Bombshell news: Valero admits it paid for the push poll

Benicia City Attorney Heather McLaughlin’s letter of October 5, 2018 to attorney for EMC Research and Research America (download in PDF format)…
[Editor: See next-to-final paragraph for Valero involvement.  – R.S.]
Via US Mail and Email

October 5, 2018

Gary S. Winuk
777 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 4050
Los Angeles, CA 90017

RE: Polling in Benicia California by Research America and EMC Research

Dear Mr. Winuk:

Thank you for your letter and your telephone calls. As I mentioned to you on the call yesterday, the City Council has directed me to send this letter to Research America and EMC Research. I understand you represent them.

The City of Benicia wishes to inform you that the City has several election related ordinances. You may find copies of the ordinances on line at   Chapters 1.36, 1.40 and 1.42 are the main election ordinances. In particular, I draw your attention to Chapter 1.40 “Disclosure of Contributions and Expenditures in Candidate and Ballot Measure Elections.” From the reports I received, the polling by your clients may have contained “push” questions without disclosing the payor and amount spent. The caller also did not provide a “paid for by” disclaimer at the end of the phone calls.

In order to avoid having to issue a subpoena, I would ask that you voluntarily provide a copy of the poll questions to me within the next 72 hours.

The City believes strongly that an open, fair and truthful election process is essential to promoting and improving public trust in the election process. The City also believes that candidates should have meaningful opportunities to respond to claims about their qualifications and positions on issues. For these reasons the City Council asked me to request that you file the required disclosure reports for any future push polls that meet the definition of an independent expenditure and provide a disclaimer on them.

The City also requests the following information related to the current poll:

  1. The actual questions used in the poll.
  2. An itemized invoice showing the dates, times and number of calls made.

After you and I spoke yesterday, I received a call from Don Wilson, the Vice President and General Manager of the Valero Benicia Refinery. He informed me that Valero sponsored the calls so we no longer need to know who authorized the poll. I appreciate Valero’s willingness to help address the City’s concerns.

I am providing a copy of Chapter 1.40 for your reference. The City asks that you comply with the Benicia Municipal Code.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Very Truly Yours,

Heather C. Mc Laughlin
City Attorney


cc:  City Council
City Clerk
City Manager
Assistant City Manager
Steve Churchwell
Don Wilson