Polling companies decline to provide Benicia with survey questions

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor – Thanks to Times-Herald reporter John Glidden for requesting poll questions and call data from Valero. The polling companies refuse to comply with City Attorney McLaughlin’s request, but Valero paid for the poll and thus owns the poll information. So far, not a word from Valero. BUT… guess what. There’s a NEW campaign phone poll going around, openly promoting 2 of Kari Birdseye’s opponents and smearing her.  My guess is that the wording for this new poll is based squarely on the results of Valero’s incendiary push poll.  Sponsors of the new poll and the candidates they endorse are benefiting from Valero’s shady research.  – R.S.]

Polling companies decline to provide survey questions

By JOHN GLIDDEN , October 11, 2018 at 4:17 pm

BENICIA — The City Council will strategize in closed session once again about an alleged “push poll” incident after two polling firms have refused to provide a copy of the survey questions that were asked to residents in September.

Gary Winuk, with the Los Angles-based Kaufman Legal Group, which represents Research America and EMC Research, sent a three-page letter to City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin on Wednesday arguing that the council’s request for the questions was improper.

“This requested disclosure of information is particularly inappropriate where the city is making the request and the poll explored subject responses to statements regarding City Council candidates whose campaigns are being personally supported by current members of the council,” Winuk wrote. “The city should not place itself in the position of immersing itself in the back and forth of electoral politics by attempting to force the public disclosure of confidential poll information.”

Vice Mayor Steve Young reported in a Sept. 20 letter first published by the Benicia Independent that he received such a survey call, with the questions allegedly smearing Benicia council candidate Kari Birdseye while championing fellow council candidate Lionel Largaespada.

Asked for comment about Wednesday’s letter and Winuk’s assertion of impropriety by the council, Young said all the councilors have endorsed candidates in the council race.

“However,  I imagine they may be targeting me since I was one of the Benicia voters who actually received and took the poll, and then reported on the nature of the questions. Fortunately, there are many more people who reported not only receiving the poll, but also confirming the biased nature of the questions,” Young wrote in an email to the Times-Herald. “The attorneys claim it is not a push poll, but by simply complying with the City’s request to provide a complete list of the questions, that question could be put to rest. Now, all we have is their word.”

Young has called the survey a “push poll,” which is a type of survey meant to influence voters instead of gathering objective survey information from those called.

Representatives from the Valero Benicia Refinery have already admitted to Benicia City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin that the refinery paid for the polling that was carried out by the polling firms Research America, and EMC Research.

Young said he doesn’t know if Winuk represents Valero as well.

“We have not heard anything directly from Valero; only a conversation between the City Attorney and Valero General Manager Don Wilson in which Wilson admitted Valero paid for the poll,” Young added. “And since they did pay for the poll, the requested information should be their property, and be made available to the city.”

Wilson has not returned requests by this newspaper for comment on the poll and a copy of the survey questions.

Winuk further reiterated in his Wednesday letter that the poll was done to gather feedback from Benicia voters “on issues relevant to the upcoming election.”

The Benicia City Council met in closed session on Oct. 2 to talk about the survey and whether it may have violated the city’s municipal code when the pollsters failed to state who paid for the polling. Winuk has maintained that the poll was not a campaign communication and thus didn’t need a “paid-for” disclaimer.

Councilors at that time directed Mc Laughlin to investigate and find out who paid for the polling and receive a copy of the questions asked.

The Council is scheduled to meet in closed session on Tuesday.