Paul Jacob

In the Dr. Seuss tale, the Grinch kept pressing himself, “I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming!” Then, the Grinch “got a wonderful awful idea.”

The same thing happened last week in California. A new Grinch-of-a-group with a shadowy identity started running a radio advertisement all across the state’s many expensive media markets. The apparent goal? To keep democracy from coming.

The group calls itself Californians Against Identity Theft (CAIT) and the radio spot is about identity theft. Well . . . sorta. Not really, though.

It’s actually an attempt to frighten people about identity theft so that they will refrain from engaging in the democratic process by signing petitions to place citizen initiative measures on the ballot for voters to decide. A number of petitions now gather up steam for a batch of newly proposed ballot initiatives, some strongly opposed by organized labor.

Tom Adams, CAIT’s secretary-treasurer, says “We’re not targeting any particular ballot measures,” but also refuses to disclose who is funding the effort, or why. The Sacramento Bee reports that the new Californians Against Identity Theft “does not appear to have any ties to established organizations dedicated to protecting consumers from identity theft.”

Meanwhile, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Bob Balgenorth admits he helped brainstorm the idea, telling the Bee that people circulating petitions are “all paid bounty hunters,” and adding, “I think the whole initiative process needs to be looked at.”

Wait a second, is this about identity theft . . . or the initiative process?

In the radio ad, a knowledgeable-sounding husband informs his wife, who has just committed the atrocity of signing a petition at the market, “you put yourself at risk to identity theft” because petitions “may” be collected by “convicted felons and forgers.”

“I even read that names and addresses on petitions were sent to other countries,” says the husband.

“Who knows what they did with it?” exclaims the wife.

“Now we really need to watch our bank statements and credit information,” the husband moans.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.