Thieving Signature Gatherers

A new political radio ad running in Sacramento this week is claiming that paid signature gatherers are often identity thieves, convicted felons and forgers.

Usually when an ad campaign starts on radio, there is an active political campaign behind it.

However this week when I did a Google search for “Californians Against Identity Theft,” the group which claims responsibility for the ad, nothing popped up. And even this morning when I researched the group, again nothing appeared in the Google searches.

But when I did one more search just after noon today, a new website popped up for “Californians Against Identity Theft,” claiming that ballot initiatives lead to ballot fraud, and identity theft. “Ballot fraud is any attempt to mislead voters or qualify a ballot measure in a way that skirts the rules,” the website states. “This includes misleading ballot titles, fake signatures, or people gathering signatures who aren’t allowed to do so.”

The radio ad features a woman telling her husband that pushy signature gatherers at the grocery story successfully convinced her to sign a petition. Her husband tells her that she should not have signed the petition because paid signature gatherers move from state to state stealing identities. “The Legislature called it an identity theft starter kit. Now we really need to watch our bank statements and credit information,” the husband says.

“That’s it, I’m not singing any more petitions. I guess the lesson here is not to give our name and address to anyone we don’t know,” replies the woman.

A brief story in the Sacramento Bee today reported that a website for the group was launched today, after they published the story about the ads. “Update 11:36 a.m.: A website for the group has been launched at this link.” 

“The group does not appear to have any ties to legitimate organizations dedicated to protecting consumers from identity theft, ” reports the Bee. A representative of Common Cause said he could not think of a situation where identity theft occurred from signing an petition and added  that the ad “sounded like an attempt to ‘provoke a fear’ to discourage people from signing petitions.”

A search of the Secretary of State’s website did not find any ballot measures sponsored by “Californians Against Identity Theft.”

But there have been many attempts to end the ballot initiative process. Currently, Assembly Bill 651 (Hueso), would require any firm that uses paid signature gatherers for petition circulation, register with the Secretary of State and pay a registration fee. The bill made its way through the Assembly already, and was recently amended in the Senate twice (latest version of the bill). The bill currently awaits a floor vote.

Another bill attempting to alter the initiative process was AB 6 (Saldana) from 2009, which would also have required petition firms to register with the Secretary of state and pay a fee. In the veto message of AB 6, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “The people of California often exercise their important role in government oversight through the initiative, referendum and recall process. I cannot support a measure that places an undue burden on reform-minded Californians.”

SB 68 (Corbett) will “prohibit a person from paying another person, or being paid based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative, referendum, or recall petition.” Democratic Sen. Ellen Corbett (San Leandro) said, “Some signature gathering firms compensate circulators based on the number of signatures they collect. Some circulators reach the deadline to qualify initiatives by illegally misinforming voters and forging names. Others have forged signatures onto their petitions by copying names they chose from a phonebook. Lastly, some have inserted carbon paper and a second petition behind the original one in order to collect signatures.”  SB 68 already made it through the Legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.”

The radio ad should arouse plenty of suspicion. This is one bill to watch closely, as well as the suspicious ad campaign, as it is using identity theft as a cover to alter the ballot initiative process and ultimately limit voter access.

(Listen to the ad here)

JULY 29, 2011



Write a comment
  1. Barb
    Barb 30 July, 2011, 06:04

    There is a story by Erick Erickson, Redstate, re this very same issue. The claim is unions discouraging people to sign petitions since they deal with pension reform, immigration status, and political fundraising. These people will stop at nothing and for those who are not politically engaged, (probably a sizable amount), will fall for it. There was even one claim by a CA citizen that protestors were at the venues where petitions were being signed. Lots of imtimidation. After he signed the petition, the person yelled out at him, “I hope your house doesn’t burn down!”

    Reply this comment
  2. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 30 July, 2011, 11:08

    Gee, Katy, I’m sorry I accused you of not wanting people who have served their prison sentences to be able to get jobs to support your families. Clearly, you want them to make all the money they can as signature-gathers for right-wing initiatives.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rene
    Rene 1 August, 2011, 07:52

    Thanks for writing this. I woke up to this commercial this morning and was very skeptical about their assertions. My first thought was this is an ad to deter people from being part of the political process. Thank you for bring light to this issue.

    Reply this comment
  4. Steve
    Steve 1 August, 2011, 10:27

    Barb, of course Erick Erickson is claiming on redstate that this is the unions. Without a shred or spec of evidence. Please stop spreading trash. There is enough garbage going around the blogosphere without you adding to it.

    Reply this comment
  5. Barb
    Barb 1 August, 2011, 18:22

    Hi Steve, I’m not interested in getting involved in conjecture with you unless you can add some form of poignant information that would otherwise prove this story inconclusive. But you certainly have the right to voice your opinion as do I.

    Reply this comment
  6. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 3 August, 2011, 13:37

    Oh, yeah, it’s the Democrats who are trying to suppress the political process. Read and learn:

    Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, has been accused of attempting to suppress Democratic voter turnout in the Wisconsin Senate recall elections. reported that Charles Shultz, a Democrat who lives in the 10th Senate District, received an absentee ballot application form last week from AFP that contained incorrect information on it. The form instructed him to mail it back to the wrong location by Aug. 11 — two days after the recall election in his district between Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) and Shelly Moore (D) is set to take place, on Aug. 9.

    Politico obtained a copy of the AFP mailer, which was also distributed to voters in the 2nd District.

    The Wisconsin Democratic Party filed a formal complaint Tuesday with the state’s Government Accountability Board over the issue, accusing AFP of “falsely representing the time frame” for the upcoming August 9 recall election. Shultz filed his own complaint with the GAB on Saturday.

    AFP may also be getting involved in the increasingly heated ad wars that have been leading up to the recall elections. According to One Wisconsin Now, AFP has reportedly purchased over $150,000 in television ad time in the Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee areas.

    A spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity did not respond when asked for comment on the purchase, but One Wisconsin Now, a non-profit statewide progressive communications network, says the ad buy appears to be an effort to help the six Republican state Senators who were challenged by recall elections after supporting Governor Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining legislation in early 2011.

    Scot Ross, the Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, said at least one of the AFP-backed ads will air in support of two Republicans, Sen. Luther Olsen (District 14) and Sen. Robert Cowles (District 2). The group has also confirmed a $90,000 AFP ad buy in District 12, currently represented by Sen. Jim Holperin, a Democrat who is being recalled.

    Walker’s legislation — which eliminated collective bargaining and other rights for public employees and forced state workers to start paying more for their pensions and health care benefits — prompted voters to stage mass protests and led to nine total recall elections.

    Six Republicans and two Democrats are still trying to keep their seats. One Democrat, Sen. Dave Hansen, fended off a challenge from Republican David VanderLeest in July. If Democrats pick up a total of three new seats in the recall elections, their party will retake control of the Senate and gain an increased amount of influence over Walker’s budget legislation.

    Spending on the recall elections, much of which is coming from outside groups, is expected to top $20 million. Sen. Alberta Darling, a Republican facing a challenge from Assemblymember Sandy Pasch, is on track to set the record for the most money spent by a state Senate candidate in Wisconsin, having already put more than $600,000 toward her recall effort.

    Americans for Prosperity has a history of backing Wisconsin Republicans. The organization previously paid for an ad entitled “Stand With Scott Walker,” showing its support for the governor’s budget-cutting plan and blaming President Barack Obama for the February protests in the state.

    The group also sponsored “Wisconsin Freedom Phonebanks” at the RightOnline Conference in June, in which conservative activists called voters to “get the pulse of the community.”

    Gov. Walker’s ties to the Kochs — billionaire brothers who are behind the second-largest privately owned company in the United States — have caused controversy in the past, particularly after an incident where a man believed to be Walker made controversial statements to Ian Murphy, editor of the news site the Buffalo Beast, as Murphy pretended to be David Koch.

    In light of the continual protests and recall elections, Walker admitted to making mistakes during his rocky first term but still defended his policy choices. He acknowledged that his controversial budget-cutting decisions could make it hard for Republicans to prevail in the August recall elections.

    “If the Republican candidates are outspent two to one, it’s pretty difficult,” Walker told Reuters about the recall effort, adding that the party will have a better chance of prevailing “if things end up being relatively even and the message gets out.”

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  7. Jeffrey
    Jeffrey 15 August, 2011, 22:59

    The question was “HOW WAS THIS STORY INCONCLUSIVE?”.

    Would you please stay on topic and explain how this add is not misleading.

    I see you like to “cut and paste” I thought you made need to review the following.
    Misleading- confusing or deceptive: likely or deliberately intended to confuse people or give them a false idea of something.

    Thank you

    Reply this comment
  8. Will
    Will 16 August, 2011, 23:01

    It appears you are follower of Saul Alinsky book,( Rules for radicals). If anyone here is not familiar, lll just point out a rule Steve is performing for us.
    “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”
    Please continue your lefty liberal tactics, you are very entertaining.

    Reply this comment
  9. Kent
    Kent 7 September, 2011, 13:22

    Name one instance of identity theft from signature gatherers and even if you can, it would be very rare. I work as a paid signature gatherer and I don’t want your signature or your address if it doesn’t match the voter rolls and I get docked pay if my validity rate is below a certain percentage.

    Realize that the people I turn my signatures into already have the complete voters rolls.

    When I am collecting signatures I often register people to vote and I put my name and address plus my phone number on the receipt at the bottom of the form which I give to the person, a complete stranger. I do this so I can collect more signatures and I am not worried in the least that my identity could be stolen.

    I have been doing this now for about three years now and in the last couple of months people have looked at me with hatred in their eyes thanks to the lying commercials on the radio but it was never like that before and all I am trying to do is my job.

    One of my co workers put it this way when he said, “Do you think I would be out in front of a store for sometimes ten hours a day, often in the hot sun, just to steal someone’s indentity?” It just doesn’t add up that we would do that when there are a lot of easier ways to get someone’s information, especially on the internet.

    Reply this comment
  10. little missy
    little missy 10 May, 2012, 14:23

    I saw two guys (names not be mentioned here) tampering with voter registration cards in 2008 in san fran right before bush’s election. They were making dems into repubs by forging their names. Its people like them that give people like me that want to help others – gives us a bad name.

    Reply this comment
  11. little missy
    little missy 10 May, 2012, 14:23

    Hey Kent, I can name a couple of instances! lol

    Reply this comment
  12. little missy
    little missy 10 May, 2012, 14:25

    I also saw the same guy doing forgery in Orange and LA county on petitions.

    Reply this comment
  13. alicecook3e
    alicecook3e 19 July, 2018, 21:33

    This includes misleading ballot titles, fake signatures, or people gathering signatures who aren’t allowed to do so.

    Reply this comment

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