Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

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.

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    Valero set aside $200,000 in November 2019 to influence Benicia’s 2020 election

    Here we go again – Valero, refinery labor unions and big outside money plan to take over our Benicia elections like they did in 2018.  We (or they) will elect a Mayor and two City Council members.  Will it be another dirty smear campaign?  – R.S.

    Benicia committee receives $200,000 from Valero

    Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Glidden, February 7, 2020

    BENICIA — While many of the active political campaigns in town were quiet during the second half of 2019, a special general purpose recipient committee received $200,000 in cash from the Valero Benicia Refinery, according to contribution forms submitted to the Benicia City Clerk’s Office.

    The committee, Working Families for a Strong Benicia, a Coalition of Labor, Industrial Services Companies, received the donation on Nov. 20. It reported a cash balance of $248,111 at the end of the year.

    The committee was active during the Benicia City Council elections in 2018, raising thousands of dollars from Valero, unions, and businesses. The committee actively supported Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge and Councilmember Lionel Largaespada, while opposing unsuccessful council candidate Kari Birdseye.

    All open campaign committee were required to submit reports on Jan. 31, 2020 for the period covering July 1 through Dec. 31, 2019.

    Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson reported having a cash balance of $1,277 at the end of 2019, while Strawbridge reported a zero balance after paying herself back $1,500 of a $4,000 loan she gave her committee. She forgave the rest.

    Largaespada said he had a $95 balance as councilmembers Tom Campbell and Steve Young reported no action.

    The Progressive Democrats of Benicia picked up $180 from Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. The club reported a cash balance of $1,196 on Dec. 31.

    Finally, the Benicia Police Officers’ Association reported no action during the same time period. It ended the year with $4,581 in cash.

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      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
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        Benicia Crude By Rail remembered in today’s news

        [Today’s news is welcome.  Rep. Garamendi doesn’t represent Benicia, but he does represent uprail cities that would have been affected by Valero’s dangerous and dirty proposal to bring oil trains across California.  Garamendi’s bill, HR 5553, has 4 co-sponsors, but does not include Benicia’s representative Mike Thompson.  Let’s hope Mike will get behind this effort!  – R.S.]

        John Garamendi introduces crude-by-rail safety bill

        Vallejo Times-Herald, by Nick Sestanovich, January 9, 2020
        U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, CA 3rd District

        Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced legislation Wednesday to ensure safer standards for the transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials by train.

        House Resolution 5553, also known as the “Crude By Rail Volatility Standards Act,” aims to establish a safety standard for the maximum volatility for crude oils and similar materials transported by rail. It also requires that all crude by rail in America adhere to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure for crude-oil futures contracts of 9.5 pounds per square inch, Garamendi’s office wrote in a news release.

        The current industry standard would remain in place until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) completes the rule setting a maximum volatility standard that was first announced in 2017 after the attorneys general of six states, including California, petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation and PHMSA to finalize the regulation nationwide.

        “Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil-by-rail, lives are at risk,” Garamendi said in a statement. “My bill simply requires oil companies to decrease the volatility to market levels, rather than carrying unstable products through communities. I am committed to enacting this legislation into law this year as part of the surface transportation reauthorization.”

        Garamendi, who is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been trying to get legislation passed since 2015 to prohibit crude oil from being transported by rail unless it adheres to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure. Garamendi’s office wrote that the actions were influenced by numerous crude-by-rail derailments in previous years, including an accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013 which killed 47 people and led to changes in operations for Canadian railways.

        The topic of crude by rail became a hot-button issue in Solano County in 2013 when the Valero Benicia Refinery announced plans to extend rail lines to have crude-oil delivered to its plant by train rather than by boat. The project — which would have passed through Dixon, Suisun City and Fairfield — was met with opposition and was subsequently voted down by the Benicia Planning Commission and then the City Council.

        Garamendi’s co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Bill Foster, D-Ill.; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

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