Valero PAC floods Benicia with misleading mailers under new name

By Roger Straw, October 28, 2022
[LATER – see also: Valero PAC spent $35,000 for phone polling, total now at $46,700]

Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

Yesterday, residents of Benicia received slick mailers that misleadingly showed images of Benicia Mayor Steve Young and Vice-Mayor Tom Campbell supporting Valero’s preferred candidates for Benicia City Council.

In fine print at bottom, the mailer discloses that it is paid for by “Progress for Benicia” a previously unknown Political Action Committee (PAC), “Supporting Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada for Benicia City Council 2022.”

More about the mailers below, but first…

The “Progress for Benicia” PAC is Valero, under a new name – here’s how we know:

Yesterday, Benicia’s City Clerk posted two new campaign finance reports submitted by the new PAC, showing Paul Adler as “Responsible Officer.” Adler is the refinery’s Director of Government Affairs & Community Relations. The new PAC’s reports appear on the City Clerk’s page along with the notation, “(Formerly named Working Families for a Strong Benicia)”.

A slick mailer, designed to fool Benicians and to protect the PAC

Here’s the mailer. Note at top left, “Re-elect Strawbridge & Largaespada” and at right, the photos of Mayor Young and Vice Mayor Campbell.

If this comes to your door and you’ve not been paying much attention, you will clearly assume the entire City Council supports these two candidates. You will spend about 30 seconds looking at the mailer and dump it.

The Valero PAC will look all innocent and point out that the front of the mailer is all about how their candidates enable the 5-member Council to cooperate to “get things done.” Yeah, sure. That’s really slick, guys. Enough, maybe for a 2023 bonus for your PR team?

Public finance records skimpy at this time…

As of now, we know very little about the Valero PAC’s new identity. What is known comes from two nearly identical reports submitted to Benicia’s City Clerk on October 27.

  • Largaespada – click to enlarge

    One report, supporting Largaespada, shows a single expenditure of $4,349.31 on October 26, for a mailer, with the notation, “Cumulative to date total $27,198.61; TRUSTED MESSENGER MARKETING, 137 MAIN STREET, LOS ALAMOS, CA

  • Strawbridge – click to enlarge

    A second report, supporting Strawbridge, shows another expenditure of $4,349.30, also with the notation, “Cumulative to date total $27,198.61; TRUSTED MESSENGER MARKETING, 137 MAIN STREET, LOS ALAMOS, CA

  • IMPORTANT: Public records as of today do not give any accounting for the remaining $37,000 in the cumulative totals the PAC says it has spent. (Note this amount is a correction from my original report. Earlier, previously undisclosed PAC reports gave a fuller picture. See UPDATE: VALERO PAC SPENT $35,000 FOR PHONE POLLING, TOTAL NOW AT $46,700.)
  • ALSO IMPORTANT: These two campaign finance reports have no information as to where the PAC got its funds, or how much cash remains on hand. One might speculate that the Valero-backed $232,387 the PAC reported earlier this year were shifted to the new PAC.
  • NOTE that both mailers claim the PAC has not coordinated with either candidate’s campaign. In this way, theirs is an INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE with explicitly and publicly disclosed support of the two candidates they want us to elect.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if/when we learn more.

Roger Straw
The Benicia Independent

Previously on the BenIndy…