Constitutional convention effort “calls it quits”

Backers of an attempt to rebuild California’s government through the first constitutional convention in 130 years halted their efforts Friday, saying they were unable to raise the millions of dollars needed to finance signature gathering for a pair of November ballot initiatives.

“I’m very sorry we had to call it quits,” said Jim Wunderman, president and chief executive of the Bay Area Council, a key sponsor of the proposed convention. The San Francisco-area business group provided the initial momentum for the effort. “We were not able to raise the amount of money we needed to place the two ballot measures on the ballot.”

Repair California, the campaign reform group that worked closely with the Bay Area Council, estimated that it needed $3.5 to $4 million to get the initiatives on the ballot. State financial disclosure records showed Repair California  reported lackluster fundraising. The group raised some $352,000 during 2009 – a significant amount but far less than the millions of dollars typically needed in California to gather signatures to qualify a pair of initiatives for the November ballot.

Wunderman said a variety of factors had crippled fundraising, including the severe recession and other demands on donors’ money, including the Haitian earthquake.

Campaign spokesman John Grubb said about 200 volunteers had been on the streets for weeks gathering signatures. 

The group said it hoped well-heeled donors would come forward.

“I would say to some ‘angel’ out there, ‘You have the ability to have a huge impact on the state,” Grubb said. The campaign noted that if it received perhaps $3 million in donations, it would continue the effort.

“There are hundreds of millions of dolalrs flowing in the election cycle in California,” he added. “It is a potential sign of the dysfunction of California that we weren’t able to raise a pittance.”

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