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The Press Trust of India
Mar 09, 2005 - 01:00 AM

by Wire Services

Political group criticised for outsourcing work to India

Silicon Valley, CA -- A political action group supporting US state of California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reform proposals has come under attack for outsourcing voters' signature verification to India.

As part of a USD 10 million petition drive to place the governor's proposed constitutional amendments before voters, 'Citizens to Save California' has hired a firm to verify signatures. That firm, in turn, is outsourcing the work to India.

Political watchdogs said it's disingenuous for a group that says it's dedicated to creating employment for Californians to be exporting work to another state and another country.

"It's shameful," said Doug Heller of ArnoldWatch.org, which is run by the non-profit 'Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

"There is no shortage of Californians who would love to have a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of work," he told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Rick Claussen, the group's general manager, defended the move saying many political campaigns outsource petition work, and there's nothing surprising about the more labour- intensive aspects of that job being handled by overseas workers.

"Maybe... a few hundred thousand (dollars) will go overseas" as verification occurred. "If I was sending 99 per cent of every dollar out of the country, I'd say that's something. But I'm frankly amazed that anyone would make a big deal out of this," he told the paper.

Claussen said he hired a pair of California companies several weeks ago to coordinate the gathering of signatures for Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives.

He said the companies -- National Petition Management and American Petition Consultants -- in turn contracted with an Oregon firm called TechSpeed to handle the labour-intensive task of typing in all names gathered, for electronic verification.

TechSpeed's headquarters is in Portland, but the company does most of its work in the city of Pune.

'Citizens to Save California' was formed recently with a goal of raising as much as USD 50 million to promote Schwarzenegger's political agenda.

The group's Website says it's "committed to a healthy and growing economy, getting California back on track, attracting new business and creating jobs."

The group is backing a series of measures promoted by the governor, including a spending limit for the state budget.

Zaremberg, co-chair of 'Citizens to Save California,' said the decision to outsource the petition drive was primarily a factor of the "very, very short time frame in which we can collect signatures."

The group is attempting to gather about 5 million signatures by the end of next month.

"Time is of the essence," Zaremberg said.

Any outsourcing beyond state or national borders undermines the credibility of a group that says it's committed to California job creation, Steve Blackledge, legislative director for the California Public Interest Research Group, a consumer organisation, said.



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