June 28th, 2012 5:07 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Schools, Cops and Courts, Drugs

DOJ Investigating Signature Gathering By Campaign Contributor To Incoming AG Ellen Rosenblum

Ellen Rosenblum

Earlier this week, WW reported that former Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Ellen Rosenblum, who will be sworn in as Oregon's first female attorney general on June 29, enters office facing potential conflicts of interest because of the large campaign contributions she accepted from marijuana interests.

It turns out those conflicts will bubble to the surface immediately.

WW has learned that the Oregon Department of Justice, which Rosenblum will command as of tomorrow, is conducting a criminal investigation into allegations of improper signature gathering by proponents of Initiative Petition 24, a constitutional amendment that would decriminalize marijuana.

On April 23, Secretary of State Kate Brown fined Robert Wolfe, the chief petitioner of that initiative $65,000 for paying signature gatherers by the signature instead of by the hour, as Oregon law requires. That fine was the largest signature gathering penalty ever levied in Oregon.

At the time, Brown's spokesman told WW the matter was not closed.

But now the criminal justice division of DOJ's criminal investigators are involved.

In the months leading up to the May 15 primary, the political action committee behind Initiative Petition 24, Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, made $53,000 in in-kind contributions to Rosenblum's campaign. Those contributions paid for ads attacking Dwight Holton, Rosenblum's opponent in the primary election.

DOJ spokesman Tony Green said Thursday the agency's criminal division is now examining alleged signature gathering violations on the part of that campaign, although Green would not comment on the specifics of the investigation.

"DOJ is looking at pay-per-signature allegations involving that petition," Green told WW via email. "I can confirm that we are conducting an investigation."

Green denied a request for documents relating to the investigation, as is standard procedure, until the investigation is complete. 

Rosenblum's campaign spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly, says Rosenblum was unaware of the investigation.

"As soon as Ellen takes office she will be briefed on all manner of issues," Lily says. "But she hasn’t been made aware of anything regarding that case yet."

Wolfe did not respond to calls seeking comment.
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