A consortium of environmental and consumer advocacy groups filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint Tuesday alleging that oil giant Chevron violated pay-to-play laws when it donated $2.5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a "super" political action committee tied to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).
Consumer advocate Public Citizen, as well as environmentalist groups Greenpeace, Oil Change International, and Friends of the Earth, called on the FEC to "undertake an investigation into and enforcement action against Chevron USA, Inc., a federal government contractor, for making a $2.5 million contribution to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC, for the purpose of influencing the 2012 federal elections."
"This is an obvious, coordinated intimidation tactic from the left masquerading as another baseless complaint," Congressional Leadership Fund spokesman Dan Conston said.
The complaint comes two months after Greenpeace met with dozens of other liberal interest groups at the National Education Association to discuss, among other things, punishing Chevron for contributing to the GOP, according to Mother Jones.
Some D.C. insiders say the FEC complaint is the realization of that meeting.
"You had an event in January where you had these liberal donors get together and say let’s go after our enemies … now they have an FEC complaint, a weak complaint at that," one source said. "It’s a pretty blatant connection; it’s a scary thing."
Chevron has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the donation, pointing out that the donations came from its corporate operations rather than its subsidiaries that handle government contracts.
"Chevron does not believe that the federal government contractor ban applies to this specific contribution," Chevron spokesman Lloyd Avram said in a statement. "The corporation does not conduct business with the federal government. Any such federal contracts are held by Chevron subsidiaries."
Avram said the company abided by federal law while acting within the spirit of the constitution.
"Chevron exercises its fundamental right and responsibility to participate in the political process," he said in an email. "We make political contributions where permitted by law and in accordance with our policy. We support candidates, organizations, or ballot measures committed to economic development, free enterprise, and good government."
Public Citizen is working to drive all corporate donations out of politics. The group decried Citizens United in January at the Money Out, Voters In rally, which was sponsored by dozens of liberal groups, including AFL-CIO, the Communication Workers of America, and United Auto Workers—three unions that gave more than $42.7 million in contributions to PACs, parties, and outside spending groups in 2012.
"By taking a strong stand against Chevron’s actions, the FEC would clearly signal to federal contractors and political organizations that trading cash for favors will not be tolerated," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a press release. "Such action is crucial to protect democracy from the corrupting influence of corporate money."