How Survey Programs Dupe Voters: Public Advocate / Stockman Case Study

How Survey Programs Dupe Voters: Public Advocate / Stockman Case Study

In Part One of my piece published at Breitbart Texas, I looked at how political campaigns and their allies use the tactic of Survey Programs, sometimes in deceptive ways.

In Part Two, I’ll look at a specific survey results email that went out to Texas voters a couple of weeks ago from a Virginia based group called Public Advocate, whose president Eugene Delgaudio issued the following statement on the group’s website:

Public Advocate is telling Texas supporters by electronic mail, by facebook, and by direct mail which Senate Candidates have returned the survey and who has not returned the survey.

All Texas Senate candidates, in both major parties, were written by certified mail at their registered addresses and by regular mail, and given nearly a month to complete and return Public Advocate’s Senate Candidate 2014 surveys. All signed for the surveys last January, more than a month ago today.

Three candidates for U.S. Senate returned the 2014 Public Advocate Senate Candidate Survey: Congressman Steve Stockman, Mr. Curt Cleaver and Mr. Chris Mapp.

The other ten candidates, including incumbent Senator John Cornyn, and others failed to return their surveys despite signing for them.

We are asking thousands of supporters in Texas to respectfully request the pro-family surveys to be filled out from ten (10) candidates who’s surveys are currently unreturned, from Senator John Cornyn, Dwayne Stovall, Reid Reasor, Linda Vega, Ken Cope, David Alameel, Michael Fjetland, Harry Kim, Maxey Scherr and Kesha Rogers.

All these candidates were informed that failure to return their survey would be graded as recieving (sic) a 0% Pro-Family rating from Public Advocate. We also state we are not endorsing any candidate or candiates (sic), just reporting who has or has not responded to the survey.

Mr. Delgaudio’s statement makes it sound as though the survey was fair and impartial; a claim disputed by other candidates including Dwayne Stovall’s, who launched a site called SurveySaysDeception.com.

I’m not presenting this article to take an election position, however, and it should be made clear upfront that this activity is almost certainly legal.

However, our investigation shows that the use of the Public Advocate survey also been misleading to the Texas voters. Without doing a lot of research, the average voter has no way of knowing the connections between Delgaudio’s Public Advocate and the Stockman campaign.

Whatever the results of the Texas primary election, understanding the details of Public Advocate survey program in the Stockman primary race will give voters a deeper understanding of why they need to be skeptical of survey programs in general. In this current political climate, it’s voter beware.

Eugene Delgaudio, Donny Ferguson and Steve Stockman

Although the Public Advocate mailing gives the appearance of coming from a neutral, disinterested source there are actually longstanding connections between Public Advocate founder Eugene Delgaudio and own of Rep. Steve Stockman’s closest aides, Donny Ferguson.

Public Advocate describes itself as a pro family-values organization formed in 1981. President Eugen Delgaudio’s own website says he started Public Advocate in 1981. Delgaudio was elected as a County Supervisor in Loundoun County, Virginia in 1999.

Delgaudio, who is known around Washington for his self-proclaimed ‘street theater’ tactics of dressing up in outlandish costumes, is a figure of some controversy. In his role Loundoun Country supervisor, Delgaudio was censured and punished in 2013 by an:

all-Republican board. In July, supervisors voted 6-3 to move all of Delgaudio’s district funds into a corporate board account. That was in addition to an official censure of Delgaudio and the removal of his staff aides as a result of findings by a special grand jury investigating Delgaudio for abusing public office.

Donny Ferguson is a top aide and spokesman for Rep. Steve Stockman. Ferguson has a nearly two decade long history working with Stockman. In thiscandidate questionnaire that Ferguson filled out in 2005, he said that he worked in Stockman’s office during Stockman’s 1995-1997 term as a Congressman. This indicates that Ferguson was working with Stockman before Ferguson turned 21 years old.

Donny Ferguson also worked for Eugene Delgaudio in Loudoun County from 2002 until 2007.

Eugene Delgaudio Lies To Breitbart Texas About Recent Contct With Ferguson

When asked about his connection to Delgaudio told me in no uncertain terms: “I haven’t seen or heard from Donny Ferguson since 2007.” This is false.

Mr. Delgaudio’s claim to have not ‘seen or heard from’ Mr. Ferguson is undermined by numerous pieces of evidence, including interaction on Mr. Ferguson’s Facebook page in 2012.

Further undercutting Delgaudio’s statement to Breitbart Texas is a Loudoun Times report in September, 2013 where Delgaudio was petitioning to hire Ferguson:

Delgaudio’s initial recommendation included in Wednesday’s board packet called for more than $3,700 of public funds to go to the communications firm of Donald Ferguson for graphic design work. Ferguson is a staunchly conservative former staff aide to Delgaudio.

There was precedent to hire his former staffer, as Ferguson had already done work for Delgaudio on a previous newsletter, as shown in an invoice from September 10th, 2013 in this document from the Loudoun County website.

All this documentary research aside, Breitbart Texas has also spoken with people who claim to have seen Ferguson and Delgaudio speaking at public meetings numerous times since 2007.

The desire of both Ferguson and Delgaudio appears to be to keep the public in the dark about their personal connection, in order to make the survey appear objective.

However, the survey program used in the primary election is also suspicious because Donny Ferguson himself created and used surveys as a political tactic.

Stockman Aid Knows Survey Program From Both Sides

Stockman aide Donny Ferguson has his own track record of using survey programs himself against candidates in at least two separate elections.

Ferguson was the Executive Director for a shadowy lobbying group called American Tradition Partnership, also known as ATP.

A November 2011 post by Ferguson on the ATP website shows how he used a survey program to taunt candidates in Eugene Delgaudio’s stomping group. The post says “These Loudoun Board candidates are hiding. Ask them to return their ATP surveys.”

Another Ferguson press release in June 2012 w on the ATP site describes another survey program at work in Montana:

ATP-Montana runs a candidate survey program to identify candidates’ positions on issues related to environmental regulations, property rights, and responsible natural resource development.

Was There Coordination?

Did the Stockman campaign work directly with Delgaudio on the survey program? Both Delgaudio and Ferguson have flatly denied it and there’s no evidence of direct contact.

Ferguson disavowed any connection to the Public Advocate mailer, telling the Texas Tribune:

“Public Advocate has been around since 1981 and has surveyed House and Senate candidates nationwide for decades,” Ferguson said. “We received a survey, filled it out and returned it. No one with the campaign has communicated with Eugene Delgaudio.”

However, the because Ferguson has a working knowledge of how survey programs work and has had a long working relationship with Delgaudio, common sense indicates that at very least there was a sort of “stealth coordination” going on. There was no need for direct communication. It’s a safe assumption that Ferguson knew how to answer the survey and knew that a large email hit from Delgaudio would follow.

So, Ferguson may very well be telling the truth when says “No one with the campaign has communicated with Eugene Delgaudio.” That very narrow statement doesn’t tell the entire picture, however.

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