The Courage Campaign in California filed a complaint with the state Attorney General, District Attorney, and the Oceanside City Attorney on Monday on behalf of Max Disposti, who alleges that he witnessed petitioners for Stop SB 48 using anti-child molester posters to draw people into signing the petition.
Stop SB 48 is campaigning for a ballot measure to overturn the state's FAIR Education Act, which requires classrooms in California to include lessons about the historical contributions of a number of minorities, including gays and lesbians. According to the group, the law both "promotes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles" and "forces children to study materials that tell them their families' values are wrong."
Rick Jacobs, the chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, told TPM that his group has written to Stop SB 48 twice "because we have heard of instances of people who are gathering signatures actually lying," but they haven't responded.
Disposti claims in the complaint that in September he approached a signature gatherer who was encouraging people to sign a petition against child molesters and child abusers, and realized it was actually a petition against SB 48. "In addition to the signature gatherer's verbal misrepresentations about the content of the referendum petition, she also had posted large images and names of abduction victims, including Elizabeth Smart," the complaint says.
"The poster board she displayed referenced a failed initiative petition that related to human trafficking and which was over one year old," Disposti alleges.
Disposti also shot some video of the incident:
"Their message is a message of fear and scare tactics, and it is the common message of all campaigns that surround people [campaigning against] each other's rights," Jacobs said, adding that in this case "they seem to have crossed a legal line."
State law makes it a misdemeanor to collect signatures for a state or local initiative, referendum or recall petition that "intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition to any person who signs, or who desires to sign, or who is requested to sign, or who makes inquiries with reference to it, or to whom it is presented for his or her signature."
Though Jacobs noted that they don't believe the petitioner in question is paid, the campaign has until next week to collect and turn in over 504,000 signatures to get a ballot measure. "We will with our allies look very carefully at those signatures," he said.
"If you're willing to stoop this low what won't you do?" he asked.
Stop SB 48 did not return TPM's request for comment.