EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of emails sent to Writers Guild members from former WGA President Patric Verrone soliciting donations for his run for a seat in the California state senate are raising questions about how he got those email addresses and about the ethics of using his years of service to the guild to acquire them. Verrone, who led the guild in a contentious 14-week strike six years ago, is in a tight primary race to represent California’s 26th senatorial district. Numerous guild members report that they have received emails from Verrone soliciting donations and giving updates on his campaign. The WGA says it didn’t supply Verrone with a mailing list.
“We have had some members ask about this and we have made it clear that we have not provided him with a mailing list,” said WGA spokesman Neal Sacharow. “Outside of official guild business, we allow use of our list in two instances. As required by federal law, guild members may use the list in connection with internal union election campaigns. We also make the list available during awards season to studios, networks and certain publications for the purpose of mailing screeners or other awards-related communications. In both of those situations, we do not provide the list itself but rather, arrange for the mailing through a guild-approved mail house.”
Verrone told Deadline that he sent his campaign emails to “a couple of thousand” WGA members. Asked if a “couple of thousand” is two or three thousand, he said, “between two and three thousand.” He also acknowledged that he came by those email addresses in the course of his service to the guild. “I was president and secretary-treasurer and a board member for all those years,” he said. “I communicated with hundreds of members and they communicated with me. I have their email addresses. I didn’t get anything from the Writers Guild.”
WGA member David Assael, whose latest script, Evan’s Crime – co-written with Chip Rosenbloom and Sandy Tung – is slated to begin shooting in Louisiana in May – is one of those who received several of Verrone’s campaign emails. “He was always very available and accessible,” said Assael. “I like him a lot, personally and politically.” Assael, who lives in Verrone’s 26th District, said that he is going to vote for him. “Absolutely,” he said. “Without hesitation.”
Even so, Assael said that he can see how some guild members might not be all that happy about Verrone’s use of his guild service to acquire members’ email addresses. “I think it’s nebulous territory,” he said. “If you like him, it’s not a problem. If you don’t like him, then maybe it might be intrusive.”