Probst denounces statements made in independent push poll

When staunch Republican Lynda Wilson got a phone call at her Clark County home from a pollster — and when that pollster began bad mouthing state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver — Wilson sprang into action.

She put the call on speaker and began recording the conversation with her cell phone. She then posted the audio on Youtube. What she captured was apparently a push poll designed to spread negative statements about Republican candidates in the 17th Legislative District.

The poll, which included several factual errors about Benton, has been denounced by Benton’s political challenger, state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver.

Probst said the poll is “the exact opposite of how our democracy should be practiced.” He said the poll didn’t come from his campaign and that it’s obviously the work of an independent group.

Probst and Benton have signed the League of Women Voters of Clark County’s clean campaign pledge. The pledge, which isn’t enforceable by law, states that the candidates will campaign truthfully and will denounce lies about their opponents that are spread by independent groups.

The pollster who called Wilson on Saturday evening, when pressed, said she works for a national research company. She failed to pronounce the candidates’ names correctly. She asked Wilson if any of the following statements would make her more likely or less likely to vote for Benton.

The statements she read included at least a couple of errors:

  1. Benton took the maximum per diem allowed during the special session on the budget. (Actually, Benton took most of the per diem, but there were some days when he did not.)

  2. Benton failed to sign the clean campaign pledge. (Though somewhat late to the game, Benton did sign the pledge last month.)

In the audio Wilson recorded, she scoffed at the suggestion that Benton was fined by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. That actually is true.

In 2000, the PDC determined that seven campaign donors had given Benton more that they were legally allowed to, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said this week. Those donors gave a total of $2,250 more than they were supposed to. Benton quickly refunded the money and ended up paying a $150 fine.

Benton used the push poll to take a shot at Probst.

“We have already proven that my opponent is not to be trusted,” Benton said on his Facebook page while also providing a link to audio of the poll.

Probst said he was disappointed to hear that his opponents assumed he was behind the push poll.

Wilson tried to find out exactly who was responsible for the call she received. She called the number back (702-727-3713) and only heard an audio recording about the importance of public opinion surveys.

By email, Wilson said she was “so upset with the questions being asked” by the pollster because the statements “were so very blatantly misleading.”

Are you coming across any questionable mailers, polls or other campaign messages this fall? Feel free to tell me all about them.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or or or

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