A Bay Area-based group organizing a statewide effort to call a Constitutional Convention is alleging that it is being stymied in its efforts to gather signatures for two ballot measures in November.
Repair California officials said their attorneys have sent letters to five signature gathering firms alleging that the companies are engaging in "dirty tricks" and colluding in an illegal boycott of the movement.
Letters were sent to Kimball Petition Management, American Petition Consultants, National Petition Management, Masterton & Wright and Progressive Campaigns, according to Repair California Campaign Director John Grubb.
The owner of Masterton & Wright strongly denied the claim. Representatives of the other four companies were not immediately available for comment.
Repair California, begun by officials from the Bay Area Council, a coalition of business leaders, is seeking to call a Constitutional Convention to reform California's budget, election and initiative processes.
The group is trying to put two measures on the 2010 ballot calling for the convention, which would be held the following year.
"Our entire democracy is demeaned when the question of calling a Convention is denied a fair fight on the field of ideas before the voters," Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a statement.
Repair California alleges that the five signature gathering firms are violating state and federal antitrust laws and the constitutional rights of the movement's organizers and supporters.
The group also alleges that some who are circulating petitions are being threatened and intimidated, and that some people acting on behalf of signature gathering firms may be throwing valid signatures away.
"Here lies the dark underbelly of California's political control," Grubb said.
Grubb suggested that interest groups in Sacramento that contribute to the signature gathering firms, and the firms themselves, may see the Constitutional Convention movement as a threat.
Repair California would prefer to resolve the situation without legal action, Grubb said.
"The best solution would be for them to confirm that they are no longer going to engage in these activities," he said.
Ken Masterton, the owner of the Bolinas-based Masterton & Wright, said he had not yet received the letter but was "incensed" at the allegations, which he called "completely and utterly false."
"I challenge them to provide one shred of evidence to back up that claim," Masterton said, adding that there had been no collusion or any other involvement in opposing signatures on his part.
"They have engaged in despicable behavior," Masterton said of the allegations, "and I'm disappointed, obviously, to be dragged into it."
Masterton said Repair California had previously contacted him to be a consultant for their proposed "new model" for signature gathering campaigns.
Masterton declined, but "I gave those guys free advice on how to proceed," he said.
Masterton said he only works for initiatives that he "would personally vote for" and further claimed that Repair California "ignored reality" by starting their campaign late.
Grubb said his group has so far collected about 100,000 of the 1.4 million signatures required for a deadline at the end of April to place both measures on the ballot, but was "very confident that we will get there."