Good news for Democrats – the Los Angeles Times reports that the GOP initiative effort in California to change California’s winner take all primary to one giving electoral votes based on Congressional Districts is “in shambles”.
“Unable to raise sufficient money and angered over a lack of disclosure by its one large donor, veteran political law attorney Thomas Hiltachk, who drafted the measure, said he was resigning from the committee.
Hiltachk’s departure is a major blow to the operation because he organized other consultants who had tried to raise money and gather signatures. Campaign spokesman Kevin Eckery said he was ending his role as well.
There remained a chance that the measure could be revived, but only if a major donor were to come forward to fund the petition drive. But time is short to gather the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed by the end of November. Backers said Thursday that they believed the measure was all but dead, at least for the 2008 election.
The New York Times reports Hiltachk resigned in a dispute over a $175,000 contribution received from a group formed only one day before it made the contribution to the California group. The Missouri group called itself “Take Initiative America” but would not identify who its contributors were. Hiltachk was quoted as saying “I am not willing to proceed under such circumstances.”
The Mouth of the Potomac Blog of the NY Daily News got the scoop in the end. It turns out that the $175,000 came from one donor, Paul E Singer, who is a founding partner of a $7 billion hedge fund – Elliot Associates. And it just so happens that he is also a top fundraiser for none other than Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
“The revelation about Singer was met with outrage by Democratic operatives who had fought the ballot measure and called it a “dirty trick” by Republicans aimed at changing the outcome of the 2008 election.
They said Singer’s admission confirmed what they believed all along – that the GOP presidential candidate’s backers believed he might have benefited from the effort.
“This puts this money-laundering operation right inside the Giuliani campaign … with Rudy’s top donor and his closest confidants,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and spokesman for Californians for Fair Election Reform, which fought the GOP-backed ballot measure. “Federal election law is clear. If you’re a presidential candidate, you or your agents can’t direct money to a campaign that impacts the presidential campaign … and there’s no better way to rig the campaign than to impact the electoral college system.”
It seems the $175,000 is the sole contribution received by the California group. It takes something like $2 million to pay for signature gathering to get on the California ballot. In Washington state it takes about $500,000. Any effort to resurrect the California effort would need a big infusion of money to make it by the end of the year.