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California effort to alter '08 race stalls

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The initiative would have required California's electoral votes to be distributed according to the popular vote winner in each congressional district. If the measure had passed, it probably would have changed the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, while creating a domino effect for other states to similarly rewrite their electoral rules, many political analysts said.

Eventually, 16 newspapers, including The New York Times, the San Diego Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Orange Country Register, and the Sacramento Bee, editorialized against it.

All the opposition publicity was impeding the effort, observers say. In a little more than 10 days, Mr. Arno's firm collected 100,000 signatures, 334,000 shy of what they would need by the end of November to qualify for the June 2008 ballot. And the campaign received just two checks – one for $175,000 and the other for $5,000, Arno says.

"The Democrats did a very good job of frightening away potential donors," says Dan Schnur, a former Republican consultant who teaches political communication at University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California. "The hiring of people to counter petition-gatherers on the street is a very aggressive pushback. Getting donors to step out in public while that is going on in the early going is a challenge."

Heading up the opposition against the initiative has been Democratic consultant Chris Lehane, former press secretary to Al Gore and spokesman for Californians for Fair Election Reform. His push was backed by wealthy donors, including real estate investor and movie producer Stephen Bing, who is supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton for president.

Last week, it was revealed that Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge-fund executive and a major New York fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani had donated the $175,000 to initiative proponents. He had given the money to "Take Initiative America," a company formed by a lawyer based in Missouri.

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