Sex Offender Petition Gatherers: Seriously, Bad Idea

As news broke over the weekend that paid petition gathering company Kennedy Enterprises has joined the recall effort against at least one Colorado legislator, Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs, there have been several aspects of this story worthy of attention. Yesterday, we released video footage of a training session last week at Kennedy Enterprises, outlining the money gatherers can make and the possibility of a lucrative career traveling "from city to city, state to state" collecting signatures "for basically anybody who has money."

If the presence of buy-an-election paid circulators in Morse's recall doesn't trouble you, and it indeed might not trouble the more politically cynical among us, there is another issue–the longstanding employment practices of petition gathering company Kennedy Enterprises. In 2008, Kennedy conducted the petition campaign for three GOP-backed ballot measures, including Amendment 47, the so-called "right to work" initiative. 9NEWS reported on an investigation into petition gatherers for that campaign (article no longer online):

Some people gathering signatures for ballot initiatives who approach Coloradans have criminal records, according to court record searches conducted by 9Wants to Know. [Pols emphasis] 9NEWS found signature gatherers convicted of sexual assault on a child, theft, harassment, trespassing and drug possession. Most signature gatherers are hired by private companies and paid for each signature they receive…

"It's a little frightening," said House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder)…

Court records show signature gatherer Ferrell Griffin was sentenced in 2007 for drug possession. Police had already busted him twice before in 2002 and 1992. He's on parole and gathering signatures for ballot issues in Denver this year. Secretary of State records show John Bizzell gathered signatures in Pueblo this year too. He's a registered sex offender who is back in prison on drug charges.

John Respondek has a criminal record that dates back to 1996. He's been convicted of theft five times since 1996. His record also includes trespassing and harassment. 9Wants to Know caught up with Respondek while he was gathering signatures in Denver.

Folks, when we noted the lack of background checks for this latest drive, this is what we were getting at

In the aftermath of the 2008 brouhaha over petition gatherers with criminal records, most commercial outfits that run these petition campaigns started performing standard criminal background checks. CBS4's Raj Chohan, now a deputy Weld County prosecutor, had this to say in his Reality Check of the ad above:

The group behind this ad makes an excellent point in one respect. Groups that hire companies to gather signatures certainly have the power to do something about the lack of background checks. They can insist that companies screen their subcontractors for past criminal conduct and bar felons from collecting signatures…

Jess Knox of Protect Colorado's Future said his group requires its signature-gathering company to conduct criminal background checks on all of its petition circulators. Knox acknowledged his group decided to pursue this route after seeing some of the problems emerge with signature gatherers connected to the Amendment 47 petition drive.

Now that his group has made background checks a political issue, perhaps other groups will require them if for no other reason than to head off the next attack ad. Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute said his organization may consider background checks in future petition drives. [Pols emphasis]

Let the record show: if there are any petition gathering companies in Colorado, Democratic or Republican, who are not conducting minimal criminal background screening for workers assigned to approach members of the public requesting personal information, we believe they should be run out of town. Inquiries we've made suggest that this is indeed standard practice for most such companies after 2008's experience. We're willing to assert as strict policy that criminals should never be engaged in gathering of private information from members of the public.

And that brings us back to the unscreened petition gatherers being sent by Kennedy Enterprises into Colorado Springs neighborhoods right now

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ArapaGOP says:

    Hey Pols! Colorado Peak Politics is trying to ask you a question. Why don't you respond? Why don't you ever respond over Twitter, or show your social media traffic?

    1. Colo Peak PoliticsColo Peak Politics ‏@COpeakpolitics3m

      @coloradopols Last we checked, 2011's Prop 103 came after 2008. Did the tax hikers not follow your sage advice on background checks? #coleg


    2. Colo Peak PoliticsColo Peak Politics ‏@COpeakpolitics6m

      @coloradopols Oh how quickly you forget about the ex-con Prop 103 signature gatherer fresh out of jail who was caught lying on tape #coleg

    • Curmudgeon says:

      At least there's no question as to where you get your marching orders and talking points, now…..

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      I see Peak Politics is as bad at giving links to their bullshit as you are, Goop. Coincidence?

    • Challenge to AGOP: Cite an indpendent source to corroborate "WhoSaid" and Colorado Peak Politics regarding this allegation.

      A Google search turns up no news sources reporting on this issue – only one partisan website. In other words – right now this looks like a complete fabrication.

      • Curmudgeon says:

        I'm sure Guppy will have a devastating repsonse…just as soon as someone at Peak Politics tells him what it might be. In the meantime, he's busy fetching a stick.

      • No response from AGOP. Critical FAIL – though I didn't expect any different.

        If this kind of article, devoid of any source or corroboration, is what the Colorado Republican Party has come to, then it's gone the full Old Yeller and it's time to find a newer, healthier party to replace it.

      • ArapaGOP says:

        Don't blame me if the liberal media doesn't report the facts. Isn't that what Pols says about the Denver Post?

        • NOBODY else reported it, Arapa.  No-one. Not even any of the Republican-leaning newspapers out there. No-one on the Internet, either – not Drudge, not InfoWars, not The Blaze, not RedState. And no opinion pieces? C'mon – the media might have a liberal bias in your opinion, but I'm sure even you find enjoyment in reading some opinion pieces contained inside – some opinion writer who speaks to you.

          For that matter, it didn't even rate a note with some of the liberal right-wing media watchers – because outside of CO Peak Politics, this story DOESN'T EXIST.

          • ArapaGOP says:

            Colorado Pols "reports" lots of things that nobody else picks up. Are those all non existent too?

            Pols has been reporting that Kennedy Enterprises is taking over the recalls. I haven't seen that anywhere else. Does that mean it's a lie?

            • ClubTwitty says:

              Yes.  All non existent.  Only you exist. Just a little diseased brain in a vat. What is tragic, is that this hell is what you have invented for yourself, coming here and being derided for your incessant pattering of stupidity. 

            • Aristotle says:

              That's ducking the question. Do you think Jesus is going to tell you "Well done, faithful servant" when you're up to shit like this?

            • I can at least find the recall story mentioned in a couple of stories on other sites, including one on Democratic Underground at the national level.

              Here's what Kennedy Enterprises helped to accomplish in Wisconsin when Republicans tried to recall several Democratic State Senators:

              The GAB [Wisconsin Government Accountability Board] agreed that out-of-state circulators hired by the Republican Party to gather recall signatures committed repeated and flagrant acts of election fraud upon the people of Wisconsin

              […] some pages signed by one circulator were actually collected by another.

              […] certain out-of-state circulators […misled] signers about the purpose of the petitions.

              (exerpts from Wisconsin Wave, but these are all findings of the official GAB review.)

    • ajb says:

      Hey Arap,

      Why don't your friends at CPP allow any comments? Is it because everybody knows facts have a liberal bias?

    • Aristotle says:

      Aw look, the annoying little boy from down the block is trying to run with the big kids. That's adorable.

  2. davebarnes says:

    If convicted felons who have served their time cannot get jobs how can we expect them to become honest, taxpaying citizens?

    While I don't want child molesters working at a daycare, I really think they ought to be able to bug me in front of King Soopers.

  3. GalapagoLarry says:

    Gotta think this one over. Try as I may, I can't think of a reason why a person's criminal record should, in itself, prohibit him or her from earning money as a petition hawker. Yeah, a signer is putting his name and address out there, but that information is so easy to get anyway it's hardly a security issue in this day and age.

    A background check should be required, though, to determine if the gatherer has fulfilled all obligations of parole and probation and if the gatherer is currently the subject of an arrest warrant. Other than that, why all the excitement? Felons have to re-enter society some way or other. This seems like a pretty low-security entry-level occupation.

    Maybe in the morning I'll think differently.

  4. My only comment on felony petition gatherers is that I would ideally like petition gatherers to be legal registered Colorado voters – I want them to have skin in the game. I don't believe that's a requirement at this time.

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