Campaign to Repeal Gas Tax Holds Contest for Free Fuel, Causing Congestion in Indio

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A political campaign's contest for free gas drew a crowd at a gas station in Indio Monday morning, prompting police to announce that the business was not actually giving away fuel.

Proponents of Proposition 6, which seeks to repeal a gas tax to fund road repair under a $130 billion transportation package enacted by state lawmakers in 2017, said they organized gas card raffles for Monday morning at nine California gas stations, including an Arco on Jefferson Street in Indio.

In a statement sent to the media, the campaign announced "drivers who pledge to support Prop 6 can register for a statewide drawing where one in every 50 people registered during the statewide events will receive a $50 gas card."

A number of news outlets in the Indio area covered the story ahead of the contest. On Monday morning, the Indio Police Department said news of the promotion had caused traffic congestion near Jefferson Street and Avenue 42, and that a local news station had sent out inaccurate information. The agency later said it was not referring to any specific news organization "as it was reported on multiple outlets."

"We are not sure where the information came from but we spoke with the owner of AMPM who said the business is not giving out free gas," the Police Department posted on Facebook.

An individual who responded to the post said she sat in line for an hour. Another person said she's seen videos of people waiting in line.

Dave McCulloch from Reform California, the group sponsoring Prop 6, said wire company City News Service had mischaracterized the event in a story, which was then picked up by some news organizations in the Indio area. A Sunday version of the story from CNS  did note that the promotion involved entering a contest in order to win a gas card.

McCulloch said the contest was held as planned at the Arco in Indio.

Meanwhile, opponents of Prop 6 claimed the event broke the law.

“It is illegal to offer anything of value for a pledge to vote, and our campaign will be taking legal action to address this desperate stunt," spokesperson Robin Swanson said in a statement.

The Prop 6 campaign's announcement of the contest was re-sent without explicitly requiring voters' support in exchange for being able to enter the contest, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune,

Feuding between supporters and and opponents of the measure has been ongoing since it qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot.

In the June primary, a Democrat from Fullerton was recalled after Republicans targeted him for supporting the gas tax increase in the state Senate. L.A. County officials recently alerted voters about an automated phone call claiming there was a ballot "correction" on Prop 6, saying there was no such error. The calls were actually ads from the measure's sponsors, who have been claiming that the ballot language for Prop 6, which begins with  “Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding," was misleading.


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