Follow The Money: The Many Ways SeaWorld Tries To Curry Political Favor

SeaWorld's financial donations are now being called into question -- including the $100,000 the company's political action committee has sunk into federal candidates and national lobbying groups since 2012.

Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit investigative news organization, published a massive deep-dive into SeaWorld's financial donations today -- and the results are startling. The investigation focuses on SeaWorld San Diego (the main target of the recent "Blackfish" bill to ban orca shows), but also notes that SeaWorld's financial influence extends across the country.

Unsurprisingly, SeaWorld funnels big money into local tourism -- specifically, they've contributed to Lincoln Club of San Diego County, the California Restaurant Association's local chapter and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce since 2012. And SeaWorld's executives frequently made personal contributions to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria (more than $5,000 since 2012) and other city institutions, like the city's Tourism Authority and Taxpayers Association.

SeaWorld also directs cash toward local politicians. Here are the local San Diego politicians that have received donations from SeaWorld, its executives or its political action committee since 2012:

Rep. Susan Davis (D), state Senate candidate George Plescia (R), former state Assembly candidate Mary England (R), House candidate Carl DeMaio (R), Assemblyman Brian Jones (R), Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D), Rep. Scott Peters (D), Faulconer (R), Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R), Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R), Gloria (D), state Sen. Marty Block (D), Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D), City Councilman Scott Sherman (R), former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher (D), former City Council candidate Ray Ellis (R), former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R), City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf (R) and state Sen. Ben Hueso (D).

Gov. Jerry Brown also received donations from the company, as did state Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, who leads the committee that tabled the "Blackfish" bill (though Rendon made it clear that he was not in favor of orca captivity at the bill's hearing). SeaWorld's political action committee (PAC), started in 2011, also donates large sums to national politicians, including $5,000 to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety -- which SeaWorld has been actively lobbying against for some time, possibly because OSHA was the instigating force behind "Blackfish." Voice of San Diego reports:

In two days this January, SeaWorld contributed $1,000 apiece to 28 federal lawmakers, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Recipients included California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, plus San Diego-area Reps. Susan Davis and Scott Peters. Republican and Democratic lawmakers in other states with SeaWorld parks also received donations. That $28,000 was more than SeaWorld's PAC donated in all of 2013.