Democratic Party activists responded with renewed concern Monday to the news that reports of the death of a GOP initiative to divide California's electoral votes had been greatly exaggerated, and that a new round of financing from wealthy Republicans had resurrected the proposal.
The Republican proposal would alter 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 from safe Republican districts into the GOP column.
Party leaders in Washington and Sacramento moved quickly to launch a revived push to kill the initiative once and for all, setting up a new effort to challenge the legitimacy of the signatures being gathered to qualify the measure for the California ballot.
Opponents are also simultaneously laying the groundwork for an eventual legal fight over the constitutionality of the proposal.
The aggressive push back from Democrats reflects the deep concern throughout the party about the consequences of the California ballot initiative.
"I think Democrats should plan for the worst and hope for the best," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist spearheading the opposition to the GOP plan. "I don't think Democrats can ever breathe easy in this campaign."
In their new push to fight the plan, Democrats have launched an aggressive effort to track down the signature gatherers being paid to sign up the roughly 400,000 supporters needed to qualify the initiative for the California ballot.
"We actually have people out filming them and trying to find out what they are doing," said Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, the California progressive organization, which is working against the initiative.
On its website, the California Democratic Party is encouraging state residents to take on "mission assignments" to stop the Republican plan to "steal the state." Among the tasks are reporting back to the party whenever they see signature gatherers in action.
"Email, call or text us when you see people collecting signatures for the petition. We'll post them on the CDP Fraud Busters sightings page so everyone can see where the Republicans are on the move," says a note on the Democrats' website.
Opponents of the proposal said it remains to be seen whether Republicans have now raised enough money to sustain the initiative.
According to news reports over the weekend, various Republicans, including California Rep. Darrell Issa, have cut checks to resurrect the initiative, but the committee pushing the plan has yet to file disclosure statements with the California Secretary Of State identifying its new donors.
Issa himself donated $50,000, but said other Republicans had donated much more.
Lehane said he is fielding calls from Democrats across the country wanting to contribute to the campaign against the proposal.
"Money will not be an issue in this campaign," Lehane said.
Opponents have also repeated earlier concern that the proposed initiative is one strategy the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is using to help secure the White House.
Lehane's group has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission and the Department of Justice about connections between the Giuliani camp and the proposed ballot initiative.
Anne Dunsmore, a veteran Republican fundraiser who recently quit the Giuliani campaign, has signed on to help resurrect the electoral vote proposal. Before Issa announced his donation last week, the initiative's only other donor had been Paul Singer, a prominent Giuliani backer.
Thomas W. Hiltachk, a Sacramento attorney, stepped down from his post as the initiative campaign's first chief in the wake of the revelations about Singer.
"We went from one set of Giuliani-connected, power-grabbing, democracy-threatening right wingers who couldn't shoot straight with the people of California," Lehane said, "to another cabal of Giuliani-connected, power-grabbing, democracy-threatening right wingers who shoot even less straight with the voters of California."