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Man arrested in voter fraud

Mark Jacoby, owner of a firm hired by the state GOP, allegedly broke the law with his own registration.

October 20, 2008|Evan Halper | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario over the weekend on suspicion of voter registration fraud.

State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. His firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM, collects petition signatures and registers voters in California and other states.

Jacoby's arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department late Saturday came after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by people employed by YPM. The voters said YPM workers tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters.

The firm was paid $7 to $12 for every Californian it registered as a member of the GOP.

Dan Goldfine, an attorney for Jacoby, on Sunday denied any wrongdoing by his client and called the charges "baseless."

He said the arrest outside an Ontario hotel, which involved seven squad cars and nine police officers, was part of a "long pattern of harassment against Mr. Jacoby for an entirely valid voter registration effort."

Goldfine said the case that prosecutors are bringing against his client involves charges that are rarely pressed.

Jacoby was released on bail Sunday evening from the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Goldfine said.

After complaints by voters and Democratic Party officials, several agencies launched investigations into Jacoby's activities. They included the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which issued the warrant for his arrest earlier this month on felony charges of voter registration fraud and perjury.

"We contacted people at the addresses where he registered, and they have no idea who he is," said Dave Demerjian, head deputy of the public integrity unit at the L.A. County district attorney's office.

Goldfine said his client does business in many states, traveling frequently, and his permanent address has been his parents' Los Angeles County home, where he received mail and registered to vote.

Demerjian said his office is continuing to investigate allegations that YPM workers improperly re-registered voters with the GOP.

Several dozen voters recently told The Times that YPM workers said they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Other voters said they had no idea their registration was being changed.

YPM has been accused of using bait-and-switch tactics across the country. Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.

In a written statement Sunday, the state Republican Party called the charges against Jacoby "politically motivated." The party said the charges do not support accusations from voters and Democratic officials that YPM has been duping voters into joining the GOP.

The statement accused Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who announced the arrest, of "using her office to play politics."

Bowen is a Democrat.

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evan.halper@latimes.com

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