03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Backers Of California Electoral Vote Initiative Raise Half-Million Dollars In Two Weeks

GOP proponents of a California ballot initiative to end the state's winner-take-all method of apportioning electoral votes have raised roughly $539,000 in the past two weeks, according to a campaign finance report filed Tuesday afternoon.

The half-million-dollar haul represents approximately one-quarter of the $2 million that supporters of the proposal said last week they would need to qualify the politically-charged initiative for the California ballot in 2008.

Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist coordinating opposition to the proposal, said the new donations reflect "just how desperate Republicans are when it comes to 2008 and just how far they are willing to go to try to keep their death grip on power."

The Republican proposal would upend the method of apportioning California's 55 electoral votes, moving from a winner-take-all system based on the popular vote to one that awards one vote for each congressional district a candidate wins.

Such a plan would alter the political geography of the current presidential contest, shifting as many as 20 consistently Democratic electoral votes that come from safe Republican districts into the GOP column.

In late September, political observers declared the proposal virtually dead after the original consultants running the campaign resigned amid allegations that it was a front for the presidential campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

According to disclosure forms filed Tuesday with the California Secretary of State by the group California Counts, which is now pushing the initiative, the state's Republican Party provided the single biggest donation to revive the proposal.

A spokesman for the state party said the $80,000 donation on the group's disclosure forms represents an in-kind contribution, but that the party would be evaluating whether to give more in the coming weeks.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a wealthy San Diego County Republican, was one of several individuals who contributed $50,000 to the revived proposal. Issa's campaign committee also donated $9,700 to California Counts.

Issa has a history of supporting contentious electoral measures in the Golden State. In 2003 he helped bankroll the recall election that saw former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis turned out of office and replaced with current GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Other prominent donors who have donated $50,000 include former Univision CEO Jerrold Perenchio and Orange County Businessman Duane Roberts.

Backers of the initiative are likely to point to the new disclosure report as evidence that the initiative campaign is not a front for Giuliani's candidacy, as has been alleged by several opponents. Most of the 15 individual donors listed on the report have contributed to
several GOP presidential candidates.

However two of the individual donors announced Tuesday are also contributors to Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson.

Robert Day, the chairman of the Trust Company of the West, gave $45,000 to the electoral vote initiative. Day has also donated $4,600 to Clinton's presidential campaign, as well as $2,300 to Dodd.

Edward Allred, a California racetrack owner, gave $20,000 to the electoral vote proposal. He has also donated $2,300 to Richardson.

Democratic Party leaders in Washington and Sacramento have launched a revived push to kill the initiative reflecting deep concern throughout the party that the California ballot initiative could seriously harm the party's chances of capturing the White House in 2008.

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