As Kelli Stargel takes to the Senate floor today to defend her Parent Trigger bill, she will be wondering whether or not it was a good idea to get involved with Michelle Rhee.
There were likely to be enough votes and political muscle behind it without having to resort to submitting a fraudulent petition into the debate. But Stargel and House sponsor Carlos Trujillo were getting beat up badly in committee debate and had to counter the overwhelming numbers on unpaid state opponents who appeared at hearings to testify. Top dollar lobbyists weren’t going to be enough..
The House went first, and Trujillo began mentioning that he had 800 signatures of support in his pocket and then Stargel said she had 1200. Some quiet inquiries prompted some foot-dragging by legislative staffs until Stargel’s list, which Michelle Rhee provided was released last week. Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory received the petition late in the week and discovered that a person she knew was on it. McGrory contacted that person who denied signing. After finding another denial, the Miami Herald contacted every person on the list and released the following yesterday afternoon:
On Sunday, The Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures..But 29 people said they had not signed the petition
Scathing Purple Musings contacted a smaller number, 158, and received denials from 17. Both surveys received approximately a 20 percent response rate. While both Rhee and Stargel are brushing aside the findings it predictable fashion, some serious questions and problems remain for Stargel and Rhee.
* What not more responses? As Rhee’s survey began collecting signatures on 3/21 – most were in fact collected on this date (more later) – one can assume these folks were recent and savvy users of the internet. Did 80 percent really trash a serious inquiry from a reporter at a major US newspaper?
* 101 people appear twice. This number helps cut into the percentage of non-repondants. But four of these individuals emailed Scathing Purple Musings that they didn’t sign the petition. As the Herald’s list is larger, it’s fair to assume that there are more. Stargel will have to face the reality that as many as 100 Floridians may have had their personal information lifted to support a controversial bill she’s sponsored. The consequences are far more serious for Rhee.
* 12 out-of-state persons are listed on the petition, some from questionable contacts. One appeared twice.
* A clear pattern of the repeating signatures is clear. They all appear first during the first 6 hour period on 3/21 then appear again in a similar-size window on 3/29 and 3/30.
* What did Stargel know and when did she know it? Her evasions will have a short life expectancy that may get her through a vote today, but won’t last much longer. Not with a petition list that went public the minute she touted it. Trigger’s passage will only bring more heat as it will be tainted with evidence that fraud was committed.
* The entire list will eventually be published somewhere and opens a can of worms filled with unknowns.
*Some evidence exists that opponents of Trigger had their personal information lifted, perhaps from another Change.org or Care2.com petition. This is a pattern that Rhee has already established
Check back here for updates throughout the day.