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Blame erupts among supporters of Gascon recall – Orange County Register

A Florida-based company that received millions of dollars for collecting signatures for the campaign to recall Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón this week blamed organizers for failing to qualify an election, and insisted that “they can’t blame anyone but themselves for the disaster.”

David Leibowitz, a spokesman for Let The Voters Decide, claimed the recall committee failed to heed advice from petition circulation experts and ultimately slowed recall efforts.

“It couldn’t have been handled more like an amateur lesson,” Leibowitz said. “These advisors made poor decisions and ignored solid advice at every turn. You name it, they’ve done it, from cheaply collecting signatures to not paying their bills to expensive direct mail that failed to having zero clue how to verify signatures for submission. You have no one to blame for this catastrophe but yourself.”

Let The Voters Decide, which is suing the recall campaign over nearly $500,000 in unpaid signature collection bills, also claims advisers to the recall committee spent more than $400,000 on the “chaotic event” in the first half of 2022 paid.

“When the story of this campaign is written, it will be a failure almost as shocking as George Gascon’s massive failure to enforce the law and protect the good people of Los Angeles,” Leibowitz said. “That should never have happened.”

Herculean task

However, experts called the Herculean task of collecting 566,857 valid signatures to qualify the recall vote for the ballot. Although organizers submitted petitions with 717,000 signatures, this week’s county election officials said they got 47,000 fewer than the required number. Signatures from unregistered voters were the main culprit.

In comparison, the successful recall that ousted progressive San Francisco prosecutor Chesa Boudin in June needed just 51,325 signatures to qualify for the vote.

The sheer size of Los Angeles County, which has a population of more than 40 states, complicates the logistics of a successful recall, said veteran Los Angeles policy adviser Matt Klink, who declined a request to lead a previous, aborted Gascón recall because it was a grassroots partisan action.

“It’s easy until you have to do it,” Klink said. “As unpopular as Mr Gascón is, the bar is still set high and it’s going to be difficult.”

It is difficult and costly to find signature collectors capable of persuading voters to support electoral measures – even when it comes to polarizing figures like Gascony.

Millions spent on petitions

Campaign funding records show that the Gascón recall committee spent approximately $4.8 million — of which $4.3 million went to Let The Voters Decide — to circulate the recall petitions. That’s $9.22 for each valid signature. In 2021, the average cost per signature required in referenda across the country was $14.74, according to Ballotpedia.

“People have other things on their minds, so you have to bring them (the initiative) to the top,” Klink said. “Most voters might think it’s not that important, so people have to go in and make it important.”

That the campaign failed is not so surprising, he said, “because most recall attempts either fail to get enough signatures (for a referendum) or lose at the ballot box. You are under a lot of pressure when you have a recall. They were probably in a hurry and didn’t check everything properly.”

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk reported that the disqualified signatures on the Gascon petitions included 88,464 from unregistered voters, 43,593 duplicates, and 32,187 from people who provided a different address than that given on the voter registration records.

The recall organizers launched their campaign in late January after the county approved their petition, giving them about 160 working days to complete the signature requirement.

“No one has ever collected so many signatures in so little time on a per capita basis,” said Tim Lineberger, a campaign spokesman for Recall District Attorney George Gascón. “This is unprecedented.”

Lineberger believes Los Angeles County voters understood the importance and urgency of removing Gascon from office, but said qualifying the recall for voting was still a tough task.

“The message resonates well, but getting people to fill out and return petitions perfectly as required is a challenge,” he said.

Multiple challenges

Aaron Green, a political adviser who was not involved in the campaign but has conducted successful balloting in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, said the Gascon recall likely encountered several hurdles.

“The recall campaign met challenges on several fronts, including a tight job market for paid signature collectors (and) a general sense of political desperation among voters who were asked to sign another petition outside their grocery store,” he said in an email .

The lawsuit, filed by Let the Voters Decide, alleges that the recall committee “lowered the price they were willing to pay signature collectors at a time” when the market demanded an increase, according to City News Service. The committee’s “failed strategic decisions” caused the signature collection to fall behind schedule, Let the Voters Decide claimed.

Lineberger described the lawsuit as frivolous but declined to elaborate. He is pleased with the financial backing Gascón’s recall has received and how the campaign money has been spent.

“The overwhelming support from both sides of the political aisle is another indication of how badly people want to get rid of Gascón,” he said. “His dangerous policies and social experiments put everyone at risk. It’s not a partisan issue.”

Bipartisan Donations

Despite being labeled a movement by “marginal conservatives,” financial records for the recall showed Democrats contributed around $1.3 million to an attempt to overthrow Gascon. However, Republicans still make up the majority of giving, according to an analysis by the Southern California News Group, which examined each donor’s history of political giving to determine their likely political allegiance.

Of the $7.6 million verified, $4.1 million came from individuals or companies who typically donated to conservative candidates, the data showed. The nearly $1.3 million donated by Democrats includes well-known fundraisers, corporations and left-leaning committees.

Political committees linked to law enforcement contributed about $1.1 million of the total revenue, while the remaining $1 million came from sources who either donated equally to Republicans and Democrats or had no clear political affiliation had.

Two Republican mega-donors and real estate moguls, Geoffrey Palmer of Beverly Hills and Gerald Marcil of Palos Verdes Estates, covered about a third of the campaign’s funding alone. As the top two donors, Palmer and Marcil donated $1.6 million and $1 million, respectively.

The third-largest contributor, Douglas Emmett Properties, is a real estate investment company led by Chief Executive Officer Jordan Kaplan, which has donated to various Democratic parties across the country over the past two years.

Not only did Douglas Emmett directly contribute $500,000 to Gascón’s recall, but the company waived $211,000 as the campaign’s lessor, according to campaign documents. Other prominent Democrat donations included $150,000 from Hudson Pacific Services, headed by Victor Coleman, who had previously made significant donations to the DNC and Gov. Gavin Newsom; and $100,000 from prominent Democratic fundraiser Ron Burkle.

Kaplan and Douglas Emmett Management did not respond to requests for comment.

Political action committees affiliated with the Professional Peace Officers Association, the Association of LA Deputy Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Protective League donated $500,000, $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.

The bipartisan support for Gascon’s dismissal has less to do with party politics and more to do with how his performance is perceived, Green said.

“Historically, when it comes to incumbent prosecutors, voters first questioned whether they thought the prosecutor was doing a good job and keeping their families safe, and party affiliation came second,” he added. “It is clear that there is a Democratic constituency that does not like the work of District Attorney Gascon.”

Elise Moore, a spokeswoman for Gascón, said Californians don’t like snap elections, adding that the campaign to oust the district attorney was likely marred by an endorsement by controversial Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“But at the end of the day, the district attorney’s biggest and most important supporters were behind him, and that means a lot to voters,” Moore said.

The fight may not be over yet. Officials with recall efforts are considering a possible legal challenge to the petition’s signature results, according to the committee spokesman.

“We are concerned about any registered voters whose signatures are not counted,” Lineberger said.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/08/18/finger-pointing-erupts-among-backers-of-gascon-recall/ Blame erupts among supporters of Gascon recall – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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