Repair California points finger at signature gathering companies

February 4, 2010 1:18:15 PM PST
The people behind the campaign to change the state's initiative process say they are being thwarted by professional signature gatherers.

Repair California claims a handful of signature gathering companies are responsible for an effort to keep their initiative from going forward and now it wants a state constitutional convention. One of the reasons would be to address the state's ballot initiative process, which Repair California says is broken.

A spokesman for Repair California, John Grubb, says the state's ballot initiative process has been hijacked by paid signature gatherers.

"That means that the initiative process originally a tool of the people is now only a tool of special interest groups that can raise the money to do it," says Grubb.

Grubb says to reform the system, Repair California is collecting signatures for its own ballot initiative, one calling for a state constitutional convention. However, the companies that get paid for collecting signatures do not want reform.

"Those at the top have spread the word throughout the system that if they work on the constitution convention petition they will never work in the industry again," says Grubb.

Repair California put ABC7 in touch with a professional signature gatherer who agreed to talk if we would agree not to show his face.

"I'm an independent contractor. They're not supposed to tell me I'm not allowed to work on this campaign," says the contractor.

The contractor also told ABC7 he has been blacklisted, but the details are sketchy.

"Can you tell me which companies?" asks ABC7's Mark Matthews.

"To be honest, I don't know because I don't deal with those companies. I work with contractors," says the contractor.

The spokesman for Repair California says the campaign has sent warning letters to three signature gathering companies including one in the Bay Area.

Grubb says Masterton & Wright are one of the big five companies that are involved in this and are one of the ones that black listed him.

By phone Ken Masterton told ABC7 the campaign is lying, that his company has not blacklisted anybody, and that "These people who are going to remake California can't figure out basic math.

Masterton says he gave signature gathering advice to Repair California. He says he told them first, to not wait until the rainy season to begin gathering signatures and second to offer the standard $1 per signature rate instead of 75 cents.

If they were offering a buck a signature, they might be getting more people to work for them. The contractor ABC7 spoke with agrees.

Repair California says they have proof of the blacklisting.

"We have affidavits from individuals," says Grubb.

The campaign has not been able to share those affidavits with ABC7 and though the campaign says it is preparing a lawsuit against the signature gathering companies. They'd settle for a letter.

"If they're willing to sign letters that say they're not engaging in this behavior, that's fine," says Grubb.

Ken Masterton, the owner of the petition management company in Bolinas, says Repair California is just trying to make a headline and they dithered when they needed to collect signatures when the sun was shining are now trying to belly ache about a nonexistent plot.

Repair California told ABC7 they are not running behind in their signature collection process, just trying to protect the initiative process.

The petition deadline is May.