to pass them by more than $5 million with a week left until Election Day, the latest financial report shows.
Entitled Measures A and B, the rules would uphold a narrow decision made by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in November 2020. The board imposed the same standard for review of petroleum projects regardless of the age of the original permits, but the proposed rules were suspended a month later after opponents launched a successful petition drive to send the issue to the voters.
The oil interests claim that passage would shut down their industry in the county, while the environmentalists say voters should approve them to protect the water supply and community health. Experts say the new rules are more complex and less sweeping than each campaign’s stance but would strengthen environmental standards.
Read more:What oil drilling ballot Measures A and B would do locally 
The ballot measures have spawned the highest spending and funding of a local ballot measure in Ventura County history, with the overwhelming majority coming from petroleum interests.
Organizers of the oil-supported campaign outraised the environmentalists’ VC-SAFE by more than 10 to 1, collecting more than $8 million for the petition drive and campaign.  
They have reported spending almost $6 million since the beginning of the year as they invested in polling, consulting firms, advertising, travel and donations to local business groups. 
The campaign to stop the measures spent heavily in the first four months of the year while the environmentalists’ VC-SAFE group was still trying to raise enough money to compete. By late April, VC-SAFE had spent less than $13,000 to their opponents’ $4.2 million.
The gap has narrowed slightly in recent weeks with more than $500,000 coming in from a climate action group in San Francisco and the Patagonia outdoor gear company in Ventura.
Over a four-week period ending May 21, VC-SAFE spent $418,000 to $1.8 million for the anti-measures side. Patagonia’s contributions went toward mailers. The campaign is also investing in staff and signs, expenses the campaign’s treasurer said the group could not afford in the early going.
“We didn’t have the luxury of spending money up front,” said Tomàs Morales Rebecchi, treasurer of the VC-SAFE campaign.
Ben Oakley, the campaign spokesperson for Stop Measures A and B, said the money was being spent to protect jobs and tax revenues. 
Political scientist Tim Allison said it’s still a “David vs. Goliath” battle because of the large difference in resources. But the yes side has an advantage in voter registration, which leans Democratic, he said.
“Ventura County is now a blue county,” said the adjunct professor at Cal State Channel Islands. “If the yes side is able to sufficiently get their message out, they have a shot but they’re being swamped with outside oil money.”
Many voters have yet to weigh in on the most expensive local ballot measures in Ventura County history.
Just 8% of the roughly 506,000 registered voters had returned their ballots as of Friday, elections officials said.  
About 17,500 Democrats had voted compared with 10,000 Republicans and 7,000 independent/others, according to data reported by the consulting group PDI. Historically, Republicans are more likely to vote in person but vote centers just opened last Saturday so it’s unknown how the margin may change.
The filings that were due Thursday are the last summary reports that will be available before the election. Reports on late-arriving individual contributions can still be viewed by searching for Ventura NetFile.
Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0271.


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