Opinion: Controversial California ballot initiative may live still

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Remember the electoral college ballot initiative in California? The one that would change the state’s method of allocating electoral votes from winner-take-all to a congressional district-based approach? Gov. Schwarzenegger was either for it or against it.

It stalled last month when its original proponent, GOP election lawyer Tom Hiltachk, quit the campaign, followed by its spokesman, Kevin Eckery, and signature gatherer, Mike Arno. They had been unable to raise the $2 million needed to qualify the measure.

Democrats had run a strong and highly effective national campaign against the initiative, labeling it a dirty trick. And federal and state officials had been investigating the initiative’s one major donation -- $175,000 that turned out to be from a backer of Rudy Giuliani, Paul Singer.

But in recent days, the state’s network of signature gatherers has been abuzz with talk that the initiative is not quite dead. GOP consultant Ed Rollins has told California backers of the measure that he has cash lined up, according to three sources reached by The Times. (Rollins did not immediately return phone calls.)

Dave Gilliard, a Republican consultant in Sacramento who was involved in shepherding the recall petition against Gray Davis to the ballot, is reportedly involved. (Reached Monday, Gilliard declined to comment.) Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has committed to a donation, according to the sources. A signature gatherer who works in the South Bay area of Los Angeles said he was carrying the initiative petition.


Arno, owner of the petition company that handled an earlier signature-gathering effort, flew back to California from a trip to Russia on Monday to oversee the effort. There are reasons to be skeptical. The deadline for qualifying the initiative for the June 2008 ballot (so that it could take effect before next year’s presidential election) is Nov. 13, although such deadlines can be pushed.

Insiders familiar with the initiative and the many obstacles it faces scoff at the notion that Rollins can raise the many millions needed to meet the fast-approaching deadline for gathering hundreds of thousands of valid signatures of registered voters. No formal report of any new donation has been filed with the secretary of state’s office. (Donations of $5,000 or more to any initiative must be disclosed within 10 business days.)

The complete news story is available here and in Tuesday’s print editions.

-- Joe Mathews