AP reported California GOP "endorsed" Electoral College measure, but not that top GOP lawyer initiated it

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

An Associated Press article on the California Republican Party state convention reported that "Republicans at the convention also endorsed a proposed ballot initiative to change the way the state awards electoral votes in presidential contests," but did not note that the initiative was originally proposed by a lawyer with deep ties to the state GOP or report any Democratic criticism of the proposed initiative.

In a September 9 Associated Press article on the California Republican Party state convention, AP political writer Michael R. Blood reported that "Republicans at the convention also endorsed a proposed ballot initiative to change the way the state awards electoral votes in presidential contests," but he did not note that the initiative was originally proposed by a lawyer with deep ties to the state GOP. Blood also did not report any Democratic criticism of the proposed initiative, which, as he noted, would award two electoral votes to the winner of the statewide vote and divide the rest among the winners of California's congressional districts.

Sacramento attorney Thomas Hiltachk, the managing partner of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, submitted the ballot measure to the California attorney general's office on July 17. Hiltachk has served as legal counsel to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), and Bell McAndrews' senior partner, Charles H. Bell Jr., is general counsel to the California Republican Party.

Hiltachk has played a role in several Republican campaigns to pass ballot initiatives that would benefit that party. He served as counsel to Ted Costa, the former chairman of the Sacramento County Republican Central Committee who filed the petition seeking the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis (D). Hiltachk also represented and served as a spokesman for Rescue California, a ballot-measure committee that spent $3.6 million promoting the recall initiative. The Sacramento Bee reported in a July 1, 2004, article that Rescue California "gathered 1.3 million of the signatures that got the measure on the October 2003 ballot." On October 7, 2003, Davis was recalled from office and replaced by Schwarzenegger. Hiltachk also served as treasurer of Governor Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team, a ballot-initiative committee that supported measures to mandate judicial redistricting of California's congressional districts and require employee consent for the use of union dues for political purposes.

Blood has previously reported that Hiltachk proposed the initiative and has ties to the state GOP. For example, in a September 6 AP article, Blood reported: "The Presidential Election Reform Act, as it's dubbed, is being pushed by Thomas Hiltachk, a lawyer in a Sacramento firm that represents the California Republican Party and has worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger."

While Blood did not report any Democratic criticism of the measure in his September 9 article, in his September 6 report, he wrote:

Democrats determined to block a California ballot proposal that could help elect a Republican president in 2008 are launching radio ads to urge voters to snub what they call a "partisan power grab," campaign officials said Thursday.

The 60-second ads, to begin running in Los Angeles and Sacramento on Friday, say the plan to change the way the state's electoral votes are awarded in presidential contests would deplete the state's clout in Washington while helping elect a Republican who would extend the Iraq war.

[...]

"The simple fact is that the GOP's efforts to rig the presidential election, if successful, would lead to a continued Republican failure to end the War in Iraq," said Chris Lehane, a spokesman for the group [Californians for Fair Election Reform, a group supported by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and other leading Democrats that was established to block the proposal]. "What's more, this initiative would lead to a dramatic dilution of California's political power nationally."

From the September 9 AP article:

[State Sen. Tom] McClintock's [R] speech capped a weekend convention that spotlighted deep divisions between the party's conservative and moderate wings. On Saturday, party Chairman Ron Nehring steered around questions on Schwarzenegger's assessment of the party's future.

Republicans at the convention also endorsed a proposed ballot initiative to change the way the state awards electoral votes in presidential contests, a plan the governor has questioned.

Like most states, California awards all its electoral votes to the statewide winner in presidential elections. Under the ballot proposal, the statewide winner would get only two electoral votes. The rest would be distributed to the winning candidate in each of the state's congressional districts.

That would create 53 races, each with one electoral vote up for grabs. President Bush carried 22 of those districts in 2004, while losing the statewide vote by double digits.

The so-called Presidential Election Reform Act, if it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, could shift those votes into the GOP column in 2008 and potentially alter the outcome of the race.

Only Maine and Nebraska allocate electoral votes by congressional district.

Posted In
Elections, Election Law
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
California Initiative
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