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A labor-backed group running controversial radio ads urging voters not to sign initiative petitions has formally filed as a campaign committee.

Californians Against Identity Theft launched a website and radio campaign last week telling voters that signing petitions to qualify measures for state and local ballots increases the risk of identity theft.

The group has come under fire for both its claims of an identity-theft threat, which some consumer advocates have blasted as false, and a lack of disclosure of its backers. The secretary-treasurer of the effort initially declined to identify donors funding the spot, though the president of the state building trades union acknowledged last week that he had helped think of the idea and was providing funding.

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Bob Balgenorth told The Bee on Friday that he was not still directly involved in the effort, saying the corporation operating the campaign was formed by "some other people." He declined to name the principals or other contributors, saying "I don't know who all the people are."

But Balgenorth is listed as a principal officer on the committee's statement of organization, which identifies its primary sponsors as the building trades union and the California State Pipe Trades Council. The two other officers of the committee, who were listed elsewhere as the president and secretary of Californians Against Identity Theft, also have ties to the building trades union.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Californians Against Identity Theft, said the group decided to voluntarily file as political committee.

"There's no issue from our end of disclosing our donors and we're going to do so as required by law," he said. "And I think we have every right to talk about the potential abuses there in the initiative process.'

Salazar dismissed a complaint letter filed against the group with the Fair Political Practices Commission this week as "political grandstanding." He released a 34-page response to the complaint, posted here, in which the committee's attorney asked the FPPC to dismiss the request to investigate, arguing it is frivolous and unmerited.

Update: 4:00 p.m. The FPPC has decided not to open an investigation in response to the complaint letter. Read its response here.

The form, which you can read here, was submitted to the secretary of state's office on Tuesday and released to The Bee today.


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