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King Corn

Original Airdate 01-26-05

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Presidential rivals Arnold Vinick an Matt Santos (Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits) talk shop during a chance encounter in an Iowa motel restaurant at the end of a long, cold day of campaigning. earlier, the two had spoken before a farm group, as did Vice President Russell (Gary Cole), and each had to decide whether to take "the pledge" to support ethanol subsidies, which they all deplore but which arevery popular in Iowa. It's a test of mettle and character, and Santos and Vinick display plenty of both. And at the end of the day each knows he has a worthy opponent.
From NBC:
Vice President Russell (Gary Cole) is the first to give his speech at the Iowa Corn Growers' Expo. Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) follow and the differences in these candidates become very clear. Josh (Bradley Whitford) struggles to understand how he can possibly guide Santos in this race.
From Warner Bros.:
The Midwestern state of Iowa is the location for the first presidential debate among the candidates. At the Iowa Corn Growers' Expo, Vice President Russell (Gary Cole) gives the first speech. Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) follow, and the differences between the candidates become very clear. Josh struggles to understand how he can guide Santos in the race.


Alan Alda as Arnold Vinick Senator R-CA
Joshua Malina as Will (William) Bailey Vice President's Campaign Manager
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Russell Campaign Staffer
Richard Schiff as Toby (Tobias Zachary) Ziegler Communications Director
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Santos Campaign Manager
Jimmy Smits as
Matthew Vincente Santos Rep. D-TX
Special Guest Stars    
Gary Cole as Robert "Bingo Bob" Russell Vice President
Teri Polo as Helen Santos Matt Santos' Wife
Patricia Richardson as Sheila Brooks Vinick Campaign Manager
Guest Starring    
Stephen Root as Bob Mayer Vinick Campaign Speechwriter
Karis Campbell as Ronna (Beckman) Santos' Aide
Evan Arnold as Ned Carlson Santos' Aide
Jay Paulson as Roger Russell Campaign Staffer
Miriam Shor as Christine Russell Campaign Staffer
Chris Coppola as Howard Russell Campaign Staffer
Ivan Allen as CNN Anchor Roger Salier
Kim Fifield as Betty Russell Campaign Staffer
Aaron Ashmore as Trevor Russell Campaign Volunteer
Brent Schraff as Kid in the Back Russell Campaign Staffer
Andrew Caple-Shaw as Sean Vinick Campaign Staffer
Scott Wickware as Edgars Concealed Weapon Fringe Candidate
Joe Howard as Connors Singing Fringe Candidate
John Bayliss as Johnson "you're a Democrat?" Fringe Candidate
Doug Sinclair as Farmer questioned Vinick
Danny Hart as Banker questioned Vinick

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nomination by
Alan Alda
Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Drama Series Nomination

Media Quotes

"What we're hoping to do is give the audience some insight into what the campaign process is about," Smits says.

"Can 'West Wing' build a bridge to the 21st century?"
by Bill Keveney
October 19, 2004
USA Today

White House north: "The West Wing" is flying north to Canada, but reps for the show shot down a Canadian trade mag report that star (and outspoken Dem) Martin Sheen encouraged the move in a gesture of post-election frustration.

We're told the show will shoot scenes for three episodes in and around Toronto, starting in early December, but "President" Sheen isn't even making the pilgrimage.

Ontario locations will stand in for Iowa and New Hampshire in plot developments involving the presidential primaries. According to National Post columnist Shinan Govani, those who can't stand not having a real election to follow can live vicariously through the candidacies of characters played by Jimmy Smits, Gary Cole and Alan Alda. The gracious Govani writes: "On behalf of all Torontonians and no doubt the Canadian chapter of Democrats Abroad, who will be crying into their blue wine this American Thanksgiving, I heartily send up the welcome flag to our 'West Wing' friends."

"The Reliable Source"
by Richard Leiby
November 25, 2004
Washington Post

The Plainsman Restaurant will be standing in for a retirement home in Idaho [?] when the film crew moves there on Dec. 7.

Owner Mike Good said crews will be making some changes to the front of the business to convert it to its new identity.

"We are supposed to be in the corn belt," he said. "I think they are doing a few episodes."

"Dundas welcomes The West Wing"
by Doug Foley
November 26, 2004
Hamilton Spectator

West Wing location scout Drazen Baric found what he was looking for in the (now slightly) lower dollar the likelihood of snow in four nearby towns - Dundas, Carlisle and Ancaster in the Hamilton area, and Port Perry in the Kawarthas - which landed the two-week, three-episode shoot.

As it turned out, snow actually had to be trucked in (from a local hockey rink) for scenes shot this past weekend in Dundas.


On Dec. 5, about 200 onlookers saw Smits and Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman) work the Dundas Town Hall and a nearby restaurant. The main street got an instant Yankee makeover. American flags and U.S. election signs were hung in windows. Newspaper boxes for USA Today and The Manchester Leader were placed in the street.


Production on the show continues in Ontario through Dec. 19 - bad weather permitting.

"West Wing veers north"
by Bill Brioux
December 8, 2004
Calgary Sun

Smits says there was no partying on this shoot. Yesterday was the end of a marathon 12-day Southern Ontario swing. The town names fall from his lips like he grew up around here. "Dundas, Ancaster, Kleinberg -- little hamlets, as you guys like to call them."

Yesterday's operation was based at The Fickle Pickle, a local eatery on Stouffville's main street. It is standing in for the Merrimack, the famed New England eatery where the real Yankee pols gladhand every four years.

Producer Michael Hissrich was all set to change the sign but decided to leave the Pickle in place. "You can't invent that," he said.

Few other signs of Canada remain. Above the green and white Fickle Pickle sign waved a lone Maple Leaf flag. It's not in the shot, so it stays.

Across the street, past the Stouffville clock tower, three Old Faithfuls wave. Cardboard New Hampshire licence plates were placed on cars parked on both sides of main street. Two phony U.S. News trucks sit nearby.

Even Sun photographer Veronica Henri was fooled. She went to mail a letter in a blue U.S. mailbox before realizing it was a prop.

All the merchants had to remove their Christmas decorations during the shoot. It didn't seem to bother Sara Marsala, owner of the Tempest In A Teapot gift shop. "We're highly excited," she said. "This doesn't happen every day in our quaint little town."

Also pumped is the mayor, Susan Sherban, who snuck into the street scene (along with 59 other extras). Even though she found her back-and-forth sidewalk duty "tedious, repetitive and non-creative," she wasn't going away. "You wanna be a mayor or you wanna be an actor?" she asked, rhetorically. "You wanna be an actor."

Especially when you get to hang with Jimmy Smits. "I told Jimmy he was buying the beer," she said.

Beer would have been handy. The task yesterday afternoon was to get through four-and-a-quarter pages of tricky West Wing dialogue. (Each episode runs around 65 pages.) That's a sprint back on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, Calif., where a seasoned Hollywood crew usually works this show. This mostly local crew has to rip through it, then head to Port Perry for a final night setup.

Besides the cast, producer Hissrich and director/executive producer Chris Missiano worked the Ontario shoot. Renowned director of photography Dean Cundey (Jurassic Park, Apollo 13) was behind the lens. Virtually everybody else working the shoot was Canadian, a big shot in the arm for our local TV industry -- even if it raised a red flag or two south of the border.

As Whitford, who has been with the series since Day One, said, the Ontario airlift has caused a little tension. After all, this is a series about the U.S. president. What's it doing on foreign soil?

Producers were taken by our New England-style architecture -- as well as our still lower dollar.

"As actors, we go where the work is," said Whitford, who notes that California crews are just as upset about other states luring shows away with tax incentives.

Ontario Manager Of Films Donna Zuchlinski, on site yesterday, lobbied hard for the gig. Cozy Toronto hotel rooms were comped for the stars. Other incentives were hustled. Local unions cut deals.

Whitford said the Canadian crews have been "fantastic," an assessment echoed by both Smits and Hissrich.

"'West Wing' shoots in Canada"
by Bill Brioux
December 16, 2004
Toronto Sun

When Bettendorf Public Library held an auction of celebrity doodles, Marilyn and Chuck Buel of Bettendorf bought the scribbles of Martin Sheen (TV's "West Wing") for $85. They sent him a note and he responded. (He'd been in Iowa during the presidential campaign, working for Kerry.) The return address was Malibu Beach in California.

Sheen's note came in a large bundle, along with a photograph autographed to Chuck and Marilyn. It said,"Many thanks. "I'm delighted you got my doodle. I'm enclosing a script. Give it a read"

It was for a "West Wing" upcoming in January. Sheen thought they'd be interested because Iowa plays a part.

"Warm California greetings from President Bartlet"
by Bill Wundram
December 27, 2004
Quad-City Times

Remaining scenes filmed in Dundas include Today's Family Daycare and downtown Dundas. Scenes were filmed inside the DeLuxe Restaurant and Cabin Fever clothes store, which retained its name in the show.

"America's watching Dundas"
by Craig Campbell
January 17, 2005
Dundas Star News

Alan Alda and others will be playing the scenes states away from the real Hamburg Inn, but owner Dave Panther said he was excited about the national exposure.

"In the script, they're using our inn so it will definitely be Hamburg Inn portrayed," Panther said.

Alda portrays a fictional GOP presidential candidate Sen. Arnold Vinick. Wednesday's episode -- named "King Corn" -- will place the show's fictional candidates in the Iowa Caucus, said Panther, who read the script.

The scenes in the Hamburg Inn, he said, would re-create the Coffee Bean Caucus that the Hamburg held in January 2004. In real life, and on the show, participants use coffee beans to cast a mock vote for their favorite candidate.

He said researchers for the show had been making regular calls since Hamburg signed on to the script about a month ago, asking for every detail about the restaurant: what their logo looks like, what kind of jars hold the coffee beans, what kind of mugs the restaurant uses.

As the votes are cast on television for the fictional candidates, visitors to the real-life restaurant will have the opportunity to vote for the characters during a viewing party. Panther said it would start about 30 minutes before the show begins at 8 p.m.

Panther said restaurant employees would set up displays on Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- real presidents who really have visited the restaurant. He said visitors also could buy T-shirts including the logos of the show and restaurant, the episode name and title and the phrase "As seen on TV."

"Some of our customers have already said they are big-time 'West Wing' fans," Panther said. "So I think we should have a pretty good turnout that night."

Nick Cilek, who designed the shirts, said he and his wife, Toni, plan to attend the festivities. Cilek said the 'West Wing' is his wife's favorite show, but he was probably more excited about seeing his favorite restaurant get national exposure.

"I'll be really proud of Iowa City and the Hamburg," Cilek said. "The 'Burg is known all over the United States. It's a legend. They couldn't have picked a better spot."


"They've done a lot of interesting things over the years, and this is just in addition to what they've done," Cilek said. "I think this is in the spirit of what the 'Burg believes in."

"'West Wing' to feature Hamburg"
by Adam Pracht
January 20, 2005
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Wells felt he wasn't playing sides in the campaign by crafting a good guy/bad guy scenario. "We've set up both candidates as someone you'd like to have a beer with," he said.

"Alan Alda eager to run 'The West Wing'"
by Bill Brioux
January 22, 2005
Toronto Sun

Hamburg Inn is reportedly being re-created on a sound stage, owner Dave Panther said. One of the show's presidential candidates will take part in a "coffee bean caucus," similar to one the restaurant sponsored prior to last year's Iowa caucuses.

Panther said he thinks his restaurant was picked because Martin Sheen, the star of the show, visited last year while he campaigned for former Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean.


The show's producers contacted Panther about a month ago to see if he was interested.

"That was really a no-brainer there," he said. "Of course, we were."

He shipped some Hamburg Inn shirts, mugs, menus and logos.

"They've been very detail-oriented," Panther said. "I think they are really trying to do a very accurate portrayal."

"'West Wing' building replica of cafe for show"
January 22, 2005
Des Moines Register

"We [Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda] had a scene [filmed] last week, our first scene together, and it was just two actors riffing off each other." - Jimmy Smits

"'Idol,' 'Model' aside, who'll be president?"
by Ellen Gray
January 24, 2005
Philadelphia Daily News

Titled "King Corn," the episode includes a scene between the two all-star actors at a coffee shop. Surprisingly, one candidate reveals his true feelings about an issue after he compromised his beliefs by making a public statement that contradicted them. One doubts candidates would be that honest with each other, but Alda feels their friendship makes the scene more plausible.

"There's also an unspoken implication in that scene that people often in politics don't so much talk about the issue as they talk about positioning the issue and how it is presented," said Alda. "That gets to be the critical thing you evaluate."

That scene addresses one of the show's constant themes - the choice candidates make between expressing their honest feelings and telling the public what they want to hear to get votes.

"That is the central issue for campaigns," said Wells. "What are you willing to sacrifice? What of your integrity? What do you have to do to be politically expedient? The political professionals are telling you: "It doesn't really matter what you say. You are just trying to get votes and make a difference when you get elected.' That's a recurring theme.

"The disturbing thing about spending a lot of time with our political consultants about this, is the fact that you would even ask that question of them makes you an idiot."

"Alda, Smits hit campaign trail"
by Alan Pergament
January 26, 2005
Buffalo News

Seconds after the image of an unmistakable yellow diner sign flashed before "The West Wing" viewers nationwide, it generated a burst of applause and whoops from a crowd gathered Wednesday inside the actual Hamburg Inn No. 2 restaurant.

"It was really neat to hear them say Hamburg Inn and Coffee Bean Caucus," owner Dave Panther said.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered at the Iowa City landmark for a viewing party to see how writers for "The West Wing" would portray their beloved 1950s-style diner. Writers chose to portray the Hamburg in an episode after actor Martin Sheen, who plays fictional president Jed Bartlet, visited the restaurant during the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, Panther said before passing out red, white and blue balloons.


Each time the actors walked by a red brick building, the sounds of clattering forks and balloon bursts seemed to stop as patrons craned their necks for a clear view of the 52-inch TV. Some patrons even screamed at the TV, "Go back and eat breakfast!" During commercials, others stood to take pictures of fellow patrons with their cell phones.


"I think they might have played up the (Iowa) stereotypes a bit, but that's all right," said Matt Kishinami, 21, a UI senior from Hawaii. "I think they did a pretty good job. It's all in good fun."

"NBC show features Iowa City diner"
by Deidre Bello
January 27, 2005
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today expressed concern over the irresponsible misrepresentations of ethanol, the corn industry and U.S. farm policy that aired during NBC's Jan. 26 episode of "The West Wing."

"We understand The West Wing is a fictional program, but we also recognize the fact that the program has an influence on shaping public opinion," said NCGA President Leon Corzine. "The West Wing is one of the most popular programs on television and certainly many viewers believe they are seeing realistic depictions of our political process, as well as current social and economic issues."

In the episode titled "King Corn," ethanol was characterized as a "waste of taxpayers' money" and a corporate "subsidy" for oil companies, agribusinesses and farmers. The program implied that politicians who support the ethanol industry are pandering to special interests. In reality, Corzine said, elected officials who support ethanol recognize their constituents' interest in rural economic development, national energy security and a cleaner environment. "The program neglected to mention all of the good things ethanol has done," he said. "Among other things, ethanol has created more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs, reduced gasoline prices, cut crude oil imports, increased farm income and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The West Wing episode chose not to point out any of those facts."

A character on the program also made the false claim that "producing a gallon of ethanol requires almost a gallon of oil." According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ethanol generates at least 67 percent more energy than it takes to produce. The episode also made the suggestion that federal safety net programs and corn sweeteners are somehow responsible for America's obesity crisis. Despite a firestorm of media reports to the contrary, no credible scientific evidence exists that links corn sweeteners to obesity, Corzine said.

Furthermore, farm support programs are designed to provide assistance only in the times when farmers need it most, Corzine said. Growers make planting decisions based on signals from the marketplace, not in response to so-called "subsidies" as the program implied. Americans enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the world, a fact that is often overlooked in discussions of federal support programs, Corzine said.

He said corn growers were also troubled by the program's portrayal of American farmers as simple, unsophisticated people interested only in receiving a "handout" from the government. "The program reinforced some of the negative stereotypes farmers have been battling for years," he said. "The show's producers have a responsibility to do more thorough research on the subject matter they are addressing in their program. If they had done their homework, they would have recognized that farmers today are hard-working, intelligent people who make enormous contributions to our quality of life in America."

"NCGA Blasts "The West Wing""
by AgWeb Editors
January 27, 2005
National Corn Growers Association

NBC's "The West Wing" defamed Turkey and the ruling Justice and Development Party as executioners of women who have premarital sex.


During the campaign, there arises an international crisis in which Turkey, having adopted Islamic laws under the leadership of the AKP, has convicted and ordered the execution by beheading of a woman, Karli, for having sex with her fiancée. The stated crime is adultery. The news, displaying a map of Turkey and the Turkish flag, adds that the execution will create difficulties for Turkey's EU admission. Furthermore, the news states that despite the tragic situation of this Turkish woman, the US Administration places so much importance on Turkey's alliance that it will continue to support Turkey.


In order to gain corn farmer votes, one candidate supports a measure in violation of his conscience, as he believes the measure actually helps corporate interests rather than corn farmers. Another candidate obeys his conscience and speaks his mind to the farmers despite the risk of losing their support. The wife of the former, who is upset at the fact that her husband acted against his conscience, campaigns the rights of the "poor Turkish woman" and attempts to get her husband interested in the issue. But her husband is more interested in farmer votes than Turkish human rights.


In "King Corn", the Executive Producer was John Wells, Director Alex Graves, and Emmy award winning writer and creator Aaron Sorkin. Despite their credentials, it appears that these men either conducted no research or deliberately ignored the facts.

The ATAA Anti-Defamation Committee reported that the statements made in "King Corn" regarding Turkey and AKP are false, as there is no Islamic law, no crime of adultery, no crime of fornication, and no death penalty in Turkey. For over 80 years, the Turkish legal code has been based on European models: Swiss, French, Italian and German. AKP, listening to its few orthodox constituents, considered a law against adultery, and wisely decided against it. AKP never envisioned the death penalty for such a crime.

The Committee reported that the Wells team even got the crime wrong, citing adultery to describe sexual relations between two unmarried individuals. As there is no Turkish law on the matter, the Committee reviewed the closest law that could be found. Under Virginia law, which was repealed only days ago, adultery occurs when a married person has sex with a person to whom he or she is not married. Under the same law, premarital sex constitutes the ancient crime of fornication. If the Wells team wanted to be more persuasive in their misrepresentation, they might have fit the right crime to the facts they imagined.

Furthermore, the Committee reported that Turkey is an anti-death penalty country on paper and in practice. AKP removed the death penalty from the books, and prior ruling parties refused to use it. Indeed, the last execution in Turkey took place over twenty years ago regarding an Armenian ASALA terrorist who stormed Ankara International Airport and massacred 10, wounded 72 and executed an American hostage. During the same period, 948 have been executed in America, four since January 1, 2005 ( The method of execution in Turkey was hanging, as in the states of Washington and New Jersey, and never beheading, as in countries of France or Saudi Arabia.

"Message Regarding NBC's "The West Wing""
by Vural Cengiz
January 28, 2005
Assembly of Turkish American Associations

The "West Wing" show was called "King Corn," because it took place entirely in Iowa and provided a look at a couple of winter days before the Iowa caucuses.

Some of it was painfully genuine.

For instance, the stage where the candidates appeared was piled with bales of straw - a requirement of every big-time political event held in the state.

Staffers were in strategy sessions reading The Des Moines Register and fretting over the paper's poll results. And John Deere tractors were everywhere.

Don't believe it?

They even had a John Deere tractor parked on the tarmac of an airport, presumably in Cedar Rapids.

OK, that one was a little excessive.

Excessive like the unnamed Cedar Rapids hotel where Johnny Cash's version of "The Green, Green Grass of Home" was playing a bit too loudly in the elevators and hallways. And the rusty sign on a farmstead that read, "Screw the Dog; This Property is Protected by Smith and Wesson."

Actors playing members of the Iowa State Patrol were in the familiar brown uniforms with the yellow patches. Political big shots talked about Des Moines, Ames, Centerville and Osceola County.

None of it was filmed in Iowa, but the show's producers replicated the interior of the Hamburg Inn No. 2 restaurant in Iowa City, where the candidates stopped by and made their pitch. Customers put coffee beans in jars bearing the candidates' names, like the restaurant does in its "coffee bean caucus."

That was nice, especially because they didn't put kernels of corn in the jars. Which is a surprise because it was the only piece of the show that didn't dwell on the crop.

The plot involved presidential candidates and whether they had the courage to speak truthfully about their opposition to ethanol. They all dislike subsidies for the corn-based fuel additive, but only one - the always lovable, sensitive and honest Alan Alda - had the guts to say so. In front of the "Iowa Corn Growers Expo" at the "Jefferson Cattle Barn" in Council Bluffs.

The truth is, the show was a one-hour Jimmy Swaggart-style flop-sweat sermon about the evils of farm subsidies and ethanol, and how presidential candidates have to pander on the issues to get Iowans' votes.

"General Patton would have pandered on ethanol," said an adviser to the Alda character.

"Making a gallon of ethanol takes almost a gallon of oil," said Alda. "That's like saying using tonic water reduces our demand for gin."

The National Corn Growers Association says that's absolutely wrong, in case you think those folks didn't notice.

Nevertheless, Alda went on to say farm subsidies cause the "corn glut" and are the reason Americans are fat.

"That's why we make 20 million tons of corn sweetener a year," he said. "The average American eats and drinks 93 pounds of it, and we wonder why we have an obesity problem."

The corn growers group says that's bogus, too, and it's planning to send informational packets to the show's producers, who no doubt will be impressed.

"'West Wing' serves Iowa politics with a side of corn"
by John Carlson
January 28, 2005
Des Moines Register

Except that I've been to those Iowa Holiday Inn banquet room campaign events that West Wing tried to approximate. Nobody uses Teleprompters to deliver policy addresses at the local motel. They grab hands, lock eyes and don't let go. I've met hundreds of local candidates who swarm amidst the presidential contenders. None of them looked like the dentally impaired hayseeds cast in the West Wing version. The name of the episode was “King Corn” and it portrayed the caucuses as a litmus test on ethanol and the candidates as shameless panderers before farm groups.

Ethanol didn't drive this, or any of the other caucus campaigns I've covered.

Oh, there's skads of pandering. God. Country. Troops. education. Even farms. Candidates unleash heartfelt but unspecific affirmations that draw cheers and show up on nightly news reports. That's exactly what the caucuses look like from Washington.

But not here. If West Wing wanted some dramatic reality, it could have shown a zillionaire candidate pulling his custom bus into handicapped parking spaces and getting $110 in parking tickets in Cherokee like Steve Forbes did in 1999. They could have shown a candidate engaging in an online chat with students in high schools across the state and gracefully handling a question about White House interns like George W. Bush did in 2000. They could have shown a fiery populist hopping on a rickety folding chair to bark out war opposition like Dennis Kucinich did in Davenport in 2003. They could have had a foiled front-runner devolving into a screaming maniac caucus night.

"West Wing knows beans about Iowa"
by Mark Ridolfi
February 1, 2005
Quad-City Times

But after a rocky two years, Graves says the writers are particularly excited about chronicling the "complicated" race for president.

"That was one of the things we always wanted to do (with President Bartlet), but we couldn't watch Martin campaign through New Hampshire and Iowa because he had already won," Graves says. "But you learn all about the political process and it becomes this fascinating thing."

Once admittedly "bored" with themselves, Graves says the writers are now filled with boundless energy.

"It feels like we're doing something tough and exciting," he says. "And it comes off on the show because that's how the series was when it started. It was so hard to pull off and it was so exciting to try and pull off."

"The West Wing's Political Shakeup"
by Kevin D. Thompson
February 6, 2005
Palm Beach Post

It all started when Santa Paula's mayor heard a character on NBC's "The West Wing" announce he was from a citrus-producing region of California.

Mayor Mary Ann Krause fired off a letter to actor Alan Alda, who plays presidential candidate and Republican Sen. Arnold Vinick on the weekly show, and "West Wing" executive producer, John Wells, offering Santa Paula as the senator's hometown.


"We need to do what we can to raise Santa Paula's profile," Krause said Monday.

To play up Santa Paula's citrus heritage, Krause sent Alda and others on the show a box of oranges, T-shirts and other local paraphernalia.

"Santa Paula seeks role on 'West Wing' show"
by John Scheibe
February 8, 2005
Ventura County Star

Executive producer John Wells says, "We want to keep in the audience's mind this question of not only who do you think would make the best president, but who are the people around that person who would make for the best administration? We're also trying to see all the questions that you have to answer for yourself as a candidate. Who are you going to be? What are you willing to sacrifice to do it? What are the people around you asking you to do?

"So we're hoping by the time we get into the fall, that there will be a real question in the viewer's mind as to who would make the better president. They both have strengths and weaknesses."


"It's giving us an opportunity to explore different points of view," he says, "and express in two actors different ideas that might have been a little bit difficult to express on the show over the years, because we are in a Democratic administration, the Bartlet administration, and so the Republicans are usually the enemy. No matter how favorably or with how much compassion you try to present that other point of view, you're trying to defeat them.

"In this, we now have a contest in which there's a discussion going on in which both points of view are presented. Oftentimes the Republican point of view sounds very, very compelling, particularly coming out of Alan's mouth."

"'West Wing' Hits Campaign Trail"
by Kate O'Hare
February 20, 2005

Krause sent a letter to Alda and West Wing Executive Producer John Wells two days after the episode aired, offering Santa Paula as Vinick's hometown. Krause also sent Alda a full box of Santa Paula-related T-shirts, sweatshirts and a Santa Paula Union High School baseball cap to wear on the program.

Since Alda really isn't really running for elected office the gift is not considered a bribe, but influence peddling it sure is: Krause also shipped a crate of Limoneira Co. oranges to Alda, Wells and the writing staff of the program.

Krause received a letter on Feb. 4 from Lauren Schmidt, a writer on "The West Wing," thanking her for the writers' oranges (writers – alas – are often overlooked, although they're the ones who put the character in the characters). Schmidt wrote Krause that, "We are still in the process of developing his [Alda's] character, and thus, are not ready to commit ourselves to all the intricate details of his past. However, we will definitely keep Santa Paula in mind, if we ever take a journey back to Vinick's home for campaign events."

"Hometown boy for President?"
by Peggy Kelly
February 23, 2005
Santa Paula Times

Good news for 'The West Wing,' which, it was announced last week, has been renewed for its 7th season. Now if the troupe can only struggle through to the end of this one!

'You walk into the show and what you see is a lot of really exhausted people,' reports Pat Richardson, who pops back up on the political drama tomorrow (3/23) as Alan Alda's Chief of Staff. She explains that 'because they got backed up and behind schedule, they were shooting at least two or three episodes simultaneously. They had two complete companies out shooting, two directors, two complete camera units. You've never seen so many trailers, makeup people, hair people?everybody running in two different directions everywhere.'


... Richardson says, 'I'm just having a ball working with these incredible actors.' She holds her highest praise for Alda, however. 'I've been in this business for so long and been around my share of narcissistic a-----s and he is not. He's the most humble, down-to-earth and generous person.'

" 'West Wing' Troupe Exhausted as Show Goes Triple-Time"
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
March 22, 2005

Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC television network, and John Wells, executive producer of the NBC series The West Wing sent an apology letter to Turkey's Ambassador to the United States Faruk Logoglu, for NBC's inaccurate portrayal of Turkey displaying the country as if it was ruled under Shariah law in a recent episode of the show, Foreign Ministry officials told the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

The episode displayed the Turkish administration as ordering the beheading of a woman for committing adultery. Zucker and Wells offered their apologies to Logoglu for the unflattering portrayal and said that they had been misinformed about Turkey and its laws.

NBC's portrayal of Turkey sparked reactions from several Turkish politicians and diplomats, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had criticized NBC and sought an apology.

In the future, we will not only visit Turkey, a country that we admire, but also present a better and correct portrayal of your country, the letter signed by Zucker and Wells was quoted by Turkish daily Hürriyet as saying.

"NBC sends apology letter to Turkish Ambassador"
March 29, 2005
Turkish Daily News

"I think John [Wells] got what he wanted in terms of going backstage in the (primary) campaign process" this season, he [Jimmy Smits] says.

"'The West Wing' wants you"
by Bill Keveney
April 5, 2005
USA Today

Santa Paula offered all the trappings to open Sen. Arnold Vinick's presidential campaign headquarters on Monday except one.

John Philip Sousa's march music played in front of the city's historic depot. Raucous supporters hoisted signs saying "Santa Paula's Next President" and "Vinick is Our Man." Red, white and blue balloons and U.S. flags floated in the breeze.

Only the candidate was missing.


Santa Paula City Council and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz from making him Santa Paula's favorite son.

Once the character played by Alan Alda said he was from a citrus-producing area, the game was on for the city that calls itself "The Citrus Capital of the World."

"Until someone claims him as theirs, we're going to claim him as ours," Bobkiewicz said.

Mayor Mary Ann Krause wrote to Alda, executive producer John Wells and the show's writers. She sent gift packages of oranges to the actor and others on the hit series. Every week Bobkiewicz mailed postcards picturing Santa Paula.

But with no firm commitment from the producers, the City Council decided in April to open a campaign headquarters anyway. Council members authorized spending up to $1,000. The money paid for campaign buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts that will be sold from the depot throughout the summer.

City officials picked Monday for the opening because Benjamin Harrison, the nation's 23rd president, visited the depot on the same day 114 years ago.

New-style campaigning is part of the effort, too. The city has started a Web site

City officials are hoping for national publicity. Bobkiewicz mailed invitations and buttons to Jay Leno, Katie Couric and Tim Russert.

Bobkiewicz said the city -- which is facing budget and labor troubles -- also needs a little amusement.

"I fully admit this is a little kooky, but at the same time it's fun," he said.

City residents and employees had a few pithy remarks of their own as they attended the opening Monday morning. "I want you to know I haven't been able to get behind a presidential candidate since Pat Paulsen," said city building inspector Larry Beem.

Beem, who had rearranged his work schedule to attend, said he didn't mind the connection.

"If he's from somewhere, he might as well be from here."

"'West Wing' candidate is Santa Paula's man"
by Kathleen Wilson
April 26, 2005
Ventura County Star

"In terms of just getting nominated [for Outstanding Drama Series Emmy], we send out three episodes that show the diversity of the cast and strong storytelling, but we don't send shows that are too similar even if they're very good," executive producer John Wells explains.

"Episodic art"
by Wolf Schneider
May 31, 2005
Hollywood Reporter

Says Wells: "People seemed to be really engaged. ... In dealing with the primaries, it was one of the areas during the first five years of the show that we hadn't explored. One of the things you're constantly doing is look for places in the story you haven't done sometime before."

Equally intrigued by the storyline was Smits, who met with Wells about playing Santos. "John's idea was to give insight about what goes into particular points of the campaign," the thesp says. "We talked about the power of the media and show how great it would be to have young people aspire to be in politics."

"Rejuvenation Station"
by Stuart Levine
June 1, 2005

The Vinick-stumping City Council unanimously passed a motion directing the city manager to "take steps in support of his candidacy for President of the United States." The council also set up a campaign Web site for the moderate Republican (, agreed to make a documentary about his roots and allocated $1,000 for Vinick T-shirts and political pins to be sold through fall.

Only Vinick isn't real. He's the fictional glad-hander played by Alan Alda on the Emmy-winning NBC drama "The West Wing."

"Absolutely, people think we're nutty," City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz chuckles.

The continuing tongue-in-cheek campaign for the fake wannabe prez launched Jan. 27, a day after "West Wing" fans Bobkiewicz and Santa Paula Mayor Mary Ann Krause watched the episode where Alda's Vinick announced his candidacy and said he was from a citrus-producing community in California.

Vinick was vague, but so what. Santa Paula, a 4.6-square mile agricultural hamlet in Ventura County, for decades has called itself "The Citrus Capital of the World."

Krause's home phone rang at 8:15 the morning after the episode aired. "It was the city manager and he said, 'Did you see what Vinick said?' I said, 'Do you mean about being from a citrus-growing area?' and he said, 'Yeah!' " the mayor exuberantly recalls.

The two hatched a plot: Vinick was to be a local yokel. Then they began a nearly six-month, so far futile barnstorm to get "The West Wing" to write Santa Paula into the script as Vinick's hometown. A Hollywood nod, city leaders figure, would draw tourists and bucks to their lemon-lush land.

Initially, Krause tried bribes. Along with letters, she sent crates of Santa Paula-picked oranges to Alda, "West Wing" executive producer John Wells and the show's writers. In Alda's package, she boldly threw in Santa Paula High School T-shirts, a sweat shirt and a baseball cap "for Senator Vinick to wear to show his allegiance to his hometown." (The city manager says Vinick could don his alma mater garb in scenes where he jogged or worked out.)

"Santa Paula is behind its favorite son 100 percent," Krause wrote.


In reality, Santa Paula is largely Hispanic and Democratic and would likely vote for Santos. But this is pseudo-reality.

The only response to Krause came from "West Wing" writer Lauren Schmidt, who in an appreciative letter thanked the mayor for "the delicious Valencia oranges you sent to our offices!" Schmidt said writers were still developing Vinick's character and were "not ready to commit ourselves to all the intricate details of his past. However, we will definitely keep Santa Paula in mind if we ever take a journey back to Vinick's home for campaign events."

Encouraged, Bobkiewicz weekly began mailing Schmidt picture postcards of groves and historic buildings in Santa Paula, about 60 miles but a world away from "The West Wing" production offices in Burbank.

Then, he says, "We thought we'd kick it up a notch."

On April 25, Santa Paula police cordoned off streets for the official opening of the Senator Arnold Vinick Presidential Campaign Headquarters. By then, City Council members were tired of the "The West Wing" stall: They brashly passed a motion "to claim Senator Arnold Vinick as a resident of Santa Paula." The council also asked a cable company to produce a documentary, still in the planning, in which townsfolk shared their false memories of Vinick growing up.

John Philip Sousa music played, American flags waved in the breeze and red-white-and-blue balloons floated as some 50 residents turned out for the campaign kickoff outside the Southern Pacific railroad depot. Sitting in foldout chairs, rallying supporters hoisted homemade signs that read, "Santa Paula For Vinick" and "Santa Paula's Next President."

In a speech, Krause noted that another U.S. president, Benjamin Harrison, stopped at the same depot on the same day 114 years earlier. She pulled down a canvas cover to unveil the Vinick election headquarters sign.


"Oy yoy yoy," an NBC spokesman blurted out when told about the Vinick campaign. Requests for comments from "West Wing" producer Wells and his production company also went unanswered.

"'Homegrown' hero "
by Norma Meyer
July 10, 2005
San Diego Union Tribune

Hollywood has caved in to Santa Paula.

Eight months after city officials started campaigning to get Santa Paula named as the hometown of Alan Alda's character on "The West Wing," writers of the Emmy-winning show granted their wish.

Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Manager Ken Brooks spotted the mention on the NBC show's Web site Friday afternoon and sent off an e-mail to a delighted City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.

"I'm just tickled," Bobkiewicz said.


And just about every week, Bobkiewicz sent a note to story editor Lauren Schmidt. By last month, he had decided maybe he should let up.

"Honestly, I thought I was making a fool of myself," he said.

Then, for the first time Friday, the show's Web site portrayed Vinick as a Santa Paula boy who labored in the orange groves after his family moved from Brooklyn.


Schmidt was in a story conference and could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Bobkiewicz, though, said he expects a Santa Paula storyline to be appearing soon.

""West Wing" character is Santa Paula's favorite son"
by Kathleen Wilson
October 14, 2005
Ventura County Star

But when it came to fleshing out details of Vinick's early political life, Santa Paula was a natural fit, said story editor Lauren Schmidt, who is the point person for the promotional campaign, receiving letters, postcards and invitations to community events playing up the Santa Paula connection.

She wrote a biography stating that Vinick was born in Brooklyn but raised in Santa Paula, where he worked on the family's citrus ranch and learned the value of hard work. After graduating from Yale and Stanford Law School, he opened a law practice in Santa Paula and won a City Council seat in the town's first write-in victory.

But Vinick has yet to mention his Santa Paula roots on the show, and it's unclear whether he will, Schmidt said.

"Santa Paula Roots for Another Arnold"
by Fred Alvarez
November 8, 2005
Los Angeles Times

"We just really wanted him to have that small-town upbringing," said story editor Lauren Schmidt. "I personally love the fact that this town is so into it. That's exactly the effect we want to have on our viewers."


The City Council declared Vinick a Santa Paula resident and ordered City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to help his election. Bobkiewicz later promoted the Ventura County community of 30,000 to the series' writers and producers.

"I'm probably the only city manager in America who has ever been directed by a City Council to get someone elected president," Bobkiewicz said. "We're not going to let up until we get Sen. Vinick into the White House."

According to his pretend bio on the show's Web site, Vinick grew up in Santa Paula, served on the City Council and even volunteered at a local library.

"The West Wing" and NBC have not helped directly with the city's campaign, which is not featured in commercials or on the Web site.

Even though Vinick has not mentioned Santa Paula on air, locals have opened a Vinick official presidential campaign headquarters at the city's historic train depot. The Chamber of Commerce has sold Vinick buttons, T-shirts and bumper stickers.

"We're just trying to promote the city," said chamber manager Ken Brookes. "We're actually amazed that Hollywood has gone along with our idea."

"SoCal city claims 'West Wing' candidate as favorite son"
November 9, 2005
Los Angeles Times

Bobkiewicz is looking forward to a special City Council appearance in coming months by "West Wing" Story Editor Lauren Schmidt. "Lauren, our 'West Wing' correspondent, has agreed to come to the meeting at the invitation of Mayor Rick Cook," to receive city gratitude in her help in establishing Vinick as an official hometown Santa Paulan. "She's agreed to come about two weeks before the final episode, when the election will be overů it will be a good time to thank her for all her hard work."

Although Schmidt became the official "West Wing" contact for the city, "I've never spoken to her," noted Bobkiewicz. "It's been one-side all the way, and it will be nice to shake her hand and thank her for all her hard work. It's really been about Lauren, it's not because of anyone else," that Vinick became officially linked with Santa Paula. "I want to make sure that Lauren gets her proper due."

"'West Wing' election screening: Will favorite son Arnold Vinick win? "
by Peggy Kelly
February 5, 2006
Santa Paula Times

The amiable Graves and Wells, who also provide commentary for the thrilling final episode 2162 Votes, talk about realizing they were by this point filming two separate series, one at the White House and another on the campaign trail. They worked hard to differentiate the campaigns, using handheld cameras to film the motley, chaotic Santos crew and stationary cameras to show the cool experience of the Vinick camp. Best random tidbit: Conscience-free Democratic candidate Bob Russell (Gary Cole) travels in Britney Spears' tour bus.

"'West Wing' shines with fine scripts, cast"
by Howard Cohen
May 12, 2006
Miami Herald

For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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