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Recall campaign accused of violations.

Byline: Saul Hubbard The Register-Guard

A nonprofit agency backed by two national gun control groups is accusing a recall effort against Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat, of violating signature-gathering laws.

In a complaint filed late Wednesday, the nonprofit Oregon Democracy Fund alleges that violations occurred in late July at eight gun stores in Lane and Douglas counties where recall signatures were being collected.

The complaint accuses the recall campaign of using paid signature gatherers who aren't registered with the state, and of improperly circulating "single signer" sheets, which are intended to be filled out by voters by themselves without any help from a campaign signature gatherer.

Prozanski, a leading voice in the passage of a controversial expansion of gun background checks this year, was targeted for recall by Patricia Michaelson- Duffy of Cottage Grove in June. The recall campaign must submit about 8,400 valid signatures by Sept. 4.

The recall campaign has registered at least 10 paid signature gatherers with the state, Angela Martin, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Democracy Fund, said Thursday.

But, because no signature gathering volunteers were seen on several occasions by the group's investigators at gun stores, the complaint argues that all store employees present are considered paid signature gatherers under Oregon election law.

Under the law, paid signature gatherers must register with the Secretary of State's Office, pass a background check and go through a training program. There is no evidence that many of the observed store employees were registered, however, Martin said.

Additionally, investigators say they saw unattended recall petitions on several occasions. Under the law, a paid or volunteer signature gatherer must observe any person signing a petition. Not doing so is a potential violation of election and criminal law, the complaint says.

"Clearly, the gun lobby extremists behind this reckless recall effort have no respect for the law," Martin said. "It's up to the Secretary of State to protect Oregonians by holding the election law violators accountable."

Oregon Democracy Fund is funded in part by Everytown for Gun Safety and Americans for Responsible Solutions, gun control advocacy groups started by ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, respectively, Martin said. Because the group is considered an educational nonprofit, its spending hasn't yet had to be reported as political spending in Oregon.

Martin said the group's efforts were not coordinated with Prozanski.

Michaelson- Duffy declined to comment, when reached by phone on Wednesday, saying she hadn't yet been able to review the full complaint.

In late June, the recall campaign filed an election complaint of its own against three Oregon Democracy Fund employees, alleging that they illegally disrupted recall signature-gathering efforts outside the Lane County Fair and harassed two signature gatherers.

Oregon Democracy Fund's Martin said Thursday that the group is still working on its formal response to that complaint.

"Nothing in their complaint causes us concerns," she said.

Both complaints will now be investigated by the Secretary of State's elections division, which can fine violators.

So far, three attempted recalls of Democratic lawmakers who backed the background check expansion have been dropped by their sponsors.

In late May, an elections complaint very similar to the one filed by Oregon Democracy Fund was filed by Our Oregon, a Portland- based liberal political nonprofit group, against the recall campaign targeting Rep. Val Hoyle, a Eugene Democrat.

The investigation of that complaint is still ongoing, said Tony Green, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.

"We take very seriously our responsibility to investigate thoroughly all elections complaints," Green said in an email.

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Title Annotation:Politics; The effort to remove Sen. Floyd Prozanski from office is charged with breaking signature-gathering laws
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 14, 2015
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