LOS ANGELES — An influential California Republican said Thursday he is attempting to raise millions of dollars to change the way the state awards its electoral votes — a bid to revive a campaign that stalled just days ago.
"I am making phone calls because I think this is a critically important issue in the presidential sweepstakes,” said Lew Uhler, president of the Sacramento-based National Tax Limitation Committee.
"We are talking to prospective contributors. We are talking to lawyers for purposes of making sure we follow all of the campaign-finance reporting rules,” Uhler said. "We’re getting some serious interest, but I can’t go to the bank with what I’ve got yet.”
Just last week, another Republican-linked committee that was pushing the ballot initiative, Californians for Equal Representation, essentially collapsed in the face of poor fundraising and critical news reports about the source of its income.
Supporters say the proposal to change the way the nation’s most populous state apportions its electoral votes would usher in a new era of fairness in presidential contests. But Democrats say its little more than an attempt to rig the 2008 race in favor of the GOP nominee.
California awards its cache of 55 electoral votes to the statewide winner in presidential elections — the largest single prize in the nation. Under the proposal the statewide winner would receive only two electoral votes; the rest would be allocated according to results in each congressional district.
California has voted Democratic in the last four presidential elections. But the change — if it qualified for the June primary ballot and was approved by voters — would have positioned a Republican candidate the following November to win 20 or more electoral votes in GOP-leaning districts.
Any group would face significant challenges getting the proposal to the ballot. An estimated $1 million to $2 million would be needed to qualify the proposal for the ballot, and millions more would be needed to run a statewide campaign. It would take more than 400,000 signatures from voters to qualify the proposal for the ballot.
Even Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has questioned the idea.
Leading Democrats united with Hollywood producer Stephen Bing and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer to oppose the proposal, fearing it could hand the 2008 presidential election to the Republican nominee. A committee formed to oppose the plan, which has ties to Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, had been running ads depicting the proposal as a power grab for the GOP.
Republican consultant Ed Rollins said the ballot proposal "is certainly not dead.”
"People are working very hard trying to get it back up again,” said Rollins, who was a White House political director under President Reagan.
However, Uhler said he might not move forward unless he can raise enough money to run a credible campaign.