Category Archives: Campaign finance

FIRST LOOK: Valero PAC report shows $248,111 on hand to influence Benicia’s 2020 election

Link to Valero’s Campaign Finance Report below…

Valero Benicia Refinery, emissions on Mar 23, 2019, 2.21pm [Photo: MBardet]
By Roger Straw, February 8, 2020

Valero and it’s labor force will once again have more money to spend than any of the candidates running for office in Benicia this year.  Most likely more than all candidates combined.

On November 20, 2019 Valero added $200,000 to a carry-over balance of $48,161.54.  The balance remained after the PAC’s huge expenditures in the 2018 race in which they smeared and spread misinformation, successfully defeating City Council candidate Kari Birdseye.

Here is the so-called “Working Families” PAC’s contributions and expenditures report for 7/1/19 to 12/31/19:
Working_Families_for_a_strong_Benicia_PAC_2020_Semi_Annual__Form_460_1.pdf

Future (and past) campaign finance reports for the Valero PAC and for all candidates can be found on the City of Benicia’s ELECTIONS page.

Share...

    My thoughts on possible District Voting in Benicia

    By Roger Straw, January 17, 2020
    Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

    On Tuesday January 21, Benicia’s City Council will consider a proposal to change our electoral process from At-Large voting for Council candidates to four newly-defined small geographical districts.  Benicia citizens need to pay attention to this – it may sound ok, but consider…

    I think our ability to join forces against the massive and mean-spirited outside corporate influences we saw in our 2018 election would be immeasurably weakened by adoption of district voting.

    In 2018, a PAC funded by Valero Services and organized labor spent over $200,000 to smear and defeat Council candidate Kari Birdseye.  (See below for background.)  A similar campaign was waged against candidate Elizabeth Patterson in 2007.

    A Council campaign funded and run in a small Benicia district would not be capable of standing up to limitless corporate PAC money.  And Benicia is way too small to be divided into four districts capable of finding and supporting multiple competitive candidates across the political spectrum.

    In many cities, district voting makes sense as a measure to strengthen and empower concentrated minority groups.  Note that I am decidedly in FAVOR of empowering minority voting strength, especially when it comes to racial and ethnic minorities.  Most of us would agree.  But Benicia’s racial and ethnic mix is not concentrated in any linear district – so district voting would do absolutely nothing to advance minority voting strength.

    What about other sub-groups in geographically defined parts of Benicia?

    Our Southampton hills 1) is already represented by Mr. Largaespada, 2) could have elected Kari Birdseye as a Southampton neighbor if she hadn’t been targeted and smeared, and 3) had Mark Hughes as a resident Council member for years.  I’m guessing Southampton probably had a few more Council members going back before my time.

    A case CAN probably be made that Benicia’s East Side has been underrepresented over the years – but district voting would create more problems than it would fix for Eastsiders.  IMPORTANT: How could an underfunded campaign in a smaller population on the East side possibly put up a fight against Valero and organized labor?!

    CORRECTION: A kind reader has pointed out that current Council member Tom Campbell lives on Benicia’s East side.  Campbell and former Council member Jan Cox-Golovich live in a section of town north of Military and just EAST of an imaginary First Street dividing line.

    MY CONCLUSION: District voting would only give outside big money greater strength to stack our City Council.


    Your voice is important!


    BACKGROUND ON BENICIA’S 2018 CORPORATE SMEAR CAMPAIGN

      • My background article on Jan 6, 2020 with quote from SF Chronicle, stating over $200,000 was spent by the Valero PAC.  My comment: “Kari ran for City Council in 2018 in a field of 4, competing for 2 seats on Council.  Only she didn’t just run against her opponents.  She ran against a $200,000-plus smear campaign orchestrated by Benicia Valero Refinery and its friends in organized labor.  The three major candidates’ campaigns spent less than $30,000 each, while Valero saturated our phone lines, mailboxes, newspapers and social media with misinformation and ugly photos.”
      • My post-election call on Nov 12 2018 for Council action to reform campaign spending – including comparison of the $200,000 with candidate spending of under $30,000 each.
      • My Oct 28 2018 article just before the Nov election which reported a smear campaign total of $155,000 as of that time. My  comment in that article: “News broke in late September that a major worldwide corporate power had bullied its way into our local democratic process.  Valero Services Inc., based in Texas but with 115 subsidiaries in Delaware, Michigan, Canada and several wealthy Caribbean nations, decided it wanted to buy a seat on the Benicia City Council. Their first strategy was to spend an unknown amount of money to employ two national firms, EMC Research and Research America, to conduct a nasty telephone “push poll,” blatantly mischaracterizing and demeaning one candidate for Council and painting rosy pictures of two others.  When our City Attorney challenged the polling firms, Valero Refinery executive Don Wilson admitted that Valero paid for the poll, but neither he nor the polling firms would comply with our demands for more information.”
      • Weekly and daily reporting of details as the smear campaign unfolded: beniciaindependent.com/?s=birdseye
    Share...

      Benicia Rep. Grayson’s campaign financial report

      Tim Grayson’s re-election campaign gave $30,000 to state Dem party

      VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD, January 7, 2020

      Assemblyman Tim Grayson’s re-election campaign spent more than it took in during the month of December, according to a contributed report submitted to the California Secretary of State.

      The campaign gave $30,000 to the California Democratic Party on Dec. 30, and $4,700 to the Jones-Sawyer for Assembly 2020 campaign.

      Reginald Jones-Sawyer is seeking re-election to the California State Assembly District 59, which represents most of South Los Angeles. State contribution rules cap the donations from individuals, businesses, and political action committees at $4,700 per election for state Senate and Assembly candidates.

      Grayson’s campaign also donated $1,100 to the Democratic Party of Contra Costa on Dec. 11, contribution reports show.

      The campaign received $2,000 each from the DuPont chemicals company, PepsiCo food company, $1,700 from the Zenith Insurance Company, $1,500 each from Firefly, and Zuffa, LLC.

      It also reported receiving $1,300 from Allstate Insurance Company, $1,300 from Mallinckrodt pharmaceutical company, and $1,000 each from the John Edward (Jed) York & Affiliated Entities, including the Forty Niners Football Company, LLC, and Verizon.

      Grayson is seeking a third term representing California State Assembly District 14, which includes the cities of Vallejo, Benicia, Martinez, Concord, Pleasant Hill, among others.

      He is running unopposed.

      Share...

        I remember the Benicia smear campaign of 2018

        Benicia electoral campaign reform – 2018 is the reason for fundamental reform

        By Roger Straw, January 6, 2020
        Kari Birdseye, Chair, Benicia Planning Commission

        For a quick review of the nasty campaign against my friend Kari Birdseye, just search the Benicia Independent for “birdseye.”

        Kari ran for City Council in 2018 in a field of 4, competing for 2 seats on Council.  Only she didn’t just run against her opponents.  She ran against a $200,000-plus smear campaign orchestrated by Benicia Valero Refinery and its friends in organized labor.

        The three major candidates’ campaigns spent less than $30,000 each, while Valero saturated our phone lines, mailboxes, newspapers and social media with misinformation and ugly photos.

        All four candidates came out in opposition to Valero’s big-money dirty tactics.

        Shortly after the election, almost exactly a year ago, the Benicia City Council decided – unanimously – to do something about dirty campaigns like the 2018 election.  As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on January 14, 2019:

        “Valero spent $200,000 in last year’s Benicia city council election to help elect two candidates who were less critical of the company than others. That’s created tension between the oil refiner and the city, leading people to question how much influence Valero should have in local politics. On Tuesday Benicia will discuss the possibility of new campaign finance laws that could limit corporate influence in its small town.”

        The Council directed its Open Government Commission (OGC) to consider updates and amendments to the City’s three campaign ordinances.  The OGC appointed a subcommittee which took nearly a year to review a zillion suggestions gathered from you and me – and from Valero (!) and other local businesses and organizations.

        This Tuesday, the Benicia City Council will discuss the report and recommendations of the Open Government Commission.  The City Attorney recommended against some of the recommendations, perhaps with good reason: some are covered by California law, and some could be challenged in court as indefensible.  Others that are not supported should be addressed by Council.

        But note that the heart of the OGC recommendations are recommended by City staff, including the City Attorney, for passage.  [AGENDA & Staff Reports here]

        Council should not forget its unanimous desire for reform following the ugly campaign of 2018.  COUNCIL SHOULD VOTE YES on Tuesday, January 7.

        Share...