By Sarah Fenske
Mark Jacoby, who New Times first linked to fraudulent signature-gathering in Arizona, has been arrested in California.
The Los Angeles Times reports Jacoby was arrested in Ontario, California October 18 on "suspicion of voter registration fraud." Jacoby, police there are alleging, used a former address to register to vote in California -- apparently to get around a state law that requires vote-gatherers in that state to be registered to vote there.
The Times also reports that "dozens of voters" claimed they were tricked into registering as Republicans by people working at Jacoby's company, YPM.
That allegation echoes what I heard in August while reporting a story about problems with the initiative process in Arizona. The Secretary of State had ruled tens of thousands of signatures invalid -- leading to three citizen's initiatives being kicked off the ballot for failing to gather enough valid signatures.
At the time, I spoke to several petition-gatherers who put the blame on Jacoby and his company.
As I wrote at the time:
Everybody in town seems to have used YPM LLC, a Florida-based company owned by Mark Jacoby. And Jacoby's group is at the center of Jack Bickley's most damning allegations. (Jacoby, who has left town, did not return calls for comment by press time.)
Bickley says Jacoby encouraged, and even expected, behavior that could well be criminal under Arizona statutes.
Jacoby, he says, had a system where a trainer would be assigned as many as six new circulators. Even though the trainer would be nowhere near the circulators while they collected signatures, he would still sign the back of their petitions, attesting that he'd personally witnessed them.
"The person who signed the back was not present when the petitions were signed," Bickley says. "How could he be? He had five or six people working under him at different spots around town."
The news of Jacoby's California arrest has left-leaning bloggers crowing. Jacoby, after all, is a Republican, and in California he was apparently hired by the state Republican Party to register people. But in Arizona, at least, Democrats can't make too much hay out of his arrest: It was a Democrat-backed firm, Petition Partners LLC, that handled seven of the nine petitions that turned in signatures this fall. In all seven cases, Petition Partners used YPM as a subcontractor.
When I talked to the firm's principal, Andrew Chavez, in August, he defended Jacoby's work. Now that this news has broken, Chavez failed to return my call for comment.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told New Times in August that he's seriously looking at charges of voter fraud, and I hope he'll be taking a close look at Jacoby.
One thing is for sure: We certainly can't wait for the county attorney to do it. Andrew Thomas was the honorary chair of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, which used Jacoby's firm as a subcontractor. And even Thomas' opponent, Tim Nelson, would have a conflict on this one if he gets elected: Petition Partners, the firm that hired YPM as a subcontractor for all seven of its petition drives, is represented by his wife's law firm, Coppersmith Gordon Schermer & Brockelman.
When it comes to letting Jacoby do his business, both Republicans and Democrats have blood on their hands in Arizona. Small wonder that Jacoby's arrest has yet to make the news here; I suspect everybody would be a whole lot happier if the issue went away quietly.