Category Archives: “Push poll”

VIDEO: City Council announcement of legal action on push poll

Excerpt from Benicia City Council video, October 2, 2018

This 7 minute video begins with City Attorney Heather McLaughlin reporting action taken by the Council in closed session to initiate legal action on the recent “push poll” attack, and includes comments by Vice Mayor Steve Young, Council member Tom Campbell and Mayor Elizabeth Patterson. (See transcript and relevant section of Benicia’s Municipal Code below…)


City Attorney Heather McLaughlin announcement on 10/2/2018:
“We also met in closed session on conference with legal counsel regarding anticipated litigation and the initiation of litigation regarding potential enforcement of Benicia Municipal Code Section 140, and this is regarding the push poll that came out in recent days. The Council gave me direction regarding initiating a lawsuit on this. The concern is that the poll did not comply with the disclosure requirements of the ordinance. As follow-up to that, I have been directed to contact the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding enforcement of the disclosure rules. And I’m also to send a letter to EMC and to Research America informing them about our ordinance and demanding that they provide us the questions and who paid for the poll. And then finally, we’re going to provide a press release. And I think some of the Council members would like to add onto that. That was a four-one decision.”

Benicia Municipal Code Section 140
(download PDF or go to City of Benicia website)  Here is a relevant subsection:

1.40.042 Disclaimer requirements for campaign communications funded by independent expenditures.

A. Campaign communications funded by an independent expenditure supporting or opposing city candidates or city measures shall include the phrase “Not authorized by a candidate,” and shall also include the name of any contributor of $2,500 or more made in the past six months to a committee funding the independent expenditure, in the phrase “Major Funding Provided By [Name of Contributor(s)].” Expenditures of $2,500 or more that are earmarked for any other candidate or ballot measure outside of the city of Benicia need not be disclosed.

B. The disclosures required by this section shall be presented in a clear and conspicuous manner to give the reader, observer or listener adequate notice, as specified below:

1. For printed campaign communications that measure no more than 24 inches by 36 inches, all disclosure statements required by this section shall be printed using a typeface that is easily legible to an average reader or viewer, but is not less than 10-point type in contrasting color to the background on which it appears. For printed campaign communications larger than this size in area, all disclosure statements shall constitute at least five percent of the height of the material and shall be printed in contrasting color.

2. For video broadcasts including television, satellite and cable campaign communications, the information shall be both written and spoken either at the beginning or at the end of the communication, except that if the disclosure statement is written for at least five seconds of a broadcast of 30 seconds or less or 10 seconds of a 60-second broadcast, a spoken disclosure statement is not required. The written disclosure statement shall be of sufficient size to be readily legible to an average viewer and air for not less than four seconds.

3. For audio, telephone call or radio advertisement campaign communications, the disclosures shall be spoken in a clearly audible manner at the same speed and volume as the rest of the telephone call or radio advertisement at the beginning or end of the communication and shall last at least three seconds.

C. For purposes of this section, “campaign communication” means any of the following items:

1. More than 200 substantially similar pieces of campaign literature distributed within a calendar month, including but not limited to mailers, flyers, faxes, pamphlets, door hangers, e-mails, campaign buttons 10 inches in diameter or larger, and bumper stickers 60 square inches or larger;

2. Posters, yard or street signs, billboards, supergraphic signs and similar items;

3. Television, cable, satellite and radio broadcasts;

4. Newspaper, magazine, Internet website banners and similar advertisements;

5. Two hundred or more substantially similar live or recorded telephone calls made within a calendar month.


    Benicia City Council directs city attorney to take action against push poll

    Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

    Benicia City Council directs city attorney to take action against push poll

    By JOHN GLIDDEN, October 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    BENICIA — Fearing an outside group or person is attempting to negatively influence the City Council elections, councilors took action Tuesday night.

    The council in closed session directed City Attorney Heather McLaughlin to contact the California Fair Political Practices Commission in response to a series of calls residents received that some say smeared one of the council candidates.

    “When an outside force appears to be engaging in activities that are outside of the ordinance and not disclosing who they are — I think we have no choice but to move forward,” Vice Mayor Steve Young said in the meeting.

    Several residents, including Young, have received a phone call from Research America, Inc., asking to conduct a survey about the City Council, senatorial and gubernatorial contests. However, Young says that most of the questions centered on candidates Kari Birdseye and Lionel Largaespada.

    “The statements about Mr. Largaespada were uniformly positive and stated how, for example, he would use his small business background to improve the city’s economy and relations with its businesses,” Young wrote in a Sept. 20 letter published by the Benicia Independent. “The statements about Ms. Birdseye were the opposite. Among these statements were ‘She wants to shut down Valero, costing hundreds of jobs,’ and ‘She will bring radical left-wing politics to City Hall.’”

    A representative with the data collection company Research America previously confirmed to the Times-Herald that the business was hired to conduct the survey by EMC. Representatives with that group didn’t return calls for comment.

    McLaughlin was also directed Tuesday to contact Research America, Inc. and EMC Research about the survey, and ask for a copy of the questions asked and provide information on who paid for the poll.

    At issue is the alleged failure of the companies to disclose who paid for the poll — a violation of the Benicia Municipal Code.

    Many have called the survey a push poll. Such polls are meant to sway public opinion instead of recording objective information from those surveyed.

    Councilman Tom Campbell also spoke during Tuesday’s meeting stating that residents support having fair elections in town.

    Campbell, who spearhead a campaign reform initiative in 2009, said he got 1,200 signatures during that time with only five people expressing doubt about the initiative. The rest supported the item, he said.

    “Ninety-nine percent of the people want the same thing. They want to be fairly informed of who is actually backing a candidate. They want the elections to be clean, and they want people, who spend money on elections, to disclose how much money they spent,” he said Tuesday.

    Campbell further said that if Research America and EMC won’t provide answers that are necessary for the city to go to court for those answers.


      Benicia City Attorney investigating outsider election smear campaign

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
      [Editor: Vice Mayor Steve Young and many others who received the call have been perfectly clear about the smear tactics of the “push poll” callers who have spread misinformation and lies about candidate Kari Birdseye.  Kari’s opponents have publicly raised questions about whether there even was a bias (see  Largaespada’s and Strawbridge’s highlighted comments  below).  For a detailed and accurate description of the blatant bias, see Steve Young: Benicia voters should be wary of fake polls.  Kudos to City Attorney Heather McLaughlin for looking into this.  Learn the truth about Kari Birdseye at  – R.S.]

      Benicia officials looking into push poll incident

      By John Glidden, October 1, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      BENICIA — City Attorney Heather McLaughlin has launched an investigation into whether the city’s campaign ordinances were violated after several residents reported receiving a survey call about the current Benicia City Council candidates.

      McLaughlin confirmed last week that she will be meeting with the City Council in closed session on Tuesday about possibility initiating litigation in response to the calls.

      The calls came to light after Vice Mayor Steve Young wrote a letter, first posted on the Benicia Independent website, stating he received one of the calls from Research America, Inc, a data collection company which has multiple branches throughout the United States.

      Young said the call originated from a Saratoga phone number, and the pollster said she would be asking questions about the City Council, senatorial and gubernatorial contests. However, Young alleges that only questions about the council were asked.

      He further said that the person asked a few questions about Christina Strawbridge, and none about William Emes, however, “there were lots of questions about Lionel Largaespada and Kari Birdseye.”

      “The statements about Mr. Largaespada were uniformly positive and stated how, for example, he would use his small business background to improve the City’s economy and relations with its businesses,” Young wrote. “The statements about Ms. Birdseye were the opposite. Among these statements were ‘She wants to shut down Valero, costing hundreds of jobs,’ and ‘She will bring radical left-wing politics to City Hall.’”

      Young said the call was a push poll. Such polls are meant to sway public opinion instead of recording objective information from those surveyed.

      Reached by phone Monday, a Research America employee, who declined to give his name, said the company was paid to “collect data as an opinion poll only.”

      He also denied the poll was meant to sway voters. However, the employee confirmed EMC Research paid for the poll. A representative of the company couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

      McLaughlin said her investigation centers on whether the pollsters disclosed who paid for the campaign poll.

      “It is a little hard to say what section (the polls) are violating since we don’t know enough about the poll,” she wrote in an email, first reported by the Benicia Herald. “If the poll is paid for by a candidate there are rules for that. If it is paid for by an independent committee there are rules for that. All of it basically boils down to disclosure. They should be disclosing who is behind the poll.”

      In a letter posted online, Largaespada said he had “no involvement whatsoever with this poll.”

      “I do not know who is conducting it, and it was done with no input or permission from me,” he wrote. “ I have heard from many residents about the poll, and I have heard many different opinions on how it was conducted – ranging from Steve’s claim that it is biased towards me, to residents who found it equally balanced, to others who thought it was negative-sounding towards me. As with most topics, people have differing reactions and take always based on their own beliefs and opinions. 

      Largaespada said he is against push polling as it doesn’t benefit anyone.

      A blog post on Birdseye’s campaign page, “When they go low, we go high,” said the campaign had nothing to do with the poll.

      “However, the telephone pollster offered lies about me and flattering comments about one of the other candidates,” she wrote.

      Birdseye followed up by responding to Largaespada’s comments about the poll.

      “The favored candidate has publicly denied involvement. I believe him, but then he claims that the poll wasn’t necessarily biased,” she wrote. “He suggests that people hear what they want to hear.  But many Benicians have reported that the push poll is an obvious attempt to smear my good name.”

      Strawbridge also said she does not favor push polling.

      “It has no place in our town’s election process. That said, during most of the elections I have participated in, there has been influence coming from both outside and inside Benicia. At times the facts have not always been true for or against a candidate,” Strawbridge wrote in an email to the Times-Herald on Monday. “Since I was not surveyed  and there have been conflicting reports about the content of the questions , more information is needed as to the who and the what of the poll.”

      She further said forums are a great way to find out where candidates stand on important issues.

      Financial records submitted by the three campaigns last week to the Benicia City Clerk’s Office show that none hired EMC or Research America to conduct the poll.


        Alarm bells in Benicia and beyond… what next?

        The Tenor of our Times

        Related imageIf you are on the Benicia Independent email list, I can pretty much be sure that your alarm bells – like mine – are going off.  A sampling…

        • Christine Blasey Ford and others accuse Judge Kavanaugh – the #MeToo movement and an FBI investigation
        • A “push poll” with Benicia election meddling by outside forces
        • Positive and effective support for one or more local City Council candidates
        • The Trump administration’s alarming “rollback” on oil train braking regulations
        • Urgent calls to help “flip” California congressional districts from red to blue
        • Continuing detention of immigrant children and families at our border
        • Deadlines for financial contributions needed for countless important causes
        • A Benicia resident – a neighbor – arrested and charged as the NorCal Rapist!

        …and of course, I could go on.  I confess that it all leaves me somewhat at a loss, personally.  We’ve been on alert since The Donald won the presidential election, vowing to stand vigilant, to resist, to move the country back into the progressive mainstream.  But we’re tired.  How do we cope?

        I take slivers of hope from a few recent sources:

        • Earlier this month, Barack Obama slammed the Trump administration and addressed us all in a speech at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  The line that stood out to me and continues to hold me up was, “If you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better.”  And, “Better is good….Better is good.”

          Image result for barack obamaMaking democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. And it also means appreciating that progress does not happen all at once, but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better….Better is good.

        • Image result for flake and coons
          Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons

          Now just yesterday, we saw a composed survivor of sexual assault and a historically intemperate and deeply suspect judicial candidate followed by two US Senators, a Democrat and a Republican, reaching a sensible compromise on the horns of the partisan dilemma in the U.S. Senate.  Watching the proceedings from afar, we sat by, most of us helpless and dreading the outcome.  But those who could, opted for public outrage, with signs and shouting.  A few incredibly brave ones went public with their stories, and two made history confronting a Republican Senator in an elevator booth.  The combined efforts of all these activists stopped the elevator ride for Brett Kavanaugh – at least for a week.  Definitely NOT perfect… but BETTER.

        • Here in Benicia, the clearly partisan attack of a telephone “push poll” could have powerful electoral results going into our local election.  We probably will never know to what degree.  Yet, it’s GOOD that our City Attorney is looking into it, with a tough communication to the company that was hired to phone us with an attack on Kari Birdseye and thinly disguised promotional statements for one of her opponents.  It’s good that the City’s Image result for push pollOpen Government Commission will hold a last-minute public hearing on November 3rd, giving candidates a chance to defend against hit pieces and misinformation.  It’s good that there are a number of public hearings in our small town where we can go listen to and ask questions of the candidates themselves.  See the schedule of forums at
        • Here in Benicia, I have come under personal attack for favoring one candidate, Kari Birdseye, over other credible opponents.  The Solano County Democrats and Progressive Democrats have been criticized for endorsing only Kari while the Labor Council and its member unions endorse without blame.  (Well, except for complaints by some of our Benicia teachers, who resent the controlling influence over their endorsement by the Labor Council.)  Kari Birdseye is in my opinion far and away the most environmentally aware, progressive and highly qualified candidate for City Council.  I personally hope that Christina Strawbridge comes in second.  It will be great – no, GREAT – in this #MeToo year to have 3 qualified women on our City Council.  But my first priority has been and remains, to secure a seat for Kari Birdseye.  See more at
        • Image result for facts speak louder than wordsHere in Benicia, there are excellent substantiated reasons why NOT to vote for City Council candidate Lionel Largaespada.  His registration as a Republican aside, he stood with Valero and Texas executives and attorneys in favor of dangerous and dirty oil trains cutting over the mountains and through California to Benicia.  He was paid to help defeat a 2012 California tobacco tax initiative that would have funded cancer research.  His friendly outreach and community service is notable, but he is undeniably a supporter of big business, and has demonstrated that he was impervious to community activist’s efforts to educate and organize for environmental health and the safety of the community.  Let’s cast our votes and hope that the Council can proceed without that kind of drag on a bright future for our beloved city.
        • Finally, here in Benicia our local news is disappearing.  Cutbacks at the Benicia Herald and the Vallejo Times-Herald have meant that increasingly, regular citizens have no idea what is going on at City Hall.  We are assuredly in a “news desert.”  As of this writing, yesterday was Benicia Herald editor Nick Sestanovich’s last day, and there’s no news as yet as to his replacement.  GivenImage result for news desertsthe Benicia Herald’s poor track record of owner support for staff AND the hard financial times for print media in general, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the paper close.  Wait and see.  (Nick’s good-bye is a poignant moment in local news.)
          The Vallejo paper covers Vallejo, with only an occasional nod to Benicia news.  Mostly we only see press releases issued by the city of Benicia and police and fire departments.  The Times-Herald  can only do so much with so few staff since Katy St. Clair was let go.  (Note that both Nick and Katy went to work in Vacaville.  No news desert up there.)
          Where can we look for BETTER here?  Not perfect, but better?  Increasingly, we must rely on digital media, like The Benicia Independent, NextDoor, Facebook’s BeniciaHappenings, Patch, and Google groups like BeniciaResist!  Definitely far from perfect.  Let’s make those sources BETTER.

        Well, if you made it through this lengthy analysis, you deserve a thanks and kudos.  I’ll try to be more regular with my newsletters in the future.  Nice chatting with you – let’s all make Benicia a BETTER place.

        Roger Straw