After calling his Republican rival’s voter registration drive at the University of Connecticut “ACORN-ish,” Peter Schiff has just five days to collect 8,268 signatures to get on the Republican primary ballot and he’s paying to get it done.
While the Schiff campaign refused to confirm it was paying volunteers $2.25 per signature, it has admitted it’s hired an Arizona firm to help with its efforts.
“Peter hired a firm to supplement volunteer signature gathering efforts to ensure grassroots Republicans have a choice on August 10,” Jen Millikin, Schiff’s campaign spokeswoman said Wednesday. When pressed on whether the Schiff campaign was paying volunteers to gather signatures, Millikin said “the campaign does not make any of its contracts with vendors available.”
Millikin said the Schiff campaign has hired Lincoln Strategy Group to help organize the volunteers collecting signatures.
However, under Connecticut election law every person gathering signatures must be a resident of Connecticut. More specifically, those circulating nominating petitions must be “an enrolled member of the party holding the primary, in any town in this state,” Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State, said Tuesday.
Millikin said the Lincoln Strategy Group was hired to mobilize Connecticut Republicans to gather the signatures.
“Our volunteers and the firm are following all rules and regulations applicable for petition signature gathering set forth by the Connecticut Secretary of State,” Millikin said.
As of Thursday, Millikin said the campaign was halfway to 8,268 signatures, but was hesitant to give a firm number on the fluid effort. She said the goal of the campaign is to collect 16,000 signatures to make sure it has enough to withstand what it expects will be a challenge of their validity by McMahon’s campaign.
Schiff failed to garner 15 percent of the delegate support necessary to force a primary against McMahon. Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who did garner enough support to force a primary, ended his campaign on May 25 and equated a run against McMahon and her millions to a lesson in futility.
McMahon’s campaign said that on at least two occasions this week, Schiff signature gathers stopped by the McMahon campaign headquarters in West Hartford Center. They said they provided the Schiff petitioners some literature on McMahon’s campaign.
Asked to comment on the petition drive, Ed Patru, McMahon’s communications director, said that “real grassroots support can’t be contracted out of the Yellow Pages. It needs to be earned.”
The Schiff campaign says it’s focusing its efforts in New Canaan, Avon, Milford, Newington, Newtown, Westport, and Weston, but has petitioners all over the state. The state Elections Enforcement Commission said no complaints had been filed regarding the Schiff petitions, which must be verified by registrars in each of the towns the petition was collected.