Top Dem mega-donor in hot water for using convicted felons as petitioners

DCNFJason Hopkins, DCNF

An organization backed by environmentalist Tom Steyer is allegedly paying convicted felons to gather signatures for a ballot initiative in Arizona — a crime in the state.

(Image: Flickr)

Steyer, an environmentalist billionaire who has spearheaded numerous climate change initiatives across the country, is behind a push to increase Arizona’s renewable energy portfolio. The California activist, through his national NextGen America organization, has completely funded Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona — a group that is campaigning to force utilities to obtain 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2030.

Such a sweeping mandate requires an amendment to the Arizona Constitution, meaning supporters have to collect 225,963 valid voters’ signatures by July to make the 2018 ballot. Their signature effort might endure a severe setback if accusations by Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a group opposed to the mandate, are accurate.

Multiple people registered as petition circulators for the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona campaign are convicted felons, according to a statement released by Arizonans for Affordable Electricity. Some of the petition circulators carry shocking convictions, which range from vehicular homicide to kidnapping and domestic violence. Arizona law bars convicted felons from circulating initiative petitions, with exception if an individual had his or her rights restored.

“Clearly, the ‘Clean Energy’ campaign hasn’t done its homework on the men and women collecting initiative signatures on its behalf. The use of felons as petition circulators is not only a violation of Arizona law, it is an outrageous abuse of public safety,” said Matthew Benson, spokesman with Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, in a statement released Monday. “Arizona families should be able to trust that the signature-gatherers approaching them on street corners, in front of public libraries and at other community gathering spots are not violent felons. Yet, that is exactly who the initiative campaign has dispatched — men with felony convictions for kidnapping, domestic violence, aggravated vehicular homicide, burglary, forgery and more.”

The accusations come as another setback for Steyer’s campaign to force renewables on Arizona electricity customers. The campaign he funds — along with its signature-collecting firm, FieldWorks — is already in hot water by the Arizona attorney general’s office in regard to its petition-circulating activities. Several former FieldWorks employees have accused the liberal canvassing group of wrongful termination for failing to reach signature-collection quotas, which is a violation of state law.

“It now seems clear the initiative registered so many phony petition circulators hoping to hide the ineligible — and, in some cases, dangerous — individuals working on the campaign’s behalf,” Benson continued in his statement. “Whatever the reason, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office should order the campaign to immediately cease its illegal activities.”

Opponents of the Steyer-backed initiative argue it would leave ratepayers in Arizona paying more for electricity and would not help lower carbon emissions. A 50-percent renewable mandate by 2030 would likely close the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the largest nuclear plant in the U.S. and a major producer of emissions-free electricity.

NextGen did not respond a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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