Felony charges were filed this week against 12 signature gatherers accused of registering Orange County voters as Republicans without their consent - part of a criminal probe into voter flipping.
An Orange County Register investigation in April found that more than 100 people who thought they were signing petitions to cure breast cancer and punish child molesters were duped into registering as Republicans. The signature gatherers were part of an Orange County Republican registration drive that paid up to $10 for each "convert," especially in the heated state 34th Senate District.
News of the arrest warrants brought applause from a local Republican Party battered by scandal, most recently the investigation into a threatening letter sent to Hispanic voters by congressional candidate Tan Nguyen.
Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh said his group was hurt by signature gatherers who took money for phony registrations.
"May they rot in jail for stealing from us and disenfranchising voters," Baugh said.
"Especially since they got caught and we haven't been yet," he didn't say.
Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Barbaro said he hoped the arrests and Baugh's cooperation in the Tan investigation "are indicative of a new effort by local Republican Party leaders to protect the rights of all Orange County voters."
Barbaro, however, also charged that the voter-registration fraud and the threatening letter had their genesis in a local GOP that in the past was accused of allowing such misdeeds to go unpunished.
Complaints of voter flipping in Orange County shone a light on the world of signature gatherers, most of whom move from one petition drive to another. A Register investigation found that some workers had criminal records for such things as prostitution and child molestation.
Susan O'Hare, 58, of Anaheim was among the voters flipped to the Republican Party without her knowledge. O'Hare thought she was signing a petition against pedophiles before she got a taped telephone message from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"This is appalling, and I am glad they found someone to pay for it," she said Thursday. "What I really want to know is: Who is behind the whole thing?"
Court records show that independent contractor Daniel Alwin Ricca has been accused of defrauding O'Hare. Ricca was hired by then Newport Beach-based Tom Bader & Associates, which in turn was hired by the Orange County Republican Party.
Bader said Thursday that he had no control over the antics of street-level petition gatherers.
"There's always the possibility somebody will try to do this," he said. "We're hoping these people never get to work in this field again."
Yeah, right. At least not for two years.
This shit goes on all over the country. I'm glad some Repugs finally got caught at it.