Benicians for Clean Elections: An open letter to Valero

By Benicians For Clean Elections (BCE), published in the Vallejo Times-Herald, Aug 26, 2022, AND in the Benicia Herald, Sept 4, 2022

To: Valero Energy Corporation
Cc: Valero Benicia Refinery, Working Families for a Strong Benicia Political Action Committee

In the interest of clean elections and clean air, residents of Benicia and surrounding communities ask you, a Texas-based Fortune 50 company, to stop using your “Working Families” political action committee and tremendous resources to influence our city council and mayoral elections.

If you nevertheless persist in funding the PAC, we ask that you limit your spending and campaign practices in order to:

  • Abide by Benicia’s Contribution and Spending Limits Ordinance, which limits individual donations to $640 per candidate, and similarly curtail the PAC’s massive non-donation spending through mailings, ads, phone calls and polling.
  • Abide by Benicia’s Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices, which sets ethical standards for campaign practices.
  • In any Working Families online, printed and other materials, clearly and prominently inform the public that you, Valero, are the main funder of the PAC.

Instead of complying with the Spending Limits Ordinance, the Working Families PAC has spent over 230,000 in each of the last several elections, backing one or two candidates and opposing others. This puts Benicia residents and candidates at a huge disadvantage.

Since the city adopted its campaign finance ordinance, all of the candidates signed a pledge to campaign ethically and abide by the city’s spending limits and standards. Yet, your PAC has never agreed to follow the rules that everyone else must abide by. You are by far the dominant spender on Benicia’s elections, dwarfing the expenditures of all candidates combined.

In the interest of “decency, honesty and fair play,” the Code asks that candidates and PACs pledge to not use “character defamation, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks … including whispering campaigns involving such statements.” Past elections have seen the Working Families PAC violate this prohibition by calling candidates “job killers,” running misleading polls, photo manipulation, misrepresenting candidates’ records, and engaging in harsh, negative campaigning that has divided our community.

Elections have consequences. One can only wonder at your goals and intentions in funneling so much money into elections which should only be decided by Benicia voters. The issues that have been or could be considered by the city council, and that you might look to influence, include:

  • Whether you would bring back to Benicia the potentially deadly “Crude-by-Rail” project proposal that the council defeated in 2016, which would have brought through our industrial park the kind of fuel-carrying railroad cars that derailed, exploded and killed 47 people in a Canadian city in 2013.
  • Your unreported release into Benicia’s air of toxic emissions thousands of times (see correction to follow here) in excess of legal limits, reaching back to 2003.
    • CORRECTION:  “Our letter to Valero included an error in the extent of Valero’s Benicia Refinery emissions. The letter said Valero had failed to report ‘release into Benicia’s air of toxic emissions thousands of times in excess of legal limits, reaching back to 2003.’  That was incorrect.
      Valero released about 4,000 pounds a day in Non-Methane Hydrocarbons. The legal limit for such emissions is 15 pounds. That is hundreds—not thousands—of times over the limit. Valero also released 138 tons of toxic air contaminants from 2003 through 2020. These contaminants included Benzene. This information was presented by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in its community meeting in Benicia.”  – Benicians for Clean Elections
  • Your continual requests to lower your property tax assessment, which impacts city finances.
  • Your relatively low water rate payments, given that you use 60 percent of our raw water.

None of our requests are intended to prevent you or your employees from having a voice in Benicia’s election. We only ask that it not drown out Benicians’ voices.

Nor do we doubt the integrity or dedication of Valero’s hardworking employees, some of them our neighbors. But in order to be a good neighbor, the Corporation needs to contribute to clean elections and clean air.

So, keep your PAC out of our elections.

If you will not do that, then sign Benicia’s Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices, limit your donations to $640 per candidate just like everyone else in Benicia, and similarly limit your non-donation spending through polling, ads, calls and mailings.

Be a good neighbor — make our elections clean and fair.


Benicians for Clean Elections